The Trial of Gideon's Army by the Proclamation
Judges 7:1-8
Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people that were with him, rose up early, and pitched beside the well of Harod…

Gideon has now obtained the necessary assurance of God's favour; he takes courage to blow the trumpet, and to collect the forces of the various tribes, if haply, after all the strength he can procure, Israel may be able to stand before those fearful enemies, the Midianites. We may conceive Gideon in such a season of anxiety, hoping that more hearts will be stirred up for the arduous contest, when lo, the Lord says unto Gideon, "The people are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands." What a majesty there is in these words! In consequence of this intimation, Gideon's faith is to be tried by the lessening of his army upon the very eve of battle; and the courage of the army is to be tried, that it may be seen that "with God it is a little thing to save by many or by few." As this trial respected Gideon, it was no slight one. To see, on the one hand, the Midianites "as grasshoppers for multitude," and, on the other hand, twenty-two thousand turning their backs on their enemies at the very first sound of the trumpet, must have been a fearful sight indeed. It must have driven him for consolation to God's own promise. We may see in it a picture of the outward and visible Church of Christ militant here on earth. Nay, to make the picture more striking still, it may be called a representation of the various congregations of which that outward and visible Church is composed. What is a congregation of professing Christians but an army enlisted under the banner of the Cross; soldiers engaged to contend with one common army, which would hold them in a bondage worse than Midian's? And what is every faithful minister of the gospel but the leader of this host, the Gideon of the army? And what is the preaching of the gospel but the "proclamation" which calls our people to the battle against the Lord's enemies and theirs? We can tell them of a better sacrifice than Gideon's having been accepted on their behalf; we can point to "the Angel of the covenant" Himself, and say, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." We can testify that the enemy against whom we are called to fight has been already vanquished; that the Captain of our salvation has "led captivity captive," that He has "overcome death, and him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." Did Gideon represent the "dew" upon the fleece and on the earth, as an encouragement to his followers? We can testify that the very "dew" of the heavenly favour and blessing is even now poured out abundantly on the means of grace, moistening many a dry fleece and fructifying many a barren spot; and that the word of prophecy and promise is as sure as ever, that "Godwill be as the dew to His Israel." And if we have greater encourage-ments than Gideon to offer, we have also more fearful warnings to hold out. We call to remembrance the baptismal vow by which each is bound to "fight the good fight of faith." We tell our hearers of the awful consequences of being taken captive by the enemy. It may be asked, "Is it possible that, with such tremendous consequences hanging on the battle, men should not answer to the call? Alas! so it is. The spirit that is in them is one of cowardly inactivity, and it "cleaveth unto the dust." They need a new heart and a new spirit to be put into them before they will enter upon the warfare against sin and Satan, a heart actuated by the principle (the only constraining principle) of love. In ver. 34. of the former chapter we read, "But the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon," and then "he blew the trumpet." So the same Spirit must come upon him that leads, and upon them that follow, before the gospel trumpet will be blown effectually. This trumpet we would blow to-day. We blow it in the ears of those who, like Gideon's army, appear to be all equally "on the Lord's side"; but "the Lord knoweth them that are His." Gideon's proclamation, too, shall be ours: "Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return, and depart from Mount Gilead." It is right to sound this proclamation, that men may "count the cost." If we speak of religion as a life of enjoyment, we testify of it also that it is a life of self-denial. But if "the Spirit of the Lord" come upon those who hear this "proclamation," then these apparent contradictions will be reconciled, the seeming mysteries will be all made plain; and it will be understood that Christ has a yoke to be borne by His people, but it is easy; that He has a burden to be carried by them, but it is light; that He has a service for them to engage in, but it is perfect freedom. Depending upon "the Spirit of God" to make known these "things of God," we are to set before you good and evil, bitter and sweet, life and death, and then to say, "Choose you this day." Now, if the whisperings of men's consciences could be heard in the pulpit, as they are heard in heaven, what reply, I ask you, would yours be found to make to this appeal? If the motion of the body correspond with that of the mind, would there be none discovered among us "departing from Mount Gilead"? Would there be no man found to steal away from the spiritual battle through fear? Let conscience judge. Or if the reasons which urged the "fearful" to depart were to be given in as each left the field, what would they present? One is "afraid" that the service of Christ is too austere; it requires too many privations. He is unwilling to renounce a sin he loves. Another is "afraid" of being ridiculed or despised for entering decidedly on a religious course of life. He is ashamed of Jesus. A third is "afraid" of being "righteous overmuch." Tell me, is the soldier "afraid" of being thought too zealous when fighting in his country's cause? Is the patriot "afraid" of being thought to love his native land too much when called upon to act in defence of its laws or its liberty? Time would fail to enumerate all the fears of the faint-hearted. Some are "afraid" of sacrificing their worldly subsistence. "What is a man profited, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Others "depart from Mount Gilead" for fear of persecution. When we exhort them as soldiers of the Cross, they listen perhaps to our exhortation; when we tell them of a warfare to be accomplished, they hearken possibly to the discourse; when we point out the enemy, all appear outwardly to be ready to engage; but when we say, "Come now, and testify by your lives that you are in earnest in your profession, that you mean what you say when you declare without reserve, "Here we offer and present unto Thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls, and bodies!" how many depart! how few remain! We close with a word of encouragement to those who still keep their post in the field of battle. To such we say, "Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God," etc.

(F. Elwin.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people who were with him, rose up early, and encamped beside the spring of Harod: and the camp of Midian was on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley.

The Three Hundred Men that Lapped
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