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Gideon’s Venture of Faith

In this month—February—occurs the annual return of the day of birth of two deceased presidents of this our United States. I have reference to George Washington and Abraham Lin­coln. They were men of stature, no doubt, courageous and daring spirits, heroic figures in their day through whose agency God accomplished His work. Numbered among the nation’s great, their memories are cherished and even worshipped. For such is the way of the world. It worships its heroes. But we who are God’s believing people worship the living God, the Father of Christ. We have no heroes among men before whose shrines we lie prostrated. But we do have our cloud of witnesses compassing us about—witnesses to the willingness and power of God to save His people thru their faith and in re­sponse to the expressions of their faith, His gift in them.

The writer to the Hebrews makes mention of several of these witnesses by name. Included in his list is also the name of Gideon. Remarkable was the working and achievement of the faith of this witness and of his band of three hundred.

The people of Israel had again apostatized from the Lord. For their sin they were being oppressed by the Midianites. The rule of the Midianites was terrible. They left no substance for the Hebrews, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass. They destroyed the increase of the earth. They plundered and de­vastated every part of the land that they entered, killing or dragging with them every living thing. This sort of thing had now been going on for seven long years, when God called Gideon.

Having heard that the Hebrews were being organized for war, the Midianites had collected in the valley of Jezreel, where now they were poised for battle. And they formed a mighty host. For they had come up in great hordes “as grasshoppers in multitude.”

How unspeakably preposterous, ap­parently, to go forth in the dead of the night against such a multitude with a band of three hundred men armed with nothing more formidable in the way of weapons of war than trumpets and empty pitchers concealing burning lamps.

But so the Lord had commanded and for a reason that He also had stated. “The people that are with thee,” so He had spoken, “are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.” In a word, it had to become evident that Israel was to be saved not by his own hand but by the arm of the Lord, and that the victory that was to over­come those Midianite hordes, representa­tive of the world-power, was solely Gideon’s faith—faith in the gracious and wonder-working power of the Lord, Israel’s redeemer-God.

And this faith was indeed Gideon’s and his band as a gift of God in them. For take notice of their battle cry: “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon.” Mark you, there was to be but one sword, and this sword the arm of God once more stretched out to save His people. And in this arm alone Gideon was putting all his confidence. For his cry was also to the effect: “By the sword of Gideon.”

And how marvelously the Lord re­sponded to Gideon’s faith! The pitchers were broken and Gideon and his three hundred stood there, not poised for at­tack with sword and spear, for they had neither, but simply holding the lamps as freed from their opaque encasements and alternately blowing their trumpets and shouting: “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon.” All they did, rightly considered, was to proclaim to those pagan hordes the Word of God, which they had made their own and in which they were putting all their trust and to which they were now giving utterance under the constraint of their living faith.

And take notice how their faith over­came. “And the Lord—mark you, the Lord—set every man’s sword against his fellow even throughout the host and the host fled.”

How evident that the victory was solely the Lord’s. For how could those hordes of fierce men have been routed by the sight of a few burning torches, by the sound of the blast of some trumpets, by the shouts of three hun­dred men, and by the noise of the crash­ing of some crockery, had the Lord not worked! What folly to end with that victory in those shouts and torches or even in Gideon’s faith as if that faith as such had overcome. Yet certainly the importance of that faith of Gideon, the expression of that faith especially in the battle cry “By the sword of the Lord and of Gideon” must not be minimized. For it was precisely through and in re­sponse to these expressions of faith that the Lord gave victory. And there­fore it is so very true that faith—mark you faith, our living faith in God through Christ, is the victory that over cometh the world.

Truly. A meaningful cry, that cry “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon.” God’s believing people continued to utter that cry through the ages of the past. It is the battle cry of the hosts of God even today, and also will continue to be its cry to the end of time. And the wicked are afraid. For the cry is in their hearts as put there by Christ. And their final terror will come at His sudden appearing in glory when all the wicked shall be smitten by the rod of His mouth and when the firmament shall pass away with a great noise and the elements shall burn and there shall be new heavens and new earth where God’s tabernacle shall be with men—the men of His good-pleasure.

“Wherefore,” in the words of the writer to the Hebrews, “seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses,” of which Gideon was but one—one of many, “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finish­er of our faith …”

Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. How true. We cry “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon” only be­cause He cries by His Spirit in and through us this very cry. It is His word spoken in our hearts. How true, then, that the victory is solely His.