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the staff that was in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock and consumed them, while at the same time, and not improbably in the flame which he had himself kindled, he vanished out of sight. A miracle so clear and wonderful was the seal of Gideon's faith. He had no doubt or hesitancy left. Indeed, a sudden consternation seems to have overwhelmed him, lest having been admitted to the sight of this glorious manifestation of Jehovah, death must be the consequence; a sentiment which was common at the time, and which Jacob had at Penuel, when he exclaimed that he had seen God, and yet his life was preserved. “Alas,” cried Gideon, “O Lord God! for because I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face.” The voice of Jehovah allayed his fears. “Peace be unto thee; fear not : thou shalt not die.” Calmed and encouraged, Gideon then erected there an altar unto the Lord, as a memorial of what had happened, and called it Jehovahshalom, which signifies the Lord, peace. He was now fitted, by the confirmation of his faith, and the assurance that Jehovah would be with him, for the discharge of a difficult and dangerous duty. Idolatry prevailed among his townsmen and kinsfolks, and even in his father’s house. The altar of the idol whom they worshiped must be destroyed, and that of the true God erected, and Gideon must perform the work as preparatory to his greater one of becoming the deliverer of his countrymen. He received the divine direction to this effect, and the ensuing night, because he would thus be less exposed to interruption by the assaults of those who would be ready to oppose him, he proceeded to obey it. He took ten of his servants, men who, like himself, as we have reason to believe, had not “bowed the knee to Baal,” and demolished the altar of that idol, which belonged to his father, and on which, in common with many others, the latter had been in the practice of offering up sacrifices. He cut down the grove, too, that surrounded it, and with the wood built an altar on the top of the rock where the angel disappeared from his sight, and offered upon it, in sacrifice, a young bullock of his father's, as he had been expressly ordered to do. It was seven years old; and some suppose that it had been kept till that time, and fattened for an oblation to Baal. The early dawn revealed the work of destruction, and the sacrifice of the favorite bullock on the newly erected altar. Immediate and eager search was made for the perpetrator of what was considered such an outrage. On ascertaining that it was Gideon, the men of Ophrah demanded of his father Joash, that he should be given up to them, that he might be put to death. This was a daring requisition for the life of one who had maintained his allegiance to Jehovah, by those who had themselves committed a capital offence in disobeying his commands. It shows the height of impiety to which they had arrived, and the spirit of persecution which the devotees of a false and degrading idolatry could manifest towards him who would restore the worship of the true God. Joash resisted the demand, and strange as it may seem, defended the conduct of his son. He had unquestionably been a follower of Baal. But now a sudden change came over him. The bold step of Gideon may have brought him to reflection. The thought of giving up his son to death under such circumstances, may have awakened his parental feelings and his conscience at the same time. Or, what is not at all improbable, Gideon may have told him of the glorious vision which he saw, and of the divine communication, and that in obedience to it, he did that which thus exposed him to the fury of those who sought his life. “Will ye plead for Baal?” said Joash to his townsmen; “will ye save him 1 he that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet morning: if he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar.” He should be able to avenge his own wrongs. Whosoever shall attempt to do it for him, shall suffer the very punishment which ye seek to inflict upon my son. This firm stand, on the part of Joash, seems to have checked at once the attempts against Gideon, and we are not told of their being again made. He received from his father, at that time, the additional name of Jerubbaal, the meaning of which is, Let Baal contend ; as if to defy Baal and his followers to carry on a contest with Gideon and those who served the true God. Every such contest must finally terminate in favor of those who are on the Lord's side. For he is with them, and will sustain them while engaged in maintaining his own cause. Wicked men and the powers of darkness may have the ascendency for a season. God may permit this for wise, though to us mysterious reasons. They may seem to be triumphant. But their triumph is short. We often see this to be the case, even in the course of the few years which we ourselves live. Their triumph, too, is always only an apparent one. They may have some power; but it is only a power, and that temporary and subordinate to the designs and providence of God, over a few of the concerns of this world. They cannot essentially retard the progress of Christ's kingdom. Their opposition shall only give new impulses to the movements of this kingdom by calling forth its re-acting energy. They may persecute and injure the friends of God in some of their temporal affairs. They may harm their bodies, and take their lives, but they cannot touch their souls. Their eternal interests are secure. The church of the Redeemer is safe. He shall reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet. And his followers shall reign with him; by his grace coming off conquerors over their own sins, and rejoicing with him in his final and glorious triumph.
My young friend, are you, like Gideon, on the Lord's side, ready to obey his will, whatever man may do unto you ?
CHA PTE R XI.
Cideon's army reduced to three hundred. He is encouraged by the dream of the Midianite.
It is not improbable that the Midianites and their allies, learning what Gideon had done at