Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better.1. Their unthankfulness was great, and the injury which he sustained thereby, who ought to have been much honoured of them for his industry and labour. We ought not to look for our reward and commendation for well-doing from men, but to rest in this, that God knoweth our works, and it is enough that we are sure that from Him we shall receive our reward.
2. Another of the faults of these Ephraimites against Gideon is that they envied him for the honour he got by the victory. Whereby, though they sustained no hurt, neither were the worse, but the better, yet they could not bear it, that Gideon should have the glory of it: where we may see a foul property of envy, and what it is. It is a grief and sadness for the prosperity of others, and namely, of such as be our equals. And when I say envy is a grief at our equals for any eminency or prosperity that they have above us, I mean such as are in kindred estate, years, dignity, or in gifts like us. And the cause of this envy is not for that we are troubled as though any hurt or danger were coming towards us from them whom we envy (for that is another affection, to wit, fear), but for that through a cankered stomach we cannot bear it, that such an one as is no better than ourselves should be lifted up so high and commended so far above us. And is not this a cursed mind in us, that we cannot be willing that another should fare well, we being never the worse, and that we should have an evil eye at that for the which we should rejoice? And because I now speak of the Ephraimites, I think it not amiss to add this of them, that their father Ephraim, the younger being preferred by Jacob before the elder brother Manasseh, the stock and offspring of them exalted themselves since from age to age, and are noted for it oft times in the history of the Old Testament. As in Joshua we read they among others were discontented with their portion, so in the twelfth of this book the posterity of them contended with Jephtha for not calling them with him to battle against the Ammonites after he had overcome them; even as these Ephraimites did here with Gideon. So Esau, himself deadly hating his brother, derived this sin to his posterity, the Edomites; so Ahab did idolatry to the generations that came after him. And hereby we may learn what force some blemishes and corruptions in a flock or kindred have to infect almost the whole posterity, God justly thus punishing the sins of the fathers upon the children to many generations, punishing sin with sin.
3. And yet one thing more note in these Ephraimites, namely, the flights, subtleties, doubleness, and hollowness that lie hidden in men's hearts, till they have occasion to show them, or grace to repent of them. These would now seem to have had great injury that they were not called to the battle, whereas it was their own sin that they went not, for they did forbear for fear of danger, and were willing to stand by, as it were, lying in the wind to wait for the issue. So that if Gideon and their brethren the Israelites that joined with him had lost the day, then all the blame would have been laid upon them by these Ephraimites; but now they had got the victory by God's direction and blessing, they complain on the other side that they had injury themselves, for that they were not, as they said, bidden to help in the battle. Wherein we may behold deep subtlety and hypocrisy, and how far all such are from simplicity and plain dealing, that according to the proverb, howsoever the world go they will save one, and however it fall out, they will provide for themselves.
(W. Miller, M. A.)
I. OURS IS THE GOLDEN AGE OF TRUTH.
1. The body of truth is larger than that of any former times. Aristotle, one of the most learned of the ancients, if he were to return to-day, could hardly pass a preliminary examination for admission to one of our grammar schools. The results of past research and controversy along the past have accumulated into a great treasury of knowledge. Each generation has contributed its part. History is not a treadmill, wherein men go round and round, getting nowhere; but a thoroughfare, the King's highway, whereon we journey like a royal troop, league by league, laden with the spoils of the conquest, until we come to the palace of the King.
2. The great body of truth thus accumulated is held in a truer spirit of toleration than the past ever knew.
3. Along with this goes a truer orthodoxy than of old. The denominations may differ, and indeed do differ, with respect to minor matters, but they are loyal to old landmarks.
II. OURS IS ALSO THE GOLDEN AGE OF MORALITY, particularly in its larger sense as touching all the relations of man with his fellow-men.
1. The industrial reform may be cited in evidence. Capital has rights, for which it tenaciously strives; labour has rights, for which it vigorously contends. Out of this conflict must come the solution: an honest day's wage for an honest day's work; corporations with souls, and labourers with rights.
2. The temperance reform. This was almost unheard of a century ago. For this we have to thank the fathers who gathered the vintage of Abi-ezer, who in the controversies of moral suasion and legislation wrought out these more salutary methods and passed on their achievements to us.
3. Political reform. We hear much of "civic corruption" in these days, of bribery, blackmail, etc. In the time of William
III. bribery was so commonly practised that the king publicly announced his inability to dispense with it, saying, "Under the existing order of things, to refuse the common practice would endanger the crown." The municipal corruption which is so arousing the popular indignation at this moment would have been made little of in former days. It is a good sign — this stirring about the Augean stables.
4. Sociological problems. All branches of the Christian Church are concerned in the discussion of questions which touch the welfare of the community; the betterment of home and society; the care of the poor, the aged, and all incapables. The liberalitas of the ancient world has given way to the caritas of our religion. We are beginning to understand the song of the angels, not merely in its ascription of glory to God, but also in its expression of goodwill toward men.
5. As to personal character. We make more of character and less of adventitious prominence than of old.
III. THIS IS THE GOLDEN AGE OF MORAL ENERGY. Truth and ethics are changed into power by a fire burning beneath them. The Church works with a purpose. A man, aside from his creed and personal graces, must in these times have something to do.
1. There was a time when good people were chiefly concerned about their personal salvation. Each for himself was the shibboleth of those days.
2. At other times the people of God have been chiefly concerned for the preservation of the Church. This was the meaning of the Crusades; in them we find a stern endeavour to rescue the Holy Sepulchre, and so vindicate the majesty of the Church and avenge her wrongs. The effort was not to convert the infidel, but to destroy him root and branch.
3. In our time we speak of the kingdom. This is the missionary age. All are summoned to work — men, women, and children. All are summoned to work for the evangelisation of the world — the deliverance of souls from sin. We seem to be dwelling in the early twilight of the last days. The victory of Christ is a foregone conclusion. His glory shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)
(J. R. Macduff, D. D.)
Faint, yet pursuing.I. THE ARMY. Merely three hundred devoted warriors, under command of a trusted leader. But no unreliable material in their midst. Each true as steel.
1. The leader was a man thoroughly equipped for his work. Many good causes have languished or been lost for want of an efficient chief. Gideon had boldness to strike, and enthusiasm to follow up. Also a heart thoroughly loyal to God.
2. The men composing this army were specially chosen. They were men who knew no fear in the hour of danger nor alarm at the force of the foe.
3. The men composing this army were devoted to their work. Not to be caught unawares: ever on the alert for the foe.
II. THE VICTORY.
1. Divine help. The history of battlefields tells us that the victorious armies have not always been the best equipped; that Providence is not always on the side of the strongest artillery. There is a moral influence at work in all struggles for the right which will make itself felt, whatever be the opposing odds. The greatest exploits are sometimes achieved by the feeblest instrumentality. It is not so much mechanical organisation we want — it is life.
2. Human instrumentality. To those who go out at God's command the way is wonderfully opened up, the insurmountable barriers vanish. In every Christian enterprise the work is virtually done when the first advance is made in God's name.
III. THE PURSUIT: "Faint, yet pursuing." We cannot read this without feeling rebuked for half-heartedness in our Christian work. Many a time we seem to have made inroads on Satan's dominion, souls seem to have been rescued from the oppressor, but the advantage thus gained was not followed up; the old foe, driven out only for a time, returned, and the last state became worse than the first. And what is the reason? Why do we stop short of full success? Because we give way to weariness. We are like Gideon's men in being faint; but we fail to imitate them in pursuing.
(D. Merson, B. D.)
I. THE FACTS.
1. Who and what were they who were "faint, yet pursuing"? The victorious three hundred, who had previously cried to the Lord. Victorious by Divine power, through faith, which produced works; they went forth, trusting in the Lord. Gideon's plan, like Abraham's, an instance of inspired judgment and energy, of Divine influence, not superseding, but exalting and invigorating, the natural faculties; not excluding, but producing consummate generalship.
2. The victors — weak in themselves — felt their bodily wants and infirmities.
II. PRINCIPLES which the facts exemplify.
1. The preceding events in the context show the connection of sin and misery; the intention of Divine chastisements; the necessity and benefit of repentance; the required instrumentality of faith and obedience; God's care to exclude boasting.
2. The text, as a comment on the events, suggests that all God's people indeed are called to be conquerors like Gideon and his men — on the same principles.
3. Like Gideon and his men, they are called, and able, notwithstanding their weakness, to be still pursuing.
4. While thus pursuing, they are liable to be tried like Gideon and his men, with foolish, jealous, testy brethren, like the Ephraimites; to be disappointed of expected help by selfish or churlish brethren — as at Succoth and Penuel.
5. In the case of the Christian's spiritual warfare, as in Gideon's case, there is a disproportion of forces. Enemies — numerous, insolent, oppressive. Friends — some faint-hearted, some foolish, some selfish and churlish. The faithful weak and faint in themselves. But God is among His people — their sufficiency is of Him.
6. Not only converted individuals, but all true Churches, exemplify the same principles.
I. ACCOUNT FOR THE EXHAUSTION.
1. The greatness of the work.
2. The fewness of the hands.
3. The lack of material supplies.
4. The want of sympathy.
II. ACCOUNT FOR THE PERSEVERANCE.
1. Because he takes the past as a pledge for the future.
2. He considers that things half-done are not well done.
3. He accounts Him faithful who had promised.
4. He has a great work in hand.
5. He looks onward.Fainting will give place to renewal of strength. Pursuit leads to complete victory.
(W. Burrows, B. A.)
I. FAINTNESS COMES TO THE BODY BY LONG TRAVEL. Every step we take is waste. It is so with the soul. There is a mysterious spending of its substance and vitality, day by day, in thought, emotion, will, effort. A Christian soul spends more than another because it has more to spend. It has higher thoughts, and more passionate emotions, and nobler efforts, and more fervent willing. And if, through long travel, the waste is more than the recruiting, then comes faintness.
II. FAINTNESS COMES TO THE BODY BY RAPID MOVEMENT. A man shall walk leisurely over some miles of road or up the slope of a mountain and be quite cool and comparatively fresh, while a racer shall bound away over the same distance, and at the end be panting with exhaustion. It is so in this respect also with the soul. If a man will contend with all his spiritual energy — with aspiring affections, and in the full fervours of a living will, against God's kingdom of heaven, against moral perfection; if he will match himself for that attainment, run in that race, climb that awful steep, he need not be surprised if now and again he is fain to pause and cry with one who ran eagerly long ago, "I have seen an end of all perfection, but Thy commandment is exceeding broad." 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. Intellectual difficulties will not melt away. Moral mysteries will not disappear. The law of sin in the members will not die. The law of the spirit of life will not grow so fast, will not bloom so fair, as was hoped; and the panting, eager spirit, after many ineffectual endeavours, is sometimes almost benighted with the gloom of such disappointments, and sinks down fainting, almost ceasing to pursue. There is nothing very alarming in this weariness. It will soon pass away. You have not lost your ideal, nor your love for it, nor your purpose to realise it, nor that Divine hope which kindles itself always by the side of a holy purpose, nor that prophetic faith which counts the thing that is not yet as though it were. And if you have lost none of these things, you have lost no real strength. It will recover and revive ere long, and bear you on again to moral victory.
III. FAINTNESS COMES TO THE BODY BY THE DIFFICULTY OF THE GROUND THAT HAS BEEN TRODDEN, OR OF THE WORK THAT HAS BEEN DONE. A mile through tangled thickets or thorny brakes, over rough rocks or in sinking sand, may be more exhausting than seven or ten over the smooth greensward or along the level way. Some Christians go to heaven by the way of the plain and some by the mountain roads. Who can tell why one is sent by the mountain and another by the plain? why one smiles and sings all the way while another smiles and weeps?
IV. FAINTNESS COMES TO THE BODY THROUGH LACK OF SUSTENANCE. The soul, like the body, will faint if it is famished.
V. FAINTNESS MAY COME TO THE BODY BY SICKNESS, BY DISEASE. If there be an overtasking of the physical energies, or an exposure to malign influences, weakness will certainly creep in. If a man works in an unwholesome place, if he breathes in tainted, poisoned air, the whole head will soon be sick, the whole heart faint. It is even so with the soul. It sickens and grows faint when in any way, in any place, it inhales the poison of sin.
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
I. THE CHRISTIAN IS APT TO FAINT IN THE TIME OF TEMPTATION, WHEN SIN ASSAILS AND TROUBLES HIM.
II. The Christian is apt to faint IN TIME OF AFFLICTION. Call faith to your help; trust God's goodness, power, and love.
III. The Christian is apt to faint IN HIS ENDEAVOURS TO DO GOOD.
IV. The Christian is apt to faint IN PRAYER, whether praying for himself or for others.
(E. Blencowe, M. A.)
I. THE DIFFICULTIES AND HARDSHIPS OF THE CHRISTIAN'S WAY SOMETIMES MAKE HIM FAINT.
1. He is buffeted by the world.
2. He meets also with many a source of trouble in himself.
3. He is tempted by Satan. He is often disappointed of his hopes and expectations.
II. THOUGH THE DIFFICULTIES AND TRIALS OF HIS WAY MAKE THE CHRISTIAN FAINT, YET THE PRINCIPLE OF FAITH STILL KEEPS HIM PURSUING.
1. A strong sense of duty is impressed upon his thoughts, and impels him still to hold on his way.
2. A fear of consequences also operates. Should the Christian give up his pursuit, what will ensue? Will he thereby become happier than he is now? Will all his trials cease? He feels that greater apprehensions will then arise.
(R. Maguire, M. A.)
ennui, that "awful yawn which sleep cannot dispel," and is generally sick of himself through very selfishness. But though faint and weary, he pursues his course still. Is there on earth a more pitiable sight than that of a man who has grown to hate some sinful indulgence which he continues to pursue merely from force of habit? But we desire to use the motto for our encouragement. None of us are overcoming sin fast enough, but we must never despair. Let us take for our motto, "Faint, yet pursuing." It is only pride that tells us that we are not making the progress we ought to make. And if we do not see results, why then it is braver to continue the struggle when the tide of war is against us than to be only able to fight when shouts of triumph are in our ears. Oh, that it might be said of us in our warfare against evil passions and desires, what was said by a historian of a celebrated Cameronian regiment —"They prayed as they fought, and fought as they prayed; they might be slain, never conquered; they were ready whenever their duty or their religion called them, with undaunted spirit and with great vivacity of mind, to encounter hardships, attempt great enterprises, despise dangers, and bravely rush to death or victory." Many people are faint who would not be if they would only accept the invitation of their heavenly Father, and cast all their anxiety upon Him. The prophet Joel tells the weak to say, "I am strong"; and it was St. Paul's experience that when he was weak then he was strong. Our faintness and weakness, instead of hindering us from pursuing the right way, may help us to do so. There is an old story in Greek annals of a soldier under Antigonus, who had a disease, an extremely painful one, likely to bring him soon to the grave. Always first in the charge was this soldier, rushing into the hottest part of the fray. His pain prompted him to fight, that he might forget it; and he feared not death, because he knew that in any case he had not long to live. Antigonus, who greatly admired the valour of his soldier, discovering his malady, had him cured by one of the most eminent physicians of the day; but from that moment the warrior was absent from the front of the battle. He now sought his ease; for, as he remarked to his companions, he had something worth living for — health, home, and other comforts. Might not our faintness, weakness, and disappointments, like this soldier's disease, stimulate to distinguished service? We must remember that it is not the strong and the successful, but the weary and the heavy laden, who are especially invited by Christ.
(E. J. Hardy, M. A.)
The princes of Succoth... The men of Penuel.
(W. W. Duncan, M. A.)
(Marcus Dods, D.D.)
The children of a king.
1. First, I speak of our family name. To have conquerors, kings, or princes in the ancestral line gives lustre to the family name. In our line was a King and a Conqueror. Our family name takes lustre from the star that heralded Him, and the spear that pierced Him, and the crown that was given Him. What other family name could ever boast of such an illustrous personage?
2. Next, I speak of the family sorrows. If trouble come to one member of the family, all feel it. So, in the great Christian family, the sorrow of one ought to be the sorrow of all.
3. Next, I notice the family property. After a man of large estate dies, the relations assemble to hear the will read. Our Lord Jesus hath died; and we are assembled to-day to hear the will read. He says: "My peace I give unto you." Through the apostle He says: "All are yours."
4. Next, I speak of the family mansion. Almost every family looks back to a homestead — some country place where you grew up. But all the dwelling-places of dukes and princes and queens are as nothing to the family, mansion that is already awaiting our arrival.
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
I. II. III. IV. 1. They dwell in the royal presence. 2. They have constant access to God. 3. They have royal provision. 4. They have special instruction. 5. They have a kingly guard. 6. They have royal prospects.Learn: 1. The dignity and rights of the saints of God. 2. How full of consolation to believers in sorrow and affliction! (J. Burns, D. D.)
II. III. IV. 1. They dwell in the royal presence. 2. They have constant access to God. 3. They have royal provision. 4. They have special instruction. 5. They have a kingly guard. 6. They have royal prospects.Learn: 1. The dignity and rights of the saints of God. 2. How full of consolation to believers in sorrow and affliction! (J. Burns, D. D.)
III. IV. 1. They dwell in the royal presence. 2. They have constant access to God. 3. They have royal provision. 4. They have special instruction. 5. They have a kingly guard. 6. They have royal prospects.Learn: 1. The dignity and rights of the saints of God. 2. How full of consolation to believers in sorrow and affliction! (J. Burns, D. D.)
1. They dwell in the royal presence. 2. They have constant access to God. 3. They have royal provision. 4. They have special instruction. 5. They have a kingly guard. 6. They have royal prospects.Learn: 1. The dignity and rights of the saints of God. 2. How full of consolation to believers in sorrow and affliction! (J. Burns, D. D.)
1. They dwell in the royal presence.
2. They have constant access to God.
3. They have royal provision.
4. They have special instruction.
5. They have a kingly guard.
6. They have royal prospects.Learn:
1. The dignity and rights of the saints of God.
2. How full of consolation to believers in sorrow and affliction!
(J. Burns, D. D.)
1. In order to this, then, we must as far as we have opportunity cultivate physical power. There is truth in the phrase "muscular Christianity." To keep a healthy body for the home of the mind should be a persistent aim. We have no right to neglect it. We should be as unwise as would a cottager who, knowing that the rainy season was setting in, should neglect to stop up the gaping hole in the rotting thatch roof. We should strive to develop our powers to the full extent, and when we can go no further, we should conserve the force we have gained.
2. That which we say of the body applies also to the cultivation of mental faculties. The opportunity of strengthening the body may be brief, but that of the mind lifelong. We have but little power at first, but reading, thinking, and mingling with our fellows increases the conscious vigour of intellect.
3. Further, we should be strong in convictions of duty. We should have principles. Our arms should be nerved by moral earnestness.
4. It is well to cultivate a confidence in our powers and principles. Jether was fearful as to his powers, and so he drew not his sword. We should have no hesitancy in doing that which our heavenly Father directs, in our consciences or in His Word, to be undertaken. Yea, we should seek to go beyond others in service. We should arouse ourselves to the putting forth of strength, that by effort we may gain greater strength. We are not urged to put forth effort to attain knowledge and spiritual power in our own strength. We must "be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might." Needless to say, there must be humility, penitence, faith. This conscious spiritual strength and fearlessness are necessary in various circumstances.(1) In the effort to prosper in lawful undertakings, to provide things honest in the sight of all men, and "to provide for our own." The strain on bone and brain at this day is very great.(2) They are necessary in view of some of the contingencies of life. It is useless to be thinking always that something dreadful is about to happen. Fearlessness is a far better spirit in which to meet trial. But it must be a holy fearlessness, because we know that our God cares for us. We need to put aside fear when we stand before that which may cause us a greater anxiety than any circumstances of trial, personal suffering, or even death, the prosperity of Christ's Church and triumph of His truth. We may be concerned, like Eli, for the ark of God. We may hear the roar of the bulls of Bashan — the attacks of infidelity. We may shudder as we see the strongly netted leash of worldliness thrown over the Church. Even then we must not be paralysed by fear, as Jether before Zebah and Zalmunna, for the Spirit of the Lord can lift up a standard against all evil. He can defend His cause.
As the man is, so is his strength
(R. A. Watson, M. A.)
I. As a man is PHYSICALLY, so is his strength. If we are to estimate him by his muscular strength, we must take into account his bodily form, his age, his health, his build, his stature. Gideon belonged, as we may say, to the order of nature's nobility. Now, it is perfectly true that we cannot give to ourselves a handsome mien, nor add one cubit to our stature; nevertheless, it is equally true that we can do much to promote our health, to build up our constitution, and even to give dignity to our physical presence. By a regular life, by scrupulous temperance, by due bodily exercise, by habits of order and cleanliness, every one can do not a little in this direction.
II. 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. I suppose that, during the past hundred years, no proverb has been more often quoted, as none has been more largely illustrated, than the pithy aphorism of Lord Bacon, "Knowledge is power." In order to succeed, it is requisite to have intelligence and brains. The commerce of England is not indeed in the hands of learned scholars; but it is, for the most part, in the hands of shrewd, clear-headed, practical men, who understand their business, and know how to push it. Thus intellect becomes an equivalent for strength, and mind means money. 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, I will venture to say, more than anything else, determine your power of overcoming difficulty and of accomplishing good. This is the sure gauge of your personal force in society and in the world. A man with a resolute conscience will always be a power.
IV. As the man is IN FAITH, so is his strength. Ah! that's the main point of all. What a work that brave soul accomplished all through unshaken confidence in his God! Be that faith yours, young men, and you shall be strong, and shall overcome the wicked one. There is no strength in the world to compare with that which faith imparts, especially the faith which lays hold of a risen and all-sufficient Redeemer. The splendid undertakings of an Alexander, Hannibal, a Caesar, are nothing to the achievements which it has accomplished. It has mastered legions of passions, quelled the turbulence of lust, overcome the world, driven the devil to flight, and thrown open an entrance to the palaces of heaven!
(J. T. Davidson, D. D.)
Rule thou over us... for thou hast delivered us.
(W. Miller, M. A.)
I. GIDEON TEACHES US THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING OUR FAITH STRENGTHENED. Any means Gideon possessed for accomplishing the work he had undertaken were, humanly speaking, altogether inadequate. He had not a chance of success, if it could be said with truth, "There is no hope for him in God." Faith being then, as faith is still, the medium of connection between human weakness and Divine power, it was his mainstay. He was thrown entirely on its strength. The ship does not ride the storm otherwise than by the hold her anchor takes of the solid ground. By that, which lies in the calm depths below, as little moved by the waters that swell and roll and foam above, as by the winds that lash them into fury, she resists the gale, and rides the billows of the stormiest sea. But her safety depends on something else also. When masts are struck and sails are furled, and, anchored off reef or rocky shore, she is labouring in the wild tumult for her life, it likewise lies in the strength of her cable and of the iron arms that grasp the solid ground. By these she hangs to it; and thus not only the firm earth, but their strength also, is her security. Let the flukes of the anchor or strands of the cable snap, and her fate is sealed. Nothing can avert it. Powerless to resist, and swept forward by the sea, she drives on ruin; and hurled against an iron shore, her timbers are crushed to pieces like a shell. And what anchor and cable are to her, faith, by which man makes God's strength his own, was to Gideon, and is still to believers in their times of trial.
II. GIDEON TEACHES US TO MAKE THOROUGH WORK OF WHAT BELONGS TO OUR DELIVERANCE FROM SIN. In closing the account of what God did for him, and through him for his people, the historian says, "Thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel, so that they lifted up their heads no more." And how was this accomplished? The remarkable victory God wrought for Gideon, without any effort on his part, may be regarded as a type of that greater, better victory which, without any effort on ours, God's Son wrought for us when He took our nature and our sins upon Him — dying, the just for the unjust, that we might be saved. Gideon followed up this victory by calling all possible resources to his aid. He summoned the whole country to arms, as, accompanied by his famous three hundred men, he hung on the skirts of the broken host, and with sword bathed in their blood cut down the fugitives — kings, princes, captains, and common soldiers — with an eye that knew no pity and a hand that did not spare. Now, it is to work as thorough, and against enemies more formidable, that He who trod the winepress alone, redeeming us to God by His blood, calls all His followers. By resolute self-denial, by constant watchfulness, by earnest prayer, by the diligent use of every means of grace, and above all by the help of the Holy Spirit, we are to labour to cast sin out of our hearts. This is no easy work. But heaven is not to be reached by easy-going people. Like a beleaguered city, where men scale the walls and swarm in at the deadly breach, the violent take it by force. The rest it offers is for the weary. The crowns it confers are for warriors' brows.
(T. Guthrie, D. D.)
A man is at his best when he overcomes a great temptation, when he shows the might of a regal spirit, and conquers himself. Gideon now reaches the climax of goodness, which is true greatness.
I. Kingship OFFERED to him. Here is —
1. An appeal to the love of power. Men love power. What disaster ambition has produced! The evils of war. The tricks of diplomatists. Prostitution of talents. Sacrifice of principle.
2. An appeal to paternal affection. Positions for some, if not all, of Gideon's sons. The first of a kingly race. The founder of a royal family. An opportunity seldom presented. A rare opening.
3. An appeal to the desire of posthumous fame. To live after death a widespread and all but universal desire. One indication of our immortality. The opportunity now presented to Gideon to satisfy desire in a tangible form. His name inscribed in the roll of Israel's kings. Who is the man to refuse? Gideon.
II. Kingship REJECTED by him.
1. Gideon's self-denial.
2. Gideon's patriotism. Shown as much sometimes by what a man refuses to do as by what he undertakes.
3. Gideon's loyalty to conscience. The voice of the people not always the voice of God. But the voice of conscience directed by the Bible and enlightened by the Holy Spirit is the voice of God. Listen to that voice.
III. Kingship ACKNOWLEDGED by him.
1. Fidelity to God.
2. Reproof of the people. You have the theocratic form of government. The best form. Why seek to subvert the Divine arrangement?
3. A true regard for the people's welfare. The people do not always know what is for the best. Here learn that a man may do his best and seemingly fail. Gideon before his age.
(Wm. Burrows, B. A.)
(R. A. Watson, M. A.)
1. Gideon's piety. The Israelites offered Gideon the rule over them. Few men would have refused so tempting an offer. But Gideon knew that he could not accept it without trenching upon God's prerogative. In the spiritual application, our wisdom is to make request to the Lord Jesus, "Rule Thou over us, for Thou hast delivered us." He hath "saved us" at the cost of His own life-blood, "from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us."
2. Gideon's modesty. What he had sought in his service against Midian was not his own aggrandisement, but Israel's welfare (1 Corinthians 9:18, 23; 2 Corinthians 12:14, 15). Ambition and self-seeking mar the service of God, and injure the minister's own soul. The service itself is its own highest honour and best reward.
3. Gideon's wisdom, too, appears in his choosing to remain in the station to which the providence of God had called him. Restlessness can never bring happiness. The adage is true, He who carves for himself often cuts his fingers; he who leaves God to carve for him shall never have an empty plate. "Seekest thou great things for thyself, seek them not" (Jeremiah 45:5).
(A. R. Fausset, M. A.)
Gideon made an ephod.
(R. A. Watson, M. A.)
(R. A. Watson, M. A.)
(A. Whyte, D. D.)
1. Gideon's sin injurious to himself. Scripture, unlike mere human biographies, tells faithfully the failings of its heroes. The record of the believer's blemishes is as edifying as that of his graces. Good intentions are no excuse for self-willed inventions. An oracle of Gideon's own contrivance, and made out of the golden amulets of idolaters, could never be pleasing to God, and was a bad return to make for the Divine favour in granting him victory. It "became a snare unto Gideon" himself, by lessening his zeal for the house of God in Shiloh. Still more so to his family.
2. Gideon's sin had a deadly effect on the nation. One false step of a good man leads multitudes astray. If Gideon could have risen from the grave and seen the consequences of his one grand error, how he would have grieved!
(A. R. Fausset, M. A.)
And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house.
I. Gideon at his worst MORALLY. Biblical saints are not made more than human. Their virtues are described that we may imitate them, their vices depicted that we may avoid them. Gideon not without his failings: many wives, and even concubines. Remember the degenerate times in which he lived. No man altogether superior to the influences of his age; Gideon not. His guilt not so great as if he had lived in our days. Polygamy now almost an impossible crime. Be thankful for what the gospel has done for modern society. In those days, too, a man became a ruler, and was permitted to do things not allowed to the private individual. Great positions have always great moral dangers. In lonely walks of life there is favourable opportunity for the growth of the white flower of a blameless character. Zeal for the Lord of hosts may go along with imperfection. Zeal will not condone for the imperfection.
II. Gideon at his worst PHYSICALLY. Gideon lived to a good old age; still he died, and was buried in the sepulchre of Joash. He who overcame vast multitudes is now overcome of death. Mighty Gideon lies powerless in the sepulchre of Joash. Thousands passing away daily, and yet the living regard not the common fate. Oh, that men would consider their latter end! To live in view of death is not to die the sooner, is not to live less nobly or usefully.
III. Gideon at his worst INFLUENTIALLY. Not always true that the good which a man does is buried along with his bones. A good man's influence must abide more or less. A man's greatness shows that he can project an influence that shall outlast his earthly life. Yet how often we appear to see the efforts made by a good man in life blighted at his death. As soon as Gideon was dead, the children of Israel turned again, and went a-whoring after Baalim, and made Baal-berith their god. Pathetic the statement, short-lived Gideon's influence. The people restrained by Gideon's presence, but not converted by his example. Superficial changes not lasting. Rulers may do much, but the gospel only can work a permanent reformation.
(Wm. Burrows, B. A.)
The children of Israel remembered notI. WHAT GRATITUDE IS, AND UPON WHAT THE OBLIGATION TO IT IS GROUNDED. This virtue includes —
1. A particular observation, or taking notice of a kindness received, and consequently of the goodwill and affection of the person who did that kindness. For still, in this case, the mind of the giver is more to be attended to than the matter of the gift; it being this that stamps it properly a favour and gives it the noble and endearing denomination of a kindness.
2. That which brings it from the heart into the mouth, and makes a man express the sense he has of the benefit done him by thanks, acknowledgments, and gratulations; and where the heart is full of the one, it will certainly overflow and run over in the other.
3. An endeavour to recompense our benefactor, and to do something that may redound to his advantage, in consideration of what he has done towards ours.
II. THE NATURE AND BASENESS OF INGRATITUDE. There is not any one vice or ill quality incident to the mind of man, against which the world has raised such a loud and universal outcry, as against ingratitude. It is properly an insensibility of kindnesses received, without any endeavour either to acknowledge or repay them. To repay them, indeed, by a return equivalent, is not in every one's power, and consequently cannot be his duty; but thanks are a tribute payable by the poorest. For surely nature gives no man a mouth to be always eating, and never saying grace; nor a hand only to grasp and to receive: but as it is furnished with teeth for the one, so it should have a tongue also for the other: and the hands that are so often reached out to take and to accept, should be sometimes lifted up also to bless. The world is maintained by intercourse; and the whole course of nature is a great exchange, in which one good turn is and ought to be the stated price of another.
III. THE PRINCIPLE FROM WHICH IT PROCEEDS. In one word, it proceeds from that which we call ill-nature.
1. A proneness to do ill turns, attended with a complacency, or secret joy of mind, upon the sight of any mischief that befalls another.
2. An utter insensibility of any good or kindness done him by others.
IV. THOSE ILL QUALITIES THAT INSEPARABLY ATTEND INGRATITUDE, AND ARE NEVER DISJOINED FROM IT.
1. Pride. The original ground of our obligation to gratitude is that each man has but a limited right to the good things of the world, and that the natural and allowed way by which one is to obtain possession of these things is by his own industrious acquisition of them. Consequently, when any good is dealt to him any other way than by his own labour, he is accountable to the person who dealt it to him, as for a thing to which he had no right or claim by any action of his own. But pride shuts a man's eyes against all this, and so fills him with an opinion of his own transcendent worth, that he imagines himself to have a right to all things, as well those that are the effects and fruits of other men's labours as of his own. So that if any advantage accrues to him by the liberality of his neighbour, he does not look upon it as a free and undeserved gift, but rather as a just homage to that worth and merit which he conceives to be in himself, and to which all the world ought to become tributary.
2. Hard-heartedness, or want of compassion. It was ingratitude that put the poniard into the hand of Brutus, but it was want of compassion which thrust it into Caesar's heart.
V. SOME USEFUL CONSEQUENCES, BY WAY OF APPLICATION, FROM THE PREMISES.
1. Never enter into a league of friendship with an ungrateful person: that is, plant not thy friendship upon a dunghill; it is too noble a plant for so base a soil.
2. As a man tolerably discreet ought by no means to attempt the making of such an one his friend, so neither is he, in the next place, to presume to think that he shall be able so much as to alter or ameliorate the humour of an ungrateful person by any acts of kindness, though never so frequent, never so obliging. Flints may be melted, but an ungrateful heart cannot; no, not by the strongest and the noblest flame. I limit not the operation of God's grace; but, humanly speaking, it seldom fails but that an ill principle has its course, and nature makes good its blow.
3. Wheresoever you see a man notoriously ungrateful, you may rest assured that there is in him no true sense of religion.
(R. South, D.D.).