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the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Bible Commentaries
Judges 7

Sermon Bible CommentarySermon Bible Commentary

Verses 1-25

Judges 6-8

In the first words of Gideon we find the key to his character. (1) He was a man who felt deeply the degradation of his people. He could not enjoy his own harvest while the Midianites were robbing all around; he had the patriot's wide sympathy. (2) He was a man also of the strongest common sense, accustomed to look through words to things, and to look the facts of life fair in the face. (3) He was a man of abundant personal valour, but yet unwilling to move a step until he was sure that God was with him.

I. We cannot fully understand Gideon's attitude towards the work of God, without taking into account the fact that the first thing he was commanded to do was to hew down the altar of Baal which had been erected in his father's grounds. God could not come among them while they were all turned away from Him to Baal. No sooner had Gideon hewed down the altar of Baal, than he received his commission against Midian. Gideon was right in refusing to believe God was present if things went on just as if He were not present, but he was wrong in not seeing what it was that prevented God from being present.

II. Gideon's attitude towards God's work, though not satisfactory, was due not so much to a flaw in his spirit, as to a mental blindness to duty. This could be, and was, easily amended. But the narrator goes on to show that there are other attitudes which men assume, and which unfit them for doing anything for God in the world. Much untrustworthy material existed in his army. The cowards had first to be rejected.

III. Out of the 10,000 men who were left, only 300 had that eagerness for the work that kept them from paying undue regard to other things. Men who are steeped in their own worldly objects are not the men whom God will use for His work.

IV. A fourth attitude is illustrated by the conduct of Ephraim. The Ephraimites may have been either high spirited and vexed that they had not been invited to help in overthrowing the Midianites, or they may have only wished that they had a share in the glory, and tried to make it appear that they would gladly have joined Gideon. There are both these classes still, persons who really feel hurt if they are not asked to help in every good work, and persons who when a good work is in its infancy make no movement to join it, but as soon as it becomes popular come forward and loudly complain that they were never asked to join.

V. A fifth and last attitude which men frequently assume towards God's work is represented by the men of Succoth and Penuel. These men were blind to the glory of the common cause selfish, poor spirited creatures, that shut themselves up in their fenced cities, and were satisfied to let God's soldiers starve, and God's work come to an end for want of support, so long only as they had bread enough to satisfy their own hunger. Such persons must be taught not by expostulation, but by the sword and with the briers of the wilderness.

M. Dods, Israel's Iron Age, p. 31.

References: 6-8. Parker, vol. vi., pp. 2, 49; J. Baldwin Brown, The Sunday Afternoon, p. 194.Judges 6:11 . J. Sherman, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. v., p. 313.Judges 6:11-13 . J. M. Neale, Sermons for the Church Year, vol. ii., p. 171.Judges 6:11-24 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 375.Judges 6:14 . Homiletic Magazine, vol. vii., p. 27; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. x., p. 275; J. M. Neale, Sermons for the Church Year, vol. i., p. 130. Judges 6:19 . J. W. Atkinson, Penny Pulpit, No. 1052.Judges 6:22-24 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii., No. 1679. Judges 6:25-32 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 376. Judges 6:33-40 . Ibid., vol. iv., p. 377.

Verses 5-7

Judges 7:5-7

Among the ten thousand soldiers in Gideon's army there were three hundred brave and wary men who, even under the pangs of thirst, could not forget that they were in the presence of an enemy, and that it behoved them therefore to be on the alert. Instead of flinging themselves recklessly on the ground, they simply scooped up a little water in the hollow of their hands, and lapped it or sipped it, even as a dog laps while he runs on the watch for any ambush, prepared for any surprise. These were the veterans of the little army, men who had seen war before and knew its perils, and felt how much even a moment's carelessness might cost them. And these were the men, marked out by their own wariness and self-control, by whom God meant to save Israel from its foes. God's way was a wise way, (1) from a military, (2) from a moral point of view. God is a jealous God who wants all the glory of His acts, of His achievements for Himself, and will not share that glory with another. It was because He wanted to do good to the children of Israel, that He made it plain to them that it was He who had saved them, and not they themselves.

I. This, then, is the moral of Gideon's story: that God wants to rule over us only that He may save us; or, to put it in another way, God wants us to know that it is He who has saved us, and that He will go on serving and saving us to the end. The lesson taught by the three hundred is the necessity of self-control. Self-control is required at every moment, along the whole range of our habits, and through the whole course of our life.

II. Our counsel to you is, hold yourselves well in hand. Be masters of yourselves, of all your appetites, and of all your desires. Sip the water or the wine of life, like the three hundred. Do not fling yourselves on your knees to it, and drink as if your only business in life was to get your fill of pleasure or of gain.

III. Learn from the three hundred to keep a high and noble aim steadfastly before you, an aim which must be pursued, if need be, at the cost of appetite and desire; and let that aim be the highest of all, viz., the love and service of God.

S. Cox, The Bird's Nest, p. 148.

Reference: Judges 7:5-7 . Outline Sermons to Children, p. 25.

Verse 7

Judges 7:7

I. Consider the man to whom the angel came. His thoughts had been busy with God before God came to him. He was a man who meditated much on the promises and the histories of God's grace and love. The Lord ever comes to those whose hearts are watching for Him.

II. To understand Judges 7:2-7 we must remember that the victory was to be a victory of faith. The battle was to be won against overwhelming numbers. The Lord needed men in whom spirit should be dominant, who could hold the flesh in habitual and iron control. Faint with their long march, the great body of men flung themselves on the ground, forgetful alike of toil and pain and glorious enterprise, in the cool draught which for the moment was exquisite delight. Three hundred men stood up above the prostrate throng. They stooped for a moment and lapped the few needful drops from the hollow of their hands, and then stood prompt to pursue their way. The eye of God marked them. "Set these men apart; these three hundred are strong enough for the stress of the battle, and great enough to wear the honours of the victory."

III. The lessons of the narrative are these: (1) It is the small matters which reveal us, the slight occasions. It is easy to catch the excitement of battle. Watch the combatant home, and you see the man. (2) There is One watching us when we are most unconscious, drawing silently auguries of character, and forecasting destiny. (3) Keep your knee for God alone.

These men bent the knee to sensual good. Kneel to God, and it will cure you of all other kneeling.

J. Baldwin Brown, The Sunday Afternoon, p. 202.

References: Judges 7:7 . J. Kelly, Pulpit Trees, p. 222.Judges 7:9-25 . Ho7niletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 380. Judges 7:13 . S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 77; J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College, vol. iii., p. 372.Judges 7:13 , Judges 7:14 . Homiletic Magazine, vol. xiii., p. 265; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi., No. 1873.

Verse 16

Judges 7:16

Gideon went down into the battle with only three hundred men, with only trumpets, pitchers and lights for weapons, and the mighty hosts of Amalek and Midian fled before him, and were driven from the land. More than a thousand years afterwards St. Paul remembered this story, and said: "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." St. Paul was writing of the sufferings which he and his fellow-workers had to endure. He and they seemed no better than earthen pitchers, but they were vessels carrying a Divine light, a life kindled by God, and a power which could not be destroyed.

I. This story brings the happy assurance to every heart who hears it, that even a child may be a vessel to carry the power of God. God can fill the weakest and most fragile with power for His work. He asks only that the heart shall receive His life.

II. More wonderful still, this is a picture of our dear Lord. He also, as a man, was but an earthen vessel. His enemies broke the vessel which contained His life, but by their cruelty they brought defeat and shame to themselves, and glory to Him.

A. Macleod, The Gentle Heart, p. 257.

The text illustrates the twofold elements of which man is composed, the material and the spiritual.

I. The mortal and material part of man is considered under the emblem of a pitcher containing within it a lamp or firebrand. (1) The first point of resemblance is that the pitcher is made of potter's clay, even as man was formed of the dust of the ground. (2) The pitcher's manufacture is brittle and easily shattered, and in this particular especially the comparison holds good between the earthen vessel and the body. (3) Notice, as a final point of comparison, the untransparent character of the earthen vessel. It is not adapted to the exhibition of a lamp.

II. Consider the light within the pitcher, the soul or immaterial part of man enclosed for the present within a material framework, the "breath of lives" breathed into the vessel of clay, (1) Animal life; a great distinction is to be drawn between the body, which is material, and the life of the body, which is immaterial. (2) Rational life; the life of the intellect. (3) There was a yet higher life breathed into man at the creation spiritual life. Each of these lives is in some sense a lamp.

E. M. Goulburn, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. i., p. 181.

References: Judges 7:16 . Sermons for Boys and Girls, p. 273.Judges 7:18 . Bishop Woodford, Sermons on Subjects from the Old Testament, p. 54.Judges 7:20 . Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 264; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 413. 7-8:1-21 Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 145.Judges 8:1 . Ibid., p. 382.Judges 8:2 . Ibid., vol. ii., p. 265.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Judges 7". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/sbc/judges-7.html.
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