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Wednesday, November 29th, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Bible Commentaries
Judges 8

Sermon Bible CommentarySermon Bible Commentary

Verses 1-35

Judges 6-8

In the first words of Gideon we find the key to his character. (1) He was a man who felt deeply the degradation of his people. He could not enjoy his own harvest while the Midianites were robbing all around; he had the patriot's wide sympathy. (2) He was a man also of the strongest common sense, accustomed to look through words to things, and to look the facts of life fair in the face. (3) He was a man of abundant personal valour, but yet unwilling to move a step until he was sure that God was with him.

I. We cannot fully understand Gideon's attitude towards the work of God, without taking into account the fact that the first thing he was commanded to do was to hew down the altar of Baal which had been erected in his father's grounds. God could not come among them while they were all turned away from Him to Baal. No sooner had Gideon hewed down the altar of Baal, than he received his commission against Midian. Gideon was right in refusing to believe God was present if things went on just as if He were not present, but he was wrong in not seeing what it was that prevented God from being present.

II. Gideon's attitude towards God's work, though not satisfactory, was due not so much to a flaw in his spirit, as to a mental blindness to duty. This could be, and was, easily amended. But the narrator goes on to show that there are other attitudes which men assume, and which unfit them for doing anything for God in the world. Much untrustworthy material existed in his army. The cowards had first to be rejected.

III. Out of the 10,000 men who were left, only 300 had that eagerness for the work that kept them from paying undue regard to other things. Men who are steeped in their own worldly objects are not the men whom God will use for His work.

IV. A fourth attitude is illustrated by the conduct of Ephraim. The Ephraimites may have been either high spirited and vexed that they had not been invited to help in overthrowing the Midianites, or they may have only wished that they had a share in the glory, and tried to make it appear that they would gladly have joined Gideon. There are both these classes still, persons who really feel hurt if they are not asked to help in every good work, and persons who when a good work is in its infancy make no movement to join it, but as soon as it becomes popular come forward and loudly complain that they were never asked to join.

V. A fifth and last attitude which men frequently assume towards God's work is represented by the men of Succoth and Penuel. These men were blind to the glory of the common cause selfish, poor spirited creatures, that shut themselves up in their fenced cities, and were satisfied to let God's soldiers starve, and God's work come to an end for want of support, so long only as they had bread enough to satisfy their own hunger. Such persons must be taught not by expostulation, but by the sword and with the briers of the wilderness.

M. Dods, Israel's Iron Age, p. 31.

References: 6-8. Parker, vol. vi., pp. 2, 49; J. Baldwin Brown, The Sunday Afternoon, p. 194.Judges 6:11 . J. Sherman, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. v., p. 313.Judges 6:11-13 . J. M. Neale, Sermons for the Church Year, vol. ii., p. 171.Judges 6:11-24 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 375.Judges 6:14 . Homiletic Magazine, vol. vii., p. 27; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. x., p. 275; J. M. Neale, Sermons for the Church Year, vol. i., p. 130. Judges 6:19 . J. W. Atkinson, Penny Pulpit, No. 1052.Judges 6:22-24 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii., No. 1679. Judges 6:25-32 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 376. Judges 6:33-40 . Ibid., vol. iv., p. 377.

Verse 4

Judges 8:4

I. Faintness comes to the body by long travel. These men had come a considerable distance, and distance will vanquish the strongest in the end, if there is not adequate renewal of the strength by food and rest.

It is so with the soul. There is a mysterious spending of its substance and vitality day by day in thought, emotion, will, effort. And if, through long travel, the waste is more than the recruiting, then comes faintness. God takes forty, fifty, sixty years for the ripening of one soul. He takes seven, three, or only one for the perfecting of another. No man can measure God's work clearly in the soul of another, or even in his own.

II. Faintness comes to the body by rapid movement. These men had come fast as well as far. All earnest natures tend to go by rapid movements, and are in consequence subject to sudden exhaustion. The fainting is the natural fruit of the effort.

III. Faintness comes to the body by the difficulty of the ground that has been trodden, or of the work that has been done. Some Christians go to heaven by the way of the plain, and some by the mountain roads. The mountain men are often faint, and hardly "pursuing."

IV. Faintness comes to the body through lack of sustenance. The soul, like the body, will faint if it is famished. Jesus feeds His flock like a shepherd.

V. Faintness may come to the body by sickness, by disease.

The soul sickens and grows faint when in any way, in any place, it inhales the poison of sin.

The grand word of the text is "pursuing." To pursue in weakness is even better, in some senses, than to pursue in strength. It shows that the life-purpose has taken full possession of the soul, and that God Himself is inspiring it.

A. Raleigh, Quiet Resting Places, p. 163.

References: Judges 8:4 . J. Baldwin Brown, The Higher Life, p. 288; E. J. Hardy, Faint yet Pursuing, p. 31; E. Blencowe, Plain Sermons to a Country Congregation; 1st series, p. 83; Parker, vol. vi., p. 165.Judges 8:12 , Judges 8:17 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 391.Judges 8:20 . Parker, vol. vi., p. 165; Homiletic Magazine, vol. x., p. 80. Judges 8:28 . Homiletic Quarterly vol. iv., p. 393.

Verse 21

Judges 8:21

The purport of these words is not obscure. The desert chieftains meant that, since they must die, they would rather fall by the hand of a strong man and a great commander such as Gideon, than by the hand of a mere stripling like his son; and that, first, because his stout arm would be more likely to despatch them quickly, and save them from a lingering and painful death; and secondly, because such an end would be less ignominious. Like many a wise saw of the olden time, the text contains much truth in small bulk.

I. Plainly, the first meaning of it is, that as a man is physically, so is his strength. Gideon belonged to the order of nature's nobility. He was a man of splendid figure and bearing, of a tall and commanding presence. Whatever work he undertook, he would do with thoroughness and effect. Although it is true that men cannot give to themselves a handsome mien, or add one cubit to their stature, it is equally true that they can do much to promote their health, to build up their constitution, and even to give dignity to their physical presence. The axiom generally holds good that as the man is, even in outward physique, so is his success and strength.

II. Take it in another way: as a man is intellectually, so is his strength. I use the word "strength" here as meaning power of work, capacity for accomplishing the ends of life, and making the world the better for his existence. In real power of work the skilled artisan leaves the mere labourer far behind, and the thoughtful clerk the mere mechanical penman; so that as a man is in intelligence, so is his strength.

III. As a man is morally and spiritually, so is his strength..

Character and faith, more than anything else, determine your power of overcoming difficulty and of accomplishing good. There must be a foundation of stern principle, or you will be as weak as water. A man with a resolute conscience will always be a power. There is no strength in the world like the strength imparted by a faith which lays hold of the risen and all-sufficient Redeemer.

J. Thain Davidson, The City Youth, p. 69.

References: Judges 8:21 . E. Paxton Hood, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 264.Judges 8:22-35 ; Judges 8:9 Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 303.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Judges 8". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/sbc/judges-8.html.
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