Released to record crowds in March of this year, "300" is the film adaptation of the 1998 graphic novel by the same name. The plot is a fictionalized retelling of the ancient Battle of Thermopylae, a major engagement of the Greco-Persian Wars.The story depicts Leonidas, King of Sparta, leading his personal guard of 300 to Thermopylae, literally the "Hot Gates", a pass where millions of Persians plan to invade Greece. Leonidas commands only his personal guard on this occasion because custom forbade the army from leaving Spartan territory during the Carneian festival. Throughout the battle, the armies of Xerxes the Great suffer immense casualties, drastically disproportionate to their numerical superiority. Eventually, all of Leonidas' warriors are killed in battle, save one: Dilios who was dispatched to Sparta to tell the story of the 300. Their glorious deaths enabled the rest of the Greek armies to prepare their defenses and repel the foreign invaders.
As impressive as this war story is, the Holy Spirit tells another story of 300.
After seven years of oppression by the Midianites (Judges 6:1-10), God raised up Gideon, the son of Joash, to deliver Israel out of their hand (Judges 6:11-24; 2:16). After defiantly tearing down the altar of Baal and cutting down the Canaanite goddess Asherah (Judges 6:25-32), Gideon mustered 32,000 soldiers to go up against the combined forces of the Midianites and Amalekites (Judges 6:33-35; 7:3).
Prior to the battle, God spoke to Gideon, telling him the number of soldiers was not right. Would Gideon need more men to lead into battle? God's explanation was: "The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, 'My own hand has saved me'" (Judges 7:2). To ensure that the glory was properly ascribed to the God of Israel, not Israel itself, God would perform a marvelous work with a numerically inferior force.
First, Gideon's army was reduced to 10,000 when all who were afraid were excused from service (Judges 7:3), "But the Lord said to Gideon, 'The people are still too many'" (Judges 7:4). Next, all but 300 men were dismissed based on their preferred method of drinking water (Judges 7:4-6). "Then the Lord said to Gideon, 'By the three hundred… I will save you'" (Judges 7:7). And He did.
Under Gideon's command, the 300 surrounded the camp of the Midianites by night, armed not with bows and swords, but with trumpets and pitchers containing torches. At once, they blew their trumpets, shouted "The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!", then smashed the pitchers, exposing the torches to the night (Judges 7:16-20).
No doubt convinced they were under attack by a numerically superior foe, "the whole army ran and cried out and fled" (Judges 7:21). In fact, "When the three hundred blew the trumpets, the Lord set every man's sword against his companion throughout the whole camp; and the army fled" (Judges 7:22). The Midianites were so afraid and confused that they actually began to slay one another.
"Through faith", Gideon and the 300 "became valiant in battle" and "turned to flight the armies of the aliens" (Hebrews 11:33-34), decimating an army of 135,000 (Judges 8:10-12).
Over seven centuries before Leonidas and 300 Spartans died gloriously defending the Hot Gates against the Persians, Gideon and 300 Israelites routed the enemies of the Lord, leaving us this important lesson: "God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty… that no flesh should glory in His presence" (1st Corinthians 1:27, 29).
By Bryan Matthew Dockens - submitted August, 2007
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