Judges 5: 31 (from “And”); 6: 1-6, 11-14; 8: 28
Our brothers have spoken of influence, and how we should come under the Lord’s influence, and how we should come under right influence and not wrong influence. I have been thinking about this section, particularly since it was raised in the fellowship meetings in Brechin recently, because Gideon here was anxious to secure a food supply. In that way, he was providing a good influence because there was very much a bad influence here, in that the food supply was not available.
I am interested in some of the detail, because Gideon was not exactly like Joseph, for instance, although he was like him in the concern to secure a food supply. It tells us at the beginning of chapter 6 that “Jehovah delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years”, and, of course, we get the detail that follows which was not quite the same as it was in Egypt in the sense that there was a harvest, but it was the same as a famine in that they did not have enough to eat. The Midianites were very crafty; they were a very bad influence; they did not destroy the land as such, but what they did was to allow the children of Israel to do all the work: then they could not get the benefit of it because the Midianites took it all away. It says there was “neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass,” but of course, there was not any wheat either. That would mean that not only were the children of Israel impoverished, but God was robbed too because there would not be anything available for the offerings in the service of God.
The history of Judges is largely ups and downs. The people started off well but then they declined and they fell away, they started to serve idols; and when they realised they had done wrong, they cried to God and He brought them in a saviour. They had just been through the experience here of being saved under Deborah and Barak, and it tells us that “the land had rest forty years”, which is why I read the part of the verse at the end of chapter 5. Now, forty years is quite a long time. It is not quite like the time in Egypt when Joseph rightly prophesied that there would be seven years of plenty and seven years of famine; they had forty years rest. In practice that would mean there was a long time in which they should have enjoyed God’s blessings, and they should have had the wherewithal to serve Him, as He had laid down in the law and as He would wish, and as they would wish if they were right, but instead of doing that, they fell away.
So the question for me and for many of us is, we have had forty years of peace and rest: what have we got to show for it? Forty years is often seen in Scripture as a period of testing to bring to light good or evil: so my exercise would be, for myself especially, what do I have to show for the forty years or more than forty years since some of us faced big problems and a shake-up among those we walked with? What do I have to show for it? Are we just declining? I am not suggesting we are, but the question is whether I have got the gain of the forty years of rest.
What it tells us about Gideon is interesting, because after the forty years of rest, when they could and should have had plenty; they effectively had seven years of famine because they were not able to enjoy the produce of the land. What it says of Gideon is that he “threshed wheat in the winepress, to secure it from the Midianites”, and the clear suggestion is this was a rather difficult and awkward job to do. It is not the way you usually thresh wheat, but, of course, it was “to secure it from the Midianites”. The Midianites would not expect him to be doing this, and it would almost certainly mean that it was hidden from them so they could not steal it from him. We sometimes think that this was something that Gideon did just at this point, but I understand, having read it somewhere, it might mean that this was characteristic of him: that he had been doing this for some time. He may have done this in several harvests. The original could mean that he ‘used to thresh wheat in the winepress’; that is, he had been doing this habitually: it was not something he did suddenly, but it was his practice.
Verse 12 says, “And the Angel of Jehovah appeared to him, and said to him, Jehovah is with thee, thou mighty man of valour”; while in verse 14 he says, “Go in this thy might”. If I can put it this way, he was able to use his influence rightly because he delivered the people; I am not so much concerned about that aspect, but it does tell us that he delivered them. It tells us in chapter 8 that “Midian was subdued before the children of Israel, and they lifted up their heads no more”, v 28. That was really because of the influence of Gideon’s faithfulness and, of course, there are other aspects too. They wanted him to rule over them, and Gideon uses his influence rightly there also. He says in effect, ‘No, I do not want to be a king; God is going to be your king’, v 22-23. Not only was Midian subdued so that they no longer troubled the children of Israel and robbed them of what they should have got the benefit of, and too, by implication, robbed God of His portion; but they were saved, Midian was subdued, and it is significant that once again “the land had rest forty years in the days of Gideon”; so Gideon was a good influence during the time he judged the people.
Well, I am exercised that like Gideon we should have a good influence and be able to provide food for the saints, and yield something for the service of God too.
May the Lord bless the word!
Word in a ministry meeting, Dundee
25th April 2017