The Days Of The Judges (4): Gideon

by Frank Wallace

The Twofold Enemy - the Midianites and the Unfaithfulness of Israel

"And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord: and the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds. And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, even they came up against them; and they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come unto Gaza, and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass. For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it. And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the Lord. And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord because of the Midianites, that the Lord sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, which said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage; and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land; and I said unto you, I am the Lord your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed my voice."   (Jud.6:1-10)

In these lectures concerning the days of the judges we have seen, again and again, Israel getting into difficulty because of their disobedience to the Lord. Here again we find the same story. There was a terrible condition in Israel because they disobeyed the Lord. Normal life was disrupted, they were living in caves and dens and strongholds, and the food supply was very, very scarce. The Midianites destroyed all that was sown and took all that they could get for themselves, and consequently Israel was impoverished. The Midianites were a very strong and resilient enemy.

The name Midian means 'strife' or 'contention'. I do not think I need to say much more in this connection. How often we have seen amongst the people of God normal conditions in assembly life being disrupted because of strife and contention, with people seeking their own way, strong willed people making demands about things that ought never to be considered amongst the people of God; personal or family animosities, parties arising, and strife and contention existing amongst the saints of God. There is very little in the way of worship to the Father and the Son, there is very little in the way of testimony to the Lord or to the unconverted, and there certainly is precious little in the way of food supply. What the saints are asked to feed upon is strife and sorrow and backbiting and misrepresentation and cruelties of different kinds, and no spiritual growth is possible on this food. This was the kind of condition that Israel was in. There was no family life, all the business life of the nation was disrupted, and food supply was at a very low ebb. In such a condition we find the people were very much distressed, and it is a very good thing when the people do get distressed and cry aloud to God for some blessing and some help and some direction as to how to get out of their awful condition. We have seen it over and over again and we will consider this in these addresses on the book of Judges.

God is a faithful God and he sends a nameless prophet, and he tells the people the reason why they are in this condition, and as we have said in previous lectures, this was not because the Midianites were more powerful than the children of Israel, because when the children of Israel had God in their midst, and God fighting for them, it did not matter how great the enemy was, the battle was a foregone conclusion, God was with His people helping them. So often we find in the Old Testament words such as "the battle is the Lord's" (1 Sam.17:47), and when the battle was the Lord's there was no enemy powerful enough to deal with the nation of Israel. The reason for their condition was their own unfaithfulness, their own disobedience to God's plain and distinct word to have nothing to do with idolatry but to have Himself enshrined in their affections. The last word of John's first epistle, "Children, keep yourselves from idols" (1 John 5:21), is not a negative statement, it is a very positive statement, it simply means, 'I want the affections of My people for Myself, I do not want any interference from any other source.' This can be proved from the Old Testament, in Deuteronomy there are three distinct occasions when God describes Himself as a jealous God and the context in which He describes Himself in this way is each time connected with a warning to the people not to have anything to do with idols (4:23-24, 5:9, 6:13-15), in other words, God was jealous over the affections of His people. When John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said to the saints, "Children, keep yourselves from idols", John was saying to them, 'The Father and the Son want your love for themselves', and in view of all the wonderful truths that have been revealed, what a sad thing it is that the affections of the saints go astray after other things and prevent their enjoyment of these blessings, and prevent a response to the Father and to the Son.

So the unnamed prophet told the nation very plainly that the reason for the prevailing condition was their own disobedience. It is very difficult for anyone to say today that there is one particular reason for failure amongst the people of God wherever they are found. I am very much aware that we are not the only Christian company that is experiencing difficulty. I have read in magazines and heard from other sources that all companies of Christians are experiencing the difficulty and declension that is marking this favoured land of ours. There may be isolated places where the Lord is blessing, thank God for that, but generally speaking, we all know something about the low condition of things that prevails. I think it would be right to say that in whatever way the declension is marked, and it may be different in different localities, we can all trace it to this one word - disobedience. In some way or another we have failed in relation to the word of God, either individually or collectively and if that is so we must expect the corresponding failure in testimony and in worship. It is inevitable. Divine things do not just work automatically, if there is failure in our obedience, then there must be failure in response. You might say this was a very despondent message, well this nameless prophet did not come along and say, 'Well, God is prepared to show you grace and love, He is a gracious God'. He did not come along to boost up their feelings and make everything nice when everything was not nice. The nameless prophet told the truth, and if we are told the truth we are well on the way to getting something done to repair the difficulties. Thank God, there was one man at least who was doing something to make the conditions better.

The Person of Gideon, the Fifth Judge

"And there came an angel of the Lord, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour. And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? but now the Lord hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites. And the Lord looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee? 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. And the Lord said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man. And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then show me a sign that thou talkest with me. Depart not hence, I pray thee, until I come unto thee, and bring forth my present, and set it before thee. And he said, I will tarry until thou come again. And Gideon went in, and made ready a kid, and unleavened cakes of an ephah of flour: the flesh he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot, and brought it out unto him under the oak, and presented it. And the angel of God said unto him, Take the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and lay them upon this rock, and pour out the broth. And he did so. Then the angel of the Lord put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the angel of the Lord departed out of his sight. And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the Lord, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord God! for because I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face. And the Lord said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die."   (Jud.6:11-23)

It would seem that synchronising with the prophet's message there was this extremely active man, Gideon, in the secrecy of his father's home. He was threshing wheat in a winepress. We may think this is a very odd place to be threshing wheat, he ought to be in the threshing floor, well that was the normal place, but then Gideon was living in abnormal times. We have seen already in this book that many abnormal things were done. So here was Gideon threshing wheat in the winepress. One obvious reason for this is that there was no-one to gather in the harvest of the olives for the simple reason that the harvest did not exist, the Midianites had destroyed it; there were no olives to press in order to get the oil, or to be used for other purposes, the Midianites had destroyed all that was available. But there was some wheat, and Gideon was threshing it in order to hide it so that the Midianites might not obtain it. This man was very much concerned about some food being available for the people of God; a very useful kind of man to have in our companies today, a man who was concerned to provide real nourishing food for the people of God. I believe Paul was that kind of man, and he was a man of very great discernment. If the people of God required milk because of their spiritual condition he fed them with milk, if they were capable of partaking of strong food then he fed them with strong food. In spiritual wisdom and discernment he fed them with the food that was convenient for them. We remember that the Lord asked the disciples at one juncture if they had any food, and they had not, they said, "There is a lad here, who hath five barley loaves and two small fishes; but what are they among so many?" (John 6:9). Well it was certainly more than they had, and they were the 'great' disciples who had been so blessed by the Lord. They had not got anything to give, but the little boy had something, and when the Lord took it into His hands He expanded it so that a large multitude was fed. As one has so aptly said, 'Little is much, if the Lord is in it'.

So Gideon was found threshing wheat, he was concerned about food being supplied. Dear brethren, are we concerned about providing something that is nourishing, something that is helpful for the saints in the Bible readings, in the ministry meetings, in addresses if the opportunity arises to address the saints of God? Are we concerned that they might have some real good food? The best food of all, of course, is our Lord Jesus Christ, and if we can minister Him to the hearts of the saints and build up their affections and desires then we are doing a good work. He is the bread from heaven (John 6:30-59), the bread of God. If we want to have the enjoyment of eternal life as presented in John 6 it means that we feed upon Him, we eat His flesh and drink His blood. We are reminded too that we are to "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ" (2 Pet.3:18). I believe this involves feeding upon Him, His glories, His Person, His work, everything connected with Him. This is real food, and builds up the affections of the saints. We want to beware of the kind of food that the sons of the prophets provided (2 Kings 4:38-41). It may have seemed a very nourishing meal when it was cooking, it might have been a very large meal, but it was a large meal sprinkled with some very poisonous gourds. There was "death in the pot", and he was the man who could rectify matters by casting in the handful of meal and what was poisonous was made nourishing. Today we have to beware of many sanctimonious statements which are made, but which are liberally sprinkled with quotations from the Scriptures and yet "there is death in the pot". It is not the truth and cannot stand the light of scripture. It is poisonous and evil and will not nourish the people of God.

Gideon was a man who was active, energetic, and was providing something worthwhile for the saints of God. It was to this kind of man that the angel of the Lord appeared and addressed in such a remarkable way, "The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour". Had he done anything outstanding to warrant such a description, a mighty man of valour? All that we know of him is that he was threshing wheat in this winepress. Was this a courageous, valiant thing to do? In the sight of God it was. It is so easy for us to look back and say, 'Oh, this or that servant of the Lord made a mistake. He ought to have been more intelligent. This or that servant of the Lord ought to have gone a little further, he did not know the full scope of the truth'. It is all right to say that when we do not know the circumstances in which these servants were operating. It is all right saying this when we are not aware of the awful conditions that prevailed at the time. It was a courageous, valiant thing to take a step out of the confusion and say something for the Lord. We often say that the Reformation did not go far enough, that they ought to have gone a few steps further and got rid of many other things that were untrue, but how valiant those men were, how courageous! They risked their lives, their all, in fighting for what they knew to be the truth at that time. Let us think of what we might have done had we been in their position. Would we have risked our lives, our property, our loved ones by standing up for the truth in that day? I do not know if we would have. We have to wait until we are in those circumstances before we can make positive statements as to how we react in them. Gideon was working in a very difficult time, the enemies were out to destroy everything, and he said, 'I am not going to let them. I am going to risk all that belongs to me in order to provide this food'. This is why the Lord said he was "a mighty man of valour". He said something else also, "The Lord is with thee".

If we have the time and look through a concordance and find all the persons who were addressed in this way, "The Lord is with thee", or those of whom it could be said, "The Lord was with them" we will find it an extremely interesting study, and pre-eminently this was so in connection with the Lord Jesus Himself. When Peter was preaching in the home of Cornelius in Acts 10 he said, "[Jesus] went about doing good..... for God was with him" (v.38). What a wonderful thing that is when God is with anyone; then he can be sure of support and power and blessing and fruitfulness. This always follows in the life of the servant of whom it can be said, "the Lord was with them".

Gideon's reaction to this was "if the Lord be with us.....". The angel did not say the Lord was with them, he said the Lord was with Gideon, not with the nation, but Gideon took it up as if it were the nation that was being referred to, and said, "If the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us?". 'Why, our fathers have told us of wonderful times and now we are in very, very bad conditions, why has this befallen us?' The Lord replied, "Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel". What was Gideon's might? It was the conscious sense that things were not what they ought to be, that things were different from what they used to be, and that there was the desire in his heart to do something to rectify them. You see, dear brethren, if we are conscious that in our own lives, and in the collective testimony, things are not as good as they used to be it will make us inquire why, and once we get to know we will be very much concerned, and prayer and energy will be spent in order to do something to make it better. But if we go along quite complacently saying, 'Well, everything is all right', and not be much concerned, I do not think things will get better. When we act as Gideon, then things are going to get better because the Lord is going to link up with us in our exercises. This is the kind of thing that He delights to see, and so Gideon is accredited as having strength and power because he actually felt, in a Godlike way, the conditions that prevailed.

Now Gideon replied, "O my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? Behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house. And the Lord said unto him, Surely I will be with thee", whether the conditions are good or bad, here is the proper condition for any saint of God. The condition of humility before the Lord. It is easy to say this, but we have a nature in us that can feed on pride and prominence and pre-eminence and anything but humility. But all the men of God who have really done anything for the Lord have been men who have been marked by humility, none more than the Lord Himself. Philippians 2:5-11, that we so often read at the breaking of bread to describe the Lord coming down, was written by Paul under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to show the saints of God that they should be as He was when He was here in this world, and the two great features that come out in that passage are humility and obedience. He humbled Himself, He came down, made Himself of no reputation, took upon Him the form of a servant, and then became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. The apostle prefaced what he said by the words, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus". We are to be humble, we are to be obedient; and these are the characteristics for every Christian who wants to be for God. Arrogance, pride and forcefulness, the assertion of our natures, have no place whatsoever in the testimony of any who want to be for the Lord. And so Gideon is described here in this very, very commendable way, as a valiant man, the Lord is with him, and he is marked by humility.

Gideon - A True Worshipper

"Then Gideon built an altar there unto the Lord, and called it Jehovah-shalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. And it came to pass the same night, that the Lord said unto him, Take thy father's young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it: and build an altar unto the Lord thy God upon the top of this rock, in the ordered place, and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down. Then Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as the Lord had said unto him: and so it was, because he feared his father's household, and the men of the city, that he could not do it by, that he did it by night. And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was cast down, and the grove was cut down that was by it, and the second bullock was offered upon the altar that was built. And they said one to another, Who hath done this thing? And when they enquired and asked, they said, Gideon the son of Joash hath done this thing. Then the men of the city said unto Joash, Bring out thy son, that he may die: because he hath cast down the altar of Baal, and because he hath cut down the grove that was by it.

And Joash said unto all that stood against him, Will ye plead for Baal? will ye save him? he that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet morning: if he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar. Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, Let Baal plead against him, because he hath thrown down his altar."   (Jud.6:24-32)

Gideon knew something about peace in his heart. Certain things which had not been plain to him before were now very plain, also this commission that the Lord had given to him and the fact that the Lord had promised to be with him produced peace in his heart. There was this wonderful response before ever he was engaged in conflict with the enemy, he raised an altar to the Lord and worshipped. Worship is a very important part of Christian life. The Christian life is not all conflict, it is not always dealing with the difficulties and problems that beset us, worship is something to be done by each and every one of us, either individually or collectively, a responsive heart to the Lord who cares for us and who has blessed us in such a wonderful way. It is a remarkable thing that in the midst of a nation that had given itself up to idolatry here was one man who was immediately responding to the message he had received and he was worshipping the Lord.

Well, the altar of Baal cannot stand any longer. 'If I am going to worship the Lord' says Gideon, 'I must get rid of anything that is offensive to the Lord'. Gideon had been instructed that this was a real canker that was in the heart of the nation, this was the real cause of all the trouble, this altar that was reared to Baal, it was there right in his father's house, he knew about it only too well. So, at night, he knocked it down and destroyed it. There was great consternation the next morning, 'Who has done this awful thing, Knocked down the altar of Baal? Whoever it is needs to be punished!' As ever, whenever a man takes a stand over the truth there is always someone who will come to support him. There is always fellowship, and this encouragement came from the right quarter, Gideon's father supported him. 'There is no-one here going to get killed' he said, 'Is it right or is it wrong that this altar should be thrown down, it is indisputable that it is an evil thing in our midst and my son has done right in throwing down this altar'.

Dear brethren, it is not enough just to do one thing and to be expert in what is right and proper before the Lord, it is also right to get rid of the offending things that God might not be offended, and this is exactly what Gideon did. He did what was right before the Lord in worshipping and he did that which was right before the Lord in removing the rival to the Lord's affections in destroying the altar of Baal. There are certain things that we cannot have any tolerance of, indeed to have tolerance with this kind of thing is tantamount to treason to the Lord. We cannot trifle with Baal, he is in opposition to God; we cannot do anything with him in grace and love, it is impossible, he will never change. The Midianites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, all these enemies of the Lord will never change, they never get better, they are fixed in their determination to oppose the things of God. Showing grace and love never alters them, they have to be ruthlessly dealt with and removed, and this is what Gideon did, he threw down the altar of Baal and raised up a standard for the Lord.

Now in verse 34 we read that, "the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon". It is quite interesting that in the book of Judges which deals with so much that is of a dark character there are more references to the Spirit of the Lord in it than in any other book in the Old Testament. Samson, Othniel, Gideon and many others had the Spirit of the Lord come upon them in times of difficulty. How thankful we are for the wonderful truth that we possess, that the Spirit of the Lord indwells us individually and is with us collectively, and He will never be taken from us, He is with us to the end, the Lord's promise is that, "He shall abide with you forever" (John 14:16), right to the end of the Christian testimony. This is the real resource of the people of God at all times to deal with all that is offensive to God. He is the Spirit of truth, He in His Divine power and greatness and glory can detect error when we can be hoodwinked. He can reveal to us what is really wrong in teachings that are offensive to God and to Christ, and He is the power that enables us to stand for the Lord in an evil day when false doctrines are increasing on every hand.

Gideon Defeats the Midianites

"But the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him....."   (Jud.6:33-8:3)

Here were people in his own locality gathering to his standard. He sounded the clear distinct note. "For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?" (1 Cor.14:8). Well, Gideon gave a clear sound, blowing a trumpet, giving a signal to all concerned that there was something being done, now not only a food supply being provided, thank God for that, but now a very determined effort to get rid of the bondage of the Midianites. In Numbers 31 we find that God said He would have vengeance on Midian (v.2). That is what God said. God was determined that Midian should have no part with the people of God and He determined that they would not interrupt the blessings of the people. So, just as He said against Amalek and against Moab and against Ammon, God declared His hatred of all that belonged to the Midianites.

So here the standard was being raised, but it goes a bit further, in verse 35 Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali gathered to the standard too. We are very glad to see our friends Zebulun and Naphtali here again, they were prominent in the revival in Deborah's and Barak's day, they jeopardised their lives in the high places, prepared to lay down their lives to defend what belonged to God, and here they are in the forefront again. This is a very fine thing to see, consistency in the desire to maintain what belongs to the Lord. Now this trumpet call led to this army of 32,000 that was going to meet the Midianites.

This was quite a useful army to have, but Gideon had a few lessons to learn yet. One of them was that God does not necessarily work by large numbers, neither is He committed to work with large numbers, "Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit saith the Lord of hosts" (Zech.4:6). God can save by a few as well as by many. We are reminded of 1 Cor.1:27 "God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty", and the many other statements that Paul made in that connection, "that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us" (2 Cor.4:7). There we find this wonderful history portrayed for us. These two verses fit exactly with this story of Gideon and his army of 32,000 men. How was Gideon going to use them? How would he deploy them in order to meet the great army? Well, God says, 'Speak to them and tell those who are timid or fearful to go home because such people are not of much use in the day of battle', such people turn back. So Gideon told them what God had told him and 22,000 turned back and went home. This considerably reduced the army, from 32,000 to 10,000. 'Never mind, we might be able to do something with 10,000' says Gideon, but God said, 'Gideon, take them down to the river and just see how they drink, and I will tell you the ones that you are to take'. And then the army was drastically reduced. There were now only 300 out of the original 32,000, but God had said He would be with Gideon and the enemy would be destroyed, and when God starts to work it does not matter that there are only 300 against a vast army, the battle is already won. This was the lesson that Gideon had to learn, that it is not necessarily large numbers that indicate the power of God. Unfortunately people have often been governed by this sort of thing in our meetings. Twenty or thirty are too small for some people, they want hundreds, thousands and so they leave little companies; the principle does not matter so long as there are large numbers of people and plenty of activity. But the Lord is quite happy if there are twos and threes who go on with the truth. I am not putting any premium on the fact of small numbers, we do need adequate numbers to carry on an adequate testimony. There is no particular virtue in that we are only two or three, it might be our own folly or our own weakness that numbers are reduced to such small quantities, but we can be sure of this, that if there are two or three or two dozen or thirty or forty who very humbly and very genuinely maintain the truth as it has been revealed to them in the Scriptures then they will know in a very real way the presence of the Lord. They will know His power and they will know His blessing. This is the lesson that Gideon had to learn. It was not in his power, it was not in the largeness of the army, it was in the power of the Lord, it was in His ability to direct and to control, to win the victory.

Gideon was a man who always wanted to be sure, and we have four occasions when he asked the Lord for guidance, and the Lord showed to him that everything was all right. Firstly there were Gideon's two signs in connection with the fleece, and then his desire to the angel to have it revealed to him who it was that was speaking to him, and then lastly the Lord directed him to go down into the camp of Midian, there he heard of the dream of one of the men, and the dream was that a little barley cake rolled into the camp and overturned the tents. The man woke up and said, "This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon" (v.15). They knew the battle was lost, that they were to be defeated. A little barley cake is not a strong looking thing, a humble instrument. I believe that the Lord was just indicating to Gideon how small he was personally - a little barley cake, that was God's way of showing Gideon that it was the Lord who was fighting the battle and the victory was a foregone conclusion.

Gideon took his three companies and he provided them with their equipment for fighting this battle. It was a peculiar arrangement, he put into their hands a trumpet, and a clay pitcher and inside the pitcher a lighted torch. What a queer arrangement to fight a battle with. This is God's arrangement and Gideon obeys. The three hundred were divided into three companies, and now he said, 'When I give the signal, you do what I do, you follow me'. This is the language of a man who was leading the saints of God in a positive way, he was sure of his ground, he knew what he was going to do, and he directed the people to do what he was doing. So the appropriate moment came, the trumpet was sounded, the three hundred created quite a noise, three hundred trumpets blaring at one time, the pitchers were smashed, the torches shone forth and the Midianites fled for their lives. The battle was won, a great slaughter resulted, and princes were killed. God had fulfilled His word, the enemy was overthrown. We turn to 2 Corinthians 4 and we get the explanation of all this. Paul says, "we have this treasure in earthen vessels" (v.7), the earthen vessels are the pitchers, these weak bodies of ours in which indwells all the precious things that God has placed there in view of testimony for Himself. This is the testimony, the trumpet sounds, the testimony that is to go forth contained in weak vessels, but when these vessels are broken, that is, when they are humbled under the hand of the Lord and kept there, there is an adequate testimony to meet all the power of Satan and to defeat his armies. Dear brethren, we are all poor, weak creatures in ourselves, but under the hand of the Lord if we can keep humble and allow Him to work with us, then an adequate testimony will be rendered for His pleasure and for His glory.

There are always grumblers, and we find that after the battle was won, there were some who came to Gideon and they complained to him saying, 'Why did you not come for us?' When the trumpet had been blown, they would have heard it. I do not think there was any question about that, but they did not come when the trumpet was blown, so Gideon and those whom God chose carried on and the victory was theirs. It was all right to come in at the end and make complaints, but Gideon was not a man of forceful spirit, and here he gives a beautiful example of a soft answer turning away wrath (Prov.15:1) and instead of causing frustration amongst his brethren, or causing them to be in animosity towards him, he won them for his cause.

The Failure of Gideon

"Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you. And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey. (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) And they answered, We will willingly give them. And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey. And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold; beside ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that were about their camels' necks. And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house."   (Jud.8:22-27)

It is a very sad thing when a man of God goes astray. It is a terrible thing. This man of God who broke down the altar of Baal in his own home and who was used of God in such a marvellous way, was then led by the people to make an ephod "and all Israel went a whoring after it", it was a snare unto the children of Israel. This is very, very sad. It reminds us, dear brethren, that we need to be kept every inch of the way, right to the very end. There is not a moment when we can afford to lapse in vigilance. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor.10:12). George Muller of Bistol, a wonderful man of faith, prayed right to the day he died, 'Lord, preserve me from being a wicked old man'. He knew the wickedness of the flesh, he knew what it was in his unconverted days to be led by Satan, and he did not want to return to that, so his continual prayer was that he might be kept. So the fact that we might have been successful at some moment in our lives for the Lord does not mean that we will be immune from temptation or failure, we need to be kept right to the end. I believe that sweet word of Peter is something we can lay hold of if we are humble and leave ourselves in the Lord's hands "kept by the power of God" (1 Pet.1:5). How wonderful it is to look back over our lives and trace all the way the Lord has kept us, we certainly could not have kept ourselves.

May these few remarks on the life of this man of God be an encouragement for us in our day, that we might go on, provide food for the saints, make sure we provide plenty for ourselves first and build up our own souls and so be a help to others, for His name's sake.

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