April 4.—Morning. [Or July 6.]
“My grace is sufficient for Thee.”
AND the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord: (We commonly say that a, burnt child dreads the fire, but Israel, after smarting again and again as the result of her sin, returned to it the moment the chastisement was removed, or the judge was dead. Such is the strange infatuation of men:) and the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. (This nation was but a puny enemy, and yet it was too much for sinful Israel. The tribes had formerly reduced the Midianites to a very low condition, and now they are themselves unable to stand before them. See how sin weakens men.)
2, 3 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;
4 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.
5, 6 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. (These wandering plunderers were hard to grapple with, and must have been a dreadful scourge. It is to such marauders that much of the present deserted condition of Palestine is due.)
7, 8 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; (The sending of faithful ministers to a people is a token for good from the Lord, even though their testimony should be rather a rebuke than a consolation;)
9, 10 And I delivered you out of the hands 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. (Faithful are the wounds of a friend. God had just cause to complain, and in unveiling Israel’s great sin, the Lord’s servant was going the surest way to build up peace upon a permanent foundation.)
11 ¶ And there came an angel of the Lord, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abi-ezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites.
12 And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour. (He found Gideon retired, employed, and distressed; three suitable conditions to warrant a celestial interposition. He had very little wheat, for he had no oxen to thresh it; and he was in great fear of the enemy, and therefore threshed not on the barn floor, but in the winepress; yet in his poverty he received rich grace. God is no respecter of persons.)
13 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. (These were commonsense questions, and proved that the enquirer had well considered the matter.)
14 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? (It is clear that the angel was the Lord himself. From such lips what power there is in that question, “Have not I sent thee?” And what inspiration followed his glance, when “the Lord looked upon Gideon.”)
15 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.
16 And the Lord said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man. (God called Gideon mighty, and made him so, he sent him and went with him, he taught him faith and then honoured his faith. In what manner will the Lord glorify himself in each of us?)
April 4.—Evening. [Or July 7.]
“Peace be unto thee, fear not.”
AND Gideon said unto the angel, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.
18 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. (To one person a sign is denied, and to another it is granted. Herein is manifest not only the sovereignty of God, but also his wisdom in dealing with different men in different manners. Gideon had many signs, yet he was not rebuked for needing them.)
19 ¶ 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.
20 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. (What Gideon meant for a feast was turned into a sacrifice. This was a small matter, so long as the Lord did but accept him.)
21 ¶ 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. (Here was both a token of divine presence and an intimation of what God could do. He could bring fiery courage out of Gideon’s heart, as well as fire out of a rock, and he could consume Midian as readily as he burned up the cakes.)
22 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.
23 And the Lord said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die.
24 ¶ Then Gideon built an altar there unto the Lord, and called it Jehovah-shalom: (or “the Lord my peace,” in allusion to the Lord’s having said, “Peace be unto thee.”)
25, 26 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. (He was at once to set about cleansing his own house. Those who would serve God abroad should begin at home. He was not commanded to dedicate Baal’s grove-temple to God, but to fell it; nor was he ordered to sacrifice to God upon the idol’s altar, but to throw it down. Reformations cannot be too thorough. Unless we down with their nests the foul birds will come back. Gideon had a grand commission which every true believer might rejoice to receive.)
27 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 day, that he did it by night. (If we cannot do our duty exactly as we would, we must do it as we can, but anyhow it should be done. Gideon did a glorious night’s work.)
28 ¶ 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.
29 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.
30 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.
Those who themselves deserved to die for idolatry were in a vast hurry to judge and condemn the son of Joash. Frequently those who themselves are most guilty are loudest in accusing others.
31 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. (His argument was—if Baal be indeed a god he can take care of himself, and if he be not a god, then those who plead for him deserve to die for setting up false deities.)
32 Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal (or one with whom Baal may plead), saying, Let Baal plead against him, because he hath thrown down his altar.