What testimony consists in
The passage we have read is a reply to the question: In what does the testimony of God consist, and what does it do in a day of ruin? Full of joy and confidence, Gideon returned to the camp of Israel. "Arise," said he, "for Jehovah hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian." Then, dividing the three hundred men into three companies, "he put a trumpet in every man's hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers." These three things represent the principles of God's testimony in the struggle with Satan and the world.
We find the use of the trumpets detailed in Numbers 10: 1‑10. They were the voice of God to communicate His mind to the people on four important occasions: they gave the signal for gathering the people together; for the journeying of the camps; for battle; and also for the solemn feasts or worship. That which the sound of the trumpets formerly represented for Israel, we find in the present day, in another and very precious way, in the word of God. By it God speaks to us; it is that which regulates and directs the gathering together, the walk, the warfare, and the worship, of the children of God. How much these things are forgotten in our day! It seems to the majority of God's children that Christianity consists only in taking the gospel to the unconverted. It was otherwise that Gideon understood the testimony of faith. He began where God begins (Num. 10). "He blew the trumpet, and Abiezer was gathered afterhim" (Judges 6: 34). He was the bearer of the divine voice for the gathering together again of Israel, who had been scattered by their own failure. Brethren, have we at heart in this day, the gathering together of the children of God? Let us then take the word of God, let us make its voice heard in the ears of the saints who have been unaccustomed to hear it. Let us show Christians that their being gathered together is the purpose of God, the purpose of the cross of Christ, as well as of the energy of the Spirit in the world. Let us show them that it is the enemy who has scattered us, and that the great opposition to his power is the gathering together of the children of God apart from the world, and we will have the joy of having laboured for that which the word calls "good and pleasant!" (Ps. 133: 1).
The trumpet also sounded for the march, for which there can be no other directions than the word of God affords us. The relinquishment of this standard has been the sole cause of the divergences of the walk of the children of God. Why should we not walk in the same path if our hearts were all equally subject to that word which furnishes us with unerring guidance for each step?
The trumpet called to battle; and here we arrive at the circumstances of our chapter. The testimony of God is inseparable from conflict, for it not only consists in gathering together, and the march, but in an attitude openly taken in opposition to the world, the enemy of God. We have to proclaim boldly that we are - without any possible compromise - in a struggle with the world. The conflict has two purposes: to put us in possession of our privileges (which is the subject of the book of Joshua), and to deliver the people of God who have been brought into subjection to the enemy through their own unfaithfulness, which is the way it is looked at in the book of Judges. In Joshua all Israel were to go up to the conquest of Canaan; here, the struggle is reserved to a certain number of witnesses, champions of Jehovah, for the deliverance of His captive people.
The trumpets sounded for their solemn feasts. The word of God alone, defines and regulates worship. We merely allude to this subject, as this is not the place to go into it.
The empty pitchers are a second factor in testimony. They were, doubtless, some of the utensils which had contained the victuals of the people (v. 8); and though now empty and worthless, Gideon, taught of God, knew how to utilize them for His glory. 2 Cor. 4: 1‑10 makes obvious allusion to this scene. The apostle Paul speaking there of the position he was placed in as a witness before the world, says, he was "for the manifestation of the truth," and to bear "the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ" (Rev. vers) before men. He then adds: "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us" (v. 7). An earthen vessel, such was the "mortal flesh" of the great apostle of the Gentiles. Empty pitchers represented what Gideon and his warriors were in themselves. The lesson which their leader had just learned in the camp of Midian, the three hundred had also individually to realize. Like Paul's earthen vessel, these empty pitchers were only fit to be broken. When God raises up a testimony, He only glorifies Himself in instruments which He has broken. He carried His gospel to the nations by a Saul whom He had previously cast down in the dust on his way to Damascus, and glorified the excellence of His power in a Paul whom He continued to discipline to the end. "Troubled on every side," said the apostle, "yet not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus..."
Of what use were these empty pitchers? To hold the lamps, the third and most important element in testimony for God; to carry within them this treasure, the divine light, in order that, as the apostle says, "the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh" (2 Cor. 4: 10). If, in testimony, the trumpets represent the word of God, and the pitchers ourselves, what are the lamps but the life ofJesus, the light of Christ. The first two elements only serve to make the third manifest amidst the surrounding darkness. Gideon's men blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers (Judges 7: 19), and the light shone out all about them. It is the same with real witnesses: "For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake;" it is God Himself who takes care to break the vessels, "that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh" (2 Cor. 4: 11). It does not say: the life of Christ, but that of Jesus, the life of that Man whose path through this world was one of holiness. We are called to represent down here the Man Jesus, walking as He walked (1 John 2: 6), and it is in that that our testimony consists.
There is not a single Christian in the world who cannot be the bearer of these three elements of testimony for God. How is it then that so few are found? It is because these three principles that God requires are lacking. The trumpet must be sounded, the pitchers must be broken, the lamp must not be put under a bushel. Are we taking our ease down here, having all we need in the world, loved and respected of men; have we never had any of the apostle's experiences, tribulations, perplexities, persecution, cast down? Ah! if not, we are wretched for we have nothing. God has not accounted us worthy to bear a single ray of the light of Christ before the world. Happy those who are broken! "Blessed .... blessed," as the Lord said in Matt. 5, adding: "Rejoice and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven."
The three hundred, standing every man in his place round about the camp, cried: "The sword of Jehovah, and of Gideon!" The world is put to rout by this simple cry! Bear testimony to Christ, live Christ, taking no account of self; let the two‑edged sword of the Lord be your weapon: all the power of Satan and of the world will be unable to resist you. Occupied with their glorious task, neither Gideon nor his companions were in danger of sitting down under the tents of Midian, which the judgment of God was about to overthrow; for they found their security and strength, notwithstanding the broken pitchers, in the trumpets of Israel whose notes were so penetrating, and in the lamps of God whose light was so bright.
It is an encouraging fact that testimony begets testimony. The three hundred were employed to reunite the people. The men of Israel were gathered together and pursued Midian (v. 23), and all the men of Ephraim came together and joined in the pursuit and shared in the spoil. We shall see this result if we are faithful. Let us be witnesses for Christ, and we shall awaken zeal in those who are His. May that time soon arrive in which, when Jesus comes, He shall find, not only some hundreds, but, a people who are all witnesses, who have fought, held fast, and overcome for Him!