If you asked anyone living in the United States if they felt we’ve been at war since 2001, most likely their answer would be, “No.” Why is that? Many of us saw with our own eyes the disasters that took place around 9/11 in New York City as well as the constant reports by the media and the government of what we would do to pursue justice for those actions. We still hear, to this day, of the constant tragedies of American soldiers giving up their lives for our country to preserve the freedom we stand for. Even with all of that most people still wouldn’t say our country was at war. The underlying reason for this: because it doesn’t affect them! They can still continue on with their lives, continue an education, pursue a career, enjoy time with friends and family, and overall, live life as normal. They themselves don’t have to pick up a weapon and fight, since the war is not being fought where they are standing. Unfortunately, as Christians, we sometimes have the same perspective. The only difference between us and those living around us is that we are often blind to the chaos that is wreaking havoc where we are standing. We are in the middle of a spiritual war, but we act as if the battle is somewhere else. It’s time to pick up the weapons God has provided us; it’s time to go into battle. So what are the weapons we have available? What can we choose from? To get a better insight into that lets take a look at Judges 7:16-25 where we read about the story of Gideon and his miraculous victory against 128,000 Midianite soldiers with just 300 men!
16 He divided the 300 men into three companies, and he put trumpets and empty pitchers into the hands of all of them, with torches inside the pitchers. 17 He said to them, “Look at me and do likewise. And behold, when I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do. 18 When I and all who are with me blow the trumpet, then you also blow the trumpets all around the camp and say, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon.’” 19 So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just posted the watch; and they blew the trumpets and smashed the pitchers that were in their hands. 20 When the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers, they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing, and cried, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” 21 Each stood in his place around the camp; and all the army ran, crying out as they fled. 22 When they blew 300 trumpets, the Lord set the sword of one against another even throughout the whole army; and the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the edge of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath. 23 The men of Israel were summoned from Naphtali and Asher and all Manasseh, and they pursued Midian. 24 Gideon sent messengers throughout all the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against Midian and take the waters before them, as far as Beth-barah and the Jordan.” So all the men of Ephraim were summoned and they took the waters as far as Beth-barah and the Jordan. 25 They captured the two leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb, and they killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and they killed Zeeb at the wine press of Zeeb, while they pursued Midian; and they brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon from across the Jordan.
In order to have a better understanding of what’s going on in this passage, let’s consider the setting and what has taken place up until this point in the life of Gideon. We know from Judges 6 that Israel had been oppressed by the Midianites for seven years and that God called Gideon to prepare him to be a deliverer for His people. Part of God’s preparation for Gideon was to tear down the altar of Baal that his father had erected. Gideon was faithful to obey God’s direction and we see that the Spirit of the Lord came down upon him because of his obedience. We also read from the earlier verses in Judges 7 that the Lord trimmed down Gideon’s army from 32,000 men to just 300 individuals. Through this action God was demonstrating that no man should take glory in His presence. He wanted to prove to His people that only God could defeat such a big army with only a handful of unarmed men. This is not the only instance where God does something extraordinary to save His people. We read in the book of Judges of several instances when God does some uncommon thing to show His power to Israel. In Judges 3 we read about the King Eglon and the Moabite army (who were much more powerful than Israel). Regardless of that, God used Ehud and the enemies’ daggers to overcome them. In the following verses of Judges 3 we read about Shamgar and how he killed 600 Philistines with just an ox bone. In Judges 4 we read about how Jael, a woman, killed the commander of the Canaanite army with a hammer and tent-peg. Throughout God’s word there are countless instances of God using ordinary people with insignificant resources to do some extraordinary things with significant results!
One major difference we see between Gideon and these other stories found in Judges is the weapon of choice. In Judges 3-4 we see there was some type of weapon that could cause harm to the enemy such as a dagger, an ox bone, or a hammer/peg. In the case of Gideon we see the only “weapons” he and his men were equipped with were a trumpet, a pitcher, and a torch. I am not a military expert in any way, but if I were going to war against an army that was 400+ times my size I would want some threatening weapons. Though they were some very strange weapons to go into war with, each one served a specific purpose. Let’s take a closer look at why Gideon and his men needed these three items as they faced the Midianites and what spiritual implications they have in the lives of believers today.
Every man had a trumpet
In Judges 7:16, we read each man was provided a trumpet. It is interesting that God did not equip each man with a sword but with a trumpet! One other significant event in the Bible where God used trumpets to overcome the enemies of the Israelites was Joshua’s conquest of Jericho. We know from the story of Joshua that the soldiers walked around the walls seven times and the priests blew their trumpets, which in turn, caused the walls to fall down. This great miracle was similar to Gideon’s victory over the Midianites. Several instances throughout Scripture we see the use of trumpets. The instance that is most significant to a believers calling is mentioned in Isaiah 58:1
“Cry loudly, do not hold back; Raise your voice like a trumpet, And declare to My people their transgression And to the house of Jacob their sins.
This verse is a call to all believers to raise up their voices and proclaim the Gospel to all people. Each of us has been given the trumpet of the Gospel and it’s our responsibility to make it heard in whichever battle field we find ourselves. This is not only verbally sharing the gospel where we have been placed, but also upholding our testimony and reflecting Christ in all we do. Our actions are as much of a trumpet as our words are. Not only do we sound our trumpet, but we also have to make sure it is heard loud and clear. We read about uncertain sounds in 1 Corinthians 14:8
1 Corinthians 14:8
For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle?
What does an uncertain sound mean in a believer’s life? It means we are born again believers who have heard, understood, and accepted the gospel message but are not reflecting that change in our lives through our walk. When others hear us are they able to distinguish us from those around us or do we sound identical to everyone else? It’s a dangerous place to be when we are not able to distinguish ourselves from non-believers. If we look around us, we see that currently, only a few believers are even blowing their trumpets and even fewer are making a distinct sound. We know from the previous verse in Judges 7 that the same was true with the troops God had chosen to fight against Midian. Not all the troops were called to go; it was only a select 300 of the 32,000 men available who obeyed the call by making a distinct impression and proving they were able to serve the way the Lord wanted them to.
Every man had a pitcher
Besides a trumpet, every man had a clay pitcher. If we look at Judges 7:16 we see that it wasn’t just any pitcher but rather an “empty pitcher.” What significance do these pitchers have? These pitchers represent the body of believers. We are each vessels created for God’s purposes, but we need to be empty in order for God to use us. Many times we are so full of ourselves that we are not equipped to be used by God. We are often full of doubts, fears, worries, and concerns that we can’t be used effectively by God. It could even be a desire to control and plan out exactly what we want to do with our lives with regards to education, career, or even family life. In order to be an empty vessel that is ready to be used by God, we have to constantly rid ourselves of the things that fill us up in negative ways. We have to empty ourselves completely for God. Paul says it best in 1 Corinthians 15:31 –
I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.
The key words to keep close from this verse is, “I die daily.” We have to completely surrender ourselves up to God and die daily in a spiritual sense so that God can use us effectively. When others see us they shouldn’t see just us, but rather Christ living in and through us. Paul explains this well in Galatians 2:20 –
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
This is the proclamation we make to the entire world: “It’s no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me!” Not only do we have to proclaim it, but we also have to live it out. We can either be vessels used to honor and glorify our Savior or ones that dishonor him. This is explained well in 2 Timothy 2:20-21 –
Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
So now the question we must ask ourselves: Is it we who are living or Christ living in us? We should be vessels completely purged of sin so that we can be clean and empty in order for God to prepare us and fill us up with HIS good work! We know from Judges 7 that these vessels were made empty for a reason. The reason was so that they could hold the light. This is clearly explained in 2 Corinthians 4:6-7
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
The reason that we must be empty is so Christ can fill us up with his light! We must make sure that when we testify of our faith through our talk and our walk, that we do so with the light of the gospel which Christ has given us – not with our own light. Others should see the light shining within us because of what Christ has done, that’s why it says in the verses we just read, “made his light shine in our hearts.”
Also we know from Judges 7 that when the Israelites startled and surprised the Midianites, they had to first break their pitchers before they could shine the light. Since we ourselves are pitchers used to hold the light of Christ within us, we too have to be broken for Christ so that HIS light can shine forth. What does it mean to be broken? Consider the domestication of a wild horse. The horse cannot be ridden unless it has first been broken. In order for it to be broken, the rider must first cause it to surrender to the point where the horse is completely reliant on the master. Our relationship with Christ works the same way. We can only truly shine forth the light of Christ when we realize we are completely incapable to do so in and of ourselves. We can only shine His light when we understand that anything and everything we do is because of Him and for His glory only.
Every man had a torch
So the last “weapon” we see mentioned in Judges 7:16 is the torch the Israelites carried in their pitchers. Before the torches could set fire to the Midianite camp, they had to first be set on fire in the pitchers themselves. Unless we ourselves are lit up with the fire of the gospel, we cannot light up a dark and sinful world. Charles Spurgeon once said, “If you have a fireman in the pulpit, there won’t be any snowmen in the pews.” He was referring to the way a pastor leads the congregation; this idea is applicable to even us as believers in our community. If we ourselves are on fire for God and passionate about serving Him then it is impossible for us to hold that within ourselves. We will always have a longing to share that good news with our friends, families, coworkers, and community as a whole.
Once the pitchers were broken and the torches were lit, the 300 blew their trumpets and completely surprised and frightened the Midianites. When the Midianites saw the light, it caused complete confusion. It forced them to make a decision. They were not in a position to fight. They could either surrender to the Israelites or turn to run. They chose to run which eventually caused the Israelites to catch up with them and overcome them. When others see the light of the gospel it WILL cause conviction. They cannot fight back. The only two options are to surrender to the conviction of the Holy Spirit or to turn and run from the Truth. Running will only cause a continual pursuit from the Holy Spirit in the heart of those with whom the Truth has been shared. We see that in Scripture as well:
1 Corinthians 1:22-23
Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
From these verses we know God’s word will do one of two things in a person’s heart: It will either cause them to ponder and question what has been revealed to them or it will convict them, making them realize Christ is the only way to salvation. In either case God’s Word will not go out without forcing the individual to either accept it or reject it. There is no standing on the fence or middle ground. God’s word is so powerful that it WILL cause change but in order for that to happen we ourselves must be on fire with the light of Christ!
So while we are out on the battlefield, let’s keep in mind what’s going on around us. We ARE in the middle of a war. There is a conflict raging where we are placed – we need to be aware of that! We don’t have many outstanding weapons to use, but the ones we do have available are not as insignificant as they appear. The reason they are so powerful is because of the way God uses them through us. So let’s make sure that we proclaim the Gospel message loud and clear with our trumpets. May we empty ourselves so that we might be used for God’s purposes. Let’s shine the light of Christ through our testimonies to all those who are around us!