“And the leaders of Succoth said, ‘Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunnah now in your hand, that we should give bread to your army?” (Judges 8:6 NKJV).
I have met with people in various countries that were interested in hearing what we teach and what the Churches of Christ represent. Often they are quite sincere and are seeking truth.
Sometimes, however, it becomes evident that the interest is purely material. If our church can offer more assistance in school fees, food, emergency relief, or pensions than others, then they would be interested in “converting.”
Usually when this interest is expressed it is clear that material benefits are expected in advance. “Give us the money, and then we will change our religion.” Such groups show a kinship to the citizens of the Israelite city of Succoth.
After Gideon’s tiny army (with God’s help) defeated the vast hordes of Midian (Judges 7-8), many other Israelites joined him in routing the enemy from the land. Gideon’s three hundred men pursued two of the princes of Midian and when they came to Succoth, they asked for food to help refresh them for the chase. The people of Succoth refused.
They basically said, “You have not won yet; we will not support you until the victory is assured.” Gideon’s reply was that once the victory was assured they would not be asked for support; rather they would be punished for their treachery.
The men of Succoth were typical “fair weather friends.” They were the kind of friends the prodigal son knew in the far country of Luke 15. As long as his money lasted, he had plenty of company. But as soon as his money was spent, the friends had other interests. He was left alone.
In sports there are fans that only come out in the seasons when their team is successful. Every university or professional franchise knows of those — they show no interest during the difficult days of losing seasons. But let the team win a championship and everyone wants to be a fan.
Far too many people approach religion this way. Prayers are said and perhaps some worship assemblies attended so long as life is good and God seems to be blessing them. But when hard times arrive, they quickly blame God and renounce faith.
Others are quick to join the most prestigious church or the majority religion, seeking the advantages that such status may bestow. It is not the spiritual benefits of a good relationship with God which they seek, but only better jobs, access to the higher levels of society and the favor of men (Matthew 6:1-5).
In the story of Gideon’s victory over Midian, the lesson is plain. God refused to use a large army, even one greatly outnumbered. He chose only a tiny group, but one with faith and courage. They fought against impossible odds. They used ridiculous weapons (a torch, a pitcher and a trumpet – Judges 7:16). But they stood their ground in the battle, and pursued the enemy relentlessly when the time came.
Gideon’s victory reminds us of the importance of walking by faith, not sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). We do not know what God will do. We do not know how much we may suffer or how and when we will be blessed. But we can have confidence and seek to be pleasing to God (2 Corinthians 5:6, 8), trusting him to care for us.