And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained to Joash the Abiezrite…
I. The first thing is THE GREAT DISCOVERY which this man has made, and in the rapture of which he named his altar — THAT THE SIGHT OF GOD IS NOT DEATH, BUT LIFE AND PEACE. Can you write upon the memorial of your experiences — "The Lord is my peace"? Have you passed from hearsay into personal contact? Can you say, "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth Thee"? Do you know the further experience expressed in the subsequent words of the same quotation — "Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes"? And have you passed out of that stormy ocean of terror and self-condemnation into the quiet haven of trust in Him in whom we have peace with God, where your little boat lies quiet, moored for ever to the Rock of Ages, to Jehovah, who is Peace?
II. We may look upon this inscription as suggesting the thought THAT GOD'S PEACE IS THE BEST PREPARATION FOR, AND MAY BE EXPERIENCED IN THE MIDST OF, THE INTENSEST CONFLICT. In the inmost keep of the castle, though the storm of war may be breaking against the walls, there will be a quiet chamber where no noise of the archers can penetrate, and the shouts of the fight are never heard. Let us seek to live in the secret place of the Most High; and in still communion with Him keep our inmost souls in quiet, while we bravely front difficulties and enemies. You are to be God's warriors; see to it that on every battlefield there stands the altar "Jehovah-shalom."
III. We may say that that altar, with its significant inscription, EXPRESSED THE AIM OF THE CONFLICT AND THE HOPE WHICH SUSTAINS IN THE FIGHT. The true tranquillity of the blessed life is the prize of conflict. David, "the man of war from his youth," prepares the throne for Solomon, in whose reign no alarms of war are heard. If you would enter into peace you must fight your way to it, and every step of the road must be a battle. The land of peace is won by the good fight of faith. But Gideon's altar not only expressed his purpose in his taking up arms, but his confidence of accomplishing it, based upon the assurance that the Lord would give peace. It was a trophy erected before the fight, and built, not by arrogant presumption or frivolous under-estimate of the enemy's strength, but by humble reliance on the power of that Lord who had promised His presence and assured triumph. So the hope that named this altar was the hope that war meant victory, and that victory would bring peace. That hope should animate every Christian soldier. Across the dust of the conflict the fair vision of unbroken and eternal peace should gleam before each of us, and we should renew fainting strength and revive drooping courage by many a wistful gaze. We may realise that hope in large measure here. But its fulfilment is reserved for the land of peace which we enter by the last conflict with the last enemy. Every Christian man's gravestone is an altar on which is written "Our God is peace," in token that the warrior has passed into the land where violence shall no more he heard, wasting nor destruction within its borders, but all shall be deep repose, and the unarmed, because unattacked, peace of tranquil communion with, and likeness to, Jehovah our peace.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
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.