August 1 – Coward to Conqueror – The Few, the Proud

Read Judges 7:1-3

“The Few, The Proud” is the historic recruiting slogan for the U. S. Marine Corps. To quote a major, “the slogan reflects the unique character of the Marine Corps and underscores the high caliber of those who join and serve their country as Marines.” The Marine Corps is known as the toughest service. It’s selection process and rigorous basic training carries that reputation. That’s probably why they proudly refer to themselves as “the few.”

Gideon had 32,000 men who were ready to battle against the Midianite army of 135,000. The odds were not in his favor. I’m sure he was shocked when God told him his army was too big. Too big? The odds were 4 to 1! But once again, God was reminding Gideon that the victory would be solely because of God’s strength. God told Gideon to send away the fearful men. This was not a random request. God had previously set this standard in the law and we read it in Deuteronomy 20:8, “Then the officers shall speak further to the people, and they shall say, ‘Who is the man that is afraid and faint hearted? Let him depart and return to his house, so that he might not make his brothers’ hearts melt like his heart.’ At that request, two thirds of Gideon’s army left and returned to their homes. Only 10,000 remained. I wish I knew the thoughts of  those remaining. Most of their comrades just waved “so long”, wishing them good luck. Did it mean that the remaining 10,000 had no fear since they stayed? Or perhaps they were fearful, but did not permit fear to have control. If they weren’t fearful before the reduction process, they certainly were after. The odds just got worse- 13 to 1!

Today I feel down, distraught, emotional, secluded. At the time of writing this, I have been captive in my home for the better part of two weeks now due to the global pandemic and, quite honestly, I am tiring of it. I’m weary of the new normal. Fear can get the better of me if I let it. The odds we face if we venture outside of our comfort zone are scary. In facing this unseen battle, I want to retreat. It’s easy to stay secluded in fear and let that fear melt the hearts of those around me. The difference, I believe, between Gideon’s  22,000 deserters and the remaining 10,000 isn’t fear, but the control of fear. Those that returned home allowed fear to control their thoughts, actions and feelings. The purpose of reducing the army was to see God’s glory rather than man’s boastfulness. But fear won out. The security of home, rather than the victory on the battlefield was much more appealing. It’s no wonder “fear not” is in the Bible 365 times!  God knows that fear is an enemy we will constantly battle. Fear can make us fainthearted and weak.

I’m reminded in one of my favorite verses in Isaiah that those who wait on the Lord will gain new strength, they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not be weary, they will walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31). When God tells the fainthearted, weak and trembling to go home, I want to “be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might.” (Eph. 6:10) I might still be fearful, but I’m not controlled by the fear. By God’s strength, I can be one of the few that remain to fight. In Gideon’s army they were the few and the proud.

They would have been called Marines.

Charline Engle

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