“Every Man in His Place”

By Irvin Himmel

In the days of the Judges, God allowed the Israelites to be oppressed by the Midianites for seven years. This affliction brought God’s people to their knees in repentance. A deliverer was chosen by the Lord to lead Israel against Midian. The chosen leader was named Gideon.

With 32,000 men, Gideon made preparations to wage war against the Midianites. God told him he had too many men. Large numbers mean nothing as God appraises things. Israel would have been lifted up with pride if the victory had been gained through the use of such a sizeable force. God told Gideon to let all who were fearful and afraid go home. That culled out 22,000!

The remaining force of 10,000 was still too large. God told Gideon to bring his men down to the water and put them to the test. All who bowed down upon their knees to drink were to be sent away. Gideon was told to retain the men who put their hand to the mouth, lapping the water from the hand with the tongue. The water test eliminated all of Gideon’s army except 3000.

Gideon took the 300 men who remained and divided them into three companies. Each man was told to take a trumpet and a pitcher with a torch inside it. In the middle of the night Gideon’s men quietly came close to the Midianite encampment and completely surrounded it. The torches were concealed inside the earthenware pitchers. When Gideon gave the signal, suddenly every man was to blow his trumpet then break his pitcher and hold his torch high, crying out, “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon.” The unexpected noise and commotion coming from all sides of the Midianite camp awakened the enemy, and in whatever direction he looked, torches were burning and men were shouting. Panic followed! The Midianites began slaying each other. Through this strategy and with God’s help, Israel was delivered from the oppressor.

How important it was that Gideon’s 300 men follow instructions. They had to move quickly and silently for the plan to work. The Bible says, “And they stood every man in his place round about the camp . . .” (Judges 7:21). If one man had dropped his pitcher and broken it before everybody was in position, the scheme would have failed because the enemy would have been alerted. Every man had to know his position, be in his place and ready to act according to the directions previously received, and stay in his place until Gideon was ready for his men to move against the confused Midianites.

This thrilling chapter of Old Testament history offers a timely lesson. Today, we need to find our place and stand in it. There is a work for which all are suited, but not everyone is capable of doing the same job. Sometimes a person is a good worker, honest, conscientious, dependable, and eager to do his best, but he may never be well-suited for the particular task he is undertaking. Problems often arise in business relationships because someone is out of place. Our ambitions sometimes surpass our abilities. Happy is the person who knows both his powers and his limitations, and who wisely finds the kind of work for which he is best equipped.

A good preacher may not do his best work in every field. Some good preachers are misfits in certain localities. It is fortunate when a preacher finds the kind of place for which he is best suited.

In the church of the living God, everyone needs to recognize his proper place and stay in that place.

Elders need to stay in their place. The overseers of a congregation are not dictators. Their place is not to make laws. Jesus Christ is the lawgiver. Elders are shepherds, but they are under Christ who is the Chief Shepherd. The oversight of an eldership is limited to the flock over which they are given the charge. Elders have no place meddling in the private business or personal affairs of the members of the congregation.

Deacons need to stay in their place. Deacons are qualified servants, not overseers of the church. In some congregations there is not a particle of difference between what the elders do and what the deacons do. While elders and deacons should work together closely, the differences in their qualifications and functions should not be ignored.

Preachers need to stay in their place. It is disgusting to me that some preachers seem to feel that they should oversee the flock. Although we cry out against the denominational “pastor system,” it is just possible that some of us accept it in effect. Preachers are to preach and teach, not set themselves over the elders, nor act as if having pontifical authority. This is not to say that a man could not be both a preacher and an elder if qualified and if chosen to be an elder, but I am saying that being a preacher does not entitle a man to usurp the eldership.

Women need. to stay in their place. The Bible puts limitations on women as to their work in the Lord. A woman is not to exercise dominion over the man (1 Tim. 2:12). Women are not authorized to be public proclaimers of the gospel. They cannot be elders in the church. Woman has a noble and glorious work in God’s kingdom, but she must stand in her place.

May we all study to find our place and recognize the importance of staying in our place. We find true happiness ourselves and we contribute to the joy of others by standing in our place.

Truth Magazine XIX: 49, p. 780
October 23, 1975