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GIDEON PACIFIES THE EPHRAIMITES
Judges 8:1-7.8.3. And the men of Ephraim said unto him, Why hast thou served its thus, that thou calledst us not, when thou wentest to fight with the Midianites? And they did chide with him sharply. And he said unto them, What have I done now in comparison of you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abi-ezer? God hath delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb: and what was I able to do in comparison of you? Then their anger was abated toward him, when he had said that.
WE are apt to admire great military exploits, and to account men honourable in proportion to the victories they have gained: but there is a victory over ourselves that far more dignifies a man, than the most extended conquests over others. We certainly regard Gideon as one highly renowned in the feats of war: but his defeat of all the Midianitish hosts with only three hundred men, armed with pitchers, lamps, and trumpets, is less worthy of admiration, than the self-possession he exercised towards the offended and objurgatory Ephraimites. Solomon has weighed as in a balance the different characters, and has decided in favour of him whose victory is over his own spirit: “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city [Note: Proverbs 16:32.].”
In the transaction before us we see,
Whence it is that unreasonable men take offence—
There is scarcely a society or even a single family to be found, where the different members walk in perfect harmony together: in most circles there are frequent disagreements: one or other of the members is unreasonable in his expectations, and by the unquietness of his own dispositions spreads dissatisfaction and disquietude all around him. The inquiry, “Whence come wars and fightings among you?” St. James answers by an appeal to our own experience; “Come they not hence, even from the lusts that war in your members [Note: James 4:1.]?” The chief sources of offence are discernible in the conduct of the Ephraimites. It arises,
From the pride of our own hearts—
[The Ephraimites had evidently a high conceit of their own dignity, and were offended that Gideon had not paid as much deference to them, as they supposed themselves entitled to. And from this root of bitterness it is that so many disputes arise. “Only by pride cometh contention,” is the testimony of God himself [Note: Proverbs 13:10.]. See the proud man, swelling with a sense of his own importance: if you differ from him in judgment, or act contrary to his will, yea, if you do not comply with his humour in every thing, he is quite indignant, and bursts forth into a rage. Even the best-meant endeavours cannot always please him: as an inferior, he cannot brook the least restraint: as a superior, he never thinks that sufficient homage is paid him: and as an equal, he cannot endure that others should exercise the liberty which he arrogates to himself [Note: Proverbs 28:25.]. To what an extent this domineering principle will prevail, we may see in the instance of Nebuchadnezzar; who, because of the conscientious refusal of the Hebrew youths to bow down to his idol, “was full of fury; and the form of his visage was changed against them; and he ordered the furnace to be made seven times hotter than usual,” in order to destroy them [Note: Daniel 3:19.]. Truly there is no principle in the heart more adverse to the peace and happiness of mankind than this.]
From envy at others—
[Great honour accrued to Gideon and the Abi-ezrites from the victory that had been gained: and the Ephraimites were grieved that others should possess a glory, in which themselves had no share. Hence they broke forth into revilings against Gideon. The same principle also prevails more or less in all: “The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy [Note: James 4:5.]:” and how nearly it is allied with wrath, we see from those words of Eliphaz, “Wrath killeth the foolish man; and envy slayeth the silly one [Note: Job 5:2.].” The examples of Cain [Note: Genesis 4:5.], and Joseph’s brethren [Note: Genesis 37:11; Genesis 37:18.], and Saul [Note: 1 Samuel 18:8-9.18.9.], sufficiently mark the murderous tendency of this malignant passion. One evil peculiar to it is, that it makes excellence itself the object of its attack; as Solomon has observed, “For every right work a man is envied of his neighbour [Note: Ecclesiastes 4:4.].” Hence that pointed question, “Who can stand before envy [Note: Proverbs 27:4.]?” Not the benevolence of the Apostles, nor the blameless conduct of our Lord himself, could ward off its malignant shafts: and wherever it exists, it will be attended with “strife, railings, evil surmisings, and perverse disputings [Note: 1 Timothy 6:4; James 3:16.].”]
From impetuosity of spirit—
[The Ephraimites would not give themselves any time for reflection or inquiry, but instantly began with violent invectives. It should seem that they were a hasty people, full of pride and wrath: and on another occasion precisely similar to this, they suffered for it in no slight degree; for no less than two and forty thousand of them were slain in consequence of it [Note: Judges 12:1-7.12.7.]. Had they been at the pains of making inquiry, they would have found that Gideon had committed no offence at all: he had acted altogether by the direction of God: and so far was he from being at liberty to increase his army by the accession of the Ephraimites, that he was necessitated to reduce the thirty-two thousand troops which he had raised to three hundred. Thus it is that innumerable quarrels arise, when a moment’s inquiry would shew, that no reason for them exists, or at least no reason for such resentment as is felt by the offended person. Behold David, when Nabal had refused him the refreshments which he desired: nothing short of the death of Nabal and all his adherents was deemed a sufficient atonement for his offence. But when Abigail had brought David to reflection, he found that his vindictive purposes were highly criminal; and that, if his anger was not groundless, it far exceeded that which the occasion called for [Note: 1 Samuel 25:32-9.25.35.]. In a word, this hastiness of temper prevents men from listening to the dictates of reason, and makes them deaf to every consideration of truth and equity.]
The readiness with which unreasonable men take offence, makes it important to inquire,
How judicious men may pacify it—
Truly admirable was the conduct of Gideon on this occasion: and his success may well recommend it to our imitation. Indeed the general rules deducible from it are as good as any that can be suggested. When a person is offended at us without a cause, we should endeavour, as far as circumstances will admit of it, to calm his mind,
By patience and forbearance—
[Not a word of recrimination dropped from the mouth of Gideon. He might perhaps have justly said, that when the Ephraimites knew his determination to oppose the Midianites, they had never offered their services, or come forward to assist him in the undertaking: but, when the danger was over, they were ready to impute evil to him for omissions which were chargeable only on themselves. But he did not so much as glance at any thing that might either betray irritation in his own mind, or strengthen it in theirs. Though “they did chide sharply with him,” he bore it with a meekness that was truly amiable and praiseworthy. Now this was an excellent way to conciliate their minds, even if he had deserved all the blame that they imputed to him: Solomon justly observes, that “yielding pacifieth great offences [Note: Ecclesiastes 10:4.].” It is recrimination that fans the flame, and causes it to burst forth into destructive quarrels. The common progress of disputes may be seen in the case of Israel and Judah after the death of Absalom; where, each of them justifying his own cause, the result was, that the dispute on both sides grew, till the accused were more incensed than even the accusers; and “the words of the men of Judah were fiercer than the words of the men of Israel [Note: 2 Samuel 19:41-10.19.43.].” Silence therefore is the best remedy, at least till the offended person is so far calmed as to listen readily to the voice of reason: and though the advice of Solomon appears at first sight as paradoxical and absurd, yet it is the best that can be offered; “Leave off contention before it be meddled with [Note: Proverbs 17:14.]:” for it will be difficult enough to leave it off when once it is begun.]
By humility and self-denial—
[Gideon might justly have said, “If God has been pleased to honour me, why should that give any umbrage to you?” But he forbore to take to himself the credit that was his due, or to claim from them the approbation he had merited at their hands. Thus he hid from them the light which had pained their eyes, and cast a veil over the actions which had provoked their jealousy. This was a striking instance of that “charity which vaunteth not itself, and seeketh not her own [Note: 1 Corinthians 13:4-46.13.5.].” This is a disposition which tends no less to the preservation of our own happiness than it does to the conciliating of those who are offended at us: for when once we are willing to forego the honour to which we are entitled, it will appear a small thing to us to be censured without a cause; seeing that such censures only reduce us to the place which we were previously in our own minds prepared to occupy. And it will almost invariably be found true, that, as men are ready to hate those who arrogate honour to themselves, so will they be more easily reconciled to those who are humble and unassuming.]
By commendation and love—
[Gideon, instead of loading his adversaries with blame, was glad to search out causes for commending them. The Ephraimites, though they offered not themselves in the first instance, were of great service in pursuing and destroying the routed foe. They took the two hostile princes, Oreb and Zeeb: and though this was only the gleaning of Gideon’s vintage, yet does Gideon speak of it as incomparably greater than any thing that had been done by him. And it is particularly deserving of notice, that this was the word which produced the desired effect; “Then their anger was abated, when he had said that.” Thus it appears, that “a soft answer turneth away wrath [Note: Proverbs 15:1.];” and that, if we would blunt the edge of other men’s displeasure, we should study to conform ourselves to that sublime precept; “Let nothing be done through strife and vain-glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves [Note: Philippians 2:3.].”]
On this subject we would found a word or two of advice—
Be cautious not too hastily to take offence—
[Innumerable circumstances may exist, which, if known to us, would, make us form a very different judgment of men and things, from that which at first sight we have entertained [Note: See this illustrated Joshua 22:11-6.22.34.]. To weigh, and consider, and inquire, is the part of true wisdom: but to be precipitate is a certain indication of folly [Note: Ecclesiastes 7:9.] — — —]
If offence be taken at you, labour to the uttermost to pacify it—
[This was a leading feature in the character of Jesus [Note: James 1:19-59.1.20.]; and it must be so in that of all his followers [Note: Eph 4:1-3 and Colossians 3:12-51.3.13.] — — — “To feed our enemies, and heap coals of fire on their heads,” is the Christian’s duty: therefore, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good [Note: Romans 12:20-45.12.21.].”]
FAINT, YET PURSUING
Judges 8:4. Faint, yet pursuing.
THERE are those who speak of Gideon as a type of Christ. But, excepting as a deliverer raised up in an extraordinary manner to Israel, there is scarcely sufficient correspondence between him and our blessed Lord to justify such a representation of him. As an example to the Church in all ages, and especially as illustrating for our benefit the power and efficacy of faith, we can have no hesitation in commending him to your most particular attention: for he is not only set forth in Scripture under that character in common with many other eminent men, but, together with David and Samuel, he is proposed to us as a pattern which we are bound to follow: “Seeing that we are encompassed with such a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us [Note: Hebrews 11:32-58.11.33; Hebrews 12:1.].” I would notice him, therefore, under the two-fold character of A deliverer to Israel, and A model to us: or, rather, instead of separating the two, I will combine them; that so the whole subject may come before us in a more luminous and useful point of view.
Let us, then, notice respecting Gideon,
His ready obedience to the divine call—
When convinced that God had called him to fight for Israel, he delayed not to execute his commission—
[The Midianites had grievously oppressed Israel. By a kind of predatory warfare, they annually desolated the whole land. Gideon was threshing out some corn, in order to hide it from the Midianites: and God sent an angel to inform him, that, through his instrumentality, the country should be delivered from its invaders. This seemed to be an hopeless and almost impossible event: but when God had shewn him, by repeated signs, that the office of delivering Israel was committed to him, he cheerfully obeyed the call, and addressed himself to the work assigned him [Note: Judges 6:1-7.6.35.] — — —]
The same promptitude, Brethren, is expected at your hands—
[You are called to war against the enemies of God and his people. Satan has exercised a most tyrannic sway over the whole world, “leading them captive at his will.” But the Lord Jesus Christ has commanded the trumpet to be sounded throughout all your coasts, that you may flock to his standard, and arm yourselves for the combat. Let none say, The enemy is too powerful for me; I cannot venture to oppose him. The command is absolute; and every one of you must gird on his armour, and prepare to “war a good warfare.” Let there be no reluctance, Brethren, no timidity, no “conferring with flesh and blood.” It is a disgraceful bondage to which you have been subjected: and the time is come for you to free yourselves from it. I call on all of you, therefore, to obey the summons, and in every possible way to approve yourselves “good soldiers of Jesus Christ.”]
But be sure to follow in this,
His simple dependence on divine aid—
Admirably did Gideon’s faith display itself on this occasion—
[Most particularly is this noticed in the Epistle to the Hebrews: “By faith Gideon and the others subdued kingdoms [Note: Hebrews 11:33.].” There came, in obedience to his summons, two-and-thirty thousand men. But God directed him to dismiss from amongst them all who were timid: and instantly was his army reduced to ten thousand men. But even these were more than God chose to employ: and therefore Gideon was ordered to bring them down to a stream, and to separate those who lapped like a dog, from those who bowed down to drink like cattle; and to reserve the former only for his companions in arms. Of those who lapped, there were only three hundred; and these were all who were left him to go against the Midianites, who amounted in all to one hundred and thirty-five thousand men. But not even these were to be employed in one compact body: no: scarcely two of them were to be together: they were to occupy an immense tract of ground, surrounding the whole camp of Midian. Nor were they to make a simultaneous attack: but to take, every one of them, a pitcher and a lamp and a trumpet, and to break their pitchers and blow their trumpets, and to stand in their place, crying, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon.” What an armament, and what a disposal of the troops, according to the judgment of sense, was this! It was the direct way to have every soul amongst them slain in an instant: for not one of them could escape through darkness; since every one held his lamp, as it were, for the express purpose of making himself a mark for the spear or sword of his enemy [Note: Judges 7:1-7.7.21.]. But Gideon presumed not to sit in judgment on the directions given him. It was sufficient for him to know what God’s appointment was; and to that he submitted, without hesitation or delay.]
It is also the good fight of faith which you are now called to fight—
[There must be no dependence on an arm of flesh. You must “go forth in the strength of the Lord,” and of him only. To overcome through the simple exercise of faith, may appear strange; but it is the way appointed by God himself, who will have all the honour of your success, and will suffer “no flesh to glory in his presence.” “To stand still, and see the salvation of God” with you, may appear to savour of presumption: but it is infinitely greater presumption to invade the prerogative of God, and to take on ourselves the work that belongs to him alone. The proclamation of his name, and the exhibition of his light, are doubtless proper, as his appointed means for advancing his own glory; but of themselves they can effect no more for the subjugation of our enemies, than could the blowing of trumpets to destroy the walls of Jericho, or the breaking of pitchers to subdue the armies of Midian and of Amalek. It is “by faith you are to walk, and not by sight:” and “according to your faith it shall be done unto you.”]
You must further imitate,
His full determination never to relax his efforts—
Gideon, “though faint” from the excess of his exertions, “yet pursued” his enemies—
[A panic having struck the Midianites, they, by mistake, slew one another, so that not less than one-hundred-and-twenty thousand of them fell that night. The remaining fifteen thousand fled. Now Gideon might well have said, The enemy is so weakened, that they cannot invade us any more: I will now, therefore, with my little band of soldiers, take my rest. But he would not on any account act thus. As long as there were any of his enemies remaining, he would pursue them. Though he was quite “faint” with fatigue, he would not cease from his exertions; but followed them, and fell upon them, and slew them, and took captive both their kings, both Zebah and Zalmunna.]
What a bright example is here for us!
[There must, of necessity, be times and seasons when we are ready to faint in our great warfare, and to wish, as it were, for some relaxation from our labour. Who has not experienced both weariness in duties, and dejection of mind, too, in the conflicts which he has had to sustain? But it must be time enough for us to rest when we get to heaven. St. Paul was “troubled on every side, yet not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:8-47.4.9.]:” “for which cause he fainted not [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:16.].” So must it be with us: whatever progress we have made, we must “forget the things which are behind, and press forward to that which is before.” “We must never be weary in well-doing,” or, if weary in it, we must never be weary of it. Whoever sees us, must see us still “pursuing,” and determining never to rest, till every enemy be subdued, and “Satan himself be for ever bruised under our feet.”]
Above all, we must follow him in,
His assured expectation of ultimate success—
This was very conspicuous—
[His own countrymen, both of Succoth and Penuel, refused even to administer food to his weary soldiers, lest the Midianites should visit it with signal judgments, after having recovered from their present panic. They even ridiculed the sanguine expectations of Gideon, saying, “Are Zebah and Zalmunna yet fallen into thy hands, that I should incense them by giving relief to thee?” But, notwithstanding the Midianites were fifty times as numerous as he, he expresses no doubt of final victory over them, and declares to his ungrateful countrymen how he will punish their ingratitude on his return from the expedition.]
Thus should we also “hold fast our confidence firm unto the end”—
[Whatever victories we may have gained, our enemies would soon vanquish us, if we were left to ourselves. But we should never for a moment give way to unbelieving fears. We should neither consider our own weakness, nor the strength of our enemies; but should regard the mightiest foes merely “as bread for us;” as bread, which we shall devour, even “as the ox licketh up the grass of the field.” We should “know in whom we have believed;” and “be confident of this very thing, that He who hath begun the good work in us will carry it on, and perfect it until the day of Christ.” However powerful our adversaries may appear, we should say to them, “Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain.” Has God said, “No weapon that is formed against us shall prosper?” We should go on in full anticipation of victory, and in a certain assurance, that, whatever conflicts we may have to maintain, we shall be “more than conquerors, through Him that loved us.”]
[Are any of you faint, my beloved Brethren? I will not act the part of the men of Penuel or Succoth, but will most gladly set before you all the richest provisions which we possess. Here is bread of the finest quality, “the very bread that came down from heaven,” that will not only strengthen and refresh your souls, but actually give life to the dead: and, if you eat to the full of that, you shall go on in the strength of it to the latest hour of your lives. Consider under whose banners you fight; even under the banners of the Lord Jesus Christ himself — — — Consider with whom you are contending: they are vanquished enemies; as our Lord himself has told us: “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” — — — Consider where your strength lies: not in yourselves, but in the Captain of your salvation, who has said, that “his grace shall be sufficient for you,” and “his strength be perfected in your weakness” — — — Consider, finally, what will be the fruits of victory; even glory and honour and immortality, in the presence, and in the bosom, of your God — — — Will you, then, draw back? God forbid! Let me rather urge you to proceed: for, faint as ye are, ye shall surely overcome. Of Gideon’s army, so far as we know, there died not one; whilst the entire host of his enemies were slain. So shall all the powers of darkness fall before you, and not so much as a hair of your head shall perish. “It is not the will of your Father that one of his little ones should perish.” In a word, “Be not weary in well-doing: for in due season you shall reap, if you faint not.”]
GIDEON CHASTISES THE MEN OF SUCCOTH AND PENUEL
Judges 8:15-7.8.17. And he came unto the men of Succoth, and said, Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, with whom ye did upbraid me, saying, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thy men that are weary? And he took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught the men of Succoth. And he beat down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city.
CONSISTENCY is essential to the character of a child of God. But pious persons are very apt to err in judging of the consistency of others: they would have been ready to condemn the conduct of Paul in relation to many things which he did at one time and forbore to do at another. We do not in general make sufficient allowance for a change of circumstances, which may not only warrant, but demand, a change of conduct. All would admire the gentleness and forbearance of Gideon, when the Ephraimites blamed him so vehemently for not summoning them to the battle against the Midianites [Note: ver. 1–3.]; but probably they would accuse him of severity and injustice towards the men of Succoth and of Penuel: whereas his firmness in chastising these was no less proper under his peculiar circumstances, than his kindness in forgiving them. The two cases were not at all parallel: the Ephraimites at least thought honourably of the cause in which Gideon was embarked; but the men of Succoth and of Penuel treated it with contempt. Now the cause was that of God himself: and for despising it, the men of Succoth and of Penuel deserved all that they suffered. Let us consider,
The punishment inflicted on them—
The provocation they gave was exceeding great—
[Gideon had already destroyed one-hundred-and-twenty thousand of the Midianitish army; and was now pursuing with his three hundred men the remnant, who had escaped the general carnage. He had crossed over Jordan, and was following them with all possible ardour; but his men having been engaged all the preceding night and day without any intermission or any refreshment, were faint: Gideon therefore, in passing through Succoth, a city of the tribe of Gad, requested in the kindest manner some provisions for his men: but the elders of the city only insulted him, and endeavoured to weaken his hands by deriding the vanity of his attempts. Gideon would not lose any time in debating the matter with them, but warned them, that when God should have delivered the Midianites into his hand, he would scourge them all with briers and thorns [Note: ver. 7.]. He then went forward to Penuel, a neighbouring city; but was insulted by its elders precisely as he had been by the men of Succoth. It should seem that the men of Penuel confided in a tower which they had, and thought themselves safer in that, than they could be by any efforts of Gideon, or of God himself in their behalf. Gideon therefore threatened them with heavier vengeance, when God should have delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into his hands: for, though their ingratitude was the same with that of the men of Succoth, there was in their answer somewhat more of atheistical impiety, which was the ground of a severer sentence against them [Note: ver. 9.].]
The punishment he inflicted on them was just—
[Gideon pressed forward, weak and faint as he was, and came upon the Midianites, when they conceived themselves to be perfectly secure: and God blessed his efforts, so that the fifteen thousand Midianites were destroyed, and their two kings, Zebah and Zalmunna, taken, without the loss of a man belonging to the host of Gideon. Instantly did Gideon return, with his royal captives, to the two ungrateful cities which had refused him sustenance; and executed on their elders the vengeance he had threatened: he punished those of Succoth with briers and thorns; and those of Penuel with death, and the destruction of their boasted tower.
Now we say that this was just. Had the injury which he had sustained been purely personal, it would have become him to pass it by, and to leave the punishment of it to a righteous God, who says, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” But he acted as a magistrate who was authorized to punish the treason of which these persons had been guilty. Considered as an act of ingratitude only, it was exceeding sinful; for what could be more base than to refuse a meal to those who had at the peril of their own lives delivered the whole nation from the yoke of Midian; and were now, though only three hundred in number, following the remaining fugitives, fifty times as numerous as themselves, in order to extirpate them entirely? But it was treason, both against the state, and against God: it was the very way to prevent the execution of Gideon’s designs against the enemies of God and his people: and, if God had not miraculously renewed the strength of the victors, this refusal of food to them would have done more to vanquish them than all the hosts of Midian had been able to effect. If Gideon had demanded that the men of Succoth and of Penuel should join in the pursuit, he would have required no more than he was authorized to do [Note: The Ephraimites had not only acknowledged this, but had thought themselves slighted because it had not been done, ver. 1.]: and he might justly, considering whose cause he was engaged in, have punished them severely for a refusal [Note: See Judges 5:23.]: but when his request was so moderate, and his necessity so urgent, and the probable consequences of their refusal so injurious to the whole nation, he did right in making an example of such wicked traitors.]
Having vindicated this act of justice, let us proceed to notice,
The lessons it suggests to us—
It is very instructive to us both,
In a civil view—
[The men of Succoth and of Penuel well illustrate the character and conduct of many amongst ourselves. The burthens of war must of necessity be borne by all the nation [Note: Preached at the time of the French Revolution. Of course, if made the subject of a discourse, it must be accommodated to existing circumstances. But it will be found generally applicable in a time of war.]: and methinks they should be cheerfully borne by every member of the community: for, to whom do we owe our security, but to those who are standing forth in our defence, and, under God, are combating our enemies with success? It is true, we feel the pressure of the taxes as a burthen; and by means of them we are deprived of comforts which we might otherwise enjoy: but what are our privations in comparison of those which are experienced by our fleets and armies? Little do we think what they have to bear; or what obligations we owe to them for exposing themselves to so many fatigues and dangers in our defence. Shall we then grudge to the state whatever is necessary for their support? Is not the murmuring on account of our burthens, and the striving to elude them, highly criminal? The men of Succoth and of Penuel had some excuse for their ungenerous conduct: for they intimated, that, by contributing to aid Gideon in the pursuit, they should only bring on themselves the heavier vengeance from the Midianites, as soon as ever they should have recovered from their panic. But what excuse have we? Their interest seemed to lie on the side of neutrality; but ours is altogether on the side of energy and exertion. Let us only consider what our enemies would exact of us, if they were to reduce us under their power: truly “their little finger would be heavier than the loins” of our own governors: instead therefore of grudging what is necessary for the support of our government, we should rejoice and bless God for the security that we enjoy under their watchful care.]
In a religious view—
[The whole of that astonishing transaction tends to inspire us with confidence in God, and to encourage our exertions in his cause. But there are two lessons in particular which we shall do well to learn from it: the one is, To prosecute the spiritual warfare under all discouragements ourselves; and the other is, To put no discouragements in the way of others.
That we shall find discouragements in our warfare is certain; sometimes from the number and power of our enemies; sometimes from the fewness and weakness of our friends; sometimes from the inefficacy of our past exertions; and sometimes from the protracted continuance of a struggle which we had fondly hoped to have seen terminated long before. But we must go forth, like Gideon, in the strength of the Lord, and, though “faint, must yet be pursuing [Note: ver. 4.];” nor must we ever look for rest, till we have gotten the final victory over all our enemies. We must remember, Whose cause it is; Under whose banners we are enlisted; Whom we have for our Guide and Protector; and, Whose word is pledged for our final success. What though he reduce the number of our friends to ever so low an ebb? What though he send us forth with no better armour than a trumpet and a lamp? What though our enemies be so great and numerous, that, after having been vanquished by us a thousand times, they still appear, according to human apprehension, invincible by such an arm as ours? What though we be so feeble that we seem incapable of continuing the contest any longer? Shall we give over? No: we must still fight on, assured of victory; knowing, that “when we are weak, then are we strong;” that “God will perfect his own strength in our weakness;” and that, “if God be for us, none can” possibly succeed “against us.”
At the same time that other lesson must be attended to, Not to put any discouragement in the way of others. Almost all people are ready to obstruct, rather than to aid, the Christian in his spiritual progress. Those of the same family and kindred will discountenance his zeal; and even some who profess to be of the true Israel, will represent his duties as impracticable, and his efforts as hopeless. But God is indignant with those who would weaken the hands of his people. He would have us rather encourage one another to the utmost of our power. His command is, “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees; say unto them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not; your God will come and help you [Note: Isa 35:3-4 and Hebrews 12:13.].” It is said of our Lord, that “he will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, but will bring forth judgment unto victory:” let us, like him, “carry the lambs in our bosom, and gently lead those that are with young;” yea, let us so unite our efforts with theirs, that we may be sharers in their triumphs, and partakers of their glory.]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Judges 8". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany