What characterises God's witnesses in the Day of ruin
In Judges 6, we have seen the servant prepared for the work for which God destined him; the verses which we have just read show us the characteristics of God's witnesses in a day of ruin.
In the days of the nation's moral prosperity under Joshua, when it was a question of going to war, all Israel went up to battle, and the unity of the people was thereby strikingly manifested. The first conflict at Ai (Joshua 7: 1‑5), the only exception to this rule, resulted in the defeat of those who took part in it. In a time of declension, it is otherwise. When all the people went up with Gideon, Jehovah said to him: "the people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands," for the danger was that Israel would vaunt themselves against Jehovah, saying: "Mine own hand hath saved me." At such a period God takes special care to repress the pride that would attach credit to man in a work which belongs exclusively to Himself. Christendom in the present day boasts of the number of its adherents, under the impression that it sees therein a factor in the work of God. If any work is wrought of Him, she attributes it to herself; and, like Laodicea, prides herself in her resources: "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing."
This then is the first characteristic of God's testimony in the midst of ruin: fewness of numbers and absence of display.
In verse 3, we find the second characteristic: "whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from Mount Gilead." Moses had formerly given this command to the children of Israel: "What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren's heart faint as well as his heart" (Deut. 20: 8). The same passage (vs. 5‑7) teaches us that those who were fearful and afraid, were those who had something to lose. A servant of God is full of courage for his work, when he has nothing to lose here, because the excellency of Christ has made him despise what the world values. Alas! what numbers of fearful there are in our days, even as formerly, when: "there returned of the people twenty and two thousand, and there remained ten thousand." God wants undivided hearts for the accomplishment of His work; hearts that have nothing to lose, that are afraid of nothing, and who cannot exert a baneful influence over those who have gone out to the war unentangled with the affairs of this life. The twenty‑two thousand came in for the spoil, but were unequal to the effort required to get it. Those that are fearful will profit by the testimony, but have not the qualification necessary to maintain it.
We come now to a third characteristic of the witnesses. God tested them in order to bring out if they realized that all is loss for those who would win the battle. "He brought down the people unto the water." Will they how down upon their knees to drink, or lap of the water with their tongues, as a dog lappeth? Some seek their ease, and enjoy to the full those blessings which Providence has placed in their path; others, having as their sole aim to gain the victory, do not allow themselves to be diverted from their object, but, tasting the water by the way, only find therein what invigorates them for their service. It is said of the Lord, "He shall drink of the brook in the way" (Ps. 110: 7). When He thus drank, "He stedfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem," the scene of His agony and death (Luke 9: 51). There is nothing that so trammels the action of the Christian in his testimony, as taking his ease, and settling down in the enjoyment of the earthly blessings which the providence of God bestows upon him, instead of simply tasting them by the way. The Christianity of the present day, boweth down upon the knees to drink; it gives thanks, it may be, to God, but sees, in the earthly blessings, the object and end of its piety; whereas, the witnesses for God, just take as much as will enable them to continue on their journey. These three hundred, who lapped the water as a dog lappeth, drinking what the hand carried to the mouth, were not only the devoted, but the humble ones. They remind oneof the poor Syrophenician woman, who, when compared to a dog, replied, "Yes Lord," happy to be dependent only on His grace (Mark 7: 28). God wants devoted yet humble witnesses.
These men took in their hands their trumpets, symbols of testimony, but they also took their victuals (v. 8). We cannot overcome without being fed, of which Israel was a proof under the terrible yoke of Midian who left them without sustenance.
Before the engagement, Gideon himself was called to undergo two personal experiences which strengthened him for the victory (vs. 9‑14). In the first place, that, in himself, he was no better than the twenty two thousand fearful ones. "If thou fear to go down," said Jehovah to him. Did he reply: I am brave, I have already sounded thetrumpet in every direction to assemble Israel to battle? No, he accepted the humbling truth. Then God placed him before the enemy, which lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude, and traced his portrait by the mouth of one of them. This mighty man of valour was compared to a cake of barley bread, coarse and homely food, and this was "the sword of Gideon!" Fine sort of a sword wherewith to smite this multitude! But, in reality, the sword of Gideon was "the sword of Jehovah" (v. 20), and it was therein the power lay.
Gideon learned to know himself, but God also revealed to him the moral state of the enemy that he was called to encounter. It was a vanquished foe. "For into his hand," said the Midianite to his fellow, "hath God delivered Midian and all the host" (v. 14). May we have a better understanding of this truth in connection with our three enemies, the flesh, the world and Satan. The flesh is crucified, the world is overcome, Satan is judged. This fills us with courage before them. Gideon, realized all these things and worshipped.