"The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon."
Gideon ordered his men to do two things: covering up a torch in an earthen pitcher, he bade them, at an appointed signal, break the pitcher and let the light shine, and then sound with the trumpet, crying, "The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon! the sword of the Lord, and of Gideon!" This is precisely what all Christians must do. First, you must shine; break the pitcher which conceals your light; throw aside the bushel which has been hiding your candle, and shine. Let your light shine before men; let your good works be such, that when men look upon you, they shall know that you have been with Jesus. Then there must be the sound, the blowing of the trumpet. There must be active exertions for the ingathering of sinners by proclaiming Christ crucified. Take the gospel to them; carry it to their door; put it in their way; do not suffer them to escape it; blow the trumpet right against their ears. Remember that the true war-cry of the Church is Gideon's watchword, "The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon!" God must do it, it is his own work. But we are not to be idle; instrumentality is to be used--"The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon!" If we only cry, "The sword of the Lord!" we shall be guilty of an idle presumption; and if we shout, "The sword of Gideon!" alone, we shall manifest idolatrous reliance on an arm of flesh: we must blend the two in practical harmony, "The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon!" We can do nothing of ourselves, but we can do everything by the help of our God; let us, therefore, in his name determine to go out personally and serve with our flaming torch of holy example, and with our trumpet tones of earnest declaration and testimony, and God shall be with us, and Midian shall be put to confusion, and the Lord of hosts shall reign forever and ever.
"In the evening withhold not thy hand."
In the evening of the day opportunities are plentiful: men return from their labour, and the zealous soul-winner finds time to tell abroad the love of Jesus. Have I no evening work for Jesus? If I have not, let me no longer withhold my hand from a service which requires abundant labour. Sinners are perishing for lack of knowledge; he who loiters may find his skirts crimson with the blood of souls. Jesus gave both his hands to the nails, how can I keep back one of mine from his blessed work? Night and day he toiled and prayed for me, how can I give a single hour to the pampering of my flesh with luxurious ease? Up, idle heart; stretch out thy hand to work, or uplift it to pray; heaven and hell are in earnest, let me be so, and this evening sow good seed for the Lord my God.
The evening of life has also its calls. Life is so short that a morning of manhood's vigour, and an evening of decay, make the whole of it. To some it seems long, but a four-pence is a great sum of money to a poor man. Life is so brief that no man can afford to lose a day. It has been well said that if a great king should bring us a great heap of gold, and bid us take as much as we could count in a day, we should make a long day of it; we should begin early in the morning, and in the evening we should not withhold our hand; but to win souls is far nobler work, how is it that we so soon withdraw from it? Some are spared to a long evening of green old age; if such be my case, let me use such talents as I still retain, and to the last hour serve my blessed and faithful Lord. By his grace I will die in harness, and lay down my charge only when I lay down my body. Age may instruct the young, cheer the faint, and encourage the desponding; if eventide has less of vigorous heat, it should have more of calm wisdom, therefore in the evening I will not withhold my hand.
Today's reading: Ecclesiastes 4-6, 2 Corinthians 12 (NIV)View today's reading on Bible Gateway
Today's Old Testament reading: Ecclesiastes 4-6
Oppression, Toil, Friendlessness
1 Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun:
I saw the tears of the oppressed—
and they have no comforter;
power was on the side of their oppressors—
and they have no comforter.
2 And I declared that the dead,
who had already died,
are happier than the living,
who are still alive.
3 But better than both
is the one who has never been born,
who has not seen the evil
that is done under the sun.
4 And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind....
Today's New Testament reading: 2 Corinthians 12
Paul’s Vision and His Thorn
1 I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3 And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4 was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. 5 I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. 6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, 7 or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong....
[Jĕph'thah,Jĕph'tha ē] - he doth openor set free. A Gileadite, illegitimate child expelled by his brother from the paternal abode. He became a Judge in Israel and delivered the people from the Ammonites. He judged Israel for six years (Judg. 11; Heb. 11:32).
The Man Who Made a Vow
While Jephthah is described as a "mighty man of valour" and one upon whom "the Spirit of the Lord" descended, he is conspicuous as a man who in all sincerity made a rash vow. He vowed a vow to be fulfilled if the Lord would deliver the Ammonites to him. As a thanksgiving to God, he said he would offer up whatever came out of his house at his return from battle. Jephthah defeated the Ammonites, and on his return, his daughter, an only child, came out to meet him. He told her of his vow and declared he could not go back upon his word. The daughter begged for two months'respite in order to go away and bewail her virginity. On her return, her father fulfilled the vow.
In those twilight, uncivilized times there was the practice of the sacrifice of human beings at times of special stress, but whether Jephthah offered up his daughter as a human sacrifice or surrendered her to perpetual virginity in fulfillment of his vow may be debatable. We do know that it was the custom for the daughters of Israel to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite for four days every year. And we can imagine how they would return softened, sobered and sanctified as the result of their act of remembrance.
For the preacher these aspects can be developed: Jephthah was an outcast (Judg. 11:1, 2 ); rose to leadership (Judg. 11:4-10); was moved by the Spirit (Judg. 11:29); made a rash vow (Judg. 11:30, 31); saved Israel from his foes (Judg. 11:33); kept his vow (Judg. 11:39).
WHAT FREQUENCY ARE YOU TUNED INTO?
Revelation is God himself speaking loudly and clearly about who he is and how he views the world; it is our responsibility to listen clearly. He speaks because he wants to be known. Imagine that–God wants to be known! A god who is just an energy force in the universe has no such desire–in fact, has no desire at all; an impersonal deity is uninteresting in the extreme because it is uninterested. If there were many gods, maybe a million or more, there’s not much of a chance one god would have the desire to be known by the human race. And even if he or she or it did, would we really care?
But a personal and infinite God knows and relates, and so God speaks–and he speaks clearly. We need to make sure we are listening, not as astronomers do with the massive radio telescope dishes that sweep the sky listening for a faint pulse in the universe. If those scientists did hear the faintest sign that there was some intelligent life out in space, it would be revolutionary. Even finding a fossil on Mars, with no intelligence, no knowledge, and no voice, would generate massive enthusiasm. It would be deemed another Copernican revolution. So when believers appear to be stunned with delight that a message has come from the greatest being in the universe–not one message, but thousands of messages–nobody should be surprised that they become fanatically spiritual. What else is the appropriate reaction to beholding what God himself slowly and deliberately uncovers?
Skeptics think that if there is a God, then he must be deaf and mute, because God is not broadcasting on the frequency they are tuned into. But who should determine the frequency, the greater being or the lesser? Should we really make the main issue why God chose one frequency over another, instead of just responding awestruck by the fact that messages from the Creator are coming through? Because of who God is, and because God knows who we are, he chooses the methods by which he speaks to us.
The biblical view is that God has spoken through chosen representatives, prophets and apostles, and preeminently, in his Son, Jesus Christ. These are God’s chosen frequencies for broadcasting his truth. This is revelation, and it is a different manner of speaking than any we are used to.
Excerpt from Putting the Pieces Back Together: How Real Life and Real Faith Connect. Complimentary DVDavailable now.
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