Then the Israelites said to Gideon, "Rule over us--you, and your son and grandson--for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian."
I. GENEROUS BUT MISTAKEN GRATITUDE. It was a natural impulse in the soldiers. But their mistake was twofold -
(1) in exalting man instead of God, and
(2) in seeking to put an end to the theocracy.
The natural mind acts always thus, in the face of the plainest signs of Divine intervention and authority; building itself out from the Unseen by human authorities and institutions. The chain of connection with God is weakened by lengthening it. The plainest commands of God are disobeyed in mistaken self-interest. The human agent is depended upon because the perception of the Divine is weak. Exalting one of themselves was but a species of self-glorification. The motive of Gideon too is misunderstood.
II. DISINTERESTED SERVICE. The honour is refused. If prudence aided the decision, it was chiefly due to unaffected faith and reverence for Jehovah. He may have felt that his "might" and success were solely individual, and due to direct inspiration; and the incapacity and disagreements of his children may have already betrayed themselves. He thereby vindicates his own patriotism and disinterestedness. His humility and magnanimous loyalty to God as only Sovereign for Israel outshine all his exploits.
1. How hard it is for men to believe in the disinterestedness of benefactors!
2. God, who imparts might and inspiration, can also purify the heart from worldly ambitions and weaknesses.
III. DEVOUT RECOGNITION OF DIVINE AID AND AUTHORITY. The ephod is explained and described in Exodus 28. It is the priestly garment, with breastplate attached to it, worn in the sanctuary. The Urim and Thummim were also used in connection with it for oracular consultation. It meant, therefore, a tabernacle and its service wherever it was placed.
1. So far as this was to the honour of God and commemoration of his mercy, it was a pious act.
2. By using the spoils of the people for its construction, a national sacrifice was effected.
3. But by placing it in Ophrah he encouraged schism, gave his own family undue importance, and tempted his countrymen to superstitious practices. - M.
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. 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.
Rule thou over us... for thou hast delivered us.
(W. Miller, M. A.)
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.)
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.)
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