Judges ~ Chapter Eight
Read: Judges 8:1-35
"Then the men of Israel said to Gideon,
"Rule over us, both you and your son, and your grandson also;
for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian."
But Gideon said to them, "I will not rule over you,
nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you."
(Judges 8:22, 23)
Gideon was just coming down from the highs of a great victory in battle when he was confronted by the sharp criticism of the Ephraimites who felt they had been robbed of a greater share in the glory, because their help was not enlisted until the tail end of the battle. "Why have you done this to us by not calling us when you went to fight the Midianites?" And they reprimanded him sharply" (v. 1). God's valiant general proved the wisdom of his command not only on the battlefield but also over his own heart, with his humble response to his proud critics. "What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?" (v. 2). In order to keep the unity and peace, Gideon took the higher ground and humbled himself before his neighbors. "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others" (Philippians 2:3, 4). He took little credit for his own act of valor, instead, giving them the honor they felt they were due. "Then their anger toward him subsided when he said that" (v. 3b). Gideon was a skilled warrior; whether he was wielding the sword in battle or his tongue in negotiations, he knew how to use his weapons of warfare. "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1). Sadly, he and his soldiers were not shown the same kindness and hospitality when they approached their own countrymen for some food to refresh them for battle. "When Gideon came to the Jordan, he and the three hundred men who were with him crossed over, exhausted by still in pursuit. then he said to the men of Succoth, "Please give loaves of bread to the people who follow me, for they are exhausted, and I am pursing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian" (Judges 8:4, 5). Once again, Gideon was met with the cruel and arrogant words of his countrymen whom he was hard at work trying to deliver from an oppressive enemy. His own people underrated him; they mocked him and refused to give him the help he asked for. Their unwillingness to assist the army in this small way would be met with a severe punishment when Gideon made his return trip. What followed next was a military campaign unlike the first. Gideon pursued the two Midianite kings and killed them and routed the whole army, bringing an end to the tyranny of the Midianites. He then returned to settle the score with the men of Succoth and Penuel (vv. 16, 17). As soon as Gideon had executed the two Midianite kings, his own men came to him and asked him to rule over them and become Israel's first king. "Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, "Rule over us, both you and your son, and your grandson also; for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian" (v. 22). For a long time, the Israelites desired an earthly monarch to rule over them, so they could be like the nation's around them; but the Lord was to be their only King (although He promised Abraham that his list of descendants would include kings (Gen. 49:10)). Gideon rightly rejected their request, because he knew it was wrong to replace the Lord's rule over His people. Tragically, though he knew better than to rule over them as king, he failed to instruct them in proper devotion to God. Instead, he made an ephod out of their gold earrings and ornaments and led them away from the true worship of Jehovah into idolatry. Still, the land did experience peace for forty years and Gideon lived to "a good old age," but as soon as he was gone, the people repeated the same old sin cycle. The Lord used Gideon to bring peace to the land, but ultimately the true peace and rest the people needed would come only from the Lord. While the land may have been swept clean of their external enemies for a time, their hearts remained polluted, leading to their spiritual decline. Eventually, their corruption within led to a return of oppression from without. "They served their idols, which became a snare to them" (Psalm 106:36). May we not forsake the vital and hidden, inner work of consecration, while we are busy fighting the visible battles all around us; remembering that the greatest battles we face each day are over flesh, sin, self, and worldliness which war within. Therefore, let us humble ourselves under the mighty hand of our King's righteous rule in our lives, so that in due time He may lift us up (1 Peter 5:6). "The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:56-58).
"The LORD is King forever and ever;
the nations have perished out of His land.
LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble;
You will prepare their heart;
You will cause Your ear to hear,
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
that the man of the earth may oppress no more."
"When Gideon came to the Jordan,
he and the three hundred me who were with him crossed over,
exhausted but still in pursuit."
Gideon's 300 valiant men had just won a great victory. Armed with only clay pot, a trumpet and a torch, the courageous band of winnowed warriors stood by faith on the battlefield and saw their foes melt in fear and flee for their lives. The power of Midian was broken because of their obedience, and now they were about to cross over into the next battle, "exhausted but still in pursuit," because they were still basking in the afterglow of being used by God as an instrument of His judgment and deliverance. They had given themselves wholly to God's work, by faith, standing on God's promises, but then, by action, in pursuit of their enemy. They had endured great mental and physical strain, but their work was not yet finished. The most difficult part of the battle often comes after the enemy is routed and we must continue to stand. This is why it is vital that we take time out for refreshment. We cannot expect to endure long seasons of battle if we do not get our necessary nourishment. We will faint at the least strain and fold at the slightest pressure if we do not take time out for daily meditation and study of the Word of God. We need our spiritual sustenance to withstand the temptation to quit. If we do not take the time to come away with the Lord, we will come apart in the battle. "Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. And He said to them, "Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while." For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat" (Mark 6:30, 31). Jesus sees our need to be refreshed and calls us to these sanctified seasons of rest which He provides for us throughout the year, like this invitation to offer up as a firstfruits offering the first 21 days of 2021. Our Lord saw those who were hungry and faint, and unlike the men of Succoth and Penuel who denied the Lord's warriors their necessary food, Jesus looked with compassion upon the people and multiplied the loaves and fishes and fed them, and they were revived. We pray earnestly for revival, but the Lord has already provided it for us. He has spread a lavish banqueting table before us in the presence of our enemies (Psalm 23:5), anointing our head with the oil of joy and gladness as we respond to His call to fast (Matthew 6:17), that we might feast on divine love and be refreshed through the rich sustenance of His Word. The Lord has purposed to change our appetites through the discipline of fasting, awakening the spiritual life within and giving us a strong stomach for the battle against sin and flesh. May the Lord in this season of the Judges, while everyone else is doing what is right in their own eyes, give us a holy distaste for sin and a divine discontentment while any single enemy of our soul lives. May we remain in pursuit, going forward in hope, knowing that God has promised us victory! Keep fighting for that quiet time with the Lord, battle every temptation to give attention to lesser things rather than studying the Scriptures and seeking to learn the deep things of God. There are blessings ahead if we do not give up the struggle. He is training us to rest in Him, so we will have His power for the work and not faint in the day of battle. Trust God for His help through every painful movement. Keep praying even though you may not feel like it. Keep standing in the strength of the Lord. "Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand" (Ephesians 6:13).
"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,
for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."