“AND the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour. And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, 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? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites. And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?”
The language of Gideon is so expressive of what are the emotions of soul that the tried, distressed, tempest-tossed children of God know. When sinking in our manifold temptations something more than creature power is needed that we can believingly feel the Lord is with us. We learn in our straits; when we are pressed out of measure, and above our strength, that then to believe, to confide in our gracious God, can only be according to the working of his mighty power in us. (Ephes. i. 19.)
“And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us?” How hard a matter it was for Job and his three friends to understand that the Lord was with Job, and all those evil things to have befallen him. Though God doeth as it pleaseth him in the army of heaven, and among the children of men, and all his ways are judgment, a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he; yet he ever has the glorifying of his name in all his providences; and peculiarly this is so in the lot he giveth his loved, chosen, redeemed and called people. All things work together for their good. (Rom. viii. 28.) The Lord chasteneth them for their profit. (Heb. xii. 10.) We all shall see in the conclusion of all the dispensations that are our portion, the end of the Lord, that our portion, the end of the Lord, that our covenant God is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. (James v. ii.) What terrible things had befallen Israel in Gideon's time. The Midianites had invaded the land to destroy it, and Israel was greatly impoverished, and they cried unto the Lord. The Lord awakened them to the bitter knowledge of their transgressions. There is Gideon threshing wheat in the wine-press to hide it from the Midianites. “And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor.” No doubt Gideon had been thinking, The Lord hath deserted us, and hath cast us off as disobedient, unprofitable creatures. “The Lord is with thee.” If God be for us, who can be against us? Hath not the Lord said, “I will not turn away from them to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me”? - Jer. xxxii. 40. But in our lacking of understanding of the dealings of the Lord with us we are often filled with troubled thoughts. If I am one of God's elect, loved with an everlasting love, if a child of God, if I am redeemed by Jesus' precious blood, if I am a subject of God's grace, why hath all this befallen me? This trial, this adversity? Why have the Sabeans robbed me, the fire of God burned up my flocks? The Chaldeans have stripped me bare, and why am I so bereaved? (Job. i.) Jacob once exclaimed, All these things are against me. The child of God may confess unto the Lord that all his afflictions, the wormwood and the gall (Lam. iii. 19), and that any lot above what the fiends have in hell, is mercy, and that if God were strict to mark our iniquity none could stand, and that all evils are less than our iniquities deserve, and like Jacob confess, “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servant.” - Gen. xxxii. 10. But if the Lord is with me why am I brought into darkness and not into light? Why is this trial so prolonged? Will it never subside? Why are my prayers unanswered? Why am I so tempest-tossed and not comforted? If Christ is with me in this windy storm, if he is my Pilot, he who manages the seas and holds the wind in his fists, why is all this tempest upon me? Why does he not hush the storm, say to the proud waves, Be still, and bring me in quietness into the desired heaven? If the Lord is with me, see, O Lord, mine affliction, for it increaseth, the darkness deepens, my conflicts continue and are every day more severe, and I am weaker, brought low, so discouraged. The Lord is with me? Why then is all this befallen me? In our afflictions we may think upon the Lord's dealings with his people in ages past, how he saved them out of all their troubles, but in our infirmity we are saying, It is not so with me. Gideon remembered the miracles that the Lord wrought in behalf of Israel for their deliverance, and he knew that nothing but a miracle could now deliver them from the ravaging, destroying Midianites. Is the age of miracles past? Has our performing God left off to do as he did in times past? “Oh my Lord, if the Lord be with us, 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?” We remember what our fathers have told us, we do not dispute their story, but, O Lord, where are the miracles now? The language of Gideon contains in it a yearning that the Lord, who only doeth wondrous things, would come in his miraculous grace and show Israel that he is with us. “Lord, where are thy former lovingkindnesses?” - Psalm lxxxix. 49. “Look down from heaven, and behold from the habitation of they holiness and of thy glory: where is thy zeal and thy strength, the sounding of thy bowels and of thy mercies toward me? are they restrained?” - Isaiah lxii. 15. The child of God learns that his strength is small, and that he has no might against the many adversities that invade his life and bring him low. We are made to know however that Christ's strength, imparted to us, is made perfect in our weaknesses, and though infirmities abound we are able to glory in them that the gracious all-sufficient power of Christ may rest upon us. There are times when in the all-wise dealings of the Lord with us that we are minished, and brought low, through oppression, affliction and sorrow. (Psalms cvii. 39.) And our God seeth, and we know it quite well that our power is gone. (Deut. xxxii. 36.) Those who are not Christ's may talk of their self-sufficiency, and boast of their exploits, but the taught of the Lord have such troubles as they never know, and when the elect of God, who know their God, do exploits, (Daniel xi. 32,) such as those mentioned in the eleventh of Hebrews, they ever willingly make their boast in the Lord, and the humble hear thereof and are glad. They ascribe every deliverance, every triumph, to the kindness, love and power of their gracious covenant God. Through God they do valiantly, for he it is who treadeth down their enemies. Yes, it is amidst the many evils that befall us that we learn our nothingness, and we learn also more deeply the corruptions of our vile hearts, and though there be, as we fear, but little grace and godliness in us, we to our grief know that briars and thorns, inward iniquities, abound in our flesh. Ah, when we would that we were meek and loving, prayerful and trustful, and that we could glorify God in the fires, we are made to feel we are so far off from God, so unchristlike, so sinful. But by God's discipline we become more and more poor, we see ourselves worthless, to be despised. The Lord graciously meekens us, and we sigh, and cry for mercy, for grace to help in our time of need. But how plagued we are with the unbelief in our prayers. Unbelief is so mingled with my poor prayers. Ah, my unbelieving prayers! How ashamed I am of myself, and of my unbelieving prayers. If the mercies that my soul craves were to be mine according to the old covenant, then only an infinitesimal portion would be mine. That covenant of works could never yield to sinful, wretched, helpless, unworthy me what my soul seeketh. But I want those sure mercies of David that flow from the new covenant that is in Christ's blood, shed for the remission of sins. Yes, I sigh, I yearn to live upon those treasures of God's grace in the everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure; this is all my salvation, and all my desire. Our Savior said to the father of the afflicted son, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” - Mark ix. 23, 24. I feel I know the conflicts in the soul of this man. The faith of God's elect, which is of the operation of God, is victorious over all surmisings, questioning and fiery darts of the devil. We may be saying that only a miracle can give us enlargement, and give us deliverance from our distresses. Can you, such a vile, worthless, murmuring, fretful, distrustful one, think that the Lord will work a miracle in your behalf? We sigh and moan, and cry unto our God, though compassed and plagued with unbelief, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” But Gideon was saying, The Lord hath forsake me, and my God hath forgotten me. O Zion, how mistaken thou art, how poor and unworthy are thy thoughts of God of thy salvation. O thou gracious God, how graciously assuringly thou speakest to disconsolate Zion. Thou speakest to her heart, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, ye twill not I forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.” - Isaiah xlix. 15, 16. If we are of God we are learning continually that we cannot live independent of our gracious God, and blessed indeed are we to live upon him whose compassions fail not; they are new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness, O heavenly Father. Like Gideon, we may be standing before the Lord discouraged, unbelieving, sighing, longing, troubled, but the Lord knoweth us, knoweth us in all our sinfulness, all our weaknesses. The Lord looked upon Gideon with pity, compassion, in everlasting love, and said unto him, “Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?” While I am writing this there is springing up in me such yearnings, and my heart is saying, Oh, to believe in my God, to trust him in the cares and distresses of my life. O child of God, the Lord is with thee in adversities in thy sore afflictions, for though the way be rough and dark and soul-distressing, yet he still keeps thee by the operations of his grace, looking unto himself, sighing over the felt desertion. But though the Lord hideth his face, and we are troubled, it is but for a little moment, and though he cause grief, though he chasteneth us sore, yet will he have commpassion according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses. O beloved of God, of this let us be assured, that ours shall be the eternal triumph, for Christ hath died, and is risen from the dead.
“Triumphantly glorious our Head has ascended
O'er death and the grave, all their power laying low;
This gains us a rising when time shall be ended,
Death no more shall hold us, Ah never, Oh no!”
The Lord God omnipotent reigneth! His counsel shall stand and he will do all his pleasure. In love he hath predestinated his elect unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself according to the good pleasure of his will, and who shall frustrate love's predestination? “Go in this thy might,” was the word of the Lord to Gideon, and Gideon's might was, The Lord is with thee. That was enough. So we shall find it, beloved in the Lord. If God be for us, who can be against us?
Elder Frederick W. Keene
Signs of the Times
Vol. 91, No. 20 – October 15, 1923