“So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came unto the outside of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch; and they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers that were in their hands. And the three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal: and they cried, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon,” Judges 7:19-20.
The reason why every man who lapped water with his tongue, as a dog laps, verse 5, were chosen by the Lord as those by whom He would deliver Israel under Gideon’s leadership, is very simple to understand when we consider their posture and that of the others who were rejected. The majority of those who rallied to Gideon’s call drank in a manner described in verse 5. They boweth down upon their knees to drink.
The majority bowed right down with their mouth to the water. In that position, they displayed that their sole intent at that moment was to satisfy their thirst. On the other hand the three hundred scooped up water in their hand and “putting their hand to their mouth”, drank.
The latter group remained on watch, conscious of the nearness of the enemy while the larger group ignored the enemy and gave themselves to drinking. It was this distinction that decided the Lord’s choice. God wants those who are totally occupied with the purpose for which we have been called by Him. There is only a minority of the ‘Israelites’ who answered the call, who have this character and it is them the Lord uses in the battle!
What an honour was bestowed upon these three hundred! Doubtless, there would have been those who felt they demeaned themselves by adopting the posture of a dog, a creature deemed unclean in Israel. Likewise those who have the spirit of the three hundred are ‘looked down’ on today, indeed have alway been considered so! You cannot stand for Christ without “bearing His reproach”, Hebrews 13:13. Such has been the view taken by the world of the Saviour and His chiefest servants. As Paul said of himself and all of his spirit: “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day,” 1 Corinthians 4:10-13.
Yes, others joined in when the final rout of the Midianites and their allies took place, but the three hundred had the eternal honour of being to the fore in the great victory.
In the verses we wish to consider, please note these simple observations.
I. THE STATE OF THE ENEMY ISRAEL FACED
Gideon’s attack took place “in the beginning of the middle watch; and they had but newly set the watch”. These words, as do all the words inspired of God and recorded for our learning, inform us of a number of things.
1. It was late evening when the ‘middle watch’ commenced. I understand that ‘watch’ took place between the hours of 10.pm and 2.00 am. Given the much earlier sunset and sunrise in Israel than that we are used to in Ulster, it was the very middle of the night, the time of sleep. Here in Northern Ireland, at this time of the year, we are used to quite bright ‘twilight’ up to 10.00 pm and after that hour. Indeed, last night the sun did not set until 9.45pm and naturally it remained quite bright for a considerable time afterwards.
In the camp of the Midianites the attack began then in the hour of deepest slumber.
2. It was at a time when they had ‘newly set the watch.’ Such a changeover of the guard is always a time of lessened alertness and and watchfulness. Greetings would have been taking place between the members of the retired guard and those taking up their duty. There would have been matters that required the immediate attention of the oncoming guards as they assumed their duty. All of this would have engendered a lesser degree of watchfulness than would have been the case but a short time after the new guard settled down to its duties.
So it is ever when the Lord comes upon men in judgment. It is at a time when they least expect it! This will be clearly evidenced by the circumstances that will be prevailing in this world when Christ returns. Paul describes that day and the state of the unbeliever. “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness,” 1 Thessalonians 5:2-5.
The spirit of those who “lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth,” ought be ours so that we are ever watchful for the return of Christ and not like those Midianites who were careless and caught unawares!
3. We can imagine the alarm amongst the Midianites when the thee hundred trumpets were furiously blown and the shout that followed. Again, there is set before us a preview of the impact upon the ungodly, particularly the followers of Antichrist, at the return of Christ.
“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (precede) them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord,” 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17.
What a day of consternation is fast approaching this world!
II. THE VICTORY THAT DAY WAS UNQUESTIONABLY OF THE LORD!
1. Please note that no weapons were in the hands of the Israelites! It is stated that they “held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands.” They had no hands free to grip a sword. Instead, that day the “sword of the LORD” was at work! The Israelites “stood every man in his place round about the camp,” verse 21. They did not need a sword.
Oh friends, those that “lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth,” and who “seek . . . first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, (Matthew 6:33)” shall find the Lord will fight for them, and that is a most wonderful way!
“The LORD set every man’s sword against his fellow, even throughout all the host: and the host fled ,” verse 22.
As Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, said in the power of the Holy Spirit to Judah long ago: “Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s,” 2 Chronicles 20:15.
Let this truth stay up your spirit is these days of intensifying battle.
2. We do need to have in our hands the lamp of the gospel light and the trumpet of truth. I can vividly see in my mind the passionate waving of the lamps and the spirited blowing of the trumpets. Remember these would have been ‘rams’ horns’. They are not really capable of producing what men might consider ‘a tune’! It would have simply been termed a ‘blaring sound’! Such is the sound of the witness of the Christian in the ears of world, an annoying and vexatious noise! This is the reason why ‘open-air’ gospel witnesses are so often opposed by those who ‘pass by’. Thus the Saviour’s witness was mocked. “And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?” John 10:20. Likewise poor old Jeremiah was despised. Two lying false prophets in his day, “Ahab the son of Kolaiah, and . . . Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah”, had written against God’s faithful servant saying: “every man that is mad, and maketh himself a prophet, that thou shouldest put him in prison, and in the stocks,” Jeremiah 29:21, 26. Paul’s preaching was likewise deemed madness. “And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.” We should memorise Paul’s reply! “But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness,” Acts 26:24-25.
The gospel makes no sense to the ungodly man. Rather, as Paul wrote, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God,” 1 Corinthians 1:18.
Just like the apparently foolish waving of lamps in the air and the blaring of the trumpets that day of victory over the Midianites!
3. However the actions of Gideon’s men may have been seen by the enemy, it was the signal for the Lord to act! “And the three hundred blew the trumpets, and the LORD set every man’s sword against his fellow, even throughout all the host: and the host fled to Bethshittah in Zererath, and to the border of Abelmeholah, unto Tabbath,” Judges 7:22.
I have long believed that no matter how foolish a protest mounted in defence of God’s truth and honour may appear to gospel critics, the Lord will see it as a signal to move in support of those who act so. That was the experience of the Free Presbyterian Church in past days of blessing and victory.
All too many Christians today see such protests through the eyes of unbelieving men and deem them a waste of time and something to be forsaken, since it make them appear foolish.
By doing so, they cease sending to God in heaven the message that there is a concern for His glory here on earth and fail to signal Him to come to their aid.
I suggest that herein lies the cause of the present state of ineffectiveness amongst the people of God!
III. THE VICTORY GAINED WAS WONDERFULLY COMPLETE
1. The actions of the three hundred, stirred up many thousands in Israel. “And the men of Israel gathered themselves together out of Naphtali, and out of Asher, and out of all Manasseh, and pursued after the Midianites. And Gideon sent messengers throughout all mount Ephraim, saying, Come down against the Midianites, and take before them the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan. Then all the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and took the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan. And they took two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb; and they slew Oreb upon the rock Oreb, and Zeeb they slew at the winepress of Zeeb, and pursued Midian, and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side Jordan,” Judges 7:23-25.
So it is ever the case! God stirs a few and by their faithful obedience, many are stirred to act in like obedience. It happened after David’s victory over Goliath. “Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled. And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines, until thou come to the valley, and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell down by the way to Shaaraim, even unto Gath, and unto Ekron,” 1 Samuel 17:51-52.
Dare I say that the 1960 and 1970s here in Ulster, in like manner illustrate this truth to some degree.
2. There was a significant ‘completeness’ to the victory wrought that day. The Midianites are not mentioned again in Scripture, save in the two references to the events of the day of Gideon’s victory.
In that we have a foretaste of the utter defeat of all the enemies of God’s people to which we can look forward. The removal of the Midianite that day was as the wiping out of the ungodly by the flood and the future from God’s creation. Remember what we read in Revelation 21:5-8. “And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
IV. THAT DAY IN ISRAEL THERE WAS WROUGHT YET ANOTHER FORESHADOWING OF THE VICTORY THAT WILL TAKE PLACE WHEN THE LORD JESUS COMES AGAIN
1. The significance of that victory in set forth in two other Scriptures.
“Make their nobles like Oreb, and like Zeeb: yea, all their princes as Zebah, and as Zalmunna: Who said, Let us take to ourselves the houses of God in possession. O my God, make them like a wheel; as the stubble before the wind,” Psalm 83:11-13.
Without going into details, this Psalm, like so many Psalms, presents to us in prophetic form, the cry of the Jew in a future day when he and his land are under dire threat by the forces of the Antichrist. The very first verse sets the tone and suggests the period spoken of prophetically.
The Jew one day will pray for God’s help against the onslaught of the armies of the Antichrist. The opening verses of Zechariah chapter 12, give us clear details of that future attack. In that day, there will be in Israel a remnant who will call upon the Lord, guided and directed in their prayers by the Bible’s history of God’s former mercies to them in times of distress.
Thus in Psalm 83, verses 11-13, there is mention made of the victory given to Gideon. Against their enemies in a future day the Jew will pray: “Make their nobles like Oreb, and like Zeeb: yea, all their princes as Zebah, and as Zalmunna.”
I have already stated that the slaying of these two Midianite princes marked the cessation of all mention of the Midianites in Scripture. They never posed a threat to Israel again.
In like manner, God will answer the future cry of the Jewish remnant and intervene on their behalf more gloriously than He has ever done before, even though all His past interventions have been most glorious indeed.
It will be a day of glorious triumph and also of glorious mercy and salvation for the surviving remnant. Here is but a small quote from Zechariah that deals with the events surrounding Christ’s return.
“In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the LORD before them. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn,” Zechariah 12:8-10.
2. The second scripture is found in Isaiah chapter 10. “And the LORD of hosts shall stir up a scourge for him according to the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb: and as his rod was upon the sea, so shall he lift it up after the manner of Egypt,” verse 26.
The pronoun, ‘him’ is a reference to the Antichrist. The chapter deals prophetically with a future “day of visitation,” verse 3.
It refers to the future Antichrist under the title, “O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation,” Isaiah 10:5. The Assyrian Empire was originally founded by a Semitic king named Tiglath-Pileser who lived from 1116 to 1078 B.C. Around 745 B.C., the Assyrians came under the control of a ruler naming himself Tiglath-Pileser III. This man united the Assyrian people and launched a stunningly successful military campaign. Over the years, Tiglath-Pileser III saw his armies victorious against a number of major civilisations.
At its peak, the Assyrian Empire stretched across the Persian Gulf to Armenia in the north, the Mediterranean Sea in the west, and into Egypt in the south. The capital city of this great empire was Nineveh — the same Nineveh God commanded Jonah to visit before and after he was swallowed by the whale.
Things began to unravel for the Assyrians after 700 B.C. In 626, the Babylonians broke away from Assyrian control and established their independence as a people once again. Around 14 years later, the Babylonian army destroyed Nineveh and effectively ended the Assyrian Empire and thus the Babylonian empire was born.
The ‘Assyrian’ and later, the ‘Babylonian’, were instruments of judgment, Assyria against Israel and later, Babylon against the southern kingdom of Judah. As such, both were pictures of the Antichrist who will likewise be the final instrument of judgment against the Jew, just prior to the Saviour’s return.
As the Midianite was God’s afflicting agent upon a sinful Israel as is made clear in these verses: “And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds, ” Judges 6:1-2, so it will be prior to the Saviour’s return when He will ready His ancient people by chastening them severely under Antichrist.
What the Lord did to Midian, He is going to do, to a much greater degree, to Antichrist and his forces. It will be ‘the rock of Oreb’ all over again and ‘his rod was upon the sea’, adding a further type of that future victory, as an illustration of the ‘great Day of the Lord.’
Christian, there is a simple lesson for us to learn. Since the Lord has ’sprinkled’ the record of Holy Scripture with so many typical and prophetic likenesses of the coming of Christ, ought we not to heed this emphasis and seek to study closely this holy and joyful subject, which sadly is so gravely neglected both in pulpit and pew!
Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)
25th July 2023