Gideon and Mustard Seed Faith
After Moses and Joshua, but before King David, there was a topsy-turvy period of time in the history of Israel where God randomly (from our perspective, anyhow) chose a man or woman to deliver the people from their oppressors and from the false gods they were worshipping. One of these judges was Gideon (and you thought he made Bibles, huh? :) His story is found in Judges 6-8 (read it if you want), and it tells how God chose Gideon to "deliver Israel from the hand of Midian."
Now, what kind of a man did God pick to rescue His people? In the words of Gideon himself:
O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father's house Judges 6:15
This actually sounds like an attempt to get out of this mission, doesn't it? You know what? His claim was accurate. What I'm saying is that he had a very GOOD argument!!
Check it out. The original Manasseh was NOT one of the twelve sons of Jacob (also known as Israel), but was a grandson born of Joseph which means he was actually adopted by Jacob to become a tribe of Israel. It also means he had an Egyptian momma. Manasseh was the firstborn, but Jacob had given the blessing to his YOUNGER brother, Ephraim. Manasseh got gypped! People from the tribe of Ephraim had a claim to fame in Joshua, but Manasseh didn't have a whole lot of significant history. And then on top of that Gideon was the youngest in his less-than-significant family. This may not mean much to us, but to them, unless you were the first-born you didn't count for much.
So, here was this man who was the least important member of a family that was the least important family in the least important tribe whose namesake lost his birthright. Gideon wasn't making up anything and he knew it. But fortunately, God seems to have a habit of choosing unimportant people. :)
But I didn't tell you Gideon's first comments to the one who greeted him. The angel of the Lord said,
The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior.
Gideon gave him a bitter response:
Oh my lord, if the LORD is with us, WHY HAS ALL THIS HAPPENED TO US? And where are ALL HIS MIRACLES which our fathers TOLD us about, saying 'Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?' But now the Lord has ABANDONED us and given us into the hand of Midian! Judges 6:13
The idea that God had any REAL interest in their situation was only a memory passed down from their ancestors. That God would actually come to THEM was not even a consideration. And then, for God to pick GIDEON out of everyone in Israel to do this thing was nothing less than absurd! No wonder Gideon needed to be convinced that God was the one who was speaking to him.
The first thing God told Gideon to do was to tear down his dad's pagan altar and cut down the wooden idol and then build a new altar to "the Lord your God" and use the wood of the idol to burn a bull as a sacrifice upon it. When the men of the city found out about it they came to kill Gideon, but his dad convinced them to let Baal take care of Gideon for himself ... after all, he was supposed to be a god.
When Israel's enemies heard about it they began gathering for battle in a nearby valley. Their number was described as "numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as numerous as the sand on the seashore." I think that means they had a really, really BIG army (approx. 135,000).
Gideon also sends out for his own army, and he gets 32,000. God tells Gideon that he had TOO MANY PEOPLE!! God's reasoning? When the battle was won they might think THEY did it.
The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, lest Israel become boastful, saying, 'MY OWN POWER HAS DELIVERED ME.' Judges 7:2
So God has Gideon tell the people that anyone who is scared to go home. Yikes! Guess how many stayed? 10,000. Now, THAT'S suicide! But God says, You STILL have too many people!!
So God has Gideon test the remaining people by having them go down to the water and take a drink. Those who knelt for their drink were told to go home. By time it was over only 300 remained. I don't think anyone would ever claim that three hundred men WITHOUT WEAPONS were responsible for a victory against 135,000 soldiers with weapons and camels. They would have no doubt that it was a miraculous victory by the God of heaven. This is the only reason He established such ridiculous odds.
Here's how it happened. Gideon divided his army into three companies (100 men each) and had each man take a trumpet and an empty pitcher with a torch inside and then take their places around the camp. On his signal they would blow their trumpets, break the pitchers so that their torches would be visible, and then they cried out,
A sword for the Lord and for Gideon! Judges 7:18
Yeah, now that's a plan! But ...
...the Lord set the sword of one against another even throughout the whole army: and the army fled ... Judges 7:22
Gideon then sent messengers to the surrounding hill country telling them where to find the remainder of the army with the two kings.
If these 300 men honestly reported what really happened that day to their friends and family they probably would have included how scared they had been ... maybe even how they had soiled their loincloths in the event. But they would have said, It was MIRACULOUS! We were there, but we merely watched it happen. It was obviously the work of the Lord of heaven and earth!
So, what does the story of Gideon have to do with Mustard Seed Faith? Nothing, really ... but you won't be able to convince ME of it!! haha! :)
And if (your brother) sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him." And the apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" And the Lord said, "If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and be planted in the sea'; and it would obey you. Luke 17:4-6
Religions have come up with some pretty ridiculous explanations of what mustard-seed faith is. These interpretations seem to have validity only because they fit within the framework of the redefinition of faith (see last week's article). And as diverse as these might be they still reach the same conclusion: Mustard-Seed Faith takes a lot of devotion which is not easy to attain or maintain. I'll bet your explanation is (or was) pretty much the same. Mine was.
Question. WHY did the apostles ask Jesus to "Increase our faith!"? Wasn't it because they realized that the forgiveness he spoke of was something they didn't understand and that maybe if they had MORE faith they might be able to do it?
Another question. Did Jesus tell them how to get MORE faith? Did his answer have ANYTHING to do with complying to their request? Didn't he actually suggest something more like: THE 'FAITH' YOU HAVE IS TOO MUCH!?
Read it again! By comparing the amount of faith needed for such a feat to that of a mustard seed Jesus totally blew their whole concept of faith apart. Why? Because the size of this seed was really SMALL, while the tree it produced was really BIG. They asked for MORE and Jesus responded with LESS.
Don't you realize that they held to the assumption that they had a quantity of this SPIRITUAL STRENGTH (faith) by which they could win the victory if they could get Jesus to merely increase it? But his statement removed quantity out of the equation since the relation of the incredibly small size of the seed just didn't add up to the incredibly big size of the tree. And wouldn't they have also assumed that how ever much faith they did have would be somewhat more than a mustard-seed's worth? It must have severely deflated their assumption.
Oh, yeah, we're talking about the same Lord of heaven and earth who whittled Gideon's army down until it was more than obvious exactly WHOSE strength produced the victory. Jesus' own select group of men were just as sure that God must have sent him to INCREASE their strength ... but he kept taking it away until nothing was left for them to take credit for ...
lest (they) become boastful, saying, 'MY OWN POWER HAS DELIVERED ME.' Judges 7:2