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GIDEON’S VICTORY OVER MIDIAN
Judges 7:19-22. So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came unto the outside of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch; and they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers that were in their hands. And the three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal: and they cried, The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon. And they stood every man in his place round about the camp: and all the host ran, and cried, and fled. And the three hundred blew the trumpets, and the Lord set every man’s sword against his fellow, even throughout all the host.
WE are so familiar with scripture history, that we cease to be struck with the most astonishing events. Great events in profane history are handed down from generation to generation, and are made subjects of universal admiration: but those which are related in the Bible are passed over with little notice. How can we account for this? Is it that, in the one, the feats of men are seen, and in the other the feats of God? and that we are gratified with contemplating whatever advances the glory of man, but have no disposition to magnify and adore our God? We fear that this is the true solution of the difficulty. But, if we feel as we ought, we cannot be insensible to the display of God’s power and goodness in the passage we have now read. Indeed the whole history of Gideon is so curious and instructive, that, instead of confining ourselves to the particular action specified in the text, it will be desirable,
To notice the circumstances which led to this victory—
Here we must notice,
His call to his work—
[He was by nature qualified for the office of a deliverer, being “a mighty man of valour.” Yet that circumstance would not have justified so hopeless an attempt as that which he engaged in, if he had not been called to it by God himself. But God (under the appearance of an angel) called him to it, and assured him of his presence in the undertaking, and of ultimate success in it: “Thou shalt save Israel out of the hands of the Midianites: have not I sent thee? Surely I will be with thee; and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man [Note: Judges 6:12-16.].”
In confirmation of his call, God accepted his offering, which he caused to be miraculously consumed by fire out of the rock; and thereby gave him an undoubted evidence that he was that same Almighty Being, who had formerly commissioned Moses to deliver Israel from their Egyptian bondage [Note: Judges 6:17-24.].]
His preparation for it—
[The work to which he was called was exceeding arduous; and it was desirable that before he undertook it, he should have an opportunity of proving his zeal for God, and of seeing the sufficiency of God to carry him through it. God therefore ordered him to begin the work of reformation in his father’s house; to cast down the altar of Baal, and cut down the grove where that idol was worshipped, and build an altar to Jehovah, and offer a bullock for a sacrifice upon it. This was impracticable by day, because the worshippers of Baal would have interfered to prevent it: but he effected it by night; and executed in every respect the divine mandate. The people, as might be expected, demanded that he should be given up and put to death: but, notwithstanding his father was a worshipper of Baal, he was overruled by God to protect his son, and to threaten with death any that should take part with Baal; since, if he was a god, he was able to plead for himself; and, if he was not, his worship ought not to be upheld [Note: Judges 6:25-32.].
Thus, by this successful effort, Gideon was prepared for that far greater work which he was now to undertake against the Midianites.]
His encouragement to it—
[The attempt, according to human appearance, was madness itself; so dispirited was the state of Israel, and so great the power of their oppressors [Note: Judges 6:2-6.]. We wonder not therefore that he should request of the Lord a sign, whereby he might be assured of success in his enterprise. He begged of God that a fleece of wool should be put out into the open air, and be filled with dew, whilst all the surrounding ground was dry: and on that sign being given him, he entreated permission to reverse the sign, the fleece being kept dry, whilst all the earth around it was wet. The events corresponding with his desires, he was assured, that God could make that distinction between the Midianites and him, which was necessary to a successful issue of his contest with them.
Thus encouraged, he entered on the office that had been assigned him; and went with two and thirty thousand men whom he had assembled, to attack the Midianites. But God knew that if so many were to go down to the attack, they would ascribe the victory to their own prowess: and therefore he ordered Gideon to dismiss from his army all who were afraid: in consequence of which no less than twenty-two thousand forsook his standard in one night. Still there was the same objection to his retaining ten thousand; and therefore God undertook to determine, by a particular test, who should go to the attack: those who on being taken to the water bowed down on their knees to drink, were not to go; but those who in a more temperate and self-denying way took up water in their hands and lapped it, as a dog lappeth, were to be the chosen band. But by this test no less than nine thousand seven hundred were cut off from his army, and he was left with only three hundred persons to undertake this arduous work [Note: Judges 6:33-39; Judges 7:8.].
It should seem that this reduction of his numbers filled him with some secret misgivings. God therefore graciously offered him a further sign, whereby his faith should be confirmed, and his fear altogether dispelled. This was a sign that should be given him by the enemy themselves. He was to go down with his servant to the enemy’s camp, and hear what they themselves said. Accordingly he went, and heard one telling a dream that he had had, namely, that a cake of barley-bread had rolled down a hill into the camp, and had overturned a tent: which dream was immediately interpreted by his comrade, as importing that this cake was no other than the sword of Gideon, and that God had delivered Midian into Gideon’s hand [Note: ver. 9–14.]. This perfectly satisfied the mind of Gideon: he had no doubt now but that God would fulfil his promise: and in a full assurance of faith he instantly arranged every thing for the encounter [Note: ver. 15–18.].]
His success in it—
[The means he used were, no doubt, suggested to him by God himself. The little band were armed, not with sword and shield, but with a pitcher, a lamp, and a trumpet. They were instructed to surround the camp, and, at a given signal, to break their pitchers, display their lights, and sound their trumpets, and, without moving from their places, to cry, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon.” This was executed in due order: and instantly a panic struck the whole host of Midian, who in their fright destroyed each other; and, when put to flight, were followed by the other troops that had been dismissed, and were thus entirely destroyed [Note: ver. 19–25.].
Thus have we taken a connected view of the most important circumstances, in order that we may have our minds fully prepared for such observations as naturally arise from them.]
We proceed then,
To suggest some instructions arising from them—
Every part of the history is truly instructive: we may learn from it,
To undertake nothing in our own strength—
[Though God addressed Gideon as “a mighty man of valour,” Gideon did not presume upon his character, or think himself competent to the undertaking: yea, though commissioned by God himself, he shrunk back from the undertaking, saying, “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.” We mean not to commend unbelief, but to express our approbation of humility. It is well to be diffident of ourselves, and to confide only in the Lord our God. We are all called to “wrestle, not only against flesh and blood, but against all the powers of darkness:” but “who is sufficient for these things?” Let us bear in mind that “we are not of ourselves sufficient even to think a good thought as of ourselves,” and that “our whole sufficiency is of God” — — —]
To draw back from nothing to which we are called—
[When Gideon was assured that God had called him to the work, he cheerfully addressed himself to the performance of it. His question seems to have resembled that of the blessed Virgin, rather than of Zacharias [Note: Luke 1:18; Luke 1:34.], and to have flowed from a gracious, rather than an unbelieving, principle. Thus should we act: our great labour should be to ascertain the mind and will of God; and being informed of that, we should, like Paul, when he was called to preach the Gospel, “not confer with flesh and blood,” but set ourselves to discharge our duty to the uttermost. We indeed cannot expect our call to any particular office to be made as clear as Gideon’s; but, having discovered the duties of our respective callings, we should make no account either of difficulties or of danger, but determine instantly, and in all things, to approve ourselves faithful unto God — — —]
To doubt of nothing wherein God promises his aid—
[Gideon is particularly commended for his faith, to which his success in this enterprise is more especially ascribed [Note: Hebrews 11:32-33.]. And what can we desire more than a promise of God’s presence and co-operation? “If he be for us, who can be against us?” God has said, “Fear not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee, yea, I will help thee, yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness:” though therefore our enemies come forth like Goliath, and we be only like David with a sling and a stone, we need not fear the issue of the contest; for “we shall be more than conquerors through Him that loved us” — — —]
To take the glory of nothing which God does by us—
[God is a jealous God: and the ground of his reducing Gideon’s army to three hundred men was, lest, if their numbers bore ever so small a proportion to the number of their enemies, they should ascribe to themselves the honour of the victory, instead of giving all the glory of it to God. In like manner has God treasured up for us a fulness of all blessings in Christ Jesus, and required us to live by faith upon him, and to receive out of his fulness our daily supplies of grace and strength. He would have us to glory in Christ alone, and to possess now the very spirit which we shall have in heaven, when with all the glorified saints we shall cast our crowns at his feet, and ascribe salvation to God and to the Lamb for ever and ever — — —]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Judges 7". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany