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yet is he not at defiance with God? Is he not a tyrant to Ísrael? Is it for nothing that God hath brought him into my tent? May I not now find means to repay unto Israel all their kindness to my grandfather Jethro ? Doth not God offer me this day the honour to be the rescuer of his people? Hath God bidden me strike, and shall I hold my hand ? No, Şisera, sleep now thy last, and take here this fatal reward of all thy cruelty and oppression.
He, that put this instinct into her heart, did put also strength into her hand; he that guided Sisera to her tent, guided the nail through his temples, which hath made a speedy way for his soul through those parts, and now hath fastened his ear so close to the earth, as if the body had been listening what was become of the soul. There lies now the great terror of Israel at the foot of a woman! He, that brought so many bundred thousands into the field, hath not now one page left, either to avert his death, or to accompany it, or bewail it. He, that had vaunted of his iron chariots, is slain by one nail of iron, wanting only this one point of his infelicity, that he knows not by whose hand he perished.
Gideon's Calling The judgments of God, still the further they go, the sorer they are. The bondage of Israel under Jabin was great, but it was freedom in comparison of the yoke of the Midianites. During the former tyranny, Deborah was permitted to judge Israel under a palm-tree; under this, not so much as private habitations will be allowed to Israel. Then, the seat of judgment was in sight of the sun; now, their very dwellings must be secret under the earth. They that rejected the protection of God, are glad to seek to the mountains for shelter ; and as they had savagely abused themselves, so they are fain to creep into dens and caves of the rocks, like wild creatures, for safeguard. God had sown spiritual seed amongst them, and they suffered their heathenish neighbours to pull it up by the roots; and now, no sooner can they sow their material seed, but Midianites and Amalekites are ready by force to destroy it. As they inwardly dealt with God, so God deals outwardly by them, their eyes may tell them what their souls have done; yet that God, whose mercy is above the worst of our sins, sends first his prophet with a message of reproof, and then his angel with a message of deliverance. The Israelites had smarted enough with their servitude, yet God sends them a sharp rebuke. It is a good sign when God chides us; his round reprehensions are ever gracious forerunners of mercy; whereas, his silent connivance at the wicked, argues deep and secret displeasure: the prophet made way for the angel, reproof for deliverance, humiliation for comfort.
Gideon was threshing wheat by the wine-press. Yet Israel hath both wheat and wine, for all the incursions of their enemies. The worst estate out of hell, hath either some comfort, or, at least, some mitigation. In spite of the malice of the world, God makes secret provision for his own. How should it be but he that owns the earth, and all creatures, should reserve ever a sufficiency from foreigners (such the wicked are) for his household? In the worst of the Midianitish tyranny, Gideon's field and barn are privileged, as his fleece was afterwards from the shower.
Why did Gideon thresh out his corn? To hide it, not from his neighbours, but his enemies. His granary might easily be more close than his barn. As then Israelites threshed out their corn to hide it from the Midianites, but now Midianites thresh out corn to hide it from the Israelites. These rural tyrants of our time, do not more lay up corn, than curses. He that withdraweth corn, the people will curse him; yea, God will curse him, with them, and for them.
What shifts nature will make to live! O that we could be so careful to lay up spiritual food for our souls, out of the reach of those spiritual Midianites!, we could not but live in despite of all adversaries.
The angels, that have ever God in their face, and in their thoughts, have him also in their mouths: “The Lord is with thee.” But this which appeared unto Gideon was the Angel of the covenant, the Lord of angels. While he was with Gideon, he might well say, “ The Lord is with thee.” He that sent the Comforter, was also the true Comforter of bis church. He well knew how to lay a sure ground of consolation, and that the only remedy of sorrow, and beginning of true joy, is, “The presence of God.” The grief of the apostles, for the expected loss of their Master, could never be cured by any receipt, but this of the same Angel, “Behold, I am with you to the end of the world.” What is our glory,
but the fruition of God's presence? The punishment of the damned is a separation from the beatifical face of God; needs must therefore his absence in this life, be a great torment to a good heart: and no cross can be equivalent to this beginning of heaven in the elect, “The Lord is with thee." ir
Who can complain either of solitariness or opposition, that hath God with him; with him, not only as a witness, but as a party? Even wicked men and devils cannot exclude God, not the bars of hell can shut him out. He is with them by force, but to judge, to punish them; yea, God will be ever with them to their cost; but to protect, comfort, save, he is with none but his. '
While he calls Gideon valiant, be makes him so. How could he be but valiant, that had God with him? The godless man may be careless, but cannot be other than cowardly. It pleases God to acknowledge his own graces in men, that he may interchange his own glory with their comfort; how much more should we confess the graces of one another? An envious nature is prejudicial to God. He is a strange man in whom there is not some visible good; yea, in the devils themselves we may easily note some commendable parts of knowledge, strength, agility. Let God have his own in the worst creature; yea, let the worst creature have that praise which God would put upon it.
Gideon cannot pass over this salutation as some fashionable compliment, but, lays hold on that part which was most important, the tenure of all his comfort; and, as not regarding the praise of his valour, inquires after that which should be the ground of his valour, the presence of God. God had spoken particularly to him ; he expostulates for all. It had been possible God shall be present with him, not with the rest; as he promised to have been with Moses, Israel ; and yet when God says, “ The Lord is with thee,” he answers, “ Alas, Lord, if the Lord be with us.” Gideon cannot. conceive of himself as an exempt person; but puts himself among the throng of Israel, as one that could not be sensible of any particular comfort, while the common case of Israel laboured. The main care of a good heart is still for the public, neither can it enjoy itself, while the church of God is distressed. As faith draws home generalities, so charity diffuses generalities from itself to all.
Yet the valiant man was here weak, weak in faith, weak in
discourse, whilst he argues God's absence by affliction, his presence by deliverances, and the unlikelihood of success by his own disability, all gross inconsequences. Rather should he have inferred God's presence upon their correction ; for wheresoever God chastises, there he is, yea, there he is in mercy. Nothing more proves us his, than his stripes; he will not bestow whipping where he loves not. Fond nature thinks God should not suffer the wind to blow upon his dear ones, because herself makes this use of her own indulgence; but none out of the place of torment have suffered so much as his dearest children. · He says not, We are idolaters; therefore the Lord hath forsaken us, because we have forsaken him. This sequel had been as good, as the other was faulty; the Lord hath delivered us unto the Midianites, therefore he hath forsaken us. Sins, not afflictions, argue God absent. : : · Whilst Gideon bewrayeth weakness, God both gives him might, and employs it; “Go in this thy might and save Israel.” Who would not have looked, that God should have looked angrily on him, and chide him for his unbelief? . But he, whose mercy will not quench the weakest fire of grace, though it be but in flax, looks upon him with compassionate eyes; and, to make good his own word, gives him that valour he had acknowledged.
Gideon had not yet said, “ Lord, deliver Israel;" much less had he said, “ Lord, deliver Israel by my hand." The mercy of God prevents the desire of Gideon. If God should not begin with us, we should be ever miserable; if he should Bot give us till we ask, yet who should give us to ask? If his Spirit did not work those holy groans and sighs in us, we should never make suit to God. He that commonly gives us power to crave, sometimes gives us without craving, that the benefit might be so much more welcome, by how much less it was expected; and we so inuch more thankful as he is more forward. When he bids us ask, it is not for that he needs to be intreated, but that he may make us more capable of blessings by desiring them. And where he sees fervent desires, he stays not for words; and he that gives ere we ask, how much more will he give when we ask? · He that hath might enough to deliver Israel, yet hath not might enough to keep himself from doubting. The strongest faith will ever have some touch of infidelity. And yet this was not so much a distrust of the possibility of delivering
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Israel, as an inquiry after the means. “Whereby shall I save Israel?” The salutation of the angel to Gideon was as like Gabriel's salutation of the blessed virgin, as their answers were like : both angels brought news of deliverance, both were answered with a question of the means of performance, with a report of the difficulties in performing; " Ah, my Lord, whereby shall I saye Israel?” How the good man disparages himself! It is a great matter, O Lord, that thou speakest of, and great actions require mighty agents. As for me, who am I? my tribe is none of the greatest in Israel ; my father's family is one of the meanest in his tribe, and I the meanest in his family, Poverty is a sufficient bar to great enterprises.
“Whereby shall I?” Humility is both a sign of following glory, and a way to it, and an occasion of it. Bragging, and height of spirit, will not carry it with God. None have ever been raised by him, but those which have formerly dejected themselves : none have been confounded by him, that have been abased in themselves. Thereupon it is that he adds; " I will therefore be with thee;" as if he had answered, Hadst thou not been so poor in thyself, I would not have wrought by thee. How should God be magnified in his mercies, if we were not unworthy? How should he be strong, if not in our weakness?
All this while Gideon knew not it was an angel that spake with him : he saw a man stand before him like a traveller, with a staff in his hand. The unusualness of those revelations, in those corrupted times, was such, that Gideon might think of any thing rather than an angel. No marvel if so strange a promise, from an unknown messenger, found not a perfect assent; fain would he believe, but fain would he have good warrant for his faith. In matters of faith we cannot go upon too sure grounds. As Moses therefore being sent upon the same errand, desired a sign, whereby Israel might know that God sent him; so Gideon desires a sign from this bearer, to know that this news is from God.
Yet the very hope of so happy news, not yet ratified, stirs up in Gideon both joy and thankfulness. After all the injury of the Midianites, he was not so poor, but he could bestow a kid and cakes upon the reporter of such tidings. Those, which are rightly affected with the glad news of our spiritual deliverance, study to shew their loving respects to the inessengers.