And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried to the LORD because of the Midianites,…
I. TROUBLE DRIVES MEN TO GOD. The people forsook God in their prosperity, and neglected his service so long as they enjoyed their comfortable homes in peace. But now they are miserable fugitives hiding in wild mountain caves, they remember his goodness and cry to him for help. This is a common experience. It is to our shame that it must be confessed. We ought to seek God for his own sake, to worship him in the beauty of holiness, not merely to obtain blessings for ourselves. In prosperity we should recognise tokens of his love, and so lift up our thoughts to him in grateful recognition of his goodness. To turn to God only in the hour of our need is a sign of base selfishness. Nevertheless it is better to seek him then than not at all. And if it is disgraceful in us that trouble should be needed to drive us to God, it is merciful in him to send the trouble for that object. The calamity which leads to this result is the greatest blessing. Herein we may see the end of many of the most severe forms of adversity. They are sent to us in our indifference to rouse us to our need of God, and lead us to seek him. Hence we may conclude that if we sought God aright in happy circumstances we might be spared some of the troubles which our spiritual negligence renders necessary to our soul's welfare (Hosea 5:15).
II. IF GOD IS TRULY SOUGHT IN TROUBLE HE WILL CERTAINLY BE FOUND. As soon as the people cried God heard them, and sent them first a prophet and then the deliverer Gideon. If we forsook God in our prosperity it would be reasonable that God should forsake us in our need. But he does not deal with us according to our sins. Our claim does not lie in our merit, in our obedience and fidelity, in anything of ours, but in his nature, and character, and conduct. Because God is our Father he hears us not out of consideration for our rights, but out of pity for our distresses. Therefore we need not fear that he will not respond to our call. To doubt is not to show our humility, but our distrust in the mercy of God and influence of Christ's sacrifice and intercession (Jeremiah 29:11-13).
III. WHEN GOD IS FOUND IN TROUBLE HE DOES NOT ALWAYS BRING IMMEDIATE DELIVERANCE. Israel called for help in need. God did not send the help at once. The people expected a deliverer, God sent a prophet. No word of promise is given by the prophet that relief will be accorded to the temporal distress of the nation. He speaks only of sin, and shows the ingratitude of the people, that they may feel how richly they deserve the calamities which have fallen upon them. They think most of their distresses, God of their sins. They cry for deliverance from the yoke of the Midianites, God wishes first to deliver them from the yoke of iniquity. Therefore the prophet of repentance comes before Gideon the deliverer. So we must expect that when God visits us in our sins he will deal with us so as to save us from spiritual evil before relieving us of physical distress. Christ bore the sicknesses and infirmities of his people, but his great work was to save them from their sins (Matthew 1:21).
IV. THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF SIN WHICH MUST PRECEDE DELIVERANCE IS PRODUCED BY A PROPHET'S MESSAGE IN THE MIDST OF TROUBLE. The trouble is necessary to soften the hearts of the people, and make them willing to listen to the prophet. Yet the trouble does not produce repentance. For this a prophet is needed. The prophet does not make any prediction, nor does he give any revelation of God; he simply reveals his hearers to themselves. We need prophets to show to us our own true character. Much of the Bible is a revelation of human nature which would not have been possible without the aid of prophetic inspiration. The call to repentance consists
(1) in recounting the ancient mercy of God, for it is in the light of God's goodness that we see most clearly our own wickedness; and
(2) in directly charging Israel with ingratitude and apostasy. All sin includes the sin of ingratitude. Till we feel this it is not well that God should show us more mercy. Therefore the stern John the Baptist must precede the saviour Christ; but as Gideon followed the prophet, full salvation will follow repentance and submission. - A.
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD because of the Midianites,