The Way of Victory

Notes of an address on Judges 6:7-16; 7:19-22 at Edinburgh, 25th October 1912

"The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour. . . Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel . . . have not I sent thee? . . . Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man" (Judges 6:12, 14, 16).

Our feeling is one of deepest gratitude to the Lord for the gracious way in which He has ministered to us in these meetings. We have not only been reminded of the fact that He is our glorious Head in heaven, but we have also had a practical proof of the deep interest which He takes in His members upon the earth, and our hearts have been made glad as we have listened to the ministry that has come to us from Himself.

But we do not live our lives in such meetings as these. We have our responsibility in the home and daily routine, and in connection with our fellowship one with another in the truth of God. That responsibility is to work out into practice those blessed truths which we delight to listen to. It is here that failure has come in, and it may be that there has arisen in our thoughts the great contrast between the truths we hear and the lives we live. Perhaps we have been made to feel how little the joy and the power of these blessed things of God and His Christ have been with us. We are going back again to those circles where lie our responsibilities, and is the future to be as the past, or shall the spiritual poverty and disaster give place to spiritual prosperity and victory? We desire the latter — earnestly do we desire it. The question is: How can it be secured?

Deliverances

The first step, so it seems to me, is to be conscious of the poverty, and need, and weakness. If this is not confessed there can be no advance. Woe betide those who boastfully claim to be rich and increased in goods, for they "know not that they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." To feel and to acknowledge our failure, to go low in the confession of it before God, this is the way of blessing, for God will meet us there. And He is the same God who presented Himself to Israel in our chapter. They could not have been poorer than they were, but when that poverty was felt, and they cried to the Lord in their distress, then He met them, and He met them as the God of deliverances. He carried their thoughts back to what He had done for them in the past; how He had brought them out of their captivity by a great deliverance; "how He had dried the waters of the great deep, and made the depths a way for His ransomed to pass over," and had planted them in a rich inheritance, driving out all their foes before them. He wanted them to know that He was just the same God as He had ever been; they had changed, but He remained the everlasting God, whose strength cannot wane or falter. And we have this selfsame God to turn to, the God of deliverances, and if in our felt-weakness we are with Him what matters it howsoever strong the foe may be? If God be for us who can be against us?

In the eyes of men nothing could have been weaker than those few unlearned fishermen in the presence of the proud and bigoted leaders in Jerusalem; nothing could have been weaker than that aged and chained prisoner standing alone before the might of Imperial Rome; nothing could have been weaker than the German monk witnessing for the truth before all the pomp of an apostatizing church, grown powerful in her departure from Christ; and nothing, perhaps, appears weaker than two or three seeking to keep the Lord's word and not to deny His name. But out of these weaknesses in the past, these servants of Christ were made strong, for God was there, and the God of Pentecostal days, and of Paul, the God of the Middle Ages in whom Luther trusted, is the same God with whom we have to do today — the everlasting God, whose purposes cannot fail, and against whose will no device of the enemy can prosper, and His power is at our disposal as our faces are turned towards His goal for us. Let us believe this, beloved brethren, and in simple and holy faith rely upon Him.

The Cause of Every Defeat

But mark the solemn words at the end of verse 10: "But ye have not obeyed my voice." Herein lies the secret of the poverty and distress which had overwhelmed Israel, and herein lies the secret of every difficulty and defeat, of all lack of spiritual prosperity and power. If we have to mourn today the poverty of the church generally, or the lack of freshness and blessing in our own souls, we may trace this condition of things back to disobedience to the. Word of God. Take such a word, for instance, as that in Colossians 3:12-15. "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful."

If we had been obedient to such a word as that, would there have been the poverty, the spiritual destitution which we deplore? But it is only by the power of the unchanging God that we can walk in obedience to His word, yet that power has been put at our disposal; it is vested in Christ for us. "For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and ye are complete in Him, which is the Head of all principality and power." What a thought! All the fullness of the Godhead dwells in the Man who died for us, and there is not a power in the universe that can hinder those vast resources flowing down to us. If we are holding the Head, obedience to the Word will be our delight, and will be the natural outflow of the life derived from Christ the Head.

The Upward Path

But how does this power show itself, and who are they who can count upon it? Gideon's history, I believe, has been divinely given to us that in it we may see this illustrated. He is introduced as threshing wheat in the secret place to hide it from the Midianites. I gather from that that he could not do without the wheat, and that he prized it highly; he was determined not to be robbed of it by the Midianites. The wheat speaks of Christ. Is He so indispensable and precious to us that we delight, in secret, where no eye but the Father's, who seeth in secret, is upon us, to thresh out and feed upon the truth as to Himself? Are we determined to "hold this fast" which we have at all cost, and refuse to yield one bit of truth or ground to the foe? It is here that victory begins; it is here that we may become strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Not in the public meeting, or before the eyes of our brethren does the path of victory begin, but in secret exercise of soul before God.

"Art thou weaned from Egypt's pleasures?
  God in secret thee shall keep;
There unfold His hidden treasures,
  There His love's exhaustless deep."

It was to this son of the Abiezrite that the messenger of God was sent with this wonderful salutation, "The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour." Every element of victory was there, and this should yield much cheer to us; only let our souls delight themselves in Christ, and the world, the flesh, and the devil are powerless before us.

A second feature in Gideon was that he sorrowed over the broken and fallen condition of Israel. This was also a proof of power in him and marked him out as a suited vessel for the Lord. And to us it should be a constant grief of heart that the saints of God are in the condition in which we see them. Indeed, the more our souls feed upon Christ in secret, and become familiar with Himself and His thoughts, and with His love and care for His church, the deeper will be our exercise of soul as we view that church robbed of the precious truth, fed upon pernicious doctrines, led upon evil ways, and divided and broken by faction and schism. Such exercise will be pleasing to the Lord, for it will disclose a heart in sympathy with His own as to His interests on earth.

Still another indication that Gideon was the subject of the gracious work of God appears. He had low thoughts of himself. In his own eyes he was of a poor family and himself the least of all in it. He was a "nobody," and, indeed, the man who thinks himself to be somebody is just the man who will not be used of God to help His saints, for he is not with God, nor God with him. But in the presence of the One who made Himself of "no reputation" dare any of us have high thoughts of self? We have but to contemplate the surpassing lowliness of Him who, taking the form of a servant, humbled Himself even to the death of the cross, to see how out of place is every lofty thought. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. May these three distinctive marks of the grace of God be seen in us all:
(1) The appreciation of and holding fast the truth as to Christ.
(2) Love and care for His saints.
(3) Low thoughts of self.

There are many details as to how God led His servant along the road of exercise to the final victory, full of interest and instruction, which we must pass over today. Suffice it to say that as a result of all that God taught him, he was able, at last, in a conquering faith to link his name with God's, and to cry "The sword of the Lord and of Gideon." His whole thought and purpose was bound up, and one with the Lord's, like that other good soldier who could say, "The testimony of the Lord, and of me His prisoner." The testimony of the Lord was everything to Paul. The glorious gospel of God concerning His Son, the risen Man, in whom is secured all glory for God and blessing for men; for this he lived, aye, and died also. May we, like him, being strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, stand without shame or fear in this same testimony.

But this is not to be done in the strength of men; we must fall back upon the power of God. It was not by methods learnt in the military schools that Gideon overthrew the Midianites. Trumpets, pitchers, and lamps — these were their weapons. To this we have a reference in 2 Corinthians 4:6-7. "For God who commanded the light to shine out of the darkness hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us."

Yes, that is it; if the glorious light of the knowledge of God which has shone into our hearts, and which we carry about with us as a priceless treasure, is to shine out in the darkness about us, the power must all be of God. So that we come back again to that with which we began, that all the power for victory in the path of faith and testimony is in God, the everlasting, unchanging God, the God of deliverances. He must work in us to bring us into subjection to His thoughts and make us serviceable to Himself, but the end is assured.

Let us set out, in confidence in Him, along the road of His will; His power will sustain us in every step we take upon it until He brings us to filial victory, and then shall we with joy bear witness to the fact that Himself has done it all.