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prevailed among the victims of their oppression and plunder. At length, while enduring such afflictions, the Israelites saw the hand of an offended God in them, and once more cried unto him for deliverance. He did not turn a deaf ear to their supplications. He was again merciful. But he first reproved them for their iniquities by a prophet whom he sent, to remind them of all that he had done for their nation; of the relation in which he stood to them as their covenantLord ; of the assurances that he had given them of protection if they continued obedient; and of their great and aggravated guilt in sinning against him. This message was doubtless intended to deepen their repentance; to lead them to feel that what they had endured was but the just punishment of their offences; and to prepare them the more fully to appreciate, and be grateful for the deliverance which was soon to follow.
About this time, there came an angel of the Lord, probably the Son of God himself, the divine Word, who afterwards appeared in our world in the person of Jesus Christ,-and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah. This was a city in the tribe of Manasseh, a little west of the river Jordan, and about sixteen miles north of Jericho. It was the inheritance of Joash, one of the descendants of Abiezer.
When this heavenly messenger took his seat Joshua & Judges. 13
beneath the oak, GIDEON, the son of Joash, was not far distant, threshing wheat in, or near a wine-press. He was doing it in a small quantity, and in an unusual place, to elude if possible the notice of the Midianites, but in case they should approach, to gather it up quickly, and flee with it to some place of safety. He was filled with astonishment as the glorious vision met his eye, and the angel thus addressed him : “The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor.” The salutation was one of deep import, implying the favor of God in no common degree, and for some great purpose. It was an assurance of Gideon’s possessing, in a peculiar manner, the divine presence, protection, and blessing. He replied, “O my Lord, if the Lord be with us,”—if I and my people enjoy this distinguished privilege, “why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt t” Cannot the same power which did those wonderful things for our nation then, do as much for us now 4 “But now the Lord hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” There was too much despondency, and a weakness of faith in this reply. But the Lord bore with it. Shining forth in the visible manifestation of his glory, he benignantly said, “Go in this thy might,”—the might of Jehovah, who is, and will be with thee,_" and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee!” “O my Lord,” answered the still distrustful Gideon, " wherewith shall I save Israel 1 Behold my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house.” "Surely I will be with thee,” was the voice of encouragement which again met his ear, “ and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man” as easily as if thou hadst but one man to contend with. We may wonder why Gideon did not at once feel an unwavering confidence in the declarations of the Almighty, and in the promise of the divine strength which would be afforded him.—But he had been crushed by the oppressor. He had felt, with his countrymen around him, as if any struggle to recover their freedom and security was in vain. The numbers and the might of their enemies filled him with fear and hopelessness. He could hardly believe it possible that God, who had so long abandoned them, would interpose for their rescue, and that, too, through his feeble instrumentality. But no circumstances however discouraging, no means however humble, which may be employed by the Almighty for the accomplishment of his purposes, should lead us to distrust his declarations. His promises shall never fail. Let us only enjoy satisfactory evidence that we have a right to apply them to ourselves, by ascertaining that we are the true disciples of his Son, and we should never yield to doubt, to fear, or to despondency. If the Lord is with us, we have nothing to fear. Our faith should always be ready to say, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
Gideon's faith confirmed by miracles. He throws down the altar of Baal.
Faith rests on evidence, and is strong in proportion to the clearness and force of that evidence. Gideon desired to be fully assured that what he saw and heard was not an illusion of his senses, that it was, indeed, a divine messenger who held this intercourse with him. “If now,” said he, addressing the glorious form that was before him, “If now I have found grace in thy sight, then show me a sign that thou talkest with me. Depart not hence, I pray thee, until I come unto thee, and bring forth my present, and set it before thee.” On the angel’s replying that he would remain, Gideon went and cooked a kid, and unleavened cakes of flour; and putting the flesh in a basket, and the broth in a pot, brought them to him under the oak. Some suppose that this was done by Gideon merely to provide a hospitable meal, according to the custom of the country, for the refreshment of a stranger. Others consider it an oblation, or thank-offering to the angel himself, whom Gideon regarded as the manifestation of Jehovah. This seems altogether the more probable, as he made no allusion, in proposing to bring it, to its being presented as food to be eaten, which it will be recollected Abraham did when he entertained his heavenly guests in the plains of Mamre. The Hebrew word, too, which is rendered "present,” as referring to what Gideon was to bring forth to the angel, is the same that is used to denote the meat-offering, (or rather meal-offering,) which, by the Mosaic law, was prescribed as a religious oblation to the Lord. Gideon, on presenting his offering, was directed to take the flesh and the unleavened cakes and lay them upon a rock which was near the oak, and to pour out the broth upon it. This being done, the angel of the Lord put forth the end of