Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people that were with him, rose up early, and pitched beside the well of Harod: so that the host of the Midianites were on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley.
Among the ten thousand soldiers in Gideon's army there were three hundred brave and wary men who, even under the pangs of thirst, could not forget that they were in the presence of an enemy, and that it behoved them therefore to be on the alert. Instead of flinging themselves recklessly on the ground, they simply scooped up a little water in the hollow of their hands, and lapped it or sipped it, even as a dog laps while he runs—on the watch for any ambush, prepared for any surprise. These were the veterans of the little army, men who had seen war before and knew its perils, and felt how much even a moment's carelessness might cost them. And these were the men, marked out by their own wariness and self-control, by whom God meant to save Israel from its foes. God's way was a wise way, (1) from a military, (2) from a moral point of view. God is a jealous God who wants all the glory of His acts, of His achievements for Himself, and will not share that glory with another. It was because He wanted to do good to the children of Israel, that He made it plain to them that it was He who had saved them, and not they themselves.
I. This, then, is the moral of Gideon's story: that God wants to rule over us only that He may save us; or, to put it in another way, God wants us to know that it is He who has saved us, and that He will go on serving and saving us to the end. The lesson taught by the three hundred is the necessity of self-control. Self-control is required at every moment, along the whole range of our habits, and through the whole course of our life.
II. Our counsel to you is, hold yourselves well in hand. Be masters of yourselves, of all your appetites, and of all your desires. Sip the water or the wine of life, like the three hundred. Do not fling yourselves on your knees to it, and drink as if your only business in life was to get your fill of pleasure or of gain.
III. Learn from the three hundred to keep a high and noble aim steadfastly before you, an aim which must be pursued, if need be, at the cost of appetite and desire; and let that aim be the highest of all, viz., the love and service of God.
S. Cox, The Bird's Nest, p. 148.
Reference: Jdg 7:5-7.—Outline Sermons to Children, p. 25.
Jdg 7:7I. Consider the man to whom the angel came. His thoughts had been busy with God before God came to him. He was a man who meditated much on the promises and the histories of God's grace and love. The Lord ever comes to those whose hearts are watching for Him.
II. To understand Jdg 7:2-7 we must remember that the victory was to be a victory of faith. The battle was to be won against overwhelming numbers. The Lord needed men in whom spirit should be dominant, who could hold the flesh in habitual and iron control. Faint with their long march, the great body of men flung themselves on the ground, forgetful alike of toil and pain and glorious enterprise, in the cool draught which for the moment was exquisite delight. Three hundred men stood up above the prostrate throng. They stooped for a moment and lapped the few needful drops from the hollow of their hands, and then stood prompt to pursue their way. The eye of God marked them. "Set these men apart; these three hundred are strong enough for the stress of the battle, and great enough to wear the honours of the victory."
III. The lessons of the narrative are these: (1) It is the small matters which reveal us, the slight occasions. It is easy to catch the excitement of battle. Watch the combatant home, and you see the man. (2) There is One watching us when we are most unconscious, drawing silently auguries of character, and forecasting destiny. (3) Keep your knee for God alone.
These men bent the knee to sensual good. Kneel to God, and it will cure you of all other kneeling.
J. Baldwin Brown, The Sunday Afternoon, p. 202.
References: Jdg 7:7.—J. Kelly, Pulpit Trees, p. 222. Jdg 7:9-25.—Ho7niletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 380. Jdg 7:13.—S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 77; J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College, vol. iii., p. 372. Jdg 7:13, Jdg 7:14.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xiii., p. 265; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi., No. 1873.
Jdg 7:16Gideon went down into the battle with only three hundred men, with only trumpets, pitchers and lights for weapons, and the mighty hosts of Amalek and Midian fled before him, and were driven from the land. More than a thousand years afterwards St. Paul remembered this story, and said: "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." St. Paul was writing of the sufferings which he and his fellow-workers had to endure. He and they seemed no better than earthen pitchers, but they were vessels carrying a Divine light, a life kindled by God, and a power which could not be destroyed.
I. This story brings the happy assurance to every heart who hears it, that even a child may be a vessel to carry the power of God. God can fill the weakest and most fragile with power for His work. He asks only that the heart shall receive His life.
II. More wonderful still, this is a picture of our dear Lord. He also, as a man, was but an earthen vessel. His enemies broke the vessel which contained His life, but by their cruelty they brought defeat and shame to themselves, and glory to Him.
A. Macleod, The Gentle Heart, p. 257.
The text illustrates the twofold elements of which man is composed, the material and the spiritual.
I. The mortal and material part of man is considered under the emblem of a pitcher containing within it a lamp or firebrand. (1) The first point of resemblance is that the pitcher is made of potter's clay, even as man was formed of the dust of the ground. (2) The pitcher's manufacture is brittle and easily shattered, and in this particular especially the comparison holds good between the earthen vessel and the body. (3) Notice, as a final point of comparison, the untransparent character of the earthen vessel. It is not adapted to the exhibition of a lamp.
II. Consider the light within the pitcher, the soul or immaterial part of man enclosed for the present within a material framework, the "breath of lives" breathed into the vessel of clay, (1) Animal life; a great distinction is to be drawn between the body, which is material, and the life of the body, which is immaterial. (2) Rational life; the life of the intellect. (3) There was a yet higher life breathed into man at the creation—spiritual life. Each of these lives is in some sense a lamp.
E. M. Goulburn, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. i., p. 181.
References: Jdg 7:16.—Sermons for Boys and Girls, p. 273. Jdg 7:18.—Bishop Woodford, Sermons on Subjects from the Old Testament, p. 54. Jdg 7:20.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 264; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 413. 7-8:1-21—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 145. Jdg 8:1.—Ibid., p. 382. Jdg 8:2.—Ibid., vol. ii., p. 265.
And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.
Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand.
And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people are yet too many; bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee there: and it shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with thee, the same shall go with thee; and of whomsoever I say unto thee, This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go.
So he brought down the people unto the water: and the LORD said unto Gideon, Every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him shalt thou set by himself; likewise every one that boweth down upon his knees to drink.
And the number of them that lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men: but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water.
And the LORD said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place.
So the people took victuals in their hand, and their trumpets: and he sent all the rest of Israel every man unto his tent, and retained those three hundred men: and the host of Midian was beneath him in the valley.
And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand.
But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah thy servant down to the host:
And thou shalt hear what they say; and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go down unto the host. Then went he down with Phurah his servant unto the outside of the armed men that were in the host.
And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude.
And when Gideon was come, behold, there was a man that told a dream unto his fellow, and said, Behold, I dreamed a dream, and, lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along.
And his fellow answered and said, This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel: for into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host.
And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, Arise; for the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian.
And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man's hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers.
And he said unto them, Look on me, and do likewise: and, behold, when I come to the outside of the camp, it shall be that, as I do, so shall ye do.
When I blow with a trumpet, I and all that are with me, then blow ye the trumpets also on every side of all the camp, and say, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon.
So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came unto the outside of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch; and they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers that were in their hands.
And the three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal: and they cried, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon.
And they stood every man in his place round about the camp: and all the host ran, and cried, and fled.
And the three hundred blew the trumpets, and the LORD set every man's sword against his fellow, even throughout all the host: and the host fled to Bethshittah in Zererath, and to the border of Abelmeholah, unto Tabbath.
And the men of Israel gathered themselves together out of Naphtali, and out of Asher, and out of all Manasseh, and pursued after the Midianites.
And Gideon sent messengers throughout all mount Ephraim, saying, Come down against the Midianites, and take before them the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan. Then all the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and took the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan.
And they took two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb; and they slew Oreb upon the rock Oreb, and Zeeb they slew at the winepress of Zeeb, and pursued Midian, and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side Jordan.