JOEL'S ARMY & GIDEON'S ARMY -
-by Robert I. Holmes.
There is a commonly held belief in the church that the army of Joel and the army of Gideon both represent the same end time, militant and victorious church. My intention here is not so much to examine the theological foundations of such arguments, but to share a revelation I had recently which seems to contradict this understanding. I am fully convinced that the Lord is preparing his Bride for these last days. As part of this preparation I believe He is preparing an end time army. Not an army who will take over the world and set up the political system Christ will rule in (called Dominion Theology) but rather, a militant and victorious church who shall defeat the hordes of Hell.
In late October 1996 I had a startling vision. I was looking down from a high place and I saw a mighty army. It was marching in a long line, like a great column snaking through the jungle. It looked for all the world like a serpent. At it's head was a banner, which read "Joel's' army". Behind them they left a swath of destruction, a road of sorts cut through the jungle. I was made aware that this army was 'now marching' or had already mobilized.
I also saw off to one side, hidden in dense undergrowth, a battalion. This group stood quietly, waiting in the jungle. They were assembled in a square, and they were awaiting instructions. At the head of this smaller group was a banner which read "Gideon's army".
Then I looked and saw a single platoon, off to the side of the bat-
talion. It stood divided. I looked carefully at this group, feeling at first that it represented the local body of believers I belonged to at the time. They were standing in mud, in two ranks facing each other. The Spirit expressly said, "Many have passed through their ranks" and I began to realize they were (are) the prophets. These troops were stuck in the mud, and had not moved on for some time.
Joel's army has been promoted widely as being a good army, an army of the church. Many songs, sung in Pentecostal and mainline Evangelical churches even quote the warrior Scriptures as relating to the church. However I do not hold to that understanding. To me, Joel's army is one of terrible locusts, "a great and powerful army... Before them is like Eden, after them is desolate" (Joel 2:2,3). This is similar to the picture I had. Joel says they are "a powerful army, drawn up for battle, before them the nations are in anguish" (5,6). Why are the nations terrified of this army? Because they are an instrument of judgment.
Note that the Scripture does not say, "God's enemies are in anguish before them." Nor does it imply that the devil is afraid of them. It is the nations who are afraid. This army is made up of "the cutting locust... the swarming locust... the hopping locust... the destroying locust" (Joel 1:4). This is not a picture of the Bride of Christ. Evidently the army first destroys or brings judgment against God's own people because later in the book of Joel, God consoles His people saying, "I will repay YOU for the years the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer and the cutter, that great army I sent against you" (Joel 2:25).
This is clearly God's instrument of judgment against both his church and the nations (peoples), not a great or good army in the church! The passages relating to Joel's army confuse some, because it is said that the Lord is at the head of HIS army. He is in control of them. But that no more makes them the church than it made Babylon or Assyria the church! Jeremiah depicts Babylon as God's own instrument, his servant (Jer 25:9), just as Isaiah depicts Assyria as being a weapon in God's hand (Isa 7:20). God used them, as He uses the army depicted by Joel, to berate and scold an unrepentant Israel. In the same way, Joel's army is marching in the end times, to scold and rebuke, to consume and devour the unregenerate church.
I was impressed that this army was "now marching". There is only one globally significant move underfoot at this time. It has already affected many churches, denominations and groups. I have previously labeled it the "Blessing Movement"- It's 'streams' are severally identifiable as Howard Browne Ministries, the Toronto Blessing, Sunderland Outpouring and Pensacola Revival. This is, to me, one and the same movement in various forms.
The second army I saw however, portrays an altogether different picture. Here is an army fully prepared, awaiting instruction. It is not yet mobile. The battalion (in military terms about 10,000 men) was labeled Gideon's army. It represents the refined, the chosen, the remnant church. This second army is not yet marching. They are stable, focused, balanced and awaiting instruction. They have NOT been given their marching orders! Gideon and his men were exhorted: "Go in this might of yours and deliver Israel... I will be with you and you shall strike down the Midianites" (Judg 6:14,15). Note there is an explicit command to strike down the enemies of Israel, or for the church, the devil and his powers- not the church!
As I read through the account of Gideon in Judges 6-8 several things strike me about them. If this army is a picture of the remnant, then it will help to see what they had, and what they did. Firstly, they were twice refined. At first a great number of men gathered to fight (32,000 in all). During the first purging the Lord removed those who had the fear of man. This took their number down to 10,000. In my vision I saw the battalion (10,000 men) labeled as Gideon's army. This seems to indicate that the assembling battalion has already been refined of the fear of man. The second purging Gideon's army underwent was to remove those who trusted in their own strength. This took their number down to 300. The present Gideon's army (the one of my vision) may expect this second purging next.
I should say at this point that it is my understanding that the 'end time' army of God, the militant church making war on the enemies of the kingdom and taking ground for Christ will be made of many companies. Just one of these companies is Gideon's. Others have seen and labeled such companies as the Isaiah 57 company, the Elijah force and the warriors of Gilead. Perhaps these are all part of the same picture?
The next thing we notice about Gideon's army (and from now on these things are to come to the Gideon army gathered today) is that they were fewer in number than would be expected. Their number was so few in fact, that the move of God could not be blamed on them! The glory could only go to God and Israel would not be able to boast about the strength of her right arm. This fits well with my vision, as the assembled crowd represented only one battalion, not a whole army. The mighty triumphs and victories destined for this group can only be laid at the feet of Jesus.
In their first battle, Gideon moved only according to God's command. It was at God's initiative, at His request and by His plan only. It was interesting that as an army, they carried no swords! How could they possibly win the battle without weapons? Their battle cry was "a sword for the Lord and Gideon" (7:20) and the enemy "feared the sword of Gideon"(7:13). Yet in actual fact their hands were full. They went into battle with a shofar in one hand (trumpet) and fire in jars in the other.
The shofar symbolizes the prophetic clarion or the watchmen, used to sound the alarm and awaken the city. The fire in jars may well speak of this very great treasure we have within us, this precious truth about Christ which shall demonstrate his very great power: "we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us." (2 Cor 4:7). Likewise the secret to our warfare is also that the weapons of our battle are not merely carnal, they are divine to the tearing down of strongholds (2 Cor 10:4).
THE SONS of EPHRAIM
After winning an amazing victory in their first battle, Gideon's army pressed the defeated enemy far into the Northern region. They passed through into the land of Ephraim, toward Penuel. The inhabitants of this region - the sons of Ephraim, were accomplished soldiers. Over the years they had managed successive enlargements of their territory, and were powerful enough by Isaiah's time for him to even call them the Northern Kingdom! (Isa 7:28,29). They had defeated the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb (Jud 8:3) and were furious that Gideon had left them out of the battle!
Gideon must have considered taking such fine fighting men along to rout the enemy, yet we read that he proceeded on without them (v 4). Whilst Gideon acknowledges their superior strength in battle (Judg 8:2), he in fact uses this as a way of diplomatically declining their implied offer of help. He proceeds without the prestigious fighters. It would have been tempting to take them along in his battle.
Who are these sons of Ephraim, and what might they represent to the present vision of the army of Gideon? Ephraim was the second son of Joseph. Joseph blessed him with his right hand, and placed him over his brother Manassah (Gen 48:13) signifying that he would be greater. From the beginning of the tribe, Ephraim gained a place of honor and prestige. Several notable leaders came from the tribe or region - Joshua, Samuel, Jeroboam, Tola and Deborah.
They had a special place in God's heart, until their rebellion against the house of David. He states, "I am the father to Israel and Ephraim is my first born" (Jer 31:6). Similarly "Gilead is mine, and Manassah is mine, but Ephraim is my helmet and Judah my sceptre" (Psa 60:7). They had several of the ancient and blessed places of worship, including Bethel, Shiloh and Shechem within their borders.
There were, and are many good reasons to bring along people who seem to have a fruitful ministry (the name Ephraim means "fruitful place" in Hebrew). They may have prestige, they may have power, they may be experienced in battle and spiritual warfare, they may have ruled in the previous moves of God, yet we like Gideon should deny their aide. Gideon did not choose their help at all. They do indeed have a special place in God's heart and plan, but not in His present plan for the army of Gideon. They are to rout the enemy with the help of Jehovah alone!
The PROPHETIC 'STUCK-IN-THE-MUDS'.
Finally, the group I saw off to the side of Gideon's army represents, I believe, the prophets. One important point of my vision was that they were divided. They stood separated from each other, and in at least two rows facing each other. The Lord said, "Many have passed through their ranks". I am reminded of the Scripture which speaks of the coming unity among the prophets: "your watchmen shall lift up their voices, with their voices they shall sing together; for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord brings back Zion" (Isa 52:8 NKJV).
It is my experience that, by and large, prophetic persons are loners. Or at least they have a tendency to stay inward. They retract from too much publicity. Camaraderie among prophetic groups is a rare treasure indeed. In Australia especially, prophetic ministries tend to be individualist, elitist and aloof. But we can trust in the Scripture that as the Lord restores Zion, the watchmen shall gather together in harmony and unity. This is something to be overcome in Him.
Mud represents, at it's most basic level, wet earth. Earth or dust is the fabric which man is made from. Mud may therefore represent worldliness, or earthliness which taints prophetic ministry. Mud in Scripture is also associated with wickedness (Isa 57:20) and un-cleanliness (2 Pet 2:22). Being stuck in the mud up to the boot straps indicates the many ways in which the prophetic ministry has become tainted. Many groups have become attached to worldliness, and the keeping of position and power. Others of us have become proud, and others just plain sinful. Of all this we must repent, and be cleansed.
The prophetic band I saw were stuck in the mud, being not only tainted, but obviously trapped. Jeremiah used this analogy in warning the people of Israel that they faced captivity to Babylon since they had failed to head his warning. He warned, "this is what the LORD has shown me - a vision of all the women remaining in the house of the king of Judah being led out to the officials of the king of Babylon and saying, 'Your trusted friends have seduced you and have overcome you; Now that your feet are stuck in the mud, they desert you.' All your wives and your children shall be led out to the Chaldeans, and you yourself shall not escape from their hand, but shall be seized by the king of Babylon; and this city shall be burned with fire." (Jer 38:21-23).
Being stuck in the mud means to become trapped, and left open to being pillaged by the enemy, Jeremiah is basically saying to the captives of Jerusalem, "because of your sin, rebellion and failure to listen to God, you are trapped and shall be not only deserted, but carried away by the enemy. What a tragedy for the prophetic
ministries! My vision, lastly, is a warning that we must clean up, and move on. We must not pretend we are clean when in fact we are dirty. The call of the hour for those who call themselves prophetic is 'holiness unto the Lord'. Holy so that we may prepare and join the gathering, training, waiting army of Gideon in battle.
(c) Copyright 1997
~ Robert I. Holmes
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