Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.
But the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will thin them out for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.”
So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink.” Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.
The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.” So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.
Now the camp of Midian lay below him in the valley. During that night the Lord said to Gideon, “Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands. If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.” So he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp. The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore.
– Judges 7:1-12
Gideon amassed an Army of 22,000 people to go against an army that was thick as locusts. The enemy had more camels than could be counted, more than the sands on the seashore. But, God had a problem with Gideon’s Army. There were too many troops. Some were non-deployable. The water drinking test was used to determine who would be sent home.
Understand that in Judges 6, Gideon is afraid that one of his stronger, older brothers is off in a tree playing a practical joke. Gideon could not believe that God was talking to him. Gideon devised a method to find out if this was really God speaking to him. We then have the comedic miracles of the wet fleece-dry ground and dry fleece-wet ground. Then, Gideon, who seemed to have no faith in God in the previous chapter of Judges, left with his remaining 300 deployable men.
I recently read that the military has established a ‘deployable or out’ policy. I don’t know the details, but it seems that those with profiles preventing them from being deployed have a fixed amount of time to get the medical or other condition resolved.
From my time in the military, the non-deployables had an unofficial nickname, “Sick, Lame, and Lazy” – never to be spoken in public. They were those who had a medical profile preventing them from doing this or that or restricting them to the barracks to attend counseling sessions or group therapy. While many were legitimately sick or lame, many were not.
As a platoon leader in 1978, I had a young carpenter who complained of a bad back. The restriction from the doctor stated that he was not allowed to lift more than a pound. Oddly, lifting a can of beer to his lips, which he did often, was against his profile. As a carpenter, he could do nothing. He could not lift any of the tools. There were other restrictions regarding twisting of straining. While the platoon went to work, he went to bed in the barracks.
About a month after he got his profile, we had break-ins at one of our construction projects. So, we placed him as the night guard with a stick in his hand, a stick weighing just under a pound. After two days of being a night guard, he went on sick call and begged the doctor to take him off restriction. He admitted that he had lied about the back pain.
Yet, I fear that the ‘deploy or out’ policy will get rid of some good people and not provide counseling for those fighting drug / alcohol issues – something I admired in the Army when I served. For those who returned from Vietnam, many needed that counseling.
While filling in as Facilities Engineer the following year, I had a project that had to be completed immediately, a project that affected wives and children, not just servicemen. It was one of those jobs that was funded outside normal channels without letting anyone know until the last minute. I had three months to get four or five months of work done. But the engineering brigade was 100% deployed, every platoon of every company of every battalion. I was quick with a solution. I devised a plan to put the ‘sick, lame, and lazy’ to work. I was not looking for those with bad backs. I was looking for able-bodied men who needed to go to group therapy sessions or had other types of treatments only available in the area where we lived. I proposed a deal to the brigade operations officer. Picture a lieutenant (promotable to captain but waiting the date for promotion) asking this of a lieutenant colonel. He exploded with anger, most of what he said was not repeatable, but eventually, he agreed. The work had to be done, and the LTC had children of his own. These ‘sick, lame, and lazy’ men built an infirmary to exacting standards to care for servicemen and families while the existing infirmary was shut down for renovations. The wrecking ball swung three months after they started, and we had nothing designed. My design crew worked feverishly to keep the drawings coming as the group of misfits got things done.
Oddly, I had previously dealt with the sergeant in charge of the project. I was asked before he was assigned if I would accept him, but he was the only sergeant first class not deployed at the time. I agreed.
Months earlier, I had been given the additional duty, as assigned, of a line-of-duty investigator. In such investigations, if the damage was due to work done in the line of duty, the repair or replacement cost would be the responsibility of the government. If the damage was determined to be outside the line of duty, the person in charge, or the one that did the damage, would have to pay the government for the cost of repair or replacement. It came out of the soldier’s paycheck, a little each month.
The sergeant first class being investigated had been drunk, all the time during the period in question. He knew that the two dump trucks were leaking oil and had to be refilled with oil every 100 miles. That was well documented. Yet, his men, about thirty, needed to go back to the barracks. Their duties on the construction project were no longer needed. In his mind, sending the trucks that needed engine repair killed two birds with one stone. But he gave the drivers instructions to not worry about the oil and sent them on a trip of several hundred miles. They did not make it. It wasn’t just two dump truck engines that seized and were now scrap metal, it was stranding his men on the side of the autobahn for hours, before the days of cell phones, and the cost of towing the vehicles. I found him guilty of negligence, making it clear this was due to alcohol abuse – hoping the board would be lenient. My investigation report went before the board, who agreed with my findings, and the board lessened the amount that the sergeant had to pay if he entered alcohol rehabilitation.
After the board completed their findings, his commanding officer was frustrated. He was now not deployable due to having two trucks in depot maintenance. He did not agree with the board’s leniency. In addition, he now did not trust the sergeant. He was not demoted, but he was not given any important work either. If you have ever seen the 1958 movie, No Time for Sergeants, starring Andy Griffith as the country bumpkin who joins the Air Force, you might remember his assignment as Permanent Latrine Orderly. This sergeant, who had overseen roughly 40 men doing important construction work, was now a permanent latrine orderly. He was non-deployable due to mandatory attendance at alcohol rehabilitation, and his platoon was deployed. God had provided the sergeant that I needed before I knew that I needed him, and he used me to do it.
His first day on the job, in tears, he shook my hand and thanked me for the wake-up call. He also wanted me to know that he appreciated the fact that I, of all people, would trust him to manage a construction project again, and one that affected thousands of military, wives, and children. Not knowing how his commanding officer had reacted to the board decision, I had given him his dignity back.
He was good at his job. He was a good man. He just needed to stay sober.
Today, we have a lot of people who take advantage of the system, in the military and in civilian life, by pretending to have a bad back or chronic headaches – anything hard to diagnose. Reports and the statistics back this up, especially on the civilian side of things. But there are also people out there that could do a good job if given the chance. Do they need motivating? Do they need better job skills? Hint: This could be a new area for church mission.
Jesus said, in the parable of the sheep and the goats, that when you help one of the least of these, you have done it unto Jesus, Himself.
So, as Christians, should we feed someone a fish dinner, or should we teach him or her how to catch fish? Can we show someone God’s love by simply trusting him or her with a fishing pole?
More to come tomorrow on this story of redemption.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.