Judges 8: 27
(Extracted from S. M. Anglin in "The Voice," 1895).
Gideon sought to perpetuate the blessing that had been vouchsafed to Israel by setting up an outward sign of it. The snare in this was that the true secret of the deliverance was lost sight of, and the outward thing valued. His history bears witness to the goodness and sovereign compassion of God towards His people who were constantly dishonouring Him and bringing chastening on themselves. Gideon was God's choice, for the time, to deliver His people and his moral fitness shines out in his replies to the angel. Two things mark him as suitable for God's work:-
(1) His own heart was in harmony with the thoughts of God about His people. He identified himself with them feeling their sorrows. "The Lord is with thee," said the angel. "If the Lord be with us" was Gideon's response. Every true service is the fruit of the mind and spirit of Him who took upon Himself the form of a servant! The Lord's answer to Gideon marks His appreciation. The angel looked on him and said, "Go in this thy might and thou shall save Israel."
(2) He had a sense of his own weakness and incompetency; a prerequisite for effectual service, far removed from the self confidence of the man of the world! We have to learn to humble ourselves as the way to true greatness. God shows His tender solicitude for His servant, when Gideon was ashamed to ask for any further proof of God's faithfulness. In His abounding goodness, God directed him to go to the camp of the Midianites, where listening to the dream of one of them and its interpretation, his heart was encouraged, yet reminded of his own weakness as a "barley cake." How well the blessed God knows the tendency of our poor hearts, to shrink from His support, else when He has given us the victory to vaunt ourselves and forget that we are weak! The way that Gideon's army was reduced from 32,000 to 300 men bears witness to the same truth. God indeed gives us the victory, for "by strength shall no man prevail" It is instructive to see how Gideon went on from victory to victory while acting in dependence upon God. But after all he fell into the miserable snare of taking ornaments from the people and making an ephod which diverted his mind and the minds of the people from the living God to what was an outward witness of past blessing which could not secure present good and power. But by which he evidently sought to connect the deliverance with himself and his house.
Let us briefly notice the moral victories of this man of God before the enemy ensnared him. He acted at home in faithfulness to God in breaking down the image of Baal, etc. Faithfulness to Him must begin at home and God must have His right place there first. He proves us there, and we learn what He is, and then we can confront the enemy outside. The spirit of Gideon in meeting the chidings of the men of Ephraim was very fine. He exhibited lowliness of mind that disarmed all opposition. He esteemed others better than himself and gained a greater victory than that over the Midianites. Another subtle snare was presented, although he bore the slighting of his brethren becomingly, they now desire that he should be their ruler. His heart was steadfast, he rebuked the people who could so soon lose sight of God and exalt the vessel used for their deliverance. But alas! the way of the flesh is unbelief; though Gideon refused their proposals it affected his spirit. He seemed afterwards desirous to be something and to connect the deliverance with himself. He was not proof against the enemy's wiles! He came down from his moral elevation occupied when in distrust of himself with a sense of his littleness. But Gideon broke down. Sorrow and darkness shrouded the rest of his history and that of his family. That is an impressive lesson of the need of abiding in dependence upon God, walking in faith before Him. No past victories will secure the next step.