Gideon's Watchword
Judges 7:15-25
And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped…

Few things are more remarkable than the inspiring power, whether for good or evil, which a short, pithy, pregnant saying possesses for the mind. Proverbs, watchwords, party cries, have always played an important part in human affairs, and leaders of men have ever recognised their value as powerful instruments for swaying and controlling masses of people. No Spartan of old fought tamely who had received from wife or mother that parting mandate, "Return either with your shield or upon it!" No Crusader in the ranks of Richard the Lionhearted, as they charged against the hosts of Saladin, could have heard unthrilled that glorious watchword, "Remember the Holy City!" "God defend the right!" was the suppliant cry of youthful enthusiasm that rang out from the lips of the Black Prince at Cressy. "St. George for England!" was the cheer with which the whole fleet saluted the flagship of Howard of Effingham, in an hour when the heart of England stood still. "Victory or Westminster Abbey!" shouted Nelson as he boarded the great "San Josef" in Sir John Jervis's engagement with the Spanish fleet off Cape St. Vincent; and in less than eight years afterwards he had signalled along the line at Trafalgar that never-to-be-forgotten message, "England expects that every man will do his duty!" All these watchwords had their meaning, their deep and inspiring meaning, at the time they were uttered, but none ever meant more, ever suggested a mightier truth, than that oldest battle-cry we know of, "The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon!" Trust in God and implicit faith in and dependence upon His wisdom, power, and love, was the central truth, the central duty, inculcated throughout the Divine education of the chosen race. Trust in God lies at the foundation of all true character; for it is that which "can alone" (to use Martineau's fine words) "render absolute the rules of righteousness," and "save them from the gnawing corrosion of exceptions, and raise them from flexible convictions of men into a law secured on the eternal holiness." "Intellectual integrity," adds the same writer, "moral tenacity, spiritual elevation, all alike involve, in their higher degrees, an unconditional trust in the everlasting sway of Divine justice, wisdom, and love." God saw fit to educate one particular people in this all-important truth, that they might become witnesses to the world, for all time, of that saving spirit of loving and faithful submission to the will of God which found its most perfect exponent in Christ our Saviour. To this end all God's dealings with Israel were invariably directed. Those three hundred men in Gideon's little band did not complain that they had neither sword, nor spear, nor shield. They made the best of what they had, and committed themselves to the guidance of a wise and protecting God. He knew that they must conquer that mighty host (if they were to conquer it at all) not by their own unaided strength, but by His wise generalship. It was for them a bloodless victory. The battle was won, not by their own skill in fighting, but by their obedience to Jehovah and their implicit trust in Him. "By faith" they conquered, "as seeing Him who is invisible," and their victory will remain for all time a parable to successive generations of men. For a parable it is of the battle of life. The divinest success in life is achieved, not through the possession of great power, but by the faithful use of such powers as we have. If God be not for us how shall we prevail? Round your life and round mine there lie foes — hidden, spiritual foes — which we are powerless to conquer in our own unaided strength and wisdom. The evil lusts and passions of our own hearts, and the trials and difficulties and temptations of the world, these are the foes that lie "like grasshoppers for multitude" encamped around our daily life, and if we would conquer them we must fight with the weapons that God has given us, and not be faint-hearted; for we shall overcome, not of ourselves, but by the help and the guidance of Him "who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." Nay more, if we would conquer we must surely do so with those same three weapons which Gideon put into the hands of his three hundred warriors — the lamp, and the pitcher, and the trumpet.

1. God commits to each of us a lamp or torch, which is to be trimmed and kept bright through life. Every man has his own torch; his own peculiar powers of mind and body; his own individual character; his own special post in life, and opportunities of influencing others for good or for evil. The work we do and the example we show — this, in short, is the torch we hold as trust from God, who says to each of us, as He said to the Jews of old, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

2. But then, in the second place, we learn that our lamps, like those of Gideon's band, must not be displayed until the proper moment arrives for them to be seen. For awhile they must be concealed, as it were, within empty pitchers. Our characters are not formed, we are not fitted for the work of life, in a moment. Hence those years of school discipline through which we have all passed. This season of preparatory culture and seclusion is as necessary for us men as it was for "the Son of Man," who, for thirty years, during which He prepared Himself for His short ministry, lived a life of retirement and subjection at Nazareth. In His career on earth there was no precocious self-assertion, no premature display. But the time comes when we are each summoned to leave the life of preparation and enter upon our life of work in the world, and then, if we be true servants of God, and neither cowards nor slaves to self, we shall be ready to cast aside the empty pitcher, and hold up before men's eyes a well-trimmed lamp.

3. And then, lastly, there are the trumpets. Just as the torch means man's work and knowledge and character, and the pitcher represents the method by which he receives and matures his light until the hour comes for revealing it, so the trumpet typifies the sound of the human voice, the power with which, by precept and exhortation, by uttered principle and uncompromising assertion of truth, we carry the gospel of Christ into the world. There are so many time-servers amongst men, who will not dare to confess what they believe to be true and know to be right, if it happens to conflict with the popular notions of society. They reserve their principles for congenial company, where they will be safe from contradiction, and they go about the world agreeing, like sycophants, with anything and everybody. But let such men remember that the world owes its highest good to those who have had the courage of their convictions. They are the messengers of truth and of God. "Their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words unto the ends of the earth." We have thus arrived at the full meaning of that battle-cry, "The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon." It is the motto of our Christian profession. It expresses in a symbol the bloodless victory of the Christian life, through Christ our Lord: the victory which is won with no earthly weapon, but with the "sword of the Spirit."

(H. E. J. Bevan, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: It was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and its interpretation, that he worshiped; and he returned into the camp of Israel, and said, "Arise; for Yahweh has delivered the army of Midian into your hand!"

Gideon's Victory
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