But Gideon replied, "I will not rule over you, nor will my son. The LORD shall rule over you."
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.
The whole situation naturally described. In the flush of victory the impulse is to honour Gideon, and secure a permanent connection with the glory of his name by establishing a hereditary monarchy in his family. This honour he refuses. We have here -
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.
Rule thou over us... for thou hast delivered us.
Many a man does well in times of difficulty and danger who fails entirely in prosperity. It remains for us to see whether Gideon yielded to this greatest of temptations. Did he now allow selfishness instead of faith and duty to become the ruling principle of his life? That question had to be practically answered at the great assembly that was held on his return. He stood there on the pinnacle of glory. He was at once the Wallace and the Bruce of his native land. And his very modesty in claiming so little for himself made his glory greater. Vanquished by his generosity as much as Penuel and Succoth had been vanquished by his arms, Ephraim probably took the lead in the offer of kingly authority that was made to him. That offer was the climax of his natural glory. His rejection of it was the climax of his moral and spiritual glory. Now, were not the proposal and the reason for it good alike? Gideon had undoubtedly displayed every kingly quality — skill in war, wisdom in council, prudent reserve, patient determination, and superiority to every petty motive and desire. There can be no doubt that had it been right for any man to become king then, he was the very man to fill the place. There can be no doubt that the proposal was in many respects prompted by right feeling, and in some respects a wise one. But the leaders of Israel did not fully understand the wants of their age. Looked at either spiritually or politically, kingly rule would then have been premature. It was needful that God should still manifest His presence at times in direct and striking ways. The nation had not learnt the truth of His continual presence. They had not learnt this truth sufficiently to warrant its being even partially obscured by the intervention of a single human ruler. Neither, considering the question in its lower, its political, aspect, was there yet enough cohesion or common feeling among the tribes to enable them to work permanently together as a united people. Now, I do not say that such reasons for rejecting the offer made to him were distinctly present to the mind of Gideon; but we can see them now, and he was guided aright by the instinctive entering into the mind of God, the instinctive comprehension of the Divine plan, which is one of the choicest gifts that God confers on those who live in close communion with Him. The very fault of Israel in not recognising the hand of God, and in offering the crown on that account to Gideon, was made the occasion of setting emphatically before them the very truth they needed — the occasion of gathering up for them the spiritual meaning of the whole of this portion of their history. Thus, by his faithfulness and self-denial, Gideon became the means of bringing spiritual benefits to his people as real and more enduring than the political and social ones that his sword had won. And so the time came at last when God's immediate presence got to be recognised in some such real though confused, imperfect way as truths do get recognised among men. The time arrived for Jehovah retiring, so to speak, somewhat into the background when He appointed David, the man after His own heart, to take His place visibly. And this brings us to the point at which Gideon is no longer a guiding light, but a beacon to warn us of our danger. Very rightly had he read in all that had occurred the lesson that it was Jehovah, and in the meantime Jehovah only and immediately, that must govern Israel. Very nobly had he refused power in which he would have delighted, in order that he might get this lesson impressed upon his people. But at this point he grew impatient at the people's dulness, and at the slowness of the evolution of the scheme of Providence. He had done much to make Israel feel the nearness of the God whom he trusted in and loved so fervently. Might he not now take a further and more influential step? Might not means be devised by which this wonderful deliverance could be effectually commemorated, and coming generations be made really to feel that it was Jehovah alone that had delivered or that could deliver? Thus he would help on God's plan by his own shrewd contrivance. With this object he took advantage of the enthusiasm that prevailed — an enthusiasm of admiration for himself that was only heightened by his refusal of the crown, unwelcome though that refusal was. He asked for a certain portion of the spoil, and it was placed at once at his disposal. With this he made an ephod and placed it in his own city, Ophrah. In all this Gideon greatly erred. His natural fondness for devices and his skill in shrewd contrivance, kept in check till now, and made useful by his living faith and strict obedience, had led him at last astray. Forming plans of his own without being in direct communion with the God who had guided him till now, he failed to meet the wants of his time; nay, he pandered to its most dangerous vices. That happened here which happens so continually in the Church's tangled story. Excessive reverence for the past was made a substitute for walking with the personal God in the living present. It is sad that one who had believed so steadfastly, one who had served so well and done so much, should thus, through impatience and self-will, have stumbled at the end. Yet even this bears its lesson with it — the lesson that even in the noblest of God's servants we cannot find a perfect model; that in communion with the present Spirit we must learn for ourselves to judge concerning what is to be admired and what to be only shunned in the very best and greatest of mankind. One perfect example there is, but only one: He who is man, but also more than man, and who is our pattern most of all in this — that, Son of God and head of humanity as He was, He yet did in each particular, not His own will, but the will of the Father that had sent Him.
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.
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.
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.
()The nation needed a settled government, a centre of authority which would bind the tribes together, and the Abi-ezrite chief was now clearly marked as a man fit for royalty. He was able to persuade as well as to fight; he was bold, firm, and prudent. But to the request that he should become king and found a dynasty Gideon gave an absolute refusal. We always admire a man who refuses one of the great posts of human authority or distinction. The throne of Israel was even at that time a flattering offer. But should it have been made? There are few who will pause in a moment of high personal success to think of the point of morality involved; yet we may credit Gideon with the belief that it was not for him or any man to be called king in Israel. As a judge he had partly proved himself; as a judge he had a Divine call and a marvellous indication: that name he would accept, not the other. One of the chief elements of Gideon's character was a strong but not very spiritual religiousness. He attributed his success entirely to God, and God alone he desired the nation to acknowledge as its Head. He would not even in appearance stand between the people and their Divine Sovereign, nor with his will should any son of his take a place so unlawful and dangerous. Along with his devotion to God it is quite likely that the caution of Gideon had much to do with his resolve. Before Gideon could establish himself in a royal seat he would have to fight a great coalition in the centre and south and also beyond Jordan. To the pains of oppression would succeed the agony of civil war. Unwilling to kindle a fire which might burn for years and perhaps consume himself, he refused to look at the proposal, flattering and honourable as it was. But there was another reason for his decision which may have had even more weight. Like many men who have distinguished themselves in one way, his real ambition lay in a different direction. We think of him as a military genius. He for his part looked to the priestly office and the transmission of Divine oracles as his proper calling. He desired to cultivate that intercourse with Heaven which more than anything else gave him the sense of dignity and strength. From the offer of a crown he turned as if eager to don the robe of a priest and listen for the holy oracles that none beside himself seemed able to receive.
()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).
PeopleAbiezer, Abiezrites, Abimelech, Gideon, Ishmaelites, Israelites, Jerubbaal, Jether, Joash, Midianites, Nobah, Ophrah, Oreb, Penuel, Zalmunna, Zebah, Zeeb
Places0, Abiezer, Heres, Jogbehah, Jordan River, Karkor, Midian, Nobah, Ophrah, Penuel, Shechem, Succoth, Tabor
TopicsGideon, Rule, Ruler
Outline1. Gideon pacifies the Ephraimites
4. Succoth and Penuel refuse to deliver Gideon's army
10. Zebah and Zalmunna are taken
13. Succoth and Penuel are destroyed
17. Gideon revenges his brothers's death on Zebah and Zalmunna
22. He refuses government
24. His ephod the cause of idolatry
28. Midian subdued
29. Gideon's children, and death
33. The Israelites' idolatry and ingratitude
Dictionary of Bible ThemesJudges 8:23
5370 kingship, human
8410 decision-making, examples
LibrarySeptember 21. "Faint, yet Pursuing" (Judges viii. 4).
"Faint, yet pursuing" (Judges viii. 4). It is a great thing thus to learn to depend upon God to work through our feeble resources, and yet, while so depending, to be absolutely faithful and diligent, and not allow our trust to deteriorate into supineness and indolence. We find no sloth or negligence in Gideon, or his three hundred; though they were weak and few, they were wholly true, and everything in them ready for God to use to the very last. "Faint yet pursuing" was their watchword as they followed …
Rev. A. B. Simpson—Days of Heaven Upon Earth
The Christian Faith
Scripture references: Hebrews 11; Matthew 9:29; 17:20; Mark 10:52; 11:22; Acts 2:38; 3:16; 10:43; 16:30,31; Romans 1:17; 5:1; 10:17; Galatians 2:20. FAITH AND PRACTICE Belief Controls Action.--"As the man is, so is his strength" (Judges 8:21), "For as he thinketh in his heart so is he" (Proverbs 23:7). "According to your faith be it unto you" (Matthew 9:28,29). "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (Proverbs 4:23). The Scriptures place stress upon the fact that …
Henry T. Sell—Studies in the Life of the Christian
Subjects of Study. Home Education in Israel; Female Education. Elementary Schools, Schoolmasters, and School Arrangements.
If a faithful picture of society in ancient Greece or Rome were to be presented to view, it is not easy to believe that even they who now most oppose the Bible could wish their aims success. For this, at any rate, may be asserted, without fear of gainsaying, that no other religion than that of the Bible has proved competent to control an advanced, or even an advancing, state of civilisation. Every other bound has been successively passed and submerged by the rising tide; how deep only the student …
Alfred Edersheim—Sketches of Jewish Social Life
Of the Power of Making Laws. The Cruelty of the Pope and his Adherents, in this Respect, in Tyrannically Oppressing and Destroying Souls.
1. The power of the Church in enacting laws. This made a source of human traditions. Impiety of these traditions. 2. Many of the Papistical traditions not only difficult, but impossible to be observed. 3. That the question may be more conveniently explained, nature of conscience must be defined. 4. Definition of conscience explained. Examples in illustration of the definition. 5. Paul's doctrine of submission to magistrates for conscience sake, gives no countenance to the Popish doctrine of the obligation …
John Calvin—The Institutes of the Christian Religion
For the understanding of the early history and religion of Israel, the book of Judges, which covers the period from the death of Joshua to the beginning of the struggle with the Philistines, is of inestimable importance; and it is very fortunate that the elements contributed by the later editors are so easily separated from the ancient stories whose moral they seek to point. That moral is most elaborately stated in ii. 6-iii. 6, which is a sort of programme or preface to iii. 7-xvi. 31, which constitutes …
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament
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