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In the progress of the history of Israel, we are here presented in this Chapter, with an account of Israel ' s rebellion by sin against God, after the forty years rest which the Lord had given them, from all their enemies, from the victory of Deborah and Barak. We are here told of their ill treatment by Midian: God's message to Israel by a prophet: Gideon is raised up, for their deliverance: an angel appears to him to encourage him: the conduct of Gideon in consequence thereof.
What a sad representation doth the Holy Ghost give us in this renewed instance of Israel's sin, of poor human nature in its best characters. Reader! remember that this is God's people, God's church of whom we read. My people (saith the Lord) are bent to backsliding. Hosea 11:7 . Sweet is that promise, I will heal their backsliding. Hosea 14:4 . For I hope that the Reader hath not now to learn, that unless the Lord heals, there is neither balm nor physician in Gilead, Jeremiah 8:22 . Reader, do not overlook the expression in this verse, that the Lord delivered Israel into the hand of Midian. For what is Midian? what are ten thousand enemies, except the Lord gives the power to scourge? Deuteronomy 32:30 . Besides, this is the very tenor of the Lord's covenant, Psalms 89:30 , etc.
Reader! do not fail to remark with me how conscious guilt breeds fear. Is this Israel, victorious Israel, that skulks away, and from a contemptible people whom their fathers had overrun and almost destroy ed. See Numbers 31:7 . But alas! is it not so with all God's Israel? Dearest Jesus! how doth a sense of my manifold departures from thee induce fear and timidity in my heart. And what confidence doth the enemy make of it, to create shyness in my trust in thee? I feel at such seasons the whole force of that scripture: Psalms 40:12 .
How hath the Holy Ghost marked with precision, this very state of punishment which the Lord exercises over the sins of his people. See Leviticus 26:16-17 .
Here is the first cry of grace which we meet with in the Lord's heritage under all their sufferings? Seven whole years of misery before that one cry to the Lord for deliverance is heard. No doubt Israel did as you and I have done under our sorrows, that is, tried every resource but the right, and every effort of human policy and human contrivance before application is made to God himself. And never would the heart of either be brought to God, unless that God by his grace in the heart had inclined the sinner to seek him. Doth the Reader know this? Is he most solemnly convinced of it. If not: oh! that the Holy Ghost may be his teacher! 1 John 4:19 .
Observe the sweet methods of God's grace. No sooner doth Israel cry but the Lord hears and answers. Indeed the promise is, Before my people call I will answer. The Lord waiteth to be gracious. Isa_65:24; Isa_30:18 .
Observe how by the ministry of a prophet, the Lord makes way for the salvation of his people. And is not God doing so now? Doth he not by the word of the gospel call upon sinners to return? Is he not by yet an higher messenger, even the Holy Ghost himself, preparing the heart for the cordial reception of Jesus? Oh! thou Holy Spirit, thou Almighty Teacher! how art thou unceasingly pleading and expostulating with the hearts of thy people, to endear to them Jesus? Reader, are you a backslider from the Lord? have you been brought out of spiritual Egypt? And have you since that great and distinguishing mercy, forgotten the Lord God of your fathers? Surely if so, you will feel the great mercy of God in a personal application of what is here said. Is this the kindness to thy friend? 2 Samuel 16:17 .
I cannot hesitate to believe, that this was that same Almighty angel who, all along from creation, at various times manifested himself to his people as occasion required, and as it pleased him. I say I cannot hesitate to form this conclusion, because he who is in this verse called an angel of Jehovah, is in the 14th verse expressly called Jehovah. And Reader! when you have duly compared this passage with several others, and compared also some of the expressions he was graciously pleased to make use of, such as in a very particular way, Surely I will be with thee, and the promise of victory; I shall hope if the Lord be your teacher, you will believe the same. See Genesis 28:15 ; Exodus 3:2-6 . Yes, dearest Jesus! thy people taught by thy Spirit, are enabled to trace thee, in the footstep of thy love frequently going before and manifesting thyself to them otherwise than thou dost unto the world; and in a way and manner best known to thyself, long before thine incarnation, as if thou went longing for that time to show thine unequalled mercy to our fallen nature! Proverbs 8:22-31 . I would have the Reader to remark with me, several very interesting things, connected with the relation of the appearance of this angel. Is there not somewhat similar to the general promulgation of the gospel, and of the coming of Jesus to his people? The prophet we are told first came to Israel, and then this angel. John the Baptist was the forerunner of Christ. See Malachi 3:1 ; John 1:19-23 . And is it not so now, in the revelation of Jesus to his people? Doth not the Holy Ghost first convince of sin, and then of the righteousness of Jesus? See John 16:3 . I would detain the Reader with another observation on this passage. When deliverance was about to be proclaimed to Israel from their sorrows, that deliverance was made known to those who were retired from the world, and engaged in their honourable employments. And was it not the same, when the angels made known to the shepherds, watching over their flocks by night, that a Saviour was then born to them in the city of David. Luke 2:10-11 .
There is somewhat very striking in this short conversation; short as it is, it conveys much more than the mere words express. If this angel was, as the whole sense of the passage seems to intimate, the Lord Jesus, it is very true indeed, that the Lord was with him. The answer is also as striking: for according to the Chaldee reading of it, the words are, If the Shechinah, (the well known character of the promised seed of the Lord) be our help, why then is all this befallen us? Reader! remark how common it is in all ages for the Lord's people to be a tried people. And Reader! add this other remark to the observation; if the Lord's people be a sinning people, their offences shall be visited with rods. Psalms 89:30-31 .
I beg the Reader not to overlook the expression, the Lord looked upon him. Was there not somewhat particularly striking in this look of the Lord? Surely his grace, his power, his love, his promised favor and protection, accompanied that look. Wonders have been wrought by the piercing eye of Jesus upon his people, no doubt like that of his look to Peter! Oh, dearest Jesus! let thine eye be upon me for good. Luke 22:61 . There is somewhat very expressive, in the commission with which the look of the Lord was accompanied. Go in this thy might. What might? Not Gideon ' s might surely, but the might of the Lord, with which, in the moment of giving him his commission, the Lord endued him. Oh! for the same grace and the same power, to go forth in the strength of the Lord God upon all occasions of our spiritual warfare, and to make mention of his righteousness only. Psalms 71:16 .
This objection, if greater had not arisen in Gideon's mind after, would not have carried with it an evidence of little faith, for it bespoke great humbleness of soul, and a becoming spirit. It is a promise never to be forgotten, that the Lord resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. James 4:6 .
Reader! do not overlook the gracious condescension of Jesus to the fears and doubts of his people, while you are reading this verse. It is thus, depend upon it, he deals with them all. Matthew 12:20 .
From this intreaty it is evident that Gideon's heart was affected, and that he desired only additional evidences of the authority given to him. And I rather am inclined to think, that, as in former cases to Israel, in the appearances made to them by this angel, whom we cannot suppose Gideon was so little acquainted with the history of the church as not to know, he recollected that the Lord had more fully manifested who he was in the moment of offering sacrifice. Gideon prayed that he might have this privilege also, of offering it upon the present occasion. See Genesis 15:7-18 .
Observe, Gideon presented it to the angel! Wherefore? Did he know indeed that our Jesus was, as well as now is, a priest forever, after the order of Melchisedec? Psalms 110:4 ; Hebrews 7:15-17 .
Observe the trials of faith. In pouring out the broth, and laying the flesh on the cold rock, would not both cool? And how then should both be fit for sacrifice? Is it not thus frequently done by the Lord to his servants, that against hope they may, by the influences of his Holy Spirit, believe in hope? Romans 4:18 . But what I more earnestly beg the Reader not to lose sight of, in this passage, is the rock. Surely, nothing, under a symbolical representation, could more plainly point to Jesus as the sole cause of the acceptance of all sacrifice, when we call to mind that Christ was the Rock that followed Israel through the whole of the eventful history of the Church in the wilderness. And, moreover, it was on this Rock that Jehovah manifested himself to Moses, when he desired to see the face of God, as a proof of his commission. Oh! how sweet, how very sweet is it, to behold in one and the same point of view, that Jesus is both the sacrifice, and the high priest, and the altar, from whence the holy fire issues in approbation, and on which all offerings are presented.
The fear of Gideon, on the discovery, was very natural, and corresponded to what the Lord had himself long before told Moses concerning the sight of God. See Exodus 33:20 . Reader! what a delightful view doth this give us of the person and offices of our adorable Redeemer. Jesus, by tabernacling in substance of our flesh, hath softened the awful majesty of God. In seeing Jesus, we behold the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person. And seeing him, we see in him the Father also without danger. John 14:9; John 14:9 ; Hebrews 1:3 .
There is a great beauty in this verse, if read in gospel language. The eye that beholds God in Christ, is so far from being in danger of death, that in him he beholds peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:19 .
Jehovah Shalom, means the Lord our Peace. As if he had said, The Lord is at peace with me. It is the title which in that very spot Gideon desired ever after to know his God by. And is it not so by the true believer in Jesus, after once the soul is brought into the possession of that peace with God which is in Christ Jesus? The Lord our peace; the Lord our Righteousness. But there is somewhat particularly striking in the uniform custom holy men of old had in recording divine mercies, and making the very spot forever after memorable where the Lord manifested himself. See Gen_16:13; Gen_22:14; Gen_28:19 , etc. Reader! let you and I pause over the passage, and if we know anything of God, ask our own hearts how many memorable spots we have cause to mark in the recollection of divine mercies, where we might call those places by all these names and many others, of Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Shalom, Jehovah our Righteousness. Jeremiah 23:6 .
Perhaps this second visit of God was in a vision of . the night. It should seem by this account that the house of Gideon was engaged in the worship of idols, as well as other houses in Israel. And if so, it serves to manifest an evidence of distinguishing grace, that from such an house the Lord should raise up a deliverer for Israel. Thus Abraham, when called of God, was an idolater. See Genesis 12:1-2 . How marvellous are all the ways and works of God! Sweet, in confirmation of it, is that scripture, Romans 9:13-16 . There is somewhat particularly striking in this direction concerning the second bullock. I do not presume to explain the reason: but I venture to suggest to the Reader's notice, another striking scripture of divine appointment, where the second is preferred before the first. See Genesis 25:23 . I would have the Reader notice, that Baal's altar is to be thrown down before that the altar to Jehovah be erected. And the altar to Jehovah is not to be built in the same place; but upon the top of the very rock where the former manifestations had been made to him. Is not this, if looked at in gospel dress, a sweet token that both altar and sacrifice are to be offered upon, and in, and through, Jesus? Matthew 16:13 .
Gideon's apprehension doth not seem to have arisen from fear of offence, in that he did it by night; but for fear of interruption, he wished to accomplish the divine command, and therefore did it perhaps the same night. He well knew the consequence of the people's displeasure, but which it should seem he did not fear.
To what an awful length of apostasy must Israel have been arrived, to condemn openly and without shame, one whose offence was zeal for Jehovah' s honour, and a detestation of the worship of a dunghill deity.
Whether from fatherly affection, or from an higher principle of grace in the heart, this conduct of Joash sprung, I do not determine. But no doubt, the Lord overruled his mind in favor of his son.
Jerub-baal, that is, let Baal plead.
The year of deliverance to Israel was come, and therefore the Lord inclined the hearts of their enemies to gather together. See Judges 4:6-7 ; Micah 4:12-13 .
I beg the Reader to take notice of the expression, that the Spirit of Jehovah came upon Gideon. Yes! it is that holy and eternal God, who worketh by his instruments through all the world of Providence and grace. Reader! be very earnest in your searchings, whether you are under his blessed influence. Ephesians 4:7 ; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 ; Zechariah 4:6 .
Though clothed and armed with the Spirit of the Lord, yet, as the Lord is graciously pleased to work with human instruments, Gideon calls in the Lord's people to his aid. And are we not taught to do the same by prayer? See Paul's manner on this subject, Hebrews 13:18 , etc.
It is probable that those requests of Gideon were more for the confirmation of the faith of his companions, than for his own; similar to those questions which John the Baptist sent to Jesus. For they are proposed with such humbleness of soul, that they do not carry with them those marks of doubt that otherwise might be expected. Matthew 11:2-3 , compared with John 1:29-34 . Reader! do not overlook the gracious condescension of our most gracious and indulgent God, either way, and in any direction, as shall best satisfy the doubts and scruples of his people; by a dry fleece, or a moist fleece, the Lord will answer the prayers of his people. That is a very precious scripture to this purpose, Isaiah 45:11 .
READER! let you and I pause over this chapter, and in the view of Israel's repeated departures from the Lord God of their mercies, behold the picture of our own hearts. How often, how very often, hath our adorable Redeemer saved us from our enemies, and yet how prone are we to forget the gracious hand that hath wrought our salvation? And while we view our unworthiness, let the reflection lead us to contemplate renewed mercies. Doth not God send his messengers, like the Prophet, to remonstrate with us? Are not his visitations, either in the common Providences of life, in sickness, trouble, persecution, and the like, voices like the Prophet's of solemn expostulation? And when, these messengers of correction and reproof are accompanied with his grace, and put a cry in our heart, under a sense of sin, and the prayer of earnestness for deliverance, doth not Jesus fly to our aid, and like his type, the Gideon here spoken of, come forth to our rescue? Oh! thou adored Lord our Righteousness! how precious is it to my soul, to see thy renewed goings forth for me in all the redemption of thy mercy! Dearest Jesus! grant me, from such repeated testimonies of thy love, such unalterable assurance of my interest in thee, that I may neither seek the moistened nor the dry fleece, to tell me that thou art a faithful God. Oh! for grace amidst all the departures and backslidings of my unworthy heart! Oh, for grace to believe stedfastly the record which God hath given of his dear Son.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Judges 6". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13