And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained to Joash the Abiezrite…
Amongst the various important lessons which the history of Israel sets before us, none are more plainly marked than this, viz. —
I. SIN CARRIES ITS OWN PUNISHMENT. Seven years did this bondage and misery continue. In all that time we do not hear one cry of repentance, nor see one act of faith in the true God, on the part of Israel. They hardened their heart under the sore affliction, and stiffened their neck under the galling yoke. Their sustenance was gone, their enemies held them in cruel subjection, and yet the cause of all the calamity was fostered and maintained; Israel worshipped Baal instead of Jehovah. Oh, how hard the heart becomes when it is in Satan's keeping! But at last, being convinced that no other means would bring relief, "they cried unto the Lord."
II. As the first verse of this chapter connects the sin with the punishment, so the seventh verse CONNECTS THE PRAYER WITH THE ANSWER: "It came to pass, when Israel cried unto the Lord because of the Midianites, the Lord sent a prophet." He might have said by the voice of that prophet, "It is now too late to cry for deliverance. The door of mercy has been standing open during the seven years of your captivity, and ye would not enter; now it is shut, and ye cannot." But Israel's God was a God "merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and of great goodness." And now whose history is this? Is it the history of the perverse and rebellious Israelites only? No, it is your history and mine. It is the history of that sin-distressed soul who is now perhaps weeping to hear it told. "Yes," says the penitent man, "it is the account of my past life: I served other gods, I went astray, I did very wickedly year after year; I hardened myself even against His chastening hand; and it was of His mercy that I was not then consumed. But He let me alone, one year after another; till at length I began to think that for all these things God would bring me into judgment; I cried unto the Lord, and He heard me. He might have frowned me from His presence; He might have upbraided me for my long rebellion; but like the tender father of the prodigal son, He welcomed me back." But when God had heard the cry of penitent Israel, and had determined to come down to deliver them, what were the means taken for this purpose? It is a national concern: shall not the chief men of the nation receive the first intimation of it? It is a matter of general importance: shall not immediate publicity be given to it? No, the Lord's way is not as ours; He is pleased to do it in a manner which shall show that He can raise up any instrument, and work by any means, in order that the pride of man may be abased, that the glory of the deliverance may be all His own, and that He alone may be exalted. He comes to a poor humble individual; and the beginning of the mighty work which He was about to perform is told us in these simple words: "There came an angel of the Lord, and sat under an oak that was in Ophrah." We mark next some points in Gideon's character.
1. His consistency and decision. Notwithstanding his retired situation, he had testified, it seems, against the prevailing idolatry; and even in his father's house had kept himself from his father's sins. Let it comfort those who are serving God alone in their families to think of Gideon and God's favour towards him. You are not alone; and "greater is He that is with you than they that are against you."
2. Mark, next, Gideon's ardent patriotism. He does not distinguish himself from the rest of Israel, though God does. He identifies himself with his country. His thoughts were bent upon the welfare of Israel, as his prayers were offered up for it. It would be well if we were to endeavour, in our individual capacity, while walking humbly with our God, to serve the land in which we live. We may not be called to fight her battles, but we can pray for the peace of our Jerusalem. We may not be called to high public situations in life, but we may do private good, both temporal and spiritual. We have all a talent to exercise and to account for. Oh, see to it, that by your means your country is in some measure benefited.
3. Lastly, we are told from whence Gideon's might and valour were derived: "The Lord looked on him," and said, "Go in this thy might, and I will be with thee; and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man." "The Lord looked on him." Oh! what a look was that! what a smile of encouragement cast on Gideon by his God! what a token of love! what a communication of strength and faith! "Go in this thy might," says the angel, "I will be with thee." Gideon need not any longer doubt or hesitate, after such encouragement as this. It is the word of the Lord; and Gideon has only to cast himself upon it in simple faith, and to act according to its precepts. May we be as sensible of our own insufficiency as Gideon was of his: and, at the same time, as "strong" as he was" in the Lord, and in the power of His might," and may the Lord look upon you as He did upon Gideon, in mercy!
Parallel VersesKJV: And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites.
WEB: The angel of Yahweh came, and sat under the oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained to Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites.