And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained to Joash the Abiezrite…
I. VALOUR UNKNOWN. Gideon was pronounced by the angel who appeared unto him as "a mighty man of valour." But did Gideon know his own might? It would seem that, as a valorous man, he was as much unknown to himself as he was unknown to Israel or to his enemies. His valour was real, but untried. His valour was living, but dormant. His valour was mighty, but un-exercised. Oft, too, is valorous faith unknown until it is tried. Great occasions make great men. Great trials make great believers. Faith as a grain of mustard-seed is as strong in its principle as is the faith which moves a mountain. But it needs growth and development. Unconscious strength is often the most potent. You cannot cast him down who is already low. You cannot rend him from the Rock of Ages who is resting on Christ as "the chief of sinners." There is unspeakable comfort in the fact that this "man of valour" was unconscious of his might until the angel revealed to him his secret power. Many a faint-hearted believer is "overcoming the world" (1 John 5:4, 5) unconsciously to himself. His might is hidden, but it is no less real.
II. VALOUR'S WEAKNESS. The sun is often under a cloud. So is faith. The cloud, however, does not change the nature of the sun. Nor do beclouding dispensations, which chill the soul, affect the true nature of its faith. The Christian is often a paradox to himself. He is weak and strong at the same moment. "When I am weak, then am I strong," said one of the greatest believers. "It is the nature of faith, not the quantity, which determines the character," said an eminent divine; and he added, "Samson was a riddle to me till I unriddled myself. He was an inconsistent believer." Gideon is named with Samson among the mighty believers in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. We shall now see his inconsistent weakness. The causes of it are laid open before us.
1. He was now walking by sight, and not by faith. He could see no tokens of the Lord's presence; and therefore, in reply to the salutation, "The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour," he said, in the weakness of unbelief, "Oh! my Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us?" Once suffer doubt to hint at the bare possibility that it may not be exactly true in all cases, at all times, that "God is not a man, that He should lie," and faith will lose its foothold, and stumble.
2. Gideon overlooked God's justice and man's sin. "Why then is all this befallen us?" The reason was patent. Surely Gideon could not have closed his eyes to all the idolatry in the land! The chastisement of the Lord's people may often be traced up to the same cause. Does the afflicted child of God ask, "Why is all this befallen me? "He need not question the cause. It is not because the Lord is not with him. Far from it. It is the true vine that is purged. The barren fig-tree is plucked up by the roots and cast away. But there is some evil permitted, some idol worshipped, some idolatrous altar erected.
3. Hard thoughts of God were mixed with Gideon's faith. "Now the Lord hath forsaken us," he murmured. Was this true? The Lord had just sent a prophet to them, in answer to their prayer (vers. 7, 8). Israel had forsaken the Lord, but the Lord had not forsaken Israel. His rod over them proved that He had not given them over to their sins.
4. False humility was another ingredient in the weak faith of Gideon. "Thou shalt save Israel," said the Lord: "have not I sent thee?" This twofold promise should have been enough for any emergency. What could a creature need more? But Gideon, instead of fixing his eye of faith upon the Lord alone, began to think of himself. And he said, in reply, "0 Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? Behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house" (ver. 15). Wherein would his confidence have been placed had his family been the richest in Manasseh and he the greatest in his father's house? There was a leaning to the arm of flesh in all this. "Proud humility" is a fearful bane of the soul. It apes the most retiring and modest graces of the Spirit; but it usurps the throne and sovereignty of Jehovah. Under its mask Satan robs believers of their comfort and the Church of their zeal. Were the creature made nothing, and Jehovah everything, what Goliath could resist the sling and the stone of the veriest stripling?
III. But now we turn and behold VALOUR'S MIGHT. Gideon was "a mighty man of valour" notwithstanding all the weakness of his faith. We naturally ask, wherein was his might? What was its source? In himself he was as weak as a babe.
1. The Lord's presence was one great source of valour's might. "The Lord is with thee." "Surely I will be with thee." Here was might irresistible. No enemy can withstand the presence of the Lord.
2. The Lord's look was another source of valour's might. "The Lord looked upon Gideon, and said, Go in this thy might." The Lord's look of grace and love imparts strength to the soul.
3. The Lord's promise was one chief source of valour's might. Faith lives upon promise. It is its food and daily sustenance. It is the very sinew of its might. "Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man." "Thou shalt save Israel." These were the promises with which Gideon was to wage war and overcome. Promise is to faith what the rope is to the drowning man. Faith begins to rise from despair to hope by promise. Promise, descending into the heart of faith, rises like water to its own level, and upbears the reposing soul to the very throne and bosom of God. Promise, like light issuing from the sun, cannot be polluted by earth's contamination. It is pure in whatever degree it shineth. It cometh from one source, and tendeth to one end.
4. The command of the Lord, no less than promise, was the warrant of faith, and a chief source of valour's might. "Go," saith the Lord. "Have not I sent thee?" The Captain of our salvation speaks as one having authority. Who can resist His will? Does He say, "Go"? Who, then, shall be able to let, or hinder, the servant in doing his Master's behest? Does he say, "Go," without providing "grace and strength" equal to the need of going? True faith is an obedient grace. Let but the Lord issue His command, and faith will answer, "Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth."
(G. A. Rogers, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: The angel of Yahweh came, and sat under the oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained to Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites.