Gideon and His Companions: Part 3

Judges 6‑8  •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 6
Nothing can be more encouraging to the heart than the mode in which the Lord deals with the soul of Gideon—the way in which He prepares him for the course of action to which He was calling him. Gideon, like ourselves, was full of "ifs" and "whys," those little words so big with unbelief. The poor human heart is ever slow to take in the magnificence of divine grace—our feeble vision is dazzled by the brilliancy of divine revelation. It is only artless faith which can cause the soul to feel perfectly at home in the presence of the richest unfoldings of the goodness and loving kindness of God. Faith never says "if" or "why?" It believes what God says, because He says it. It rests, in sweet tranquility, upon every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord. Unbelief looks at circumstances, and reasons from them. Faith looks at God, and reasons from Him. Hence the vast difference in their conclusions. Gideon, judging from his surroundings, con-eluded that Jehovah had forsaken His people. A simple faith would have led him to the very opposite conclusion; it would have enabled him to see and know and remember that Jehovah would ever be true to His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, however He might, in His governmental dealings, have to hide His face from their rebellious and sinful offspring. Faith always counts on God; and God, blessed be His name, ever honors faith. He first creates it, and then owns it.
But, not only does God graciously honor faith; He rebukes our fears. He rises above our unbelief, and hushes all our silly reasonings. Thus, in His dealings with His chosen servant Gideon, it would seem as though He heard not the "if" or the "why?" He goes on to unfold His own thoughts, to display His own resources, and to fill the soul of His servant with a confidence and a courage which was to lift him above all the depressing influences with which he was surrounded.
"And the Lord looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel out of the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?" Here we have the true secret of strength: " The Lord looked upon him." There was divine power in this look, if Gideon could only have taken it in. But alas! he was still full of questions. " And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? Behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house."
Thus it is ever. Unbelief turns the eye in upon self, or out upon our surroundings. It leads us to compare our visible resources with the work to which God is calling us. Jehovah had said, "Go in this thy might." What was the "might?" In what did it consist? Was it great wealth, lofty position, or great physical power? Nothing of the kind. "Jehovah looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel." This was absolute and unqualified. It left no room for Gideon's "wherewith?" It made it very plain that the might with which he was to deliver Israel was not in himself or in his father's house, but in the God of Israel. It mattered little whether his family was rich or poor; whether he was little or great. It was God who was about to use him. What was wealth or greatness to Him? He could use a barley cake or a broken pitcher. Indeed we may observe this special feature in the varied instruments taken up in the book of Judges, namely, that "no flesh shall glory in God's presence." How does human glory fade away before the humiliating fact that Israel's hosts were called forth to battle under the leadership of a woman! What a stain on human pride in the fact of deliverance coming through the agency of a " left-handed man!"
But, on the other hand, we find that, just in proportion as man's glory fades away, the divine glory shines out.
The humbler the instrument, the more we see the power of God. What difference does it make to the Almighty God whether His instrument be left-handed or right-handed -a man or a woman—a dwarf or a giant? The instrument is nothing. God is all in all. True, He deigns to use instruments; but all the power is His, and His shall be the eternal and universal praise. Gideon: had to learn this; and so had Moses; and so have we all. It is an invaluable lesson. We are all so prone to think of our competency for any work or service which may lie before us, when we ought to remember that the works that are done upon the earth, God is the doer of them. Our sufficiency is of Him. We can do nothing; and if we could do aught it would be badly done. The human finger can only leave a soil behind. The works of men perish like their thoughts. The work of God abideth forever. Let us remember these things, that we may walk humbly and lean ever and only on the mighty arm of the living God. Thus the soul is kept in a well balanced condition, free from self-confidence and fleshly excitement, on the one hand; and from gloom and depression, on the other. If we can do nothing, self-confidence is the height of presumption. If God can do everything, despondency is the height of folly.
But in the case of Gideon, as in that of all God's servants, we observe two things worthy of our deepest attention. In the first place, we have the divine commission, as embodied in those weighty words, " Have not I sent thee Γ And, in the second place, we have the assurance of the divine presence, as set forth in these encouraging words, " Surely I will be with thee."
These are the two grand points for all who will serve God in their day and generation. They must know that the path they tread has been marked out distinctly by the hand of God; and, furthermore, they must have the sense of His presence with them along the path. These things are absolutely essential. Without them we shall waver and vacillate. "We shall be running from one line of work to another. We shall take up certain work, go on with it for a while, and then abandon it for something else. We shall work by fits and starts; our course will be faltering, our light flickering: "Unstable as water, we shall not excel." We shall never succeed at anything. There will be no certainty, no stability, no progress.
These are weighty matters for all of us. It is of immense importance for every servant of Christ, every child of God, to know that he is at his divinely appointed post, and at his divinely given work. This will give fixedness of purpose, moral elevation, and holy independence. It will preserve us from being tossed about by human thoughts and opinions—being influenced by the judgment of one or another. It is our happy privilege to be so sure that we are doing the very work which the Master has given us to do, that the thoughts of our fellows respecting us shall have no more weight with us than the pattering of rain on the window.
Not—be it carefully observed—that we should, for a moment, countenance, much less cultivate, a spirit of haughty independence. Far away be the thought! We, as Christians, can never, in one sense, be independent one of another. How can we, seeing we are members one of another? We are united to one another and to our risen Head in glory, by the one Spirit who is with us and in us. The most intense individuality—and our individuality should be as intense as our unity is indissoluble—can never touch the precious truth of the one body and one Spirit.
All this is divinely true, and most fully and thankfully owned. But, at the same time, we must insist upon the truth of our individuality, and of our personal responsibility. This must be maintained with all possible energy and decision. Each servant has to do with his Lord, in that particular sphere of work to which he has been called.
And, moreover, each should know his work, and give himself to it diligently and constantly. He should possess the holy certainty and authority imparted to the soul by that divine and powerful sentence, " Have not I sent thee?"
It will, perhaps, be said, "We are not all Gideons or Joshuas. We are not all called to occupy such a prominent place or tread such a brilliant path as those illustrious servants." True; but we are called to serve; and it is essential to every servant to know Ids commission, to understand his work, and to be fully assured in Ids own soul that he is doing the very work which the Lord has given him to do, and treading the very path which the hand of God has marked out for him. If there be any uncertainty as to this, we do not see how there can be any progress.
But there is more than this. It is not enough to know that we are treading the divinely appointed path. We want to realize the divine presence. We want to have the precious words made good in our experience, "Surely I will be with thee." This completes the servant's equipment. The divine commission and the divine presence are all we want; but we must have these in order to get on. With these priceless realities it matters not who we are, what we are, or where we are. The Lord can use a feeble woman, a left handed man, a cake of barley meal, or a broken pitcher. The instrument is nothing. God is the workman. Unbelief may cry out, "Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? Behold my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house." Faith can cry out, in reply, " What of all this if God be for us? Does He want the rich or the noble? What are riches or greatness to Him? Nothing." " Ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence." 1 Cor. 1:26-2926For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29That no flesh should glory in his presence. (1 Corinthians 1:26‑29).
These are wholesome words for all of us. It is an unspeakable mercy for every clear servant of Christ to be kept in the abiding sense of his own utter nothingness—to be taught to realize, in some measure, the depth, fullness, and power of that one brief but most comprehensive statement, " Apart from me ye can do nothing." There is not a single branch in all the vine, however imposing or wide-spreading it may seem to be, which, if separated from the parent stem by the thickness of a gold leaf, can produce the very smallest atom of fruit. There must be the abiding realization of our vital union with Christ—the practical, living, abiding in Him, by faith, day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment, in order to bring forth any fruit that God can accept. It is as we abide in Christ that the living sap circulates freely through us, and gives forth the healthy bud, the green leaf, and the seasonable fruit.
Here lies the grand secret of power. It is abiding in the living vine. "Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lo»:d, and whose hope the Lord is; for he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river; and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit." Jer. 17:7, 87Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. 8For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. (Jeremiah 17:7‑8).
All this is intensely personal. We must each, for himself and herself, cling, by faith, to Christ. It is of the very last possible importance for Christians to bear in mind that Christianity is a thoroughly individual thing. We are individual in our repentance, in our faith, in our salvation, in our communion, in our service, and in our reward. Look at the addresses to the seven churches in Rev. 2 and hi. Hearken to those pointed words, "'He that hath an ear"—"To him that overcometh." What do they mean? Do they not set forth, in the most distinct and forcible manner, that blessed individuality of which we speak? Unquestionably. But do they touch unity? Not in the smallest degree. They leave its sacred domain wholly untouched. " There is one body and one Spirit." This must ever hold good, spite of all the ruin and failure of the professing church. Nevertheless, the writings of John are pre-eminently individual. From the opening lines of his Gospel to the closing sentence of his Apocalypse, we trace this feature. He shows us the Philips, the Simons, the Andrews, and the Nathanaels coming, in their individuality, to Jesus. He tells us of a Jewish ruler here, and a Samaritan sinner there, who were drawn by the Father to Jesus. He tells us of the good Shepherd who calleth His sheep by name. He tells us of the branches clinging to the living vine. Thus it is in John's Gospel; and when we turn to his Epistles, we find the same principle running through them all. He writes to an elect lady, and to his beloved Gaius; and if he once speaks of " the Church," it is but to weep over its departed glory, and to raise amid its ruins that warning note for individual ears, " Look to yourselves." And as to the Revelation, it ends as it begins, with a solemn appeal "to him that heareth."
(To be continued, if the Lord will.)