Then Gideon and his three hundred men came to the Jordan and crossed it, exhausted yet still in pursuit.
forced march. Humanly speaking, it was the real battle. The grandest qualities were called forth, and the greatest results secured. A picture of the Christian life.
I. GOD OFTEN SUFFERS HIS SERVANTS TO ENDURE HARDSHIP IN DOING HIS WILL.
II. THOSE WHO ARE DOING IMPORTANT SERVICE UNDER CIRCUMSTANCES OF HARDSHIP OUGHT TO BE ENCOURAGED AND SUPPORTED.
III. DUTY AND THE HIGH CALLING OF CHRISTIANS OUGHT TO TRIUMPH OVER WEAKNESS, HARDSHIP, AND OPPOSITION.
IV. THE GREATEST RESULTS OFTEN DEPEND UPON PERSISTENCY EVEN AMIDST DISADVANTAGES. - M.
I. ACCOUNT FOR THE EXHAUSTION.
I. THE FACTS.
Faint, yet pursuing.I. THE ARMY. Merely three hundred devoted warriors, under command of a trusted leader. But no unreliable material in their midst. Each true as steel.
1. The leader was a man thoroughly equipped for his work. Many good causes have languished or been lost for want of an efficient chief. Gideon had boldness to strike, and enthusiasm to follow up. Also a heart thoroughly loyal to God.
2. The men composing this army were specially chosen. They were men who knew no fear in the hour of danger nor alarm at the force of the foe.
3. The men composing this army were devoted to their work. Not to be caught unawares: ever on the alert for the foe.
II. THE VICTORY.
1. Divine help. The history of battlefields tells us that the victorious armies have not always been the best equipped; that Providence is not always on the side of the strongest artillery. There is a moral influence at work in all struggles for the right which will make itself felt, whatever be the opposing odds. The greatest exploits are sometimes achieved by the feeblest instrumentality. It is not so much mechanical organisation we want — it is life.
2. Human instrumentality. To those who go out at God's command the way is wonderfully opened up, the insurmountable barriers vanish. In every Christian enterprise the work is virtually done when the first advance is made in God's name.
III. THE PURSUIT: "Faint, yet pursuing." We cannot read this without feeling rebuked for half-heartedness in our Christian work. Many a time we seem to have made inroads on Satan's dominion, souls seem to have been rescued from the oppressor, but the advantage thus gained was not followed up; the old foe, driven out only for a time, returned, and the last state became worse than the first. And what is the reason? Why do we stop short of full success? Because we give way to weariness. We are like Gideon's men in being faint; but we fail to imitate them in pursuing.
(D. Merson, B. D.)
1. Who and what were they who were "faint, yet pursuing"? The victorious three hundred, who had previously cried to the Lord. Victorious by Divine power, through faith, which produced works; they went forth, trusting in the Lord. Gideon's plan, like Abraham's, an instance of inspired judgment and energy, of Divine influence, not superseding, but exalting and invigorating, the natural faculties; not excluding, but producing consummate generalship.
2. The victors — weak in themselves — felt their bodily wants and infirmities.
II. PRINCIPLES which the facts exemplify.
1. The preceding events in the context show the connection of sin and misery; the intention of Divine chastisements; the necessity and benefit of repentance; the required instrumentality of faith and obedience; God's care to exclude boasting.
2. The text, as a comment on the events, suggests that all God's people indeed are called to be conquerors like Gideon and his men — on the same principles.
3. Like Gideon and his men, they are called, and able, notwithstanding their weakness, to be still pursuing.
4. While thus pursuing, they are liable to be tried like Gideon and his men, with foolish, jealous, testy brethren, like the Ephraimites; to be disappointed of expected help by selfish or churlish brethren — as at Succoth and Penuel.
5. In the case of the Christian's spiritual warfare, as in Gideon's case, there is a disproportion of forces. Enemies — numerous, insolent, oppressive. Friends — some faint-hearted, some foolish, some selfish and churlish. The faithful weak and faint in themselves. But God is among His people — their sufficiency is of Him.
6. Not only converted individuals, but all true Churches, exemplify the same principles.
1. The greatness of the work.
2. The fewness of the hands.
3. The lack of material supplies.
4. The want of sympathy.
II. ACCOUNT FOR THE PERSEVERANCE.
1. Because he takes the past as a pledge for the future.
2. He considers that things half-done are not well done.
3. He accounts Him faithful who had promised.
4. He has a great work in hand.
5. He looks onward.Fainting will give place to renewal of strength. Pursuit leads to complete victory.
(W. Burrows, B. A.)
II. FAINTNESS COMES TO THE BODY BY RAPID MOVEMENT. A man shall walk leisurely over some miles of road or up the slope of a mountain and be quite cool and comparatively fresh, while a racer shall bound away over the same distance, and at the end be panting with exhaustion. It is so in this respect also with the soul. If a man will contend with all his spiritual energy — with aspiring affections, and in the full fervours of a living will, against God's kingdom of heaven, against moral perfection; if he will match himself for that attainment, run in that race, climb that awful steep, he need not be surprised if now and again he is fain to pause and cry with one who ran eagerly long ago, "I have seen an end of all perfection, but Thy commandment is exceeding broad." All earnest natures tend to go by rapid movements, and are in consequence subject to sudden exhaustion. The fainting is the natural fruit of the effort. Intellectual difficulties will not melt away. Moral mysteries will not disappear. The law of sin in the members will not die. The law of the spirit of life will not grow so fast, will not bloom so fair, as was hoped; and the panting, eager spirit, after many ineffectual endeavours, is sometimes almost benighted with the gloom of such disappointments, and sinks down fainting, almost ceasing to pursue. There is nothing very alarming in this weariness. It will soon pass away. You have not lost your ideal, nor your love for it, nor your purpose to realise it, nor that Divine hope which kindles itself always by the side of a holy purpose, nor that prophetic faith which counts the thing that is not yet as though it were. And if you have lost none of these things, you have lost no real strength. It will recover and revive ere long, and bear you on again to moral victory.
III. FAINTNESS COMES TO THE BODY BY THE DIFFICULTY OF THE GROUND THAT HAS BEEN TRODDEN, OR OF THE WORK THAT HAS BEEN DONE. A mile through tangled thickets or thorny brakes, over rough rocks or in sinking sand, may be more exhausting than seven or ten over the smooth greensward or along the level way. Some Christians go to heaven by the way of the plain and some by the mountain roads. Who can tell why one is sent by the mountain and another by the plain? why one smiles and sings all the way while another smiles and weeps?
IV. FAINTNESS COMES TO THE BODY THROUGH LACK OF SUSTENANCE. The soul, like the body, will faint if it is famished.
V. FAINTNESS MAY COME TO THE BODY BY SICKNESS, BY DISEASE. If there be an overtasking of the physical energies, or an exposure to malign influences, weakness will certainly creep in. If a man works in an unwholesome place, if he breathes in tainted, poisoned air, the whole head will soon be sick, the whole heart faint. It is even so with the soul. It sickens and grows faint when in any way, in any place, it inhales the poison of sin.
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)I. THE CHRISTIAN IS APT TO FAINT IN THE TIME OF TEMPTATION, WHEN SIN ASSAILS AND TROUBLES HIM.
II. The Christian is apt to faint IN TIME OF AFFLICTION. Call faith to your help; trust God's goodness, power, and love.
III. The Christian is apt to faint IN HIS ENDEAVOURS TO DO GOOD.
IV. The Christian is apt to faint IN PRAYER, whether praying for himself or for others.
(E. Blencowe, M. A.)I. THE DIFFICULTIES AND HARDSHIPS OF THE CHRISTIAN'S WAY SOMETIMES MAKE HIM FAINT.
1. He is buffeted by the world.
2. He meets also with many a source of trouble in himself.
3. He is tempted by Satan. He is often disappointed of his hopes and expectations.
II. THOUGH THE DIFFICULTIES AND TRIALS OF HIS WAY MAKE THE CHRISTIAN FAINT, YET THE PRINCIPLE OF FAITH STILL KEEPS HIM PURSUING.
1. A strong sense of duty is impressed upon his thoughts, and impels him still to hold on his way.
2. A fear of consequences also operates. Should the Christian give up his pursuit, what will ensue? Will he thereby become happier than he is now? Will all his trials cease? He feels that greater apprehensions will then arise.
(R. Maguire, M. A.)
(William Miller.)ennui, that "awful yawn which sleep cannot dispel," and is generally sick of himself through very selfishness. But though faint and weary, he pursues his course still. Is there on earth a more pitiable sight than that of a man who has grown to hate some sinful indulgence which he continues to pursue merely from force of habit? But we desire to use the motto for our encouragement. None of us are overcoming sin fast enough, but we must never despair. Let us take for our motto, "Faint, yet pursuing." It is only pride that tells us that we are not making the progress we ought to make. And if we do not see results, why then it is braver to continue the struggle when the tide of war is against us than to be only able to fight when shouts of triumph are in our ears. Oh, that it might be said of us in our warfare against evil passions and desires, what was said by a historian of a celebrated Cameronian regiment —"They prayed as they fought, and fought as they prayed; they might be slain, never conquered; they were ready whenever their duty or their religion called them, with undaunted spirit and with great vivacity of mind, to encounter hardships, attempt great enterprises, despise dangers, and bravely rush to death or victory." Many people are faint who would not be if they would only accept the invitation of their heavenly Father, and cast all their anxiety upon Him. The prophet Joel tells the weak to say, "I am strong"; and it was St. Paul's experience that when he was weak then he was strong. Our faintness and weakness, instead of hindering us from pursuing the right way, may help us to do so. There is an old story in Greek annals of a soldier under Antigonus, who had a disease, an extremely painful one, likely to bring him soon to the grave. Always first in the charge was this soldier, rushing into the hottest part of the fray. His pain prompted him to fight, that he might forget it; and he feared not death, because he knew that in any case he had not long to live. Antigonus, who greatly admired the valour of his soldier, discovering his malady, had him cured by one of the most eminent physicians of the day; but from that moment the warrior was absent from the front of the battle. He now sought his ease; for, as he remarked to his companions, he had something worth living for — health, home, and other comforts. Might not our faintness, weakness, and disappointments, like this soldier's disease, stimulate to distinguished service? We must remember that it is not the strong and the successful, but the weary and the heavy laden, who are especially invited by Christ.
(E. J. Hardy, M. A.)
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