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The Sword of the LORD and of Gideon

Gideon returned from the camp of the Midianites in a strong faith that the LORD was with him and that the Word of the LORD would surely come to pass. Swiftly Gideon moves into action as the leader of Jehovah’s little army of 300 men. However, leading the small band against the host of the Midianites, Gideon wielded the mighty sword which always conquers the foe.

It was dark in the valley where the Midianites camped as well as in the surrounding hills where Gideon’s little band of faithful soldiers were waiting for their leader’s signal. The word of Gideon echoed still in their hearts: “Arise; for the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian!” (Judges 7:14). Like their leader, they too were confident in the Word of the LORD. In that confidence, they waited for Gideon’s signal to begin the battle.

Around the valley in the surrounding hills Gideon’s men were stationed in three groups of 100 men each. Swiftly and quietly they had dispersed with their orders from Gideon. Then they stood patiently in their three different positions overlooking the large camp of well-armed Midianites sprawled over the valley below.

The men of Gideon’s army were also well-equipped with the right weapons. It might seem odd to us, but Gideon gave his men trumpets and torches which were covered by large clay pitchers. The torches were lit, but quickly covered by the pitchers so that the light would not be seen until Gideon gave the signal. With their weapons in hand, the soldiers dispersed confidently to their three separate positions in the hills surrounding the Midianite infested valley.

Where were the swords? Where were the spears, shields, breastplates, helmets, coats of armour, coats of mail, chariots, and all the other weapons of warfare with which wars were commonly fought? Confidently, the men stood ready with their torches covered by the pitchers in one hand, and their trumpets in the other hand. We understand then that their hands were full. There was no more room for all those other weapons of warfare. The swords had to remain in their sheaths.

In addition, they would not need those earthly weapons for two reasons. First, what they brought to the battlefield must reflect the truth that Midian was given into their hand. Their unique arsenal of torches and trumpets was a reflection of their confession of the truth that the victory was theirs according to the Word of the LORD.

Secondly, they did not need the earthly sword on the battlefield because there was a sword present on the battlefield whose power was sufficient to destroy the host of the Midianites. That sword Gideon and his men carried by the hand of faith to the battlefield. One could not see that great sword outwardly. In fact it seemed outwardly like Gideon’s men were using no sword at all. From that viewpoint, they looked like they would be complete failures. Yet by faith we analyze the situation differently. Though the Midianites had an innumerable number of earthly swords, yet Gideon and his men wielded that one invincible sword.

With that sword in the hand of faith, Gideon waited for the watch in the Midianite camp to change

(Judges 7:19). When Gideon’s men had reached their positions in the surrounding hills, the beginning of the middle watch had just been set in the Midianite camp. Those newly set Midianite watchmen were filled with terror from the rumours of that Israelite warrior lurking in the darkness of the surrounding hills. At that moment, Gideon gave the signal! “And the three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal: and they cried, “The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon!” (Judges 7:20).

As the valley echoed with the shrill blasts of 301 trumpets and the confident shout, the terrified Midianites bolted from their tents into a swarming mass of chaos and confusion. As Gideon and his men stood confidently on the hills, the Midianites “ran, and cried, and fled.” (Judges 7:21). In the darkness, the LORD caused the Midianites by their confusion and terror to slay one another with the sword. Mistakenly thinking that Gideon’s army was in their camp, the Midianites dueled themselves to death. Those of the host, who managed to escape the LORD’S slaughter, tried to flee across the Jordan river. However, many were captured and killed by the help of the men from Napthali, Manasseh, Asher, and Ephraim (Judges 7:23-25). Eventually, the kings of the Midianites were also captured by Gideon and destroyed (Judges 8:11-12). The Midianites were destroyed. Israel was delivered. They were delivered by the sword of the LORD and of Gideon.

What was that sword?

That question brings to mind what Valiant-For-Truth said to Great-Heart in the allegorical story, Pilgrim’s Progress. After the two had discussed Valiant’s recent battle against Wild-head, Inconsiderate, and Pragmatic, Great-Heart asked Valiant-For-Truth: “… Let me see thy sword.”

After Great-Heart had examined the sword, he exclaimed, “Ha! It is a right Jerusalem blade!” (Isaiah 2:3)

Valiant-For-Truth agreed. “…Its edges will never blunt. It will cut flesh and bones, and soul and spirit, and all.” With that sword, Valiant-For-Truth went on to explain, he did fight until that sword cleaved to his hand and, as it were, grew out of his arm.1

Likewise, we also ask: what was that sword of the LORD and of Gideon? First, that sword is the mighty Word of Jehovah. That Word is first THE WORD, Who is the Son of God. Christ is the eternal Word of Jehovah Whom Jehovah sends forth to accomplish His eternal counsel. That Word goes forth in sovereign and almighty power to bring to destruction those whom God has rejected from eternity, and to raise unto glorious salvation and peace those whom God has eternally chosen in Christ. That Christ as the angel of Jehovah in the Old Testament, went before Gideon’s band and fought for Gideon. He went forth conquering the enemy that the Word of God might accomplish that which Jehovah had said, and might prosper in the thing whereto Jehovah sent it (Isaiah 55:11).

Secondly, the sword is also the Scriptures. The Scriptures are the infallibly inspired Word of God. Therein is Christ, the eternal Word of God, revealed unto us. That was true already in the Old Testament. In Genesis 3:15, Adam and Eve heard the Word of God concerning the promise of the Seed of the Woman. That promised seed was Christ. That Word of God in the promises and types that surrounded Gideon was the sword by which he conquered the enemy. That remains true even for the believing young person today. The Scriptures are a mighty sword to defend ourselves from temptation.

Thirdly, the sword is the doctrine of God’s Word. The doctrinal teachings of the Scriptures set forth Christ crucified as the only ground and foundation of all our salvation. In that truth, the glory of Jehovah is made known. Particularly, the doctrinal teachings of the Reformed Faith make this truth known clearly and sharply. For example, they are the doctrines of the TULIP, the everlasting covenant of sovereign grace, and the doctrines as taught in our Three Forms of Unity. This is “the right Jerusalem blade” for the believer’s warfare.

If we were to carry anything less than those doctrines of the Reformed Faith onto the spiritual battlefields, then we would wield a blunt, brittle, and flimsy sword by which we would be left defenseless. Rather than meet the enemy defenseless, is it your spiritual desire to meet the enemy well-equipped and prepared with that sword of the LORD, the truth of His Word?

To that end, you must faithfully attend catechism, particularly for training and instruction in the Heidelberg Catechism and the Essentials of Reformed Doctrine. By the Spirit and grace of God, this will train and prepare you to defend yourselves against the present day evil teachings of Satan by which He desires to destroy you and the Word of God in you. In catechism and on the Lord’s Day, Christ, the Captain of our salvation, trains us to use that Sword of the LORD for our defense and protection. By the grace of God and His Spirit, through His training and instruction, we will then wield the “right Jerusalem blade” in the spiritual battles of life.

Finally, that sword also involves a true and living faith. True faith is the hand that grips the Sword of the LORD. Without a hand, a soldier could not hold his sword. Without a true faith, one cannot hold the Scriptures as the sword against the enemy. Those who merely hold to the Reformed Faith intellectually, ace catechism tests with a cold intellectualism, and merely discuss and debate its various aspects for entertainment, are like a weaponless, defenseless soldier on the battlefield. In the heat of spiritual battles, such will be severely wounded or destroyed in their cold intellectualism and dead orthodoxy.

Rather than meet that end, we need that God-given, sovereignly bestowed and worked, undeserved faith. That true faith is, first, that “certain knowledge whereby [we] hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in His Word.” (Heidelberg Catechism LD VII, Q&A 21) That is a knowledge of the heart which arises out of the regenerated heart. A knowledge whereby we know and love God as our God. A knowledge whereby we love that Sword of the LORD and trust in it as our sure defense. Secondly, that faith is also “an assured confidence” whereby we are convinced that what God says to us about our salvation is undoubtedly true for the sake of Christ’s merits. By that assured confidence, we are persuaded that His Word concerning our salvation shall surely be brought to pass for Jesus’ sake.

That’s the spiritual hand which grips the Sword of the Scriptures so that sword and hand become one. Clinging to Christ, His Word, and His promises, the believer goes forth into the spiritual battlefields to conquer as the fruit of God’s sovereign grace alone. As we use that sword we need not fear its power and ability because “…the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.” (II Cor. 10:4) It will break down the strongholds of Satan.

Remember, whether we fight the battles against our own sinful natures, against sinful lusts for pleasure, possessions, and things that are downright sinful, against the world, against false teachers and heretics, against false doctrines, or against worldliness, we have been given by the grace of God the Sword of the LORD by which we stand in the victory of Christ crucified and risen.

Blessed is that spiritual soldier who wields that “Jerusalem blade” in the hand of true faith. Such lives in the blessed truth of Psalm 27, “the LORD is my light and my salvation: whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?… Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise up against me, in this will I be confident.”

We may be confident that the victory is the LORD’s. Because the victory is His and since we are His for Jesus’ sake, the victory is ours, too. Our enemies shall be fully destroyed, and we shall be redeemed unto complete glory in order “that men may know that Thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, are the most high over all the earth” (Psalm 83:18).♦

‘John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress (Old Tappan, NJ: Spire Books, 1974), p. 257.