The Veiled Blessing of Subtraction
It’s hard to talk about how God uses subtraction for the good of his people and not think of the story of Gideon and his army in Judges chapter 7.
After the people of Israel rebelled against God and continually turned away from Him and His laws, God gave them into the hands of the Midianites, a pagan nation. But after seven years the Israelites cried out to the Lord and he raised up Gideon to deliver them.
Gideon gathered 32,000 Israelites to fight against Midian, but the Lord told him that there were too many, “lest Israel boast over me saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’” (Judges 7:2) So the Lord told Gideon to send away anyone who was afraid. 22,000 left. 10,000 remained.
But the Lord again told Gideon this was too many. So they were all brought down to the water. The Lord told Gideon to keep only those who drank water by bringing it to their mouths with their hands, and to send away all who lapped like a dog. 9,700 left. Only 300 remained.
It was only then that God was ready to work through them. And he did. That meager army defeated Midian, whose military, the Bible says, was “without number” and “as the sand on the seashore.” It was a clear display of God’s power and sovereignty.
You see God was gaining glory for himself through subtraction. When God subtracted human power and strength, what remained was the power and strength of God himself. God was ensuring He would get the glory and not the people of Israel. He was causing them to trust in Him and not in themselves.
The same still holds true for us. In our flesh, subtraction hurts and brings doubt, discouragement, and discomfort. But God-ordained subtraction is often a veiled blessing because God is forcing us to stop trusting in our own strength, wealth, and wisdom and to trust Him and Him alone. It is only then that He can truly use us to do wondrous things for His glory.
Are you willing to ask God to work this kind of subtraction in your life? Are you willing to let God take some good things away from you to give you something greater? Is God’s glory worth our discomfort? I pray that we will trust Him.
~ John Davis