Most of us are at least somewhat familiar with the unusual tactics employed by Gideon to win a battle against seemingly insurmountable odds. We are given this information in Judges 7 about the size of the opposition to Gideon and his men:
…the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the people of the East lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance (Judges 7:12).
As the events recorded in Judges 7 progress, we learn how Gideon’s army shrank from 32,000 to 300. Those of us who are familiar with this material are aware of how that “winnowing’ was done. It is not our purpose here to comment on that.
Our purpose here is to consider some leadership principles suggested by one verse in this inspired account. It seems that these principles would be helpful for any who, like Gideon, are called upon to lead. They would be especially helpful for those, again like Gideon, who are called upon to lead God’s people and to lead them as they deal with what seem to be overwhelming odds.
The verse I have in mind is Judges 7:17:
And he (Gideon) said to them (the 300 men), “Look at me, and do likewise. When I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do.”
Did you notice some very important principles in those few words? Gideon then (and godly leaders now) will encourage people to –
- Look at me
The religious leaders during the days when our Lord was on the earth loved for people to look at them. They wore special clothing and publicly performed various “religious acts” in order to be seen.
Jesus was not favorably impressed by them, though. He said, “They do all their deeds to be seen by others” (Matt. 23:5).
This is not the kind of leadership exemplified by Gideon. It is not the kind exhibited by godly leaders today. It most certainly was not the kind exhibited by the greatest Leader who was ever on the earth.
People need somebody to whom they can look for guidance, confidence, and security. This is especially true when we are engaged in a great spiritual battle. Those who lead God’s people today need to be those who have complete confidence in God, His Word, and His promises.
Would you voluntarily follow a military leader who told you that there is no chance of winning, but that “We’re going to fight anyway?” Would you play for a coach who told you that the game was already lost before it ever started?
When people looked at Jesus, they saw One whose trust was so complete that He was willing to suffer in terrible ways in order to fulfill God’s plan. He knew that, even though it might look like some battles might be lost, the war would ultimately be won.
Godly leaders today should follow the example of Paul, who was inspired to write:
“Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).
- and do likewise
Jesus was not only critical of the pride and arrogance that characterized the religious leaders of the Jews. He was also critical of them because “…they preach, but do not practice” (Matt. 23:3).
This, of course, is in stark contrast with His ministry. Consider the opening verse of the book of Acts. Luke begins his second book with these words: “The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach” (Acts 1:1, emphasis added).
There is an old adage that suggests that one cannot push a string. A string must be pulled. That illustration is used to drive home the point that leaders, by definition, lead!
If leaders of God’s people want those under their oversight to be more loving, the leaders need to be more loving. If the desire is to be more evangelistic, they need to be more evangelistic. If there is a need for more commitment, devotion, etc., all of that should start with the leadership.
- When I come to the outskirts of the camp
Have you ever noticed where the head coach of a football team is during a game? I can tell you from some very limited experience as a coach that standing along the sidelines is one of the worst places in the world to “see the big picture” of a football game.
The assistant coaches and others who are positioned high above the action have a much better view and can get a lot better perspective than the head coach who is standing along the sidelines. They may also be sheltered from some inclement weather that the head coach is having to endure with his team along the sidelines.
Did you catch three important words in that last sentence? Those words are with his team! His team needs a sense from the coach that “we are in this together.” One way to do that is to be physically with them during “the heat of the battle.”
It might work to yell “sic ‘em” to a dog, stand back, and watch the dog take care of whatever situation needs to be taken care of. That doesn’t work with people. Effective leaders don’t just shout orders; they roll up their sleeves and get involved.
- do as I do
In some ways, this phrase may be seen as a repetition of some of what has already been discussed. In at least one way, though, I believe that there is a slight difference. What has been discussed thus far does not necessarily involve action.
At least, it does not have to involve action of a positive nature. It might have been possible for Gideon to have been telling his men to watch him for a sign to retreat or to do a host of other things that would not have been productive.
However, as we learn as we keep reading Judges 7, Gideon had a definite plan in mind. In order for that plan to be successful, it had to be implemented. In order for the plan to be implemented, action had to be taken – by Gideon and by those three hundred men.
Effective leaders lead by example. Effective leaders lead by action. Effective leaders can, with confidence in God and the support of others, accomplish great things for the Lord.
The most effective Leader the world has ever known did not choose three hundred to carry out His plan. He chose only twelve to be His apostles. After the defection of one of them, He gave only eleven men an almost unbelievable task to “…teach all nations…” (Matt. 28:19) and to “…preach the gospel to every creature… Mark 16:15). He also promised to be with them as they carried out what we know as “The Great Commission” (cf. Matt. 28:20).
It is my prayer that those today who lead the people of God in any way will realize that those “marching orders” are still in force. It is also my prayer that godly leaders today will follow leadership principles found in a variety of places in God’s Word.
Hopefully, these thoughts about the principles practiced by Gideon will be helpful in some way.
AUTHOR: Jim Faughn