Handfuls on Purpose
by James Smith, 1943
"WHY HAVE YOU DONE THIS?" Judges 2:1-5.
The "angel of the Lord" may mean "the angel of His Presence," that angelic form which makes the presence of the Lord, a powerful reality. This the Holy Spirit now does. Wherever He is the presence of God is felt. The journey from Gilgal (rolling away) to Bochim (weepers) may in a moral sense be very short. If we do not walk in the light of His will the distance between our successes and failures will never be very great. We observe here—
I. A Work of Grace. This grace was manifested in—
1. A Merciful Compulsion. "I made you to go up out of Egypt" (v. 1). It is a blessed thing when salvation becomes a pressing necessity. Compelled to forsake our godless ways through the force of constraining grace. It was so with Saul while on the way to Damascus (Acts 9). The compulsion of Almighty love.
2. The Gift of a Rich Possession. "I brought you unto the land" (v. 1). This good land was the land of promise. To Israel it meant freedom, peace, plenty, progress, and power. Typical of the possessions the believer has in Christ Jesus.
3. An Unfailing Assurance. "I will never break My covenant with you" (v. 1). The gifts and callings of God are without repentance. God Himself will not alter the thing that has gone out of His lips (Psalm 89:34). We may fail, yet He abides faithful to His own promise. The bargain will never be broken on God's side. He cannot deny Himself.
4. A Needful Warning. "You shall make no league with the inhabitants; you shall throw down their altars" (v. 2). The inhabitants of the land were bitterly opposed to the purposes of God, therefore the children of God must make no covenant with them. The servants of Christ must in no way identify themselves with that spirit that works in the children of disobedience. Their false gods must be thrown down, and the Lord alone exalted.
II. A Miserable Failure. "But you have not obeyed My voice" (v. 2). The failure came in their case, as it often comes in ours, through unbelief. O fools and slow of heart, to believe all that He has spoken! The voice of God is still in His Word, because His Word is the breathings of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). The Scriptures are always living and active (see Hebrews 4:12, R.V.). To turn away from His revealed will is to close our ears to the voice of God. Be not deceived, God knows when His voice is obeyed. He is personally interested in every individual child of His. How often have we complained of our failures? May not the cause be here: "You have not obeyed My voice?"
III. A Searching Question. "Why have you done this?" The "angel of His presence" is jealous for the honor of God. What answer can a disobedient one give to this personal, pointed inquiry? An honest answer would be: "I feared man more than God, and was better pleased with my own thoughts and plans than with His." Paul's "Not I, but Christ," has been changed into "Not Christ, but I." You know that, apart from the presence and power of the Holy Spirit within you, you cannot live or witness for God as you ought; yet you have gone leaning on your own strength and wisdom, and came away defeated. "Why have you done this?" You know that to obey His voice is the secret of heart-restfulness, yet you have not walked in this light. "Why have you done this?"
IV. An Expressive Answer. They answered not by words, but by deeds. Acts speak louder than words—
1. They Wept. "The people lifted up their voice and wept" (v. 4). The message from him who represented the presence of God had gone home to their hearts. "Why have you done this?" smote them with the silence of self-condemnation that could only find expression in tears of repentance. It was a heart question that wrung out this heart-melting response. The crowing of a rooster sent the same burning question into the heart of self-confident Peter, and with the very same result. "He went out and wept bitterly" (Matthew 26:75). "Godly sorrow works repentance to salvation not to be repented of" (2 Corinthians 7:10).
2. They Sacrificed. "And they sacrificed there unto the Lord" (v. 5). Sacrificing unto God is the only possible way of redeeming what we have lost by disobedience. The tears that are not followed with self-denying deeds are not very hot. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit" (Psalm 51:17). The broken spirit allows all that is in it to flow out for God. "I beseech you therefore by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1).
THE SONG OF DEBORAH. Judges 5.
"Command, Lord, what You will,
My way be dark or bright;
Upon the Rock I'm built,
You shall defend the right;
O look to me, and bring
Me forth conquering to sing."
"The song of Deborah," says Dr. Farrar, "is one of the grandest outbursts of impassioned poetry in the Bible." Like the song of salvation, the deep fullness of its harmony depends on the rich variety of its notes. It is a song of triumph. It is wonderful how nicely we can sing when we have experienced deliverance from all our enemies through faith in Jesus Christ. Those taken up out of the fearful pit of iniquity have a new song put into their mouth (Psalm 40:2, 3). This song of the prophetess resembles our song, in that it has in it a note of—
I. Fellowship. "Then sang Deborah and Barak" (v. 1). The song of salvation is not a solo, for while the saved one sings for joy there is also joy in the presence of the angels of God (Luke 15:10). The song of deliverance at the Red Sea was sung by Moses and the children of Israel (Exod. 15:1). Let us exalt His Name together.
II. Personal Dedication. "The people willingly offered themselves" (v. 2). This is a sure forerunner to victory. When the people of God willingly offer themselves as instruments of righteousness in His hand, to do His will, the shout of triumph will certainly follow. As with the Church, so with the individual; personal consecration to the work of the Lord is the strait gate into the way of success in His service. "They first gave their own selves to the Lord" (2 Corinthians 8:5).
III. Exultant Joy. "Awake, awake, utter a song" (v. 12). The song of the Lord's delivered ones is so high pitched that only the saved can sing it, and they need to be wide awake to give it the needed emphasis. The halfhearted make but a sorry attempt to touch the notes on the leger lines of this heavenly song. The psalmist was clearing his throat for it when he said, "Awake up, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early" (Psalm 57:8). You that dwell in the dust of an unclean and praiseless life, awake and sing (Isaiah 26:19).
IV. Mutual Encouragement. "Zebulun and Naphtali were a people that jeopardized their lives in the high places of the field" (v. 18). Reuben could debate on the merits of the war, and create divisions, playing the part of the "higher critic" (v. 16), and perhaps helping Gilead, Dan, and Asher in their guilty selfishness and cowardliness (v. 17). But give honor to whom honor is due. Those who stand firm on the "high places" in this holy warfare against worldliness, and every form of sin that works in opposition to the gracious will of God, let them be mentioned in our prayers and praises to God. All who jeopardize their lives for the cause of Christ, and even their own good name, should have honorable mention before God and man. This is a very effective antidote for jealousy in the Lord's work.
V. Faithful Warning. Meroz and the inhabitants thereof were to be cursed bitterly, "because they came not to the help of the Lord against the mighty" (v. 23). The people of Meroz may not have actually hindered the Lord's warriors, but they did not help; in this lay their guilt. They were cursed because they did nothing. Prayerless Christian, take note. The fig tree was cursed by the merciful Christ because it was fruitless. Doing nothing in the way of helping on the Lord's cause is the sure road to a withered Christian life, and it maybe to a God-dishonoring posterity. Abigail was well taught in theology when she assured David that, "The Lord will certainly make my lord a sure house, because my lord fights the Lord's battles" (1 Samuel 25:28). Look after His business and He will look after yours.
VI. Solemn Reflection. The mother of Sisera looked out at a window, and cried, "Why is his chariot so long in coming?" etc. (vv. 28-30). Deborah's reference to the mother of Sisera watching and wearying for the return of her murdered son is an intensely womanly touch. Here is pictured the terrible disappointment that must finally come to those who hope for peace and prosperity while fighting against the purposes and people of God (Exod. 15:9). While we celebrate our deliverance from the guilt and power of sin in our song of praise, let us not be unmindful of those who are without God and without hope in the world; those who are feeding on vanity, and are as the chaff to the wheat; those who walk in the light of the sparks of their own kindling, and whose light shall suddenly be quenched. The only hymn that we read of Christ ever singing was sung under the shadow of the Cross (Matthew 26:30).
GIDEON'S CALL. Judges 6:11-24.
Many have lived lives of sorrow and failure because they have mistaken their calling. It is not so with those called of God, as was Gideon. The gifts and callings of God are without repentance. Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and the consequence was what it always will be when we turn away from the Lord our Redeemer—bondage and oppression under the hand of an enemy (vv. 1, 2). But when they were impoverished they "cried unto the Lord" (v. 6), and He saved them out of their distresses by sending them a prophet to warn (v. 8) and a mighty man to save. The cry out of the depths of our impoverished hearts brings an answer out of the depths of His infinite fullness. In seeking to grasp the salient features of this portion let us note—
I. A Sorrowful Plight. "Gideon thrashed his wheat, and hid it from the Midianites" (v. 11). What a picture of a life lived under the fear of man! Separation from the ways of God will certainly pervert the motives of life. How are the mighty fallen that the redeemed of the Lord should tremble at the face of man? Elijah, in another sense, thrashed out his wheat fearlessly in the presence of his enemy, because he stood before the Lord God of Israel (1 Kings 17:1).
II. A Comforting Message. The angel of the Lord appeared, and said unto him, "The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor" (v. 12). This messenger of the covenant preached unto Gideon the Gospel of the grace of God,"The Lord is with you, you mighty man." It is His will and purpose to bless you and make you a blessing, therefore arise and put on your strength. This angel brought to Gideon what the Holy Spirit brings to us—a remembrance of our privileges as His people. He shall take of Mine, and shall show it unto you.
III. An Anxious Question. And Gideon said, "If the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us?" etc. (v. 13). All this dishonor and misery came because of sin; but, blessed be God, although we may fall through our iniquity, He does not cast off and forever deny His people. His great fatherly heart still loves and yearns for the restoration of His erring ones to His bosom. If the Lord is with us, why is our testimony so fruitless and our prayers so powerless? Just for the very same reason—an evil heart of unbelief (2 Chronicles 15:2).
IV. A Great Commission. The Lord looked upon him, and said, "Go in this your might, and you shall save Israel; have not I sent you?" (v. 14). His might undoubtedly lay in the assurance of Jehovah's presence with him (v. 12). Samson was not a giant; his great strength lay in the power of the Spirit of God with him. He does not send us a warfare on our own charges. Depressed and doubting soul, herein is the secret of might, "Lo, I am with you always, and all power is given unto Me." Go in this your might (Joshua 1:9; Matthew 28:18, 19).
V. A Common Excuse. "Oh my Lord, with which shall I save Israel? my family is poor, and I am the least," etc. (v. 15). It was so also with Moses (Exod. 3:11) and with Saul (1 Samuel 9:21). Poverty and weakness are no arguments against the exceeding riches of His grace and power to usward. Urging our own helplessness in the face of His all-sufficient promise only betrays our lack of faith in His Word. Still, the Lord expects that His abounding grace should never beget in us anything like self-confidence or boasting. The revelation of the glory of His goodness and of the high calling into which we have been brought are sure to make us feel keenly the impotency of all human strength and wisdom (see Luke 5:8, 9). Our conscious weakness is one of the best qualifications for the work of God (1 Corinthians 1:27; 2 Corinthians 12:10).
VI. An Assuring Promise. "And the Lord said unto him, Surely I will be with you" (v. 16). God meets his felt need with the promise of His presence. The presence of God means the supplying of all our wants as His servants. There is no other way whereby the Lord can equip us for His work than by the power of His presence, by the Holy Spirit within us. Gideon says, "I am poor, and my father's house are few in number;" but God's answer to his and our poverty and feebleness is, "I will be with you." Greater is He who is with us than all that can be against us. "Himself has said, I will in no wise fail you," so that with courage we say, "The Lord is my helper, I will not fear" (Hebrews 13:5, 6, R.V.).
VII. A Confirming Token. "If now I have found grace in Your sight, then show me a sign, and there rose up fire out of the rock" (vv. 17-21). The God that answers by fire, let him be God (1 Kings 18:24; Acts 2:1-4). Why should a sign be needed after giving His sure word of promise? In infinite grace God adapts His methods to the natural infirmities of man. He adds the seal of the Spirit to the promise of His Word. This holy fire appeared after the offering had been poured out before the Lord. As the fire of the Lord of old had to do with the offerings on the altar (Leviticus 9:24), so the Holy Spirit of burning comes now as God's answer and sign to a life consecrated unto Him. You shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire. "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" (Acts 19:2, R.V.).
VIII. An Adoring Act. "Then Gideon built an altar there unto the Lord, and called it Jehovah-shalom"— Jehovah, send peace (v. 24). Because he had seen the angel of the Lord face to face he feared that he would die. But his fears having been rebuked by His "Peace be unto you" (vv. 22, 23), he built an altar, and called it the "Peace of Jehovah." "My peace I give unto you." The assuring Word of God's promise ought to be enough to lead us into that adoring attitude of sacrificing restfulness (John 14:27). This altar, like the altar of the Cross of Jesus Christ, speaks powerfully of the peace of God. The cry of both was, "Jehovah, send peace." And peace has been made. A peace that passes all understanding. May it garrison our hearts and constrain to adoring worship.
GIDEON AT WORK. Judges 6:25-40.
The apostle Paul has declared that "When I am weak, then am I strong." Judged by the wisdom of the world this is certainly paradoxical. The seeming absurdity is partly explained by his previous utterance. "I will glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10). Gideon in himself was weak and uninfluential; but now that the presence and peace of Jehovah was with him, and in him, he becomes what God saw that he ought to be: "A mighty man of valor."
I. Where he Began.
1. At Home. "Take your father's bullock, and throw down the altar of Baal that your father has" (v. 25). The command to "honor your father," etc., has a far-reaching effect, and may be fulfilled by a son in a way that is very painful to the father. Gideon would honor his father, but destroy his father's gods. It takes courage to make a start and take a stand for God and for righteousness among our own kin. "Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you" (Mark 5:19).
2. At Once. "And Gideon took ten men, . . . and did it by night" (v. 27). It would appear that no time was lost. Gideon's ten servants, through his consistent testimony, was fully in sympathy with Jehovah, and ready at once to follow their master in this needed work for God. The call was clear. Why should he put off? Is it not as clear for you? Yet you linger. The Master is come, and calls for you.
II. What He Did. His work was twofold.
1. A Pulling Down. "Throw down the altar of Baal" (v. 25). The altar of Baal represented that which was false, deceptive, and opposed to the will and rule of Jehovah. Every God-usurping thing around us or within us must be overturned and dethroned. "Our weapons are not according to the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down imaginations and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God" (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5, R.V.).
2. A Building Up. "Build an altar unto the Lord your God" (v. 26). It is not enough to undeceive the worshipers of false gods; the true God must be put in their place. It is not enough to take the pleasures of the world from its votaries; we must be able to put something better in their place. The Altar of God, namely, the Cross of Christ, is the divine substitute for the barren and powerless inventions of men. To preach Christ and Him crucified is to build up the Altar of the Lord.
III. What Followed. Such definite action will always be accompanied with very positive results. There came—
1. A Changed Attitude. "The men of the city said, Bring out your son that he may die" (v. 30). Death, in one form or another, is forever the world's penalty for faithfulness to God. The men of the city (who mind earthly things) are always bitterly opposed to those iconoclasts— men of God—who seek first the kingdom of God. But the disciple is not greater than his Master. The first evidence of faithfulness to Christ is the opposition of the ungodly.
2. A Changed Name. "Therefore on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal" (v. 32). "Let Baal plead," or "Baal's antagonist." It is a blessed stigma to be called "a hater of false gods," an enemy to ignorance and superstition. It is quite becoming for a man to get a new name when he becomes a new creature (Genesis 32:28).
IV. How He was Encouraged by the—
1. Anointing of the Spirit. "The Spirit of the Lord came upon (clothed) Gideon, and he blew a trumpet" (v. 34). Fitness for the service of God can only be found in the Spirit of God. The blowing of the Gospel trumpet by a man clothed with the power of God will surely be effectual in gathering many after him. "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you" (Acts 1:8).
2. Testimony of the Fleece. In answer to the prayer of Gideon the fleece was wet with dew, while the earth around was dry; and, again, the fleece was dry while on the ground there was dew (vv. 36-40). A convincing proof that the providence of God in connection with the needs of His people is not the blind workings of chance. The Spirit of God, like the wind, blows where it wills; and, like the dew, it may fall on the fleece or not on the fleece, according to the cry of the man of God. Every servant of God may have this twofold witness: the Spirit within, and the special token of God's workings without. Prayer and providence go together.
GIDEON'S FOLLOWERS TESTED. Judges 7:1-8.
Gideon had been called of God as a "mighty man of valor." God knows where to find the instrument that is suitable for His work. "Not he who commends Himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends" (2 Corinthians 10:18). When Gideon blew the trumpet a great many gathered after him (v. 34), commending themselves, but whom the Lord had not commended. So the sifting process had to be applied. They had pitched beside the well (v. 1), and between the water and the warfare the would-be followers were tested. But note—
I. A Strange Hindrance. The Lord said, "The people that are with you are too many for Me" (v. 2). This is "to human wisdom, how severe?" An army of 32,000 too many for 120,000! (chapter 8:10). Yes, this is the Almighty's logic, that no flesh should glory in His presence (Deuteronomy 8:12-17). Our own strength and wisdom are always too many for God (1 Corinthians 1:29). It is to the faint that He gives power, and to them that have no might He increases strength (Isaiah 40:29). "When I am weak, then am I strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10). "Not by might, nor by power" (Zechariah 4:6).
II. An Urgent Call. "Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early" (v. 3). The presence of the fearful and the self-interested are always a hindrance to the work of God (Deuteronomy 20:8). How slow we are to learn that our Lord can do without those doubting and fearful professed followers! We are ready to be discouraged when they turn out of the ranks of workers for Christ, when in heart they never were really in line with the Spirit of God. They turn out, because in spirit they never had turned in. "For if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us" (1 John 2:19).
III. A Startling Revelation. "And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand" (v. 3). This turn about made a great gap in the ranks. Only ten thousand remained. God's warriors have to be weakened and reduced to bring them up to real efficiency in His presence. When the Church of God and the teaching of Christ are being assailed by an ever-increasing number of enemies it is wonderful how many false professors are found out by their turning away from the faith. Such dissensions cannot hinder the progress of the kingdom of God any more than the blowing away of rotten twigs by the wind can impede the growth of a tree.
IV. A Second Test. "And the Lord said unto Gideon, The people are yet too many; bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for you there" (v. 4). When the appeal was made to their own will many turned away back, but now the purging of those that are left is to be according to the will of God. Much that we would pass for wheat His fan will prove to be only chaff (Isaiah 1:25). The greater the victory to be achieved in the Name of Jesus Christ the hotter the furnace of trial through which we must pass. It was so with Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Peter, and Paul. Where are they who have been much used of God who have not had His sifting, purging fire turned upon them? It is one thing for us to search ourselves; this will doubtless turn many cowardly things away out of our life, but when God Himself comes by His searching Spirit to try us, then we are brought down to utter hopelessness in our own strength, that no flesh may glory in His presence, and that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us (2 Corinthians 4:7). "Search me, O God, and try me."
V. A Consecrated Band. "And the Lord said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you" (vv. 5-7). A straw may indicate which way the wind blows. Those who lapped the water with the hand had evidently a keener sense of and were more alive to the importance and urgency of the occasion. Those who "bowed down upon their knees" were specially eager after their own selfish gratification. We are not fit for the work of God while our own personal comfort is our chief concern. No doubt they were all alike thirsty, and the water would be equally precious to both parties as the good and needful gift of God. But we don't live to eat and drink; we eat and drink that we may live to the glory of our God. As the servants of Christ let us lap thankfully of the wells that God in His providence may open before us by the way; but you shall not bow down to them as a mere hireling, else in the sight of God you shall become unfit to join the victors in the battle of the Lord. "This one thing I do" is the language of those who have yielded themselves entirely to the doing of the will of God, who partake of the pleasures of this world, as a dog laps the waters in passing, but whose heart is set on the will and work of the Lord. Consecrated souls lap the waters of earth with their eyes on the Cross of Christ.
GIDEON'S ENCOURAGEMENT. Judges 7:9-15.
"Observe the rising lily's snowy grace,
Observe the various vegetable race;
They neither toil nor spin, but careless grow,
Yet see how warm they blush, how bright they glow!
What regal vestments can with them compare,
What king so shining, or what queen so fair?
Will He not care for you, you faithless, say?
Is He unwise? Or are you less than they?"—Thomson.
Be not discouraged because of the way. He who has begun the good work in you and through you will keep performing it until the day of perfection. If Gideon's heart was lifted up with pride when 32,000 gathered around him it would surely sink when he saw the powerful looking army melt away until only a handful of three hundred were left, but this was a "Handful on Purpose." God's handful of separated ones, "ready to do whatever the King would appoint." The divine method is quality, not quantity. He desires not appearance, but truth in the inward parts. "The Spirit of the Lord came upon David, ... but departed from Saul" (1 Samuel 16:1-7).
Gideon was mightily encouraged by the—
I. Promise of God. "Arise, get you down unto the host, for I have delivered it unto your hand" (v. 9). The battle was already fought and the victory gained in the purpose of God. Now Gideon is called upon to arise and enter into that purpose and claim the offered deliverance. Does not the promises of God in Christ mean as much as this to us? Is it not the purpose of God that we should be saved from all our sins and delivered from all our enemies? Then arise, and in His Name claim the victory. He is faithful that has promised (Luke 1:74, 75).
II. Presence of God. The Lord had said unto him, "Surely I will be with you" (vv. 6-10). His promise of victory always brings with it the assurance of His presence (v. 9). "Lo, I am with you always." Does this promise only hold good when we are conscious of His nearness? Are our moral sensibilities to be the criterion of the truthfulness of His Word? Are we only thankful for His powerful presence with us when we feel it? It is surely an encouragement that we can continually reckon on our Lord being with us by His Spirit when we know that we are doing that which is pleasing in His sight.
III. Providence of God. "All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). When our affections are set on Himself, and while we are walking according to our high calling, every circumstance in life is planned for our good by the wonder-working hand of God. This is part of the great Redemption which we have in Christ Jesus. See how He wrought for the comfort of His servant Gideon. There were three different streams of influence which culminated at one divinely-appointed moment. There was—
1. A Dream. "Behold, I dreamed a dream, and, lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian," etc. (v. 13). Dreams are common, but Jehovah was the Author and Giver of this one. Despair not at the lack of means for getting within touch of those who are the enemies of God and of His Christ while the ear of God is open to your cry. He may be causing others to see the little barley cakes overturning their tents and creating dismay even while we are lamenting their utter indifference to the will of God.
2. The Interpretation of the Dream. "And his fellow answered, This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon," etc. (v. 14). When the trembling dreamer told his dream the mighty power of God seemed to take hold of the hearer that he could see nothing else but his own and his fellow's doom in this simple vision. Ah, when God is speaking the simple message comes with a self-condemning revelation. Yes, the cake of barley, the bread of the Lord's host, becomes the sword of the Lord in the camp of His enemies. Gideon's little consecrated band is in the hand of the Lord, and He prepares for them the victory.
3. The Hearing of it by Gideon. "And it was so when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof that he worshiped" (v. 15). The whole scene was a divinely-planned coincidence, and another proof of that unerring providence that constrains the faithful servant of God again and again to bow in silent worship. This is the finger of God. It is God's manner to choose the things that are weak and despised to confound the things which are mighty (1 Corinthians 1:27, 28). Although the Lord is often pleased to give us providential evidences of the truth of His Word, let us ever remember that His promises are enough without them; what Gideon heard in the tent did not make the Word of God more sure. "All the Promises of God in Him are yes, and in Him Amen" (2 Corinthians 1:20).
GIDEON'S VICTORY. Judges 7:16-25.
'"Tis always morning somewhere in the world,
Throned evil yet shall from its height be hurled;
The nail-pierced hand holds still the seven stars,
Truth stronger, nobler grows by its scars."—Grosart.
The weapons of our warfare are not carnal. Like Gideon, every divinely-called one has a work to do that would be otherwise perfectly impossible but for the grace of God. Every regenerated life is a miracle, a new center of operation for the spiritual forces of Heaven, and of course there must be a special manifestation of supernatural and unworldly influences. If a Christian is not in the eyes of the world an anomaly he is nothing. The Spirit of God always makes a tremendous distinction between men. "You are a peculiar people." The energy of the natural man, and that of the Holy Spirit in the believer, are as different as darkness is from light; as far apart in character as Judas was from John. Notice the—
I. Strange Preparation. "He put a trumpet in every man's hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers" (v. 16). Trumpets, lamps, and pitchers. Those who have faith in God can afford to use weak things. There was a great difference between the weapon of Goliath and that of David (1 Samuel 17:40-45). Pitchers with nothing in them but lamps may suggest hearts cleansed and filled with the light of the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 4:6, 7). This knowledge to be sounded out with trumpet lips (Romans 10:14). When God makes His choice of weapons they are always weak and base in the sight of the wisdom of this world (1 Corinthians 1:27, 28). Fools for Christ.
II. Present Example. Gideon said, "Look on me, and do likewise; as I do, so shall you do" (v. 17). Each one must look unto him who is God's messenger, and who goes before them. Gideon himself, in his ways and actions, was an example to each consecrated follower. Christ has left us an example, that we should follow His steps. Look unto Him, and not unto one another. Whatever He says unto you, do it. He pleased not Himself. Look on Him, and do likewise. The Captain of our salvation, like Gideon, desires His followers always to keep within sight of Him.
III. Uniting Battle Cry. "And they cried, The sword of the Lord and of Gideon" (v. 20). There was only one sword among them, but it was enough., for it was the Sword of the Lord, and the hand of Gideon was grasping it. The one glittering blade of divine truth is mightier than all the weapons of darkness The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. This Word is the sword of the Lord, and of His Christ. It is the alone weapon for the whole camp of His followers. It will be a blessed and victorious day for the Church when this is its unmistakable cry, "The Word of the Lord and of His Church."
IV. Peculiar Warfare. "They blew the trumpets, and break the pitchers, and held the lamps, and cried," etc. (vv. 19, 20). Every man, as God's chosen one, had a trumpet, a pitcher, and a lamp, but every one's faith was in the "Sword of the Lord." Each soldier sounded his trumpet as an individual testimony for God, then the pitchers were dashed together and broken into countless fragments; a broken and a contrite heart is needed if the lamp of heavenly truth is to shine forth in the eyes of the ungodly. Then came the united cry, and the great battle was quickly won. Lips telling out the Gospel with clear trumpet tones, and the light of the knowledge of God shining cut of broken hearts, and Christ, the Word of God uplifted. These are the crying needs of today, and these are God's means of overcoming the forces of evil. Put on the whole armor of God.
V. Complete Victory. "They stood every man in his place round about the camp, and all the host ran, and cried, and fled" (v. 21). Let us inquire as to the source and secret of such a triumph. They were—
1. United. They were as one man with one sword. When the singers were as one then the house was filled with glory (2 Chronicles 5:13). Not only union, but unison is needed (John 17:21).
2. Obedient. "They followed Gideon's example." The wise man is not he who says the will of God, but he who does it (Matthew 7:21; see Psalm 81:13, 14).
3. Faithful. "They stood every man in his place" (v. 21). Only those who truly trust can stand steady (2 Chronicles 20:17). When we take our right place God will take His.
4. Triumphant. God gave them the victory (Zechariah 4:6). When I sent you, lacked you anything? They answered, Nothing (Luke 22:35; 2 Corinthians 9:8). Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, "Rule you over us, for you have delivered us" (chapter 8:22).
So may we crown our Deliverer, Lord of all.
GAAL; or, GODLESS EFFORT. Judges 9:26-49.
Scriptural names are always eloquent of character. "Gaal, the son of Ebed," means the "loathing son of a slave," strongly suggestive of pride and poverty. A man who could not see any one wiser or better than himself. Through his "loathing" eyes he saw others as through a colored glass. True, Abimelech was a murderer (v. 5), but it is not God's way to overcome evil with evil, but to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). Every servant of Christ may find some wholesome food for thought here. Observe his—
I. Hopeful Start. He was—
1. Trusted. "The men of Shechem put their confidence in him" (v. 26). The men of Shechem were as blind to true moral greatness as Gaal himself. But doubtless his self-confidence would be Considerably augmented by this expression of their faith. Whatever helps to puff us up helps us to our ruin as workers for Jesus Christ.
2. Feasted. "They did eat and drink, and cursed Abimelech" (v. 27). Carnal delights make a poor preparation for the service of God. Gideon's men were tested and sifted before the conflict, but Gaal's followers were rested and feasted. Instead of praying they cursed. The gladness of the Lord in the heart is greater than that begotten by corn and wine (Psalm 4:7). Material good does not always mean spiritual prosperity.
II. Courageous Stand. He was—
1. Defiant. "And Gaal said, Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem that we should serve him?" (v. 28). This sounds like the clarion note of a God-raised reformer, but it was nothing but the vain wind of a self-conceited bigot. It is easy even for the Christian worker to talk defiantly of the forces opposed to the progress of the soul, and of the kingdom of God among men, but everything depends on the ground of our boasting (1 Samuel 14:6).
2. Self-Confident. "Would to God that this people were under my hand, then would I remove Abimelech" (v. 29). O these mighty my's and I's, the progeny of pride and self-confidence. How would it look to put this language in a more logical form? Would to God that I were God. We naturally shrink from this, but self-confidence is a denial of God, and the forerunner of destruction (2 Samuel 15:4). "Pride goes before a fall."
III. Utter Defeat. "Abimelech chased him, and he fled; and Zebul thrust out Gaal and his brethren" (vv. 40, 41). That his work was an ignominious failure need not be wondered at when we consider the God-dishonoring motives that constrained him. Be sure your secret sin will find you out in public defeat. It was not the cause espoused by Gaal and his compatriots that was bad, quite the reverse, but that he undertook it in his own name, without the call of God. Jephthah and Gideon accomplished great deliverances because God was with them. The secret of Gaal's failure is still the secret of the failure of many of the Lord's professed servants. There was—
1. No Acknowledgment of God. If we would have His blessing on our work it must be done in His Name. The self-satisfied soul of Gaal had no room for God. It was so different with Moses, David, and Gideon. Some are afraid honestly to acknowledge God lest He should put His foot in all their plans and purposes, so instead of getting their Christless purposes crushed in infancy they get them trodden under foot of God in the full strength of their maturity.
2. No Revelation from God. It is not easy continually to recognize God in our work if we have not had from God a revelation of that work. Gaal had no message from the Lord burning in his heart. Like Absalom, he was self-ordained, and God-deposed. Where there is no vision there is no "Here I am, send me." Where there is no voice from Heaven there is no "What will you have me to do?"
3. No Inspiration by God. The Spirit of the Lord clothed both Gideon and Jephthah (Judges 6:34; 11:29), but Gaal's inspiration came from the wine cup (v. 27). The one is from above, the other is from beneath; the one is of life, the other of death. "You shall receive the power of the Holy Spirit coming upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto Me" (Acts 1:8). Of how much of our service for the Lord may it be said: There is no revelation, no inspiration? Of so much may it be said: There is no victory.
JEPHTHAH; or, CALLED TO SERVE. Judges 11.
"God never meant that man should scale the Heaven
By, strides of human wisdom. In His works,
Though wondrous, He commands us in His Word
To seek Him rather where His mercy shines."—Cowper.
The names of Gideon and Jephthah have honorable mention by the great apostle in his select roll of the faithful who had "subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, and obtained promises" (Hebrews 11). The story of Jephthah is the story of every converted sinner—a lifting up "from the dunghill, and a setting among princes" (Psalm 113:7). Observe some things concerning him. He—
I. Was Born in Sin. "He was the son of an harlot" (v. 1). "A mighty man of valor," but a child of iniquity. Naaman was a mighty man in valor, but he was a leper (2 Kings 5:1). By birth he was disqualified from entering into the congregation of the Lord (Deuteronomy 23:2). "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." "That which is born of the flesh is flesh." "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?"
II. Was Disinherited. "They thrust out Jephthah, and said unto him, You shall not inherit in our father's house" (v. 2). His right to inherit by succession was destroyed through his father's sin (Deuteronomy 21:16). By one man's disobedience many have been made sinners. "The unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 6:9). Adam's sin drove him out of his inheritance in the garden of Eden, and all his posterity have been born outside. If we would have an inheritance among them that are sanctified it must be by faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 26:18).
III. Became a Companion of the Vain. "Then Jephthah fled, and there were gathered vain men to him" (v. 3). Like a sheep gone astray, he turned to his own way. It would appear that he now became a brigand, or freebooter, an antitype of Rob Roy of modern history. Such were some of us. When deprived of hope we plunged into the abyss of a reckless, selfish life. Seeking to drown remorse with the excitement of sinful pleasures. A man is known by the company he keeps. "Bird of a feather flock together." "And being let go, they went to their own company" (Acts 4:23).
IV. Received an Important Invitation. "The elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, Come and be our captain" (vv. 5,6). These elders no doubt saw in this daring son of the wilds gifts and qualifications that, if rightly directed, might be of immense value to the cause of God and of His people—what the early disciples would certainly see in the gifted, but Christ-hating Saul, and who would doubtless make many an appeal to Heaven for his conversion. The call came to Jephthah as the call of the Gospel came to us, "while we were yet sinners." Like the Gospel call, it was an invitation to join the ranks of the Lord's people, from whom sin had separated him, and to fight the Lord's battles. Will you come? "Him that comes to Me, I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37).
V. Covenanted with the Lord. "And Jephthah uttered all his words before the Lord in Mizpah" (v. 11). This unexpected but gracious call that came to him seems to have had the effect of making him feel his need of being reconciled to God, and of serving in His Name and strength. If the Gospel of Christ has not had such a transforming influence on our lives we have never yet known it. No matter how unique and outstanding our gifts and abilities may be before we turn to the Lord, if we would be used in His service, these must be wholly yielded to Him, or they can only prove barriers to the progress of His kingdom. It is not the strong heart, but the broken heart that God will not despise. "A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise" (Psalm 51:17).
VI. Was Endued with Power. "Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah" (v. 29). The Spirit of the Lord did not come upon him until he had yielded himself to the Lord, and made full confession, by "uttering all his words before the Lord," (v. 11). It is not to the naturally courageous, but to the consecrated that the gift of the power of the Holy Spirit is given (Acts 1:8). He who has the gift of the Spirit has a great gift, no matter what other gifts he has not. No matter what our needs are—wisdom, strength, holiness, etc.—God's one and all-sufficient provision is imparted by the gift of the Spirit. By Him Christ is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30).
VII. Gained the Victory. "And the Lord delivered them into his hands" (v. 32). He is fit now to have them delivered into his hands, as he himself is now in the hands of God, that no flesh should glory in His presence. Jephthah is another illustration of God using things which are despised (v. 2). There is room enough in the grace of God for the most wayward and helpless. There is also sufficiency here for the hitherto barren and unfruitful. We are not saved by our works, neither are we used in the service of God because of our superior gifts or past eventful experience. It is all of grace, and His grace is sufficient for all. Without the living energy of the Holy Spirit within we shall achieve nothing. "Be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18). He has said "My Grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).
SAMSON'S BIRTH. Judges 13:1-25.
"Choose You for me, Lord. O have not me to choose!
I know not what to ask or to refuse;
You know poverty, You know wealth,
Languor of sickness, confidence of health;
Choose for me, Lord, I know not what is best,
You are too just to wrong—on You I rest."
When we trust the Lord to choose our daily inheritance for us (Psalm 47:4) we shall surely have a goodly portion. The gifts of God are all God-like, worthy of Himself. The Lord appeared unto the wife of Manoah, and promised her a son (v. 3). She simply believed the message, and expected that since He had promised He was also able to perform. On the ground of His Word we may confidently expect what humanly speaking is perfectly impossible (Mark 10:27). The birth of Samson suggests to us an illustration of the new birth of a soul.
I. He was the Gift of God (v. 3). What they could not do through the weakness of the flesh, God in grace accomplished. Of the new nature it is said, "Born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:13). Every regenerated soul is the gift of God to a dark and desolate world, another light in its darkness, another witness for God.
II. He was Born Free from Hereditary Defect. The mother was solemnly warned to "drink not wine nor strong drink, and to eat not any unclean thing" (v. 4). The physical body, as the temple of this God-given spirit, must be pure and worthy of it. Those who would travail in birth for souls must take heed to their manner of life, and touch not the unclean. This is the human side; there is another: "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit." The soul that is born from above, born of God, cannot possess any hereditary blemish. Such is made a partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). "Whatever is born of God does not commit sin; for his seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God" (1 John 3:9).
III. His Birth was Connected with Sacrifice and Wonder-working. "The offering was put upon a rock, and the angel did wondrously, and ascended in the flame of the altar" (vv. 19, 20). Observe these three things: (1) The offering; (2) the wonder-working; (3) the ascension by way of the altar flame. How suggestive all this is of the death, and resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ our Lord, by the virtue of which every child of God is born. His offering upon the Cross, the wonder working of His resurrection power and glory, His ascension into Heaven, with the marks of the Cross in His hands and feet, just as it were "in the flame of the altar." "Manoah and his wife looked on, and fell on their faces to the ground" (v. 20). So well may we at this great sight (Ezekiel 1:28).
IV. He was Separated unto God. "The child shall be a Nazarite unto God" (v. 5). His separation was not by vow, but by birth (Numbers 6:5). If we have been "born of God," created anew in Christ Jesus, surely that is enough in itself to teach us that we should be separated in our lives from a world of sin and iniquity. Separation has two aspects. 1. We are separated by the will of God, according to His purpose with us (Leviticus 20:24). 2. We are to be separated by our own definite act, a deliberate and continual choice of God's will concerning us (2 Corinthians 6:17). When the precious is separated from the vile, then the testimony will be as the mouth of God (Jeremiah 15:19). It was after Abraham was separated from worldly Lot that God came with His promise (Genesis 13; 14).
V. He was Blessed by the Lord. "And the child grew, and the Lord blessed him" (v. 24). His name was called Samson—sunny. Like the sun. The separated life is a blessed life, made sunny with the brightness of His presence. Is all this not needed by us if we are to grow like as our Savior did, "in favor with God and man?" (Luke 2:52). Many of Samson's acts and sayings reveal an almost playfulness of spirit that seems to indicate a bright sunny disposition. A sunny life is a powerful life. "The joy of the Lord is your strength."The separated life is to be a sunny life. Such was the life of our blessed Lord and Savior—separated, shiny. Though His face was marred, the light of His life was unsullied. The blessing of the Lord it makes rich. It made Samson rich in cheerfulness and strength, and according to Hebrews 11:32 he was made strong through faith. "According to your faith be it unto you."
VI. He was Moved by the Spirit. "The Spirit of the Lord began to move him at times" (v. 25). These periodical agitatings of heart by the Spirit of God were premonitory indications of the purposes of God with him, and an inward witness of his separation unto the Lord. It is of the utmost importance that those who have separated themselves unto God should recognize the agitatings of the Holy Spirit in the heart. What may appear to be but a passing thought or feeling may be nurtured into a mighty and far-reaching purpose. The glories of midday splendor are ushered in by what seems to be but struggling rays of light. As soon as Jesus separated Himself unto the will of God as His Servant He was led by the Spirit (Matthew 4:1). They live a spiritually monotonous life indeed who know nothing of the moving of the waters of the soul, early, by the brooding Spirit of God. The victorious Christian can say with Paul "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).
SAMSON'S LIFE AND DEATH. Judges 14-16.
"What Heaven bestows, with thankful eyes receive;
First ask your heart, and then through faith believe;
Slowly we wander o'er a toilsome way,
Shadows of life, and pilgrims of a day.
Who restless on this world receives a fall,
Look up on high, and trust your God for all."—Chaucer.
The fuller the cup the more easily is it to spill the contents. The higher the spiritual privilege the more need for lowliness of walk before God. The stronger we are the greater the temptation to trust in our strength. The more frequently the Spirit of God moves us the more powerfully will the world and the flesh oppose us. The life of Samson alternates with light and shade. A Nazarite who seemed to be partially unconscious of the sacredness of his life, a fatal flaw in his character as a servant in the work of God. "Know you not that Christ dwells in you?" Let us look at his—
I. Amazing Exploits. "He rent a young lion like a kid" (chapter 14:6). "With the jawbone of an donkey he slew a thousand men" (chapter 15:15). "He carried away the gates of the city of Gaza" (chapter 16:3). In Samson that promise was literally fulfilled: "One man of you shall chase a thousand" (Joshua 23:10). It is as easy for God to work with one man as with three hundred (Judges 7:7). Samson had no followers; he asked for none. He alone was commissioned and empowered; he alone must do it. In olden times God usually began with one man. Jesus began with two (John 1:37). We will never do exploits for God if we wait on others to help us. One man in the power of the Spirit is always equal to the occasion. "Greater is He who is in you than he that is in the world." The weapons used by Samson were worthy of the mighty Spirit of the Lord. "Foolish and base things" (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).
II. Superhuman Strength. "Delilah said to Samson, Tell me, I pray you, wherein your great strength lies" (chapter 16:6); Samson was not a giant; his great strength did not, therefore, lie in an arm of flesh. No human muscle can be developed into spiritual power. The secret of his great strength lay in the presence of the Almighty Spirit of God with him, as one consecrated to the will of God. "You shall receive the power of the Holy Spirit coming upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto Me" (Acts 1:8). This is still the secret of the great strength of any servant of Jesus Christ, and it may be yours. This great strength cannot be purchased by intellectual wisdom or social position. It is the gift of God (Acts 8:18-20), and should be to our souls what our physical strength is to our bodies, only in a superhuman degree, the mighty power of God.
III. Sore Temptation. "She pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death" (chapter 16:16). You will notice that the whole force of this temptress' energy is brought to bear upon that one thing that distinguished Samson from other men, "Wherein your great strength lies" (v. 15). In falling in love with Delilah he deliberately steps into the fires of trial. This was clearly an unequal yoke; from the very first she sought his ruin as a Nazarite (vv. 5, 6), and proved herself an enemy to the divine purpose in the life of Samson. It is a melancholy sight to see one trifling so with the secret of his power for God. Unholy alliances are deadly enemies to spiritual power. Whatever would mar our relationship with God must be looked upon as the poison of a serpent. Our strongest point for God will be the point most incessantly assaulted by the devil and the Spirit-resisting world. "Call upon Me in the day of trouble" (Psalm 50:15).
IV. Complete Failure. "She made him sleep upon her knees; and he awoke, and said, I will go out, as at other times, and shake myself. But he knew not that the Lord was departed from him" (chapter 16:19, 20). While he slept his locks were cut off, and his strength went from him. He shakes himself as at other times, but it is only himself he shakes. The mighty enemy-shaking power of the presence of the Lord was gone. He is now but a withered branch, fit to be cast into the fire at the hands of men (John 15:6). When the Spirit of God is grieved our defense as servants is gone (Numbers 14:9). When the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, at that moment he began to fall (1 Samuel 18:12). His strength lay not in his locks, but that head that had never felt the touch of a razor was a witness of his consecration to the will of God. In losing his hair he lost his testimony for God. The power of the Spirit of God alone can make us true witnesses for Christ. Without this we may shake ourselves in feverish effort, but this will only reveal our utter weakness. For a servant of Christ to be as weak as other men is doing dishonor to the Spirit of God. Samson is not the only servant of God who has lost his power through worldliness and self-indulgence (v. 19). Much of the powerless preaching of today may be traced to the same cause. No one can possibly fail in the work of the Lord who lives and acts in the power of the Holy Spirit (Philippians 2:13).
V. Terrible Bondage. "The Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison-house" (chapter 16:21). He was betrayed by the woman whom he loved, and on whose knees he slept the fatal sleep. The pleasures of sin always deliver over its votaries to spiritual blindness and bondage. Poor Samson. How are the mighty fallen! Let us take warning, and beware of worldly pleasures that ensnare the soul to the grieving of the Holy Spirit. Is there none among us whose service for God and His Christ is performed under the same conditions as Samson worked in the prison-house of Gaza? Blind and fettered servants, to whom the house of prayer becomes as a prison, a place to be got out of as soon as possible. We have neither eyes to see nor liberty to serve, unless we are filled with the Holy Spirit. Apart from this the Lord's work will become a drudgery and a slavery. Prison grinders instead of triumphant warriors.
VI. Final Victory. "And Samson called unto the Lord," etc. (chapter 16:28-30). Out of the depths of his sorrow and helplessness he cried unto the Lord. This is the only time we read of him acknowledging the Lord. His urgent and pitiful request is granted. "His hair began to grow again" (v. 22); his separation unto God began to appear once more. If we have lost our power for God there is only one way whereby it can be restored—confession and fresh consecration. Samson's dying cry was for one more manifestation of the old power, that he might die as a victor; and like Jesus Christ, our unfailing Conqueror, by the grace of God he overcame more by his death than his life. Our own restoration to God must precede the ingathering of souls (Psalm 51:12, 13).
THE YOUNG PROBATIONER. Judges 17-18.
"The highest honors that the world can boast
Are subjects far too low for my desire;
Its brightest gleams of glory are, at most,
But dying sparkles of Your living fire;
Without You, Lord, things be not what they be,
Nor have their being when compared with Thee."
"In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (chapter 17:6). Our own eyes are about the poorest guides under Heaven. "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool." These chapters tell a sorrowful tale of social, religious, and moral corruption. What foolish and sinful creatures we are when the guiding hand of God is not with us! Such were some of us, but you are washed. The old self-life, even religious life, is just the doing of that which is right in our own eyes. When Saul said, "What will You have me to do?" he had given up walking in the light of his own eyes. The nameless young man brought before us here is worthy of close study on account of—
I. Character. "A young man who was a Levite" (chapter 17:7). According to Numbers 8 the Levites were called of God, separated and sanctified for the work of the Lord. Their work was to look after the different parts of the Tabernacle when the pillar of cloud moved, and to rebuild this House of God. They were God's separated ones for His own service (Numbers 4:15-33).
II. Purpose. "He said, I go to sojourn where I may find a place" (chapter 17:9). He is on the outlook for a call; he has no desire to spend the time in idleness. He is an industrious and perhaps conscientious young man; hoping that if he could only find a place he might be helpful in some way. It is a sure sign that the House of God is in ruins when the professed servants of God are seeking work at the hands of men. It was otherwise in the days of Moses and Joshua; it was otherwise also in the days of Christ and His apostles. It is the Lord of the harvest who is to send out laborers. Pray you Him (Matthew 9:38). How often young men are pleaded with to go. Why not pray the Lord the Spirit to send them? (Acts 13:2).
III. First Call. "Micah said unto him, Dwell with me, and be unto me a priest, and I will give you ten shekels of silver by the year, and a suit of apparel, and your victuals. So he went in" (chapter 17:10). Tired of his itinerancy, he accepted the first offer. It was not a large place, only a small congregation (one family), and a small salary. The living was worth about 1 a year with board and lodgings. He had been doing nothing for a while, "so he went in." Although the loaves were small and the fishes few, there would be connected with the charge some personal dignity and profit. Had he not been a traitor to God he could not have ministered in such a house, for it was full of idols (v. 5), and Micah himself was a superstitious idolater. But doubtless the "ten shekels," etc., shut the mouth of the Levite. He is more concerned about his own personal advantage than the cause of God. A mere hireling (chapter 18:4).
IV. Ordination. "And Micah consecrated the Levite" (chapter 17:11-13). The root idea of consecration seems to be to "fill the hands," so that the worship or service may be abundantly acceptable in the sight of God (1 Chronicles 29:5, marg.). This was the chief aspect in the consecration of Aaron and his sons. Then how could Micah, a worshiper of idols, fill the hands of the Levite with that which is pleasing unto God? No more can you, except you are filled with the Holy Spirit. But the young minister seemed perfectly satisfied with this hollow and empty consecration. What is the value of such empty hands laid on the empty head of him who has an empty heart? ''Without Me you can do nothing."
V. Translation. Then the Danites said unto him, "Hold your peace, and go with us; it is better for you to be a priest to a tribe than to one man. And the priest's heart was glad, and he went" (chapter 18:19, 20). This was a call to a larger sphere of labor on the condition that he should "hold his peace" and not expose their criminal craftiness. He accepted the call, virtually promising to keep his mouth shut on the sin of stealing. A man-made minister is only a minister after man (see Galatians 1:10-12). If a man has no revelation from God he has no commission from Him. We must see Jesus if we are to be witnesses for Him. The fear of man brings a snare. An enlarged sphere of usefulness did not improve in any way the faithless Levite; it only served to show more fully his godless and time-serving spirit. Higher positions and larger congregations are not enough to make a successful ministry. A self-seeking servant of Christ will always be powerless in the presence of ungodliness and open iniquity.
VI. Successors. "The children of Dan set up the graven image; and Jonathan and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan" (chapter 18:30, 31). The unprincipled young Levite suddenly drops out of sight as a lifeless, worthless thing. He has wrought no reform among the idolatrous Danites; he has left no faithful example behind him. He came as an unclean bird, devoured so much flesh, and flew off we know not where. But Micah's graven image still stands in their midst and usurps the place of the God of Israel. His successor was no better than himself. In this instance it was "like people, like priest." The utter worthlessness of an unspiritual ministry is here revealed, the need of being baptized in the Holy Spirit is strongly implied (John 15:16, 26, 27).