Gideon. Admittedly the ‘least of these’ according to the book of Judges. According to Gideon himself, in fact (Judges 6:15).
Gideon sees himself as a very unpromising candidate.
But God has a way of choosing the unpromising, of finding potential in surprising places, of working his strength through apparent powerlessness.
We see this as Gideon summons followers to join his army against the Midianites – they were ‘called out to follow him’ (6.35).
After a brief and rather well known fleece fiasco, God then says something extraordinary.
There are too many.
Too many troops. Too many to ride out against the mighty Midianites. If you all go out, you’ll think it’s all down to you. You won’t see my hand leading you to victory. You’ll forget who it was who rescued you, who summoned you through Gideon – this ‘mighty man’ who was the least of his clan, a clan which was the least of his people. Less is more.
So the troops are told: Go home, if you’re afraid. A staggering 22,000 admit to their fear and return to their homes; 10, 000 remain.
All fine? No. There are still too many.
So a rather strange scenario ensues. The army is chosen by the way they choose to drink – kneeling down and cupping water in their palms or lapping direct from the stream. Those that lap are far less than those who slurp from their cupped hands. And it’s those that are chosen to stay – the 300 hundred that lapped, throwing dignity to the wind and sprawling uncomfortably on the river bank.
Of the 32,000 that came to follow Gideon, only 300 marched to battle – victorious battle because God – Yahweh, the God of their ancestors, was on their side.
Less is more. Less is more because God is with them. Less is more because God often uses the least, the scrawny, the unpopular.
In a world where we value so much on ratings and rankings, followers and fans, what space is there for ‘less is more’? Perhaps it’s a bit of leap from oppressed Israelites struggling against Midian, but I do wonder – are we consumed by the more? Collecting more followers rather than seeking God and knowing his power in our small lives? Are we obsessed with a new kind of power – more subtle than before – the power of influence and popularity in all our new and exciting digital worlds?
God chooses the weak to shame the strong, the foolish to shame the wise. When we’re tempted to make our voices more and more strident, let’s not forget this. Let’s not forget to listen for the whispers of the Spirit within, to be happy to slide into the background because we want God to be the famous one. Not us.
Let’s not try and fight or live with our own resources, but live to glorify God.
For with God, less is more.