Judges 7:5-7 “And the Lord said to Gideon, ‘Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink.’ And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water. And the Lord said to Gideon, ‘With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.’”
As you look back over your life, have you ever considered how one small, seemingly insignificant thing had a huge impact on your future. When I was a junior at Indiana University of Pennsylvania I had a friend whom I had come to know through our participation together on the football team, who called me up one day and mentioned that he had heard that the Fish Commission was looking for interns. He was planning to apply, and he encouraged me to do so, as well. If it hadn’t been for my friend’s call, I would have never known about this. Well, that call set off a chain of events that changed the whole course of my life. Both my friend and I ended up working as interns. One of the men I worked with that summer had recently graduated from Southern Illinois University. He encouraged me to look into SIU for graduate school, which I did. While I was there, I met my future wife. One thing led to another, which led to another thing still. And you know what, God’s hand was sovereignly at work in all of it, no matter if I was aware of it at the time or not.
You see, God is sovereign. There is nothing that is outside of His providential control. Psalm 103:19 tells us “His sovereignty rules over all.” That extends even to nature, for didn’t Jesus tell us “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (Matthew 10:29). Believers are told in the awesome words of Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” “All things” means all things, no matter how minute, no matter how seemingly insignificant.
We see an example of this in the story above from Judges 7. In this passage, God is in the process of separating out an Israelite army for a battle against the Midianites. The commander, Gideon, started with 32,000 men. The Lord told Gideon that this was too many. He said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained” (Judges 7:2-3). This separation seems logical to me. God separated the brave from the fearful. It makes sense. However, it is the next separation that is so curious. Here the Lord tells Gideon to separate those who drank by cupping water in their hands and lapping it like a dog from those who knelt down to a stream and sipped it in. What would you have done? It was such a curious thing. It was a separation based purely on individual preference. None of these men were fearful and any of them would seemingly have been qualified to do battle, but their destiny was shaped by the simple act of how they drank water. God knew what each one would do. His knowledge of each one was that intimate. And He sovereignly worked through this trivial thing to guide their lives at that time. And so, the reality of God’s providential work is reinforced.
What an awesome God we serve. Think of all the contingencies in life. Think of all the choices. Think of how each day of our life we do one thing and not another, we choose to do this thing rather than that, this person interacts with us in some way, or our plans are “Interrupted” in some way. But in all of this we should keep our eyes open to God’s sovereign hand at work. God would have us to understand that “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). The Lord would have us to “Trust in the Lord with all (our) heart, and . . . not lean on (our) own understanding. In all (our) ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight (our) paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Isn’t that a truly awesome thing? Praise His glorious name!