Lapping the Water

“He brought the people down to the water. And Yahweh said to Gideon, ‘Each one who laps with his tongue from the water, like a dog laps, you shall stand him alone. And each one who bends over the knee to drink.”

(Judges 7:5)

And here God gives Gideon the instructions to separate out a smaller group of the men for battle. In this case, the men are instructed to get a drink. Those who pull up some water in their hands and lap at the water like a dog from its dish were to be set aside as one group. Those who bent over their knee to drink from the water were to be set in another group. And with upon this distinction there was launched a thousand bad sermons on this text.

Over the years I have heard preachers develop theories of how the stronger and more aggressive of the soldiers were the ones who lapped like a dog. I have heard that by lapping like a dog these men demonstrated that they never let go of their weapons or that they never let down their guard, even when drinking from the water. I have heard well-meaning pastors preach about how even today the Special Forces are trained to drink like those who lapped like a dog and the analogies go on and on and on.

The simple fact is that God has chosen something that seems to us as rather arbitrary, to separate his people for battle. The lapping has nothing to do with the man apart from, perhaps, his upbringing. If anything, we should look for things that make the “lappers” weak in the eyes of men, because that is the point. God is going to bring a great deliverance. He could have done so with one…or even with none. But as is often the case, God gives us the privilege of participating in his redemptive work, but lest we be given the credit, he culls down the numbers with a rather arbitrary point of division.

Isn’t it interesting that God does this kind of thing through the ages. Jesus chose twelve and with those twelve (minus Judas, plus eventually Paul), He turns the world on its ear with the Gospel. How often Christians have been in an extreme minority, yet God changed everything through them…and that means he can and will do the same through us.

How sad it is when Christians think that we have to have a political majority to change something, to pursue justice, or to proclaim truth. In history, Christians have done these things best and most faithfully when we have not had a majority. Christians in Rome were put to death for their faith, yet transformed the empire from within long before Constantine converted. If God worked transformation through faithful Christians under persecution then, shall he not work through faithful Christians in America today? Even if we find ourselves under persecution? Indeed, that seems to be where God most delights to work because he delights that he is glorified in his work, not us.

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