THAT WHICH CAN BE DONE
A John E Temple
Judges 6: 11
Ezra 8: 27
Psalm 4: 1
I have read these few verses, beloved, to give us encouragement that, even in times of testing, times of restriction, times when we may not know how matters will work out, (and assuredly Gideon could not have known how things would work out with all the oppression of the Midianites,) nevertheless there is that which can be done.
Firstly, we read about what Gideon did. In one sense I have not much to say beyond calling attention to the fact that this was done, that Gideon was acting in this way, although there was a time of oppression. Why was there a time of oppression? Because God’s people were not being true to Him and God allowed oppression to come upon them. Just before, it says they “cried to Jehovah because of Midian” (v 7), and God had sent a prophet saying, after reminding them of what He had done for them, “But ye have not hearkened to my voice”, v 10. That was the background God allowed. But there is a man here, Gideon, the one who overcomes the Midianites. In the verse I have read I do not think he had any sense that he would be used to effect deliverance in the way that he was. That is not my point but that he is doing what he could.
We love the Lord’s own words in another instance in Scripture, very similar, very blessed, “What she could she has done”, Mark 14: 8. Think of that woman who anointed Him, who provided for Him at a critical time. What appreciation He had! That word was precious, actual, personal from the Lord Jesus, “What she could she has done”.
Now although the setting is different, what Gideon is doing he is doing for God’s people, maybe in a limited way for a limited number of them, although I think his outlook would have been far greater, but he is doing what he could for as many as he could. He is threshing wheat in the winepress. How many times we have heard it said that it is a restricted area. Think of even the unpleasantness, I suppose, of threshing in a winepress, a restricted area, but Gideon would do that so that there was food, the wheat that he had that could be processed and become food: food, I suppose, for his family, food maybe for the neighbourhood around. I suppose he had limitations simply because of the amount that he could do, but what he could, he did, and, of course, God took him up to do far more. It is not that he is already a great man here. It is not even his own area. The terebinth was his father’s: the angel came to “the terebinth that was in Ophrah, that belonged to Joash the Abiezerite. And his son Gideon threshed wheat”. He was not waiting in this instance for his father, but he would get on with what he could. Beloved, when there are testing times, let us be encouraged to do what we can! We may feel it is little, but he would do this, and I feel that he would have also in mind that what he did would lead to others being able to do something. He would secure the wheat; others would process it further; others would take it so that it would become bread for God’s people, food for God’s people, something that is very vital at all times and especially so in times of testing.
In Ezra chapter 8 we have another verse that is well known to us and is a verse that we love. We always visualise, do we not, these “two vessels of shining copper” and we look again at the note. I tend to think of them as ‘bright shining’, but the note actually says ‘good shining’ (note ‘b’), quality shining in that way, shining evenly all over them. There was something that was inherent in the copper, but I think of the way they had been brought to shine. Someone had taken interest, taken care, and I read this too because of what has often been said, that there is no reference to these two particular vessels going into the captivity. This is a time of release, and these vessels are a product, we can take it, made in the land of the captivity: not as with Gideon, when the enemy oppressed them in the land, but when God’s people, for the most part, had been carried away by overcoming forces and put elsewhere. God decrees these things. God allows them. He appointed a time for captivity, and He ensured that it came to the end according to the word that He had set as to how long it would last, seventy years. This is not the first return but it is now the time for a further going back to Jerusalem. This time these vessels, which are formed vessels and which are suitable for God’s praise, are being taken. They may well have been used in God’s praise in the captivity, and they will continue to be available when they reach the house of God.
What a testing time it must have been for those who would have been uprooted from their homes, taken to a foreign land. One of them refers in the psalms to not being able to “sing a song of Jehovah’s” in Babylon:
“We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.
For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song;
and they that made us wail required mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs
of Zion. How should we sing a song of Jehovah’s upon a foreign soil?”
Ps 137: 2-4.
Persons felt it, but that did not stop someone, or more than one (I suppose, there would have been more than one involved), making these vessels, vessels that could be used in an even fuller way when they were brought out of the captivity. Beloved, let us see what can still be made that is for God, vessels that can be filled, “two vessels of shining copper, precious as gold”. “Precious as gold” is like a comment of the Spirit Himself. How valuable they were! God sees what is produced for Him for His service even in restricted circumstances.
I close with Psalm 4. I just read one verse there. I know I am not able for the interpretation, or even application, of the Psalms. While there is in this psalm what can be blessedly applied to the Lord Jesus Himself, I just want to give it a practical application almost as to the literal words that are used. They are words of David. How many psalms he wrote and this is one of them, “On stringed instruments”. We can take that up again in regard of testing, maybe discipline, “stringed instruments”, meaning the strings have been tightened so that they might perform at their best. David says, “in pressure thou hast enlarged me”. Again, it is something which he has experienced himself, and he has put it into a psalm, and the psalm has come down to us in our day. Beloved, it is what God would do, the God of our righteousness. “When I call, answer me, O God of my righteousness: in pressure thou hast enlarged me”. What pressures David knew! I do not know if anyone has identified when this was written by David for he had many pressures. There was an accumulation as a result: “thou hast enlarged me”, enlarged him in his soul, enlarged him as to what God would do with him, not to make David great as to himself, but what God would do with him, “thou hast enlarged me”. Enlarged him, I believe, he would say, as having addressed the God of his righteousness, enlarged him in his knowledge of God and in his love for God. That is what results from the pressure. I suppose we might relate this to Hebrews 12 and the chastening of the Father yielding “the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those exercised by it”, v 11. David was one such, I believe, “exercised” by the ways that God passed him through, not to become disheartened, not to be querying with God about them, but to see what God was doing, and what he found was that “in pressure thou hast enlarged me”.
Well, beloved, it is open to us. I just leave these simple thoughts with us that it might give us encouragement in these days and that that encouragement may work out to God’s glory, for Christ’s name’s sake.
Word in meeting for ministry in Sunbury
12th September 2016