You will remember Gideon's famous affair, and, I think the incident has a voice for us. Rather less than one per cent. is a small proportion, comparatively speaking, and as a matter of fact, although thirty-two thousand mustered at his first call to arms, only three hundred men remained with Gideon on the eve of battle — a mere handful; but then they were faithful men, men who had counted the cost of the enterprise to themselves, men who had estimated the overwhelming power of the enemy, men who watched ninety-nine out of every hundred of their brethren strike their tents and go home to their wives and families leaving the battle to take care of itself. Men of this stamp could be depended upon to obey the word of Jehovah through their leader under any circumstance. They knew why they had answered the call of Gideon to arms. Every man could be relied upon to stand exactly where he was told, and to do exactly what he was told, though it were in the darkness of midnight and upon the confines of the enemy's camp. Implicit obedience of this kind was specially requisite to carry out the peculiar mode of attack which Jehovah designed they should make upon the invaders.
The remarkable stratagem by which the huge army of Israel's foes was routed is well known. Each man was furnished with a trumpet and a torch and an empty pitcher. At the dead of night they were to surround the vast encampment in accordance with the directions of their leader. At the beginning of the middle watch this was done The three hundred men stood, "every man in his place round about the camp," waiting for Gideon's signal.
It was a time for contemplation as each man in his isolation anxiously listened for the sound of the trumpet. Men engaged in perilous enterprises, finding themselves alone in intervals of inaction, often become a prey to misgivings doubts. I do not say however that any of these brave men entertained such thoughts. It was true that dangers were thick about them; but Jehovah had stationed them there. And we may well suppose that they encouraged their hearts with His promise to their fathers that He would fight for them, and that one of them should chase a thousand of their enemies. — Lev. 26:8, Joshua 23:10.
Suddenly, the brooding stillness of the midnight was riven by the blast of Gideon's trumpet and by the ringing battle-cry of the Hebrews. In response, from every quarter of the compass, three hundred trumpet-calls rang out upon the quivering air; and three hundred torches flamed forth in the enveloping darkness. The sleeping host leaped to its feet. Trumpets and lights were seen in every direction. Fear took hold upon them; and "all the hosts ran and cried and fled." It was a victory of trumpets and torches.
The equipment of these Hebrew heroes may serve to illustrate certain spiritual truths which we do well to have continually before us. I refer especially to the trumpet and the torch which were the weapons of every man of Gideon's band.
Now, let us take the trumpet as a figure of the testimony of the lip, and the torch as a figure of the testimony of the life. And both of these forms of witness are necessary to fight the "good fight" of faith.
(1). There is of course a witness to give for Christ always and everywhere. Confession with the mouth of Jesus as Lord is an indispensable mark of true faith — Rom. 10:9. But sometimes a special and energetic form of testimony is demanded. I now speak of blowing the trumpet in the very ears of the foe who seeks to rob you of your wheat and your wine and your oil — the fatness of the land God has given you.
Do you ask what this means? Do you not find in certain circumstances great difficulty in reading your Bible, in attending to your prayers, and in obtaining a quiet occasion for meditating upon holy matters? This may be due to personal slackness, to fits of indolence, or to the influence of comrades. But, whatever the cause, your inward peace and joy are lost, and, in result, you "give place to the devil," and your front trenches are captured.
This defeat must not be. By the grace of God, you must brace up your energies. "Stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong." Never mind if others give up and go back. Take the trumpet, face the foe, let every craven-hearted turncoat go, brave every danger, the darkness, the isolated post, and endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.
To blow the trumpet is boldly to announce to the enemy the position you have taken up. The moment will come when you must either conceal or proclaim the fact that you are a disciple of Christ. If you believe, you have a title and a responsibility to speak the truth. — 2 Cor. 4:13. Let your feebleness be no excuse. After all, what are trumpet blasts? Only small volumes of air forced through narrow orifices, causing sound. Nevertheless, by the help of God, they blew down the walls of Jericho, and blew the host of Midian over Jordan. Perhaps you have an old battered ram's horn. Never mind: blow in faith; the glory to God will be greater.
(2). But lip-service must be accompanied by life-service. Along with the trumpet went the torch, which was concealed in an empty pitcher, forming a kind of dark lantern until the critical moment came. Then there was a crash of falling potsherds and the torch, held aloft, shed its light far and near athwart the darkness.
We must not forget the torch, my friends, nor the broken pitcher. We sometimes get both hands to the trumpet, and think only of blowing a loud blast. The truth is that the potsherds suggest a truth weighty but not always welcome. As the pitchers were to he smashed before the torch was displayed, so must death work in us before the life of Jesus can be manifested in our mortal flesh. — 2 Cor. 4:11.
Christ is the light. He should be seen in us; and to this end the wretched life of self must be shattered. All that we were was concluded judicially at the cross. — Rom. 6:6. Oh, that the power of this truth might practically smash to atoms the vanity and pride and self-will of our old Adam, so that the new life — the life of Christ — might be displayed by us.
Is not this omission very often the point of our failure? We work well at the trumpets: there are volumes of sound, much to be heard, but alas! little, if anything, to be seen. No torches are visible, for they are hidden in the earthen vessels. We want, therefore, more of the practical destruction of the flesh. Then the beautiful God-pleasing life of Jesus would be reflected out upon the darkness and evil and sin of this world. Then the heartless selfishness of unsaved men and carnal-minded believers would be met by a testimony of meekness and gentleness, of humility of mind and self-denial — a testimony always acknowledged by God and man, because it is so peculiarly of Christ. Let us then not fail to blow the trumpet and to let the light shine.