Is the Devil Really in the Details?

“The devil is in the details.” I’ve often seen the validity of that phrase in politics. It makes perfect sense when reading the small print at the bottom of a contract, or if one is faced with a major decision and sometimes even in relationships. 

I get the sentiment behind the statement, “the devil is in the details,”  but Scripture presents another side of that coin. For without fail, God is even in the smallest details. 

Recently I’ve noticed how often I skim through numbers when I read the Bible. Newly aware of it, I try to catch myself and back up for the re-read. 

God Himself created numbers along with creation when he numbered his works.  “And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” Gen. 1:5 NIV

For someone like me, who has found numbers necessary when counting children, pieces of chocolate and how much a new dress costs, digits in Scripture are sometimes overlooked.

God records numerical details with precision. Lots of them.

Did you know the Israelite army took 61,000 donkeys when they plundered Midian (Numbers 31:34) or that Enoch’s dad, Jared was 162 when he was born. (Genesis 5:18) Or did you know the number of fish in the disciples’ nets was 153? ( John 21:11)

We are told exact days, years, weights, geographical stats and people groups. 

And indeed, the devil seemed to be rampant in many of the details. But yet, a righteous God remained in control. 

Scripture reports exactly what God wants us to know but not always why, and for all you fellow number-slackers, when we skip-the-numbers we also disregard the absolute accuracy of God’s Word. For numbers in Scripture, both those approximates and the exacts, are one of the proofs of God’s Omniscience. They attest to the validity of what He has written.  

We live in a world where numbers can be very important. But in the Old Testament story of Gideon, God demonstrates His ultimate control regardless of the numbers. 

He shows us that especially when the devil seems to control the details, God still reigns in holiness. 

In Judges 6, we find Gideon hiding wheat from the Midianites, he was not an eager go-to-battle-type of person. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, with the address of mighty warrior,” Gideon seems to have done a double take. 

He had a list of ready excuses, what must have appeared to him as the devil’s details in the affairs of His people. 

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” 

Where are all his wonders?

 The Lord has abandoned us. 

My clan is the weakest. 

I am the least in my family.” Judges 6:13-15 NIV

And so, God subtracted the numbers of men in Gideon’s troops. God wanted Gideon outnumbered.

The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ Judges 7: 2 ESV

God commanded Gideon to let any fearful and trembling warriors go. 

22,000 hoofed it back home. 

10,000 remained. 

“Still too many,” God said. 

God culled out an army of only 300. The rest he sent home.  

Perhaps Gideon had some hesitations about God’s mathematical calculations. Sometimes I do too. 

“Lord, we are outnumbered here,” I think when I see the moral abominations flooding our world.

“Really God?” I wonder at injustice against what God counts as sacred. 

“Could you ramp up the numbers of your followers with a few more likes?” 

The numbers didn’t add well for Gideon. Enemy Midianites and Amalekits ,“lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance.” Judges 7:12 ESV

But, he was never encouraged to depend on the numbers, was he? 

God doesn’t need big numbers to accomplish His purposes. He needs obedience. 

Jesus followers face opposition in our world system. 

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”John 16:33 NIV

For as much as we are distracted by the devil in the details, God’s story is always bigger than what we imagine or perceive. 

Gideon’s little army of 300 with trumpets and jar torches demolished the multitudes of Midian and Amalekite armies.

The numbers didn’t really matter, and yet they mattered greatly. 

For God Himself won the war exactly as He promised He would. 

Sometimes I fall prey to the numbers game. 

I feel like there aren’t enough true Jesus followers. 

Or I feel there are too many against God and His followers.

And then I want to throw up my hands and cry, “It’s useless.” 

But, like Gideon, God’s numbers add up exactly as He chooses for a purpose that belongs to Him. 

He gets the credit. I obey. 

God is in the details. 


*Feature Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash

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11 Replies

  1. Jeannie Waters Reply

    Sylvia, I’m not a numbers girl either, but I enjoyed your words. Once again I’m blessed and my faith is strengthened by God’s truths in your post. Thank you for this critical statement: “God doesn’t need big numbers to accomplish His purposes. He needs obedience.”

    • Sylvia A Schroeder Reply

      Thanks Jeannie! I need to remind myself often that God doesn’t need big numbers to accomplish His purposes. Thanks for reading and I always appreciate your comments!

  2. Sherry Carter Reply

    Wonderful, Sylvia!

    I am a numbers girl; my career was engineering. I believe that every number I relied on in science was based on God’s omniscience. Do you see the word “science” buried in there? God is the Creator and Sustainer of numbers!

    • Sylvia A Schroeder Reply

      So great to hear from a numbers girl!! I love the way you pointed out the word “science” in omniscience! I don’t know that I’ve ever thought of that before. Thank you!

  3. Linda Larramore Reply

    I found your post so encouraging! Thank you for this reminder. I’ll definitely pay more attention to numbers in the Bible to strengthen my faith.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thanks Linda! Numbers a bane can also be a blessing. I’m learning along with you!

  4. Joanna Eccles Reply

    Thanks for the reminder that cares about all the details of our lives. He is in control of the big and small. Your blog reminded me of the story of Jonathan who in preparing to go against the Philistines,
    “Nothing restrains the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.” God has all the power and uses it to accomplish His purposes. I can trust Him.

  5. Candyce Reply

    I am a numbers girl and I love this. Thanks for the reminder of this mathematical formula God is > __________________.
    (Fill in the blank)

  6. Katherine Pasour Reply

    I confess to skipping through Numbers, too. Like you, I’ve made myself slow down because, as you say, God is in the details. Evidently numbers are important since they are so emphasized in scripture. A reminder that there is nothing that isn’t under God’s care and concern.

  7. Emily Huffman Reply

    So encouraging. This is what I needed for the moment.

  8. Teresa A Moyer Reply

    I sometimes see posts on FB that seem so focused on the fact it looks like a revival is too “Small” that they are begging the church to do more, add more people. This reminds me that God does not need “LARGE” numbers of people and really does not “want” a huge number because if the number is big the people can claim that their “Works, Prayers, Their pastor…Etc” brought revival to America. But God wants the credit to go where it belongs. The Holy Spirt, The son Jesus and Father God should be given credit for saving a country if it is God’s will to do so. God only needs a few to accomplish His will and really He does not “NEED” any of our help.