And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said to him, Arise, get you down to the host; for I have delivered it into your hand.…
I. THE STRIKING PROVIDENCE which must have greatly refreshed Gideon. It may appear to be a little thing; but an occurrence is none the less wonderful because it appears to be insignificant. God is as Divine in the small as in the stupendous, as glorious in the dream of a soldier as in the flight of a seraph.
1. Now observe, first, the providence of God that this man should have dreamed just then, and that he should have dreamed that particular dream. Dreamland is chaos, but the hand of the God of order is here. God is not asleep when we are asleep; God is not dreaming when we are.
2. Further, I cannot but admire that this man should be moved to tell his dream to his fellow. It is not everybody that tells his dream at night; he usually waits till the morning. God ruleth men's idle tongues as well as their dreaming brains, and He can make a talkative soldier in the camp say just as much and just as little as will subserve the purposes of wisdom.
3. It is remarkable that the man should tell his dream just when Gideon and Phurah had come near. God has so arranged the whole history of men, and angels, and the regions of the dead, that each event occurs at the right moment so as to effect another event, and that other event brings forth a third, and all things work together for good. O child of God, when you are troubled it is because you fancy that you are alone; but you are not alone; the Eternal Worker is with you. Oh, for a little heavenly eyesalve to touch our eyes that we may perceive the presence of the Lord in all things. The stars in their courses are fighting for the cause of God. Our allies are everywhere. God will summon them at the right moment.
II. THE COMFORTABLE TRIFLE which Gideon had thus met with. It was a dream, and therefore a trifle, and yet he took comfort from it. We are all the creatures of sentiment as well as of reason, and hence we are often strongly affected by little things. Gideon is cheered by a dream of a barley cake. When Robert Bruce had been frequently beaten in battle, he despaired of winning the crown of Scotland; but when he lay hidden in the loft among the hay and straw, he saw a spider trying to complete her web after he had broken the thread many times. As he saw the insect begin again, and yet again, until she had completed her net for the taking of her prey, he said to himself, "If this spider perseveres and conquers, so will I persevere and succeed." There might not be any real connection between a spider and an aspirant to a throne, but the brave heart made a connection, and thereby the man was cheered. If you and I will but look about us, although the adversaries of God are as many as grasshoppers, yet we shall find consolation. I hear the birds sing, "Be of good cheer," and the leafless trees bid us trust in God and live on, though all visible signs of life be withered. But what a pity it is that we should need such little bits of things to cheer us up, when we have matters of far surer import to make us glad! Gideon had already received, by God's own angel, the word, "Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man." Was not this enough for him?
III. THE CHEERING DISCOVERY. Gideon had noticed a striking providence, he had received a comfortable trifle, but he also made a very cheering discovery; which discovery was, that the enemy dreamed of disaster. You and I sometimes think about the hosts of evil, and we fear we shall never overcome them, because they are so strong and so secure. Hearken: we over-estimate them. The powers of darkness are not so strong as they seem to be. The subtlest infidels and heretics are only men. What is more, they are bad men; and bad men at bottom are weak men. It is natural to men to fear, and doubly natural to bad men.
IV. THE DREAM ITSELF AND ITS INTERPRETATION. The Midianite in his dream saw a barley cake. Barley cakes were not much valued as food in those days, any more than now. People ate barley when they could not get wheat, but they would need to be driven to such food by poverty or famine. Barley-meal was rather food for dogs or cattle than for men; and therefore the barley cake would be the emblem of a thing despised. A barley cake was generally made upon the hearth. A hole was made in the ground, and paved with stones; in this a fire was made, and when the stones were hot a thin layer of barley-meal was laid upon them, covered over with the ashes, and thus quickly and roughly baked. The cake itself was a mere biscuit. It may have been a long piece of thin crust, and it was seen in the dream moving onward and waving in the air something like a sword. It came rolling and waving down the hill till it came crash against the pavilion of the prince of Midian, and turned the tent completely over, so that it lay in ruins.
1. Now, what we have to learn from it is just this, God can work by any means. He can never be short of instruments. Gideon, who threshes corn to-day, will thresh the Lord's enemies to-morrow. Preachers of the Word are being trained everywhere.
2. God can work by the feeblest means. He can use a cake which a child can crumble to smite Midian, and subdue its terrible power. I have heard that a tallow candle fired from a rifle will go through a door: the penetrating power is not in the candle, but in the force impelling it. So in this case it was not the barley biscuit, but the almighty impulse which urged it forward, and made it upset the pavilion. We are nothing; but God with us is everything. "He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might He increaseth strength."
3. Note, next, God uses unexpected means. If I wanted to upset a tent I certainly should not try to overturn it by a barley cake. If I had to cannonade an encampment I should not bombard it with biscuits. Yet how wonderfully God hath wrought by the very persons whom we should have passed over without a thought! O Paganism, thy gigantic force and energy, with Caesar at their head, shall be vanquished by fishermen from the sea of Galilee! God willed it so, and so it was done.
4. But the dream hath more in it than this. God useth despised means. This man Gideon is likened unto a cake, and then only to a barley cake; but the Lord styles him "a mighty man of valour." God loves to take men whom others despise, and use them for His glorious ends.
5. But, then, God ever uses effectual means. Even if He works by barley-cakes, He makes a clean overthrow of His enemy. A cannon-ball could not have done its work better than did this barley cake. Wherefore, be not afraid, ye servants of God, but commit yourselves into the hands of Him who, out of weakness, can bring forth strength. Do you not think that this smiting of the tent of Midian by the barley cake, and afterwards the actual overthrow of the Midianite hordes by the breaking of the pitchers, the blazing of the torches, and the blowing of the trumpets, all tends to comfort us as to those powers of evil which now cover the world? When we are thinned out, and made to see how few we are, we shall be hurled upon the foe with a power not our own. Were things worse than they are, we should still cry, "The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon!" and stand each man in his place till the Lord appeared in strength. Another lesson would I draw from the text as to our inward conflicts. You are feeling in your heart the great power of sin. The Midianites are encamped in your soil; in the little valley of Esdrelon which lies within your bosom there are countless evils, and these, like the locusts, eat up every growing thing, and cause comfort, strength, and joy to cease from your experience. You sigh because of these invaders. I counsel you to try what faith can do. This seems a very poor means of getting the victory, as poor as the barley cake baked on the coals; but God has chosen it, and He will bless it, and it will overthrow the throne of Satan within your heart, and work in you holiness and peace. Once again, still in the same vein, let us try continually the power of prayer for the success of the gospel, and the winning of men's souls. Prayer will do anything — will do everything. It fills the valleys and levels the mountains. By its power men are raised from the door of hell to the gate of heaven.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.