And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped…
There is a strange power in a battle-cry. In certain circumstances a single word, or a simple motion, may rouse men to a frenzy of heroism. One electric sentence, such as that addressed by Nelson to his men, "England expects that every man this day will do his duty," may be the making of a victory. It brings before the imagination in a moment such a picture of country, of home, of duty, of fame, as suffices to awaken some of the grander elements of the mind. A battle-cry is fitted to inspire confidence in friends and fear in foes. It is not strange, therefore, that the followers of Gideon, so few in number, should seek, as they were about to meet the countless hosts of Midian and Amalek, to fortify their hearts with a stirring watchword — "They cried, The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon!" What strikes us at first as somewhat strange is that they should add the name of Gideon to the name of the Lord. It is not without good reason that this addition is made. Just as great and abstract ideas have not their full influence over the mind until they are associated with some illustration — embodied in some concrete form; so the thought of God, in the height and infinitude of His being, has not that practical influence on the mind as mere abstraction, which it has when associated with some human agency — when brought down to the earth and brought near to us in the form of a man. Hence, indeed, the incarnation of God in man. And so the battle-cry of Christianity is, not merely the sword of the Lord, but the sword of the Lord and His Christ. Besides, it was literally the arm of Gideon, as well as the arm of the Lord, that gained the victory; and therefore we have suggested to us by these words the union of the Divine and the human in the work of the world, or the co-existence and co-operation of the Infinite and the finite.
I. THE FACT OF THIS UNION. As the planet flies swiftly in its orbit, impelled by the opposing centripetal and centrifugal powers; as the path of the ship is the result of the combined action of wind and helm; as the body of man moves freely over the solid ground, finely balanced between earth, air, and sun; so the path of the soul is the result of the combined action of heaven and earth. The breath of the Divine Spirit fills the sails, and the little helm of the human will is allowed to modify the course.
1. The union of the Divine and the human in the operations of nature. God created paradise and led man into it; but He did not leave His creature to a life of idleness. He put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. The fruits of the earth were to be matured by the touch of man as well as by the power of God. As the seasons revolve in their beauty and variety, the creature has always to unite his energies with those of the Creator to bring the harvest forth. And what is all art and science but man following God, imitating God, working with God? Man looks upon the works of God; and from the union of his beholding mind with these fair forms there come forth the creations of art — the inspired poem, the pale statue, and the coloured canvas. These productions are the combined result of that inspiration which the Almighty has given, and the artist's own earnest labour. The result is cut out by "the sword of the Lord, and of Gideon."
2. The union of the Divine and the human in the administration of secular affairs. What is the true idea of government? Is it not that of a theocracy, or a world in which God is king — a world in which every king is clothed with power as Gideon was, and in which every magistrate's sword is the sword of the Lord as well?
3. More directly is it seen in the individual Christian life that the power of God is working with the power of man. Conversion is pre-eminently a work of God. It is a new creation, and God is the Creator. The wounds of conviction are made by the sword of the Lord. We are born again of God. At the same time, it is no less clear in Scripture that conversion is a work in which man himself must play a part. There is an act of the Divine will, but there is also an act of the human will. We are "justified by faith," and faith is an act of the mind. Every righteous action performed is a fruit both of the Divine Spirit and the human spirit. Every true and believing prayer is at once an inspiration of man and an inspiration of God. In the warfare of the soul the Divine arm and the human arm must both be lifted against the foe; and it is still "the sword of the Lord, and of Gideon," that gains the victory. To the same effect are those wonderful words, "Work out your own salvation... for it is God who worketh in you," etc.
4. The union of the human and the Divine in the work of spreading the gospel.
II. THE INVISIBLE RELATION OF THE TWO POWERS. We cannot draw a line between the two, and say, "There the Divine ends, and here the human begins: up to this point God has been the worker; after that man is the worker." As the battle goes on, we cannot say, "On yonder part of the field are the heavenly forces, and on this part the earthly forces." We cannot say, "Now God has laid down the sword, and now man has taken it up." The two energies are blended in such invisible relation and mysterious co-operation that we cannot thus distinguish them. There is but one sword between the Lord and Gideon; and both grasp the hilt at the same time.
III. THE WISDOM AND ADVANTAGE OF THIS ARRANGEMENT.
1. It reveals to us the dignity and solemnity of life. We are fellow-labourers with God. We are grasping and wielding the same sword. This truth invests life with the highest sacredness and solemnity. If it does not derogate from God's dignity to work, it cannot derogate from man's. The dignity that comports with or consists in idleness is altogether foreign to true elevation of life.
2. While this co-operation is fitted to lift us up, it is also fitted to cast us down. True humility is wrought in us by the increasing realisation of God's existence and presence. His majesty looks down upon us and His holiness looks in upon us evermore. Earthly honours inflate and pamper the vanity of the human heart, but heavenly honours humble still more the heavenly.
3. The combination of entire dependence upon God with the greatest individual activity. What a blessed thing it is to have the arm of the Almighty to lean upon in our daily life! Dependence upon others is not always desirable; but dependence upon God is our very life and strength. The former has a tendency to produce servility and inactivity, the latter leads to the greatest activity. Those who believe most entirely that everything depends upon God at the same time work as energetically as if everything depended on themselves. Those who have done most good in the world are those who have ascribed all goodness to God.
4. Since God is a worker, the success of His work is certain; but since we also are workers, we should be filled with fear lest we be found unfaithful and fall short at last. The fact that an army has a great general — one who is a host in himself, one sure to lead to victory, does not make the men who fight under him indifferent as to how they fight. It makes them fight all the better. It inspires them with an almost superhuman power. Under the leadership of God, then, what great deeds might we not accomplish, if we had faith to follow Him more closely! With what joy might we even fall in the fight, when we know that the day is already ours! But the practical point for every believer is, that a certain portion of the work is entrusted to him. What an awful responsibility! What a value does this give to time!
(F. Ferguson, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: It was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and its interpretation, that he worshiped; and he returned into the camp of Israel, and said, "Arise; for Yahweh has delivered the army of Midian into your hand!"