Gideon and His Companions: Part 2

Judges 6-8  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 7
There is one truth which shines out, with uncommon luster, in the Book of Judges, and that is, that God is ever to be counted upon, even amid the darkest scenes of human history; and, moreover, faith can always count upon God. God never tails a trusting heart—No, never. He never has failed, never will, never can fail the individual soul that confides in Him, that takes hold of His precious word, in the artless simplicity of a faith that trusts Him hi the face of man's deepest and most humiliating failure and short coming.
This is most consolatory and encouraging, at all times, and under all circumstances. True it is—alas! how true!—man fails in everything. Trace him where you will; mark him in whatever sphere of action or responsibility he occupies, and it is the same sad tale, over and over again, of unfaithfulness, failure, and ruin. Let. man be set up in business, as often as he may, with the largest capital and the fairest prospects, and he is sure to become a bankrupt. It has ever been so, from the days of Eden down to the present moment. We may assert, without fear of contradiction, that there has not been one solitary exception to the dismal rule, hi the history of Adam's fallen race. We must never forget this. True faith never forgets it, in its highest flights and brightest visions. It would be the blindest folly to attempt to ignore the fact that ruin is stamped, in characters deep and broad, upon the entire of man's story, from first to last.
But, in the face of all this, God abideth faithful. He cannot deny Himself. Here is the resource and the resting place of faith. It recognizes and owns the ruin; but it counts on God. Faith is not blind to human failure; but it fixes its gaze on divine faithfulness. It confesses the ruin of man; but it counts on the resources of God, Now, all this comes strikingly out in the interesting and instructive story of Gideon. He, truly, was made to realize, in his own person and experience, the fact of Israel's fallen condition. The contrast between Joshua and Gideon is as striking as anything can be, so far as regards the question of their condition and circumstances. Joshua could place his foot on the necks of the kings of Canaan. Gideon had to thrash his wheat in a corner to hide it from the Midianites. The day of Joshua was marked by splendid victories; the day of Gideon was a day of small things. But the day of small things for man is the day of great things for God. So Gideon found it. True, it was not permitted him to witness the sun and moon arrested in their course, or the cities of the uncircumcised leveled with the ground. His was a day of barley cakes and broken pitchers, not of astounding miracles and brilliant achievements. But God was with him; and this was enough. " There came an angel of the Lord, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abi-ezrite; and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, the Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor." Judg. 6:11, 1211And there came an angel of the Lord, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. 12And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor. (Judges 6:11‑12).
What words were these to fall upon the ear of Gideon, cowering in the winepress, through fear of the enemy! They were words from heaven to lift his soul above the trials, and sorrows, and humiliations of earth—words of divine power and virtue to infuse vigor into his depressed and sorrowing heart. " Thou mighty man of valor!" How hard was it for Gideon to take such wondrous accents in! How difficult to apply them to himself! Where was the might or where was the valor? Most surely not in himself or in his surroundings. Where then? In the living God; precisely where Joshua found his might and his valor. Indeed there is a striking similarity in the terms in which both these eminent servants of God were addressed. The similarity of the terms is quite as marked as is the contrast in their circumstances. Here are the terms to Joshua: "Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not thou afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest." And what were the terms to Gideon? Even the very same—" The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor."
Precious words! Soul-stirring, heart-strengthening accents! Words of light, life, and power! And yet Gideon was slow to make his own of them—slow to grasp them, in the lovely appropriating power of faith, which so delights the heart of God, and glorifies His name. How often is it thus with us! How constantly we fail to rise to the height of God's gracious thoughts and purposes towards us! We are prone to reason about ourselves and our surroundings, instead of believing God, and resting, in sweet tranquility in His perfect love and infallible faithfulness.
Thus it was with that dear man of God on whose history we are dwelling. The divine statement was clear, full, absolute, and unconditional: " The Lord is with thee." There was no ground, in these words, for any question, doubt, or difficulty whatsoever; and yet mark Gideon's reply. " And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? And where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? but now the Lord hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites." Verse 13.
Here, as is evident, Gideon reasons from his surroundings. Hence the "if"—that little monosyllable of unbelief. It is a familiar remark amongst us, " If you want to be miserable, look within; if you want to be distracted, look around; if you want to be peaceful and happy, look up—× 'look οίϊ unto Jesus.' " This is most true. So surely as we become occupied with self, or with men and things, the circumstances which surround us, we must be unhinged and unhappy. Our only strength, our only comfort, our only light, is to keep the eye of faith fixed on Jesus, and the heart firmly centered in Him. Most certainly Gideon's surroundings were of the gloomiest character. His " sensible horizon " was overhung with dark and heavy clouds. But there was one bright and blessed ray which shone in upon his depressed spirit—a ray emanating from the very heart of God, and conveyed in that one brief but comprehensive sentence, " The Lord is with thee," There was no "if" in this—no doubt, no difficulty, no reserve, no condition. It was distinct and unqualified, and needed only one thing to make it a spring of joy, strength, and victory in Gideon's soul, and that was to mix it with faith. But then "if" is not faith. True faith never answers God with ifs, for the simplest of all reasons, that it looks only at God, and there are no ifs with Him. Faith reasons from God downwards; not from man upwards. Faith has only one difficulty, and that difficult}' is embodied in the question, " How shall he not?" It never says, " How shall he?" This is the language of sheer unbelief.
But, it may be asked by some, was there not some foundation for Gideon's "if" and " why?" Certainly not in God or in His word, whatever there had been in Israel and their actings. No doubt, if Gideon had only cast his eye back over the pages of his national history, he might have discovered ample reason for the sad and humiliating condition in which he found himself. Those blotted pages would have furnished an abundant answer to his question, " Why then is all this befallen us?" But bad Israel's actings dimmed the luster of Jehovah's mighty "miracles?" Not in the vision of faith, most surely. God had done great and glorious things for His people; and the record of those doings lay ever under the eye of faith, in all its soul sustaining virtue. No doubt Israel had failed—shamefully failed; and the record of that failure lay also under the eye of faith, and furnished a solemn answer to Gideon's inquiry, " Why is all this befallen us?" Faith recognizes God's government as well as His grace, and moreover it bows, in solemn awe, before each stroke of His governmental rod.
It is well to keep all this in mind. We arc apt to forget it. God has, at times, to stretch forth his hand and lift the rod of authority. He cannot own what is contrary to His name and His nature. Now, Gideon needed to remember this. Israel had sinned, and this was the reason why they were under the rod, of which the power of the Midianites was the expression in Gideon's day.
Gideon, we repeat, was called to enter practically into the meaning of all tins; and not only so, but to taste the reality of identification with his people in all their pressure and affliction. This latter, as we know, was the portion and experience of every true servant of God in Israel. All had to pass through those deep exercises of soul consequent upon their association with the people of God. It mattered not whether it were a judge, a prophet, a priest, or a king; all had to participate in the sorrow and trials of the nation of Israel; nor could any true heart—any genuine lover of God or His people—desire exemption from such deep and holy exercises. This was preeminently true of the only perfect servant that ever stood upon this earth. He, though personally exempt from all the consequences of Israel's sin and failure—though pure and spotless, divinely holy in nature and in life—did nevertheless, in perfect grace, voluntarily identify Himself with the people in all their sorrow and humiliation. " In all their affliction he was afflicted." Thus it was with our blessed Lord Jesus Christ; and all who, in any degree, partook of His Spirit, had, according to their measure, to taste of the same cup, though none could ever come up to Him in this or in aught else.
But when we come to compare closely the angel's words to Gideon, with his reply, we notice a point of deep interest, and one which illustrates the individual character of the Book of Judges. The angel says, " The Lord is with thee.\ Gideon replies, " If the Lord be with us." This is very interesting and instructive; moreover it is in full keeping with a passage already referred to, in chapter iii: "And when the Lord raised them up judges, then the Lord was with the judge"—it does not say " with the people," but adds, with touching grace—" and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for it repented the Lord because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them." Verse 18.
There is peculiar sweetness and beauty in this. If Jehovah had to hide His face from His people, and give them over, for the time, into the hand of the uncircumcised, yet His loving heart was ever turned towards them, and ever ready to mark and recognize the faintest traces of a repentant spirit. "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger forever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old." Mic. 7:18-2018Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. 19He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. 20Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old. (Micah 7:18‑20).
(To be continued, if the Lord will.)