And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man's hand, with empty pitchers…
I. THE ASSURANCE OF SUCCESS IS A HELP TOWARDS ATTAINING IT. Gideon had feared to attack the hosts of Midianites and Amalekites till he had discovered that they feared him; then he took courage and energy to devise the plan of victory. Too much diffidence is dangerous. Hope inspires with ingenuity as well as with courage; it is a brightness, an influence that enlivens thought. Therefore hope has its place in the first rank of Christian graces (1 Corinthians 13:13). The promises of the Bible are not only comforting, they are inspiring. Our great encouragement should be that the powers of evil fear Christ and his army.
II. THOUGHT IS SOMETIMES MORE NEEDFUL THAN FORCE. Gideon's victory was a triumph of thought, of contrivance. The right disposition of our energies is more important than the mere sum of them. It would be well if Christians practised on behalf of the cause of Christ the same wisdom which men of the world display in business, in politics, etc., so far as this is not inconsistent with perfect honour (Luke 16:8). Christ requires us to be wise and harmless (Matthew 10:16). Dulness is not holiness. Intellectual gifts should be consecrated to God, not despised as unfit for his service. The diplomatist and the tactitian may find work in the service of Christ. In mission work organisation, economy of strength, ingenious adaptation of means to ends should be carefully studied, and the gift of wisdom sought in addition to that of zeal.
III. MORAL INFLUENCE IS BETTER THAN PHYSICAL FORCE. Gideon had conquered before he had struck a blow. The dismay he created and the confusion this produced in the hostile camp secured him victory. Though we cannot be justified in descending to deception, we may aim at influencing others by thought and feeling rather than by direct physical means. Christianity is a triumph of ideas. It is a sign of intellectual and spiritual failure when the Church desires to effect by the aid of the law what she should have done by the influence of moral suasion, as in restraining immorality, etc.
IV. IGNORANCE IS WEAKNESS. The Midianites and Amalekites were ignorant of the number of Gideon's army, or they would not have been deceived. They were too self-confident to inquire, as Gideon had done, concerning their condition. Ignorance and superstition create imaginary foes. An evil conscience is quick to imagine danger (Proverbs 28:1). The terrors which surround us are worse in imagination than in reality. Darkness and ignorance make men their own worst enemies (ver. 22). - A.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.