If you say the word “garden,” I immediately think of my friend Mel. Man, he has one of the best-kept, most productive gardens I’ve ever seen. I’ve eaten some of the fruits and vegetables of his labor. Growing up as I did in an apartment in Chicago, I’ve got a lot to learn about gardens, believe me. I’m horticulturally challenged shall we say. Well, Mel taught me a lot. I mean, one section of his garden is dedicated to his grapes. And when those vines start growing, He does something that looks very strange to a city-slicker like me. He goes after those vines with pruning shears. He starts cutting away branches – a lot of branches. Of course, it’s called pruning.
He tells me that cutting that vine back will concentrate the vine’s resources and produce far more fruit. Try explaining that to the poor vine that’s getting its branches hacked away. If a vine could talk, he might say, “Hey! What are you doing to me?” And if Mel wanted to talk to a vine, which I hope I never hear him doing, he might say, “I’m doing this for your good so you’ll produce more.” I can hear the vine (Now you should worry about me.), “Right! Then how come it feels like you’re killing me?” If I didn’t know better now, I would think the way to more fruit is to have more branches, not less. But it doesn’t work that way.
I’m Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about “When Less is More.”
Our Word for today from the Word of God, Judges 7:2. God has called on Gideon to lead an attack on the invading Midianite army – 135,000 Midianites! And Gideon is able to muster only 32,000 soldiers. He’s outnumbered four to one. Then God says, “Gideon, there’s something wrong with your army.” Gideon is probably thinking, “Yeah, man, it’s too small!”
Judges 7:2 – “The Lord said to Gideon, ‘You have too many men (You have too many men?) for Me to deliver Midian into their hands.” Well, General Gideon obeys God’s orders to let anyone who was afraid go home. Ten thousand take him up on his offer. He’s now outnumbered 13 to one. Verse 4: “But the Lord said to Gideon, ‘There are still too many men.'” Well, God gives him a way to sort out who should stay and who should be excused. In verse 7, God says, “With those 300 men, I will give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the other men go.” He is now outnumbered 450 to one!
It’s a very strange strategy to win a major victory. But wait until you hear about the weapons of mass destruction that God asked His army to fight with. “He placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside.” OK, I get it! We’re going to throw jars at the enemy! This is no way to win a war! Or is it? Judges 7:21, “While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled.” They were routed.
God prepares for a great victory by cutting things back. God prepares for a great harvest by cutting things back. In the strange and wonderful ways of God, less is often more. That might be an equation you need to hear right now, because it sure does feel as if God is cutting you back. You’re feeling the pain, the loss, the confusion of a child of God who’s being pruned. But not necessarily because something’s wrong with you; maybe because something’s right. Jesus said in John 15:2, “Every branch that bears fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”
God told Gideon what all these cutbacks were really for in Judges 7:2, “In order that Israel may not boast against Me that her own strength has saved her.” God wants to do this in a way for which only He could get the glory. There will be no doubt this was Jehovah’s victory, not yours.
So God might be doing a “Gideon” on you or your family or your career or your ministry; cutting back, and even cutting back more. But this isn’t about you losing. No, this is God’s strange and wonderful strategy for an overwhelming victory!