1. SERIOUS MINUTEMEN
a. Out of 10,000 who drank water before battle, how many took their mission seriously, and what result did God promise them? Judges 7:6–9.
“Not only did [the small remnant] possess courage and self-control, but they were men of faith. They had not defiled themselves by idolatry.”—The Signs of the Times, June 30, 1881.
“The Lord is just as willing to work through human efforts now, and to accomplish great things through weak instrumentalities. It is essential to have an intelligent knowledge of the truth; for how else could we meet its wily opponents? The Bible must be studied, not alone for the doctrines it teaches, but for its practical lessons. You should never be surprised, you should never be without your armor on. Be prepared for any emergency, for any call of duty. Be waiting, watching for every opportunity to present the truth familiar with the prophecies, familiar with the lessons of Christ. But do not trust in well prepared arguments. Argument alone is not enough. God must be sought on your knees; you must go forth to meet the people through the power and influence of His Spirit.
“Act promptly. God would have you minute men, as were the men who composed Gideon’s army.”—The Review and Herald, July 1, 1884.
2. CHOOSING THE NARROW PATH
a. What reveals God’s use of small numbers in His work? How does He bid us operate even in our schools? Romans 9:27; 12:1, 2; James 4:4.
“Some will urge that if religious teaching is to be made prominent our schools will become unpopular; that those who are not of our faith will not patronize them. Very well; then let them go to other schools, where they will find a system of education that suits their taste. It is Satan’s purpose by these considerations to prevent the attainment of the object for which our schools were established. Hindered by his devices, the managers reason after the manner of the world and copy its plans and imitate its customs. Many have so far shown their lack of wisdom from above as to join with the enemies of God and the truth in providing worldly entertainments for the students. In doing this they bring upon themselves the frown of God, for they mislead the youth and do a work for Satan. This work, with all its results, they must meet at the bar of God.
“Those who pursue such a course show that they cannot be trusted. . . . When the Lord requires us to be distinct and peculiar, how can we crave popularity or seek to imitate the customs and practices of the world? . . .
“To lower the standard in order to secure popularity and an increase of numbers, and then to make this increase a cause of rejoicing, shows great blindness. If numbers were an evidence of success, Satan might claim the preeminence; for in this world his followers are largely in the majority. It is the degree of moral power pervading a school that is a test of its prosperity. It is the virtue, intelligence, and piety of the people composing our schools, not their numbers, that should be a source of joy and thankfulness.”—Testimonies, vol. 6, pp. 142, 143.
“Many who occupy responsible positions in the church of God, are sacrificing their integrity to secure the favor of the ungodly. A strong current is sweeping downward, and they decide that it is easier to float with the tide than to row against it. Like the children of Israel, they sacrifice the blessings of God by their indolence and spiritual sloth. Many set up idols in their hearts—idols of selfishness, idols of pride, and love of display. Eternal things lose their value. Withdraw the influences which God has provided to preserve and strengthen our spirituality, and it decays and dies. We must be continually seeking to draw near to God, and to learn His will.”—The Signs of the Times, June 30, 1881.
3. VICTORY AND TACT
a. In God’s work today, what should we learn from the unusual strategy given to Gideon’s army? Judges 7:12–22.
“It is a dangerous thing for men to resist the Spirit of truth and grace and righteousness, because its manifestations are not according to their ideas, and have not come in the line of their methodical plans. The Lord works in His own way, and according to His own devising. Let men pray that they may be divested of self, and may be in harmony with heaven. . . . In the instruction that the Lord gave Gideon when he was about to fight with the Midianites—that he should go out against his foes with an army of three hundred blowing trumpets, and carrying empty pitchers in their hands, and shouting, ‘The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon’—these precise, methodical, formal men would see nothing but inconsistency and confusion. They would start back with determined protest and resistance. They would have held long controversies to show the inconsistency and the dangers that would accompany the carrying on of the warfare in such an extreme way, and in their finite judgment they would pronounce all such movements as utterly ridiculous and unreasonable.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 2, p. 1004.
b. Explain the benefit of Gideon’s tactfulness toward his brethren. Judges 7:23–25; 8:1–3.
“[The men of Ephraim] were jealous and angry, as though Gideon had been led by his own will and judgment. They did not discern God’s hand in the triumph of Israel, they did not appreciate His power and mercy in their deliverance; and this very fact showed them unworthy to be chosen as His special instruments. . . .
“The spirit of jealousy might easily have been fanned into a quarrel that would have caused strife and bloodshed; but Gideon’s modest answer soothed the anger of the men of Ephraim, and they returned in peace to their homes. Firm and uncompromising where principle was concerned, and in war a ‘mighty man of valor,’ Gideon displayed also a spirit of courtesy that is rarely witnessed.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 554, 555.
4. STANDING, THEN FALLING
a. How was Gideon’s attitude exemplary in refusing to violate the principles of God’s theocracy? Judges 8:22, 23.
b. Despite his unassuming modesty, what mistake did Gideon then make, and what warning should we heed from this? Judges 8:24–27.
“The season of inactivity that succeeds a great struggle is often fraught with greater danger than is the period of conflict. To this danger Gideon was now exposed. A spirit of unrest was upon him. Hitherto he had been content to fulfill the directions given him from God; but now, instead of waiting for divine guidance, he began to plan for himself. When the armies of the Lord have gained a signal victory, Satan will redouble his efforts to overthrow the work of God. Thus thoughts and plans were suggested to the mind of Gideon, by which the people of Israel were led astray.
“Because he had been commanded to offer sacrifice upon the rock where the Angel appeared to him, Gideon concluded that he had been appointed to officiate as a priest. Without waiting for the divine sanction, he determined to provide a suitable place, and to institute a system of worship similar to that carried on at the tabernacle. With the strong popular feeling in his favor he found no difficulty in carrying out his plan. At his request all the earrings of gold taken from the Midianites were given him as his share of the spoil. The people also collected many other costly materials, together with the richly adorned garments of the princes of Midian. From the material thus furnished, Gideon constructed an ephod and a breastplate, in imitation of those worn by the high priest. His course proved a snare to himself and his family, as well as to Israel. The unauthorized worship led many of the people finally to forsake the Lord altogether, to serve idols. After Gideon’s death great numbers, among whom were his own family, joined in this apostasy. The people were led away from God by the very man who had once overthrown their idolatry.
“There are few who realize how far-reaching is the influence of their words and acts. How often the errors of parents produce the most disastrous effects upon their children and children’s children, long after the actors themselves have been laid in the grave.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 555, 556.
5. TRUST NOT IN THE ARM OF FLESH
a. How did Gideon’s later mistake affect the people after his death? Judges 8:28, 33–35. Where does our safety lie today?
“[Gideon] thought himself the least in his father’s house. Human wisdom would not have selected him; but God saw in Gideon a man of integrity and moral courage. He was distrustful of self, and willing to listen to the teachings of God, and carry out His purposes. The Lord is not dependent upon men of high position, of great intellect, or extensive knowledge. Such men are frequently proud and self-sufficient. They feel themselves competent to devise and execute plans without counsel from God. They separate themselves from the true Vine, and hence become dry and fruitless, as withered branches.
“The Lord would put to shame the vaunting of men. He will give success to the feeblest efforts, the most unpromising methods, when divinely appointed, and entered upon with humility and trust. God will not test our faith beyond endurance. He will give us sufficient evidence, that we may, in our weakness, lean upon the arm of His strength, and trust wholly in His power. Talents, education, and influence, may, under the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, be employed in the service of God; but Satan is more often served by them, than is Jesus Christ.”—The Signs of the Times, June 30, 1881.
“Those who stand in the highest positions may lead astray. The wisest err; the strongest may falter and stumble. There is need that light from above should be constantly shed upon our pathway. Our only safety lies in trusting our way implicitly to Him who has said, ‘Follow Me.’ ”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 556.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. Describe our duties as “minutemen” for God today.
2. What mistake is often made in denominational institutions for the public?
3. Why did God choose such a simple strategy to defeat the Midianites?
4. Even for those who seem humble, what mistake of Gideon can be a snare?
5. Why are we warned against trusting in the arm of flesh?