The Signs of the Times


June 23, 1881

Gideon Called


Alas, that in the history of God's chosen people the sorrowful story of apostasy and its punishment must be so oft repeated! Forty years of peace elapsed after the destruction of Sisera and his host, and again “the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years.” Heretofore the hand of the oppressor had fallen but lightly on the tribes dwelling east of the Jordan, but in the present calamities they were the chief sufferers. ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 1

The Midianites and Amalekites, who dwelt on the eastern borders of the land and in the deserts beyond, were still the bitter and unrelenting enemies of Israel. These nations had been well-nigh destroyed by the Israelites in the days of Moses, but they had since increased greatly, and had now became a numerous and powerful people. They had thirsted for revenge, and now the opportunity had come. ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 2

Because of their sins, the protecting hand of God was withdrawn from Israel, and they were left to the mercies of their enemies. The wild, fierce inhabitants of the desert, “as grasshoppers for a multitude,” came swarming into the land, with their flocks and herds, and pitched their tents in plain and valley. They came as soon as the harvests began to ripen, and remained until the last fruits of the earth had been gathered. They stripped the fields of their increase, and robbed and maltreated the inhabitants, and then returned to the deserts. Thus the Israelites had been forced to abandon the open country, and to congregate in the walled towns; and many had even found shelter in caves among the mountains. ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 3

For seven years this oppression continued, and then in their distress the people remembered Him who had so often delivered them; and they cried unto the Lord for help. But while they were very desirous to be relieved from their oppressors, they did not exercise true repentance for their sins. ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 4

God could not help them in their state of impiety. But through his prophet he addressed them in words of warning and reproof, and the message was publicly proclaimed from city to city throughout the land. “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage. And I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land. And I said unto you, I am the Lord your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell. But ye have not obeyed my voice.” ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 5

We might expect the Israelites to harden their hearts against the reproofs of the prophet. We listen to hear them respond, “We do not wish to be continually reminded of our sins. Speak to us words of peace, encouragement, and hope, but do not keep ever before us the dismal relation of our backslidings.” How often do the professed people of God at the present day turn away from instruction, and neglect oft-repeated warnings. They dislike to be reminded of their defects of character. They are unwilling to be reproved for their pride and idolatry in turning from the requirements of God to seek the gains, friendship, or pleasures of the world. ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 6

Such was the manner in which some of the Israelites received the message of reproof. Had the people been enjoying prosperity, this feeling of rebellion would, no doubt, have been general; but in their distress from the oppression of their enemies, with want and even starvation staring them in the face, they felt their need of help from God. They knew that unless he whom they had so dishonored should manifest his power for their deliverance, they must perish. In deep humility they accepted the message of reproof, confessed their sins, and implored the mercy of the Most High. ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 7

Their prayers were heard, and again the Lord sent forth the man of his choice to act as deliverer for Israel. The one thus selected was Gideon, of the tribe of Manasseh. The Midianites had swept like a devouring plague over the land. It was only with the greatest difficulty that the Hebrews could secrete sufficient food to save them from actual starvation. Gideon had, however, retained possession of a small quantity of wheat, and fearing to beat it out in the threshing floor, he had taken it to the vineyard, near the wine-press. The time of ripe grapes being far off, the attention of the Midianites would not be directed to that place. ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 8

As he thus labored in secrecy and silence, he sadly meditated upon the condition of Israel. He thought of her glorious triumphs in the past, of her present abject condition, and of the still darker prospect for the future, and his spirit was stirred within him. With deep earnestness he considered how the oppressor's yoke might be broken from off his people. To all appearance this was impossible. The Israelites were disheartened and discouraged. They had dishonored God by their idolatry, and they felt little confidence that he would work for them. ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 9

Gideon almost despaired of inspiring the people with faith or courage, but he knew that the Lord would work mightily for Israel as he had done in the past. His whole soul cried out after God. He felt that although he might stand alone, yet if he had the assurance that God was with him, he would not fear to strike a blow against the oppressors. ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 10

While Gideon's mind was absorbed in meditations like these, suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared to him and addressed him with the words, “The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor.” ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 11

The melancholy nature of Gideon's thoughts is revealed by his answer, “O my Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? but now the Lord hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 12

The messenger of Heaven replied, “Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have not I sent thee?” ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 13

With a sense of his own unfitness for so important a work, Gideon exclaimed, “O my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house.” ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 14

Then the angel gave him the gracious assurance, “Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.” ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 15

Gideon desired some token that the one now addressing him was the same that spoke to Moses in the burning bush. The angel had veiled the divine glory of his presence, but it was no other than Christ, the Son of God. When a prophet or an angel delivered a divine message, his words were, “The Lord saith, I will do this,” but it is stated of the Person who talked with Gideon, “The Lord said unto him, I will be with thee.” ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 16

Desiring to show special honor to his illustrious visitor, and having obtained the assurance that the Angel would tarry, Gideon hastened to his tent, and out of his scanty store prepared a kid and unleavened cakes, which he brought forth to set before him. Gideon was poor, yet he was ready to use hospitality without grudging. ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 17

As the gift was presented, the Angel said, “Take the flesh and unleavened cakes, and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” Gideon did so, and then the Lord gave him the sign which he desired. With the staff in his hand, the Angel touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and a fire rose up out of the rock and consumed the whole as a sacrifice, and not as a hospitable meal; for he was God, and not man. After this token of his divine character, the Angel disappeared. ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 18

When convinced that he had looked upon the Son of God, Gideon was filled with fear, and exclaimed, “Alas, O Lord God! for because I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face.” ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 19

Then the Lord graciously appeared to Gideon a second time and said, “Peace be unto thee, fear not, thou shalt not die.” These gracious words were spoken by the same compassionate Saviour who said to the tempted disciples upon the stormy sea, “It is I; be not afraid,”—he who appeared to those sorrowing ones in the upper chamber, and spoke the selfsame words addressed to Gideon, “Peace be unto you.” The very same Jesus who walked in humiliation as a man among the children of men, came to his ancient people, to council and direct, to command, to encourage, and reprove them. ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 20

The family to which Gideon belonged was grievously infected with idolatry. His father erected at Ophrah, where he dwelt, a large altar to Baal, at which the people of the towns worshiped. Gideon was commanded to destroy this altar, to cut down the groves that surrounded it, and in its stead to erect an altar to Jehovah, over the rock on which the offering had been consumed, and then to offer a sacrifice unto the Lord. Gideon faithfully carried out these directions, performing the work by night, lest he should be compelled to desist if he attempted it by day. ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 21

The deliverer of Israel must declare war upon idolatry before he went to battle with the enemies of his people. He must esteem the honor of God above the credit of his father, and regard the divine commands as more obligatory than parental authority. ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 22

The offering of sacrifice unto the Lord had been committed to the priests and Levites, and had been restricted to the altar at Shiloh; but He who had established the Jewish economy, and to whom all its services pointed, had power to change its requirements. In this instance he saw fit to depart from the ritual appointment. It was of great importance that the deliverance of Israel should be preceded by a solemn protest against the worship of Baal, and an acknowledgment of Jehovah as the only true and living God. ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 23

When the men of the city, early in the morning, came to pay their devotions to Baal, they were greatly surprised and enraged at what had taken place. Soon it was known that Gideon had done this, and then nothing but his blood could satisfy those deluded idolaters. They at once began to put forth efforts to take his life. ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 24

Gideon had told his father, Joash, of the Angel's visit, and the promise that Israel should be delivered. He also related to him the divine command to destroy the altar of Baal. The Spirit of God moved upon the heart of Joash. He saw that the gods whom he had worshiped had no power even to save themselves from utter destruction and hence they could not protect their worshipers. When the idolatrous multitude clamored for the death of Gideon, Joash fearlessly stood in his defense, and endeavored to show the people how powerless and unworthy of trust or adoration were their gods: “Will ye plead for Baal? will ye save him? he that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet morning; if he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar.” ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 25

He reminded them that the penalty of death would justly rest upon themselves instead of Gideon, for they had broken the law of God against idolatry. ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 26

The whole transaction, with the stirring appeals of Gideon, produced a powerful effect upon the people of Ophrah. All thoughts of violence were dismissed; and when, moved by the Spirit of the Lord, Gideon sounded the trumpet of war, they were among the first to gather to him. He then sent messengers throughout his own tribe of Manasseh, and also to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and all cheerfully obeyed the call. ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 27

Gideon deeply felt his own insufficiency for the great work before him. He dared not place himself at the head of the army without positive evidence that God had called him to this work, and that he would be with him. He prayed, “If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor, and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou has said.” ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 28

The Lord granted the prayer of his servant. In the morning the fleece was wet, while the ground was dry. But now unbelief suggested that wool naturally absorbs moisture when there is any in the air, and that the test was not decisive. Hence, he asked a renewal of the sign, humbly pleading that unbelief might not move the Lord to anger. His request was granted. ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 29

The Lord does not always choose for his work men of the greatest talents, but he selects those whom he can best use. Individuals who might do good service for God, may for a time be left in obscurity, apparently unnoticed and unemployed by their Master. But if they faithfully perform the duties of their humble position, cherishing a willingness to labor and to sacrifice for him, he will in his own time intrust them with greater responsibilities. ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 30

Before honor is humility. The Lord can use most effectually those who are most sensible of their own unworthiness and inefficiency. He will teach them to exercise the courage of faith. He will make them strong by uniting their weakness to his might, wise by connecting their ignorance with his wisdom. ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 31

God will accept the services of all who will work in obedience to his will, who will not for any consideration bring a stain upon the conscience, who will not permit any influence to lead them from the path of duty. If we choose, we may make the record of our lives such as we shall not be ashamed to own when the secrets of all hearts shall stand revealed, and every man's work shall be weighed in the balances of truth. The Lord employs men as his co-laborers, but let none imagine that they are essential to the work of God, that they cannot be dispensed with. ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 32

The teachable and trusting ones, having a right purpose and a pure heart, need not wait for great occasions or for extraordinary abilities before they employ their powers. They should not stand irresolute, questioning, and fearing what the world will say or think of them. We are not to weary ourselves with anxious care, but to go on, quietly performing with faithfulness the work which God assigns us, and leaving the result wholly with him. ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 33

If they but preserve their sincerity, their meekness, and humility, the poorest, weakest, and humblest of Christ's followers, working in love, may start waves of blessing that shall go on widening and deepening, to refresh and bless the world. In order that they may do this, Christ must shine forth in their character. Let the daily life be a reflection of the life of Christ, and the testimony thus borne to the world will have a powerful influence. Heaven alone will reveal the fruits of an unselfish, holy life. The great contest of truth against error must be carried forward by men who kindle their taper at the divine altar. Evil may seem for a time to prevail, but in the end righteousness will gain the victory. Every righteous act will be recorded in the book of life, and will be remembered and rewarded of God. ST June 23, 1881, Art. A, par. 34