Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people that were with him, rose up early, and pitched beside the well of Harod: so that the host of the Midianites were on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley.Jdg 7:7
Nothing is done effectually through untrained human nature; and such is ever the condition of the multitude.... Every great change is effected by the few, not by the many; by the resolute, undaunted, zealous few. Doubtless, much may be undone by the many, but nothing is done except by those who are specially trained for action.
The Three Hundred Men That Lapped (a Church Guild Sermon)
Here is one of these battles of God which are being waged in century after century, crisis after crisis, by the armies of Truth against the hordes of unrighteousness. I. Gideon, trusting manfully in his Divine commission, sets himself to deliver Israel from the Midianites. Cheered himself by God's manifest goodness he succeeds, as men count success, in gathering together a strong army. And what is the first message that reaches him from God as he has encamped before the Midianites? 'The people that are with thee are too many.' So Gideon has to submit there in the presence of the enemy with a tradition of disgrace behind him; he, a leader of reputed cowards, has to submit to the departure of twenty-two thousand men, leaving his splendid band reduced to a pitiable ten thousand. The fearful and the heavy-hearted go away and more than half his host has vanished. But what is this? 'The people are yet too many,' is the inexorable decree of God. They must yet submit to another test. They are brought down to the water of Harod, near where they were encamped, to be tried with the test of thirst which has so often proved the value of disciplined troops. Some of them, the great majority, stooped down in their great eagerness to drink the water, the rest, a bare three hundred with splendid self-control, and a habit which showed that their minds were elsewhere, and that the coming battle was first in their thoughts, took up the water in their hands and lapped hurriedly, as if anxious not to lose a moment in self-indulgence. And the decree went forth 'By the three hundred that lapped I will save you'.
II. (a) 'The three hundred men that lapped.' These are the sort of members that we want for a Church guild, for they represent in the first place a band of men who have learnt the great lesson of self-control. I know your trials here. I know that sparkling well of pleasure which runs through London, and I say that no member of any guild can take his place in the army of God who has not learned to taste with absolute self-control and resolute steadfastness of purpose that which suffices for recreation, that which will supply him with the strength of joy.
(b) 'The three hundred men that lapped.' They represented to Gideon also a band of enthusiasts. Only second in importance to the moral basis is the enthusiasm of right in the member of a guild. The guild member is serious, he is active, he is useful, because he has the enthusiasm of life, and even more because he has the enthusiasm of Christianity. He longs to help others, to be a centre of good, and a rallying point for the forces of the Lord.
(c) 'The three hundred men that lapped.' Gideon might rely on these as determined men. A battle of three hundred against a host would need determined men, and the battle of the Lord needs determined men now.
III. People tell us that the great battle is approaching when on the one side will be ranged all that call on the Lord Jesus Christ as God, and on the other all who do not. But short of this, the conflict for each of us needs strength and determination of character. The real aim of a guild is to supply you with a rule of life, and a sense of fellowship in keeping that rule. You will want all the grimness of your will in the combat of life which lies before you. Moab lies in ambush with all his countless hosts, the battle will be hard and long, your strength will be to go into it pledged, pledged by your baptism, and vows made years and years ago over your unconscious infancy; pledged by the same vows renewed by your own lips at the moment of your solemn confirmation, and now pledged by the rule of your guild.
—W. C. E. Newbolt, Words of Exhortation, p. 339.
References.—VII. 7.—J. Baldwin Brown, The Sunday Afternoon, p. 202. VII. 10.—J. W. Burgon, Servants of Scripture, p. 24.
The machinery for dreaming planted in the human brain was not planted for nothing. That faculty, in alliance with the mystery of darkness, is the one great tube through which man communicates with the shadowy. And the dreaming organ, in connexion with the heart, the eye, and the ear, compose the magnificent apparatus which forces the infinite into the chambers of a human brain, and throws dark reflections from eternities below all life upon the mirrors of that mysterious camera obscura—the sleeping mind.
Only lightly and seldom did the Greeks and Romans dream: a distinct and vivid dream was with them an event to be recorded in their historical books. Real dreaming is first found among the ancient Jews.
A Cake of Barley Bread
Here we have a tiny nation oppressed by powerful neighbours. They have been maltreated by the oppressors, and at this, the darkest moment in the fortunes of Israel, a deliverer arises, not from among the leaders of the people, nor from those who stand in high places, but as has often been the case in history, from the lower ranks themselves. Gideon is the hero in question. A man of the same stature and quality as Wallace and William Tell. Some one must have the courage to speak and to do something more than speak, some one must have the intrepidity to act, and Gideon thinks it may as well be he as any one else. So one morning credulous, self-indulgent Israel rises to see the God Baal hurled from his pedestal and helpless to avenge the affront. His next step is to consider whether Israel won back to the purer worship of Jehovah might not be delivered from the sword of the oppressor. His resolution once taken, this man arrives at the conclusion that he himself is the chosen of the Lord to do this work. But on the eve of the conflict he hesitates. He is self-distrustful. He goes down to listen and to spy within the camp of Midian itself and he hears one man tell his fellow a dream. A cake of barley bread tumbles into the camp of Midian, and smites a tent, and it falls and lies ruined before it. Gideon returns without a word. He takes it as a symbol, a sign that he, the chosen of the Lord, is already victor in the counsels of the Most High, and his decision and his act were one and the same. Why did this hero attach so much importance to this symbol? It was the symbol of obscurity—Gideon himself was as a cake of barley bread, a labouring man called to be the instrument of God for the deliverance of his country.
I. We have here a case in which a man with nothing to aid him but his sense of God and right essayed a seemingly hopeless task, and accomplished it. Such men are rare in history, but they have always been forthcoming when God wanted them. John Wycliffe, a poor scholar, 'The morning star of the Reformation,' when princes and great nobles, not to speak of the common people, dared not raise their voice against the iniquity of Rome; Martin Luther, the simple monk of Wittenberg, who tore half Christendom away from the See of St. Peter; Hugh Latimer, an English yeoman, Reformation bishop, and martyr for all time; John Wesley, the son of a clergyman, himself a clergyman of the Church of England, too poor, sometimes, to pay his way almost, but the author of the greatest revival of modern times, whose followers have belted the globe with the story of the Gospel, was even refused a hearing in the Church he loved so well—a cake of barley bread against an army.
II. I doubt not; though perhaps they have never thought of it, there are some here who are the chosen of the Lord as much as Gideon, Luther, Wesley, only you were chosen for the day of small things. Is your vocation of any less value on that account? Not in the least. You stand now as plainly outlined before the gaze of God and heaven as ever stood a John Wycliffe or a Martin Luther when fronting the inquisitors and persecutors of old. You are fighting as great a battle as Gideon fought, as true a battle, and in the purpose of God it may be as worthy a conflict as ever he carried to a successful issue.
—R. J. Campbell, Sermons Addressed to Individuals, p. 243.
References.—VII. 13.—J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in a Religious House, p. 244; ibid. Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. iii. p. 372. S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 77. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi. No. 1873. VII. 13-23.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Judges, p. 244.
Is example nothing? It is everything. Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other.
Set it downe to thyselfe, as well to create good Presidents as to follow them.
For an extended popular movement a great name is like a consecrated banner.
References.—VII. 18.—Bishop Woodford, Sermons on Subjects from the Old Testament, p. 54. VII. 19.—Christian World Pulpit, 10 Dec, 1890. G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 413. Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 264. VII. 19-25.—Ibid. Sermons, vol. xl. No. 2343. VIII.1-27.—Ibid.
And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.
Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand.
And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people are yet too many; bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee there: and it shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with thee, the same shall go with thee; and of whomsoever I say unto thee, This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go.
So he brought down the people unto the water: and the LORD said unto Gideon, Every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him shalt thou set by himself; likewise every one that boweth down upon his knees to drink.
And the number of them that lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men: but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water.
And the LORD said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place.
So the people took victuals in their hand, and their trumpets: and he sent all the rest of Israel every man unto his tent, and retained those three hundred men: and the host of Midian was beneath him in the valley.
And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand.
But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah thy servant down to the host:
And thou shalt hear what they say; and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go down unto the host. Then went he down with Phurah his servant unto the outside of the armed men that were in the host.
And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude.
And when Gideon was come, behold, there was a man that told a dream unto his fellow, and said, Behold, I dreamed a dream, and, lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along.
And his fellow answered and said, This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel: for into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host.
And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, Arise; for the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian.
And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man's hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers.
And he said unto them, Look on me, and do likewise: and, behold, when I come to the outside of the camp, it shall be that, as I do, so shall ye do.
When I blow with a trumpet, I and all that are with me, then blow ye the trumpets also on every side of all the camp, and say, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon.
So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came unto the outside of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch; and they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers that were in their hands.
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.
And they stood every man in his place round about the camp: and all the host ran, and cried, and fled.
And the three hundred blew the trumpets, and the LORD set every man's sword against his fellow, even throughout all the host: and the host fled to Bethshittah in Zererath, and to the border of Abelmeholah, unto Tabbath.
And the men of Israel gathered themselves together out of Naphtali, and out of Asher, and out of all Manasseh, and pursued after the Midianites.
And Gideon sent messengers throughout all mount Ephraim, saying, Come down against the Midianites, and take before them the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan. Then all the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and took the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan.
And they took two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb; and they slew Oreb upon the rock Oreb, and Zeeb they slew at the winepress of Zeeb, and pursued Midian, and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side Jordan.