“I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction: and the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble.”
The language of this prophet is poetry indeed. He sings in this third chapter of the manifestation of the glory of God: “God came from Teman, and the holy One from Mt. Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise.” The magnificent splendor of God’s glory as revealed in the death and resurrection of Christ is here the poet’s theme, nor does he change his subject when declaring the words of our text, but affirms there shall be affliction and trembling at the glorious coming of the Lord. Isaiah says, when foretelling the incarnation: “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” Habakkuk’s view of the glorious appearance of God in the salvation of his elect tells the same thing, but in a different manner. He is not looking at that side of Christ’s character which shows him to have been a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, but is viewing him as the first begotten from the dead, the victorious warrior, the glory-crowned victor over the enemies of the church. We will prove this. “Tents of Cushan.” This is highly figurative. The word “tents” is used, signifying those that dwell therein. Cushan refers to Chushanrishathaim, (see Judges iii. 8.) Cushan is used by the poet in place of the entire word, to preserve the meter. This is perfectly allowable in poetry, in fact must be resorted to at times in poetical composition, so as not to destroy the melodious rhythm. How many, many times rebellious Israel turned from the Lord! How many, many times did God deliver her from her enemies, yet she would slip back again. In Judges, third chapter, we find recorded one of these instances. We read here that Israel did not keep herself separate from the heathen, as she was commanded, but married the daughters of the idolatrous nations, and even gave her own daughters in marriage to them. Therefore God’s wrath was kindled against Israel, so that he delivered them into the hands of King Chushanrishathaim, whom they served eight years. But when at last they became sorely oppressed, Israel cried unto the Lord, and he raised up Othniel, whose name signifies the lion of God, to be her deliverer. Othniel girded with power from God to deliver the oppressed, proves too much for Chushaurishathairu, and the heathen king with his followers is in turn put under affliction. Othniel is a shadow of the Christ, the lion of the tribe of Judah, who gained the victory over all the enemies of the saints. “I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction,” breathes in every word the victory of our Lord over death, hell and sin, and says unto Jerusalem her warfare is accomplished, her enemies terror-stricken before the resurrection of Christ.
“The curtains of the land of Midian.” By the word “curtains” is meant the tent-hangings. Once again a figure of speech comes into play, for the prophet uses the dwelling to represent those that dwell therein. “The land of Midian.” The Midianites were the descendants of Midian; they dwelt in the region stretching from what is now known as the Persian Gulf, to the plains of Moab, but the more civilized dwelt in the vicinity of Mt. Sinai, and carried on a trade with Egypt. Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, was a Midianitish priest. They were heathens worshiping the false god, Baal-peor; they were therefore enemies of Israel. Soon after their deliverance from Chushanrishathaim, the Israelites slipped back into their old idolatrous rut; they blasphemed the true God and served Baal and the groves. This time God used the Midianite as a rod of correction. Every year for seven long years, just at the time of harvest wandering bands of Midianites would swoop down upon the valleys waving with ripened grain, and would encamp there until every single grain was gathered; they then passed on, leaving desolation behind them. You may imagine the condition of Israel after seven years of this experience. They must have been reduced to poverty and humiliation. However, at the end of the seven years God raised up Gideon their deliverer. Gideon, like every other one whom God has called to serve him, felt very keenly the lack of necessary qualification on his part for a leader; but God had called him, he must obey. Without repeating in detail this very interesting recital, we will glance at but a few things necessary to a right understanding of our text. Because Gideon felt to be so insufficient for the work set before him, he asked God repeatedly to give him a sign whereby he might be assured of his calling. One of these evidences is worthy our attention. The night before the battle Gideon went near unto the encampment of the enemy, and heard a conversation between two of the soldiers. One was telling the other a dream; he had dreamed a cake of barley bread had fallen into their ranks, causing great havoc and confusion. His fellow-soldier immediately interpreted the dream to mean that the God of Israel was about to deliver the hosts of Midian into the hand of Gideon. This rumor spread throughout the camp, and created great terror among their ranks. God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. By such a simple thing as a dream, and that, too, of a cake of barley bread, the hosts of Midian were already seized with fear and trembling, even before Gideon with his army appeared. Gideon with his three hundred men divided into three companies repair to the battle. Their weapons are not the sword and spear; no, but they carry in one hand a pitcher, in which is a light, and in the other hand a trumpet. Gideon is at the head; he says unto each of his three companies, “Look on me, and do likewise.” So Jesus is at the head of the three great dispensations: the patriarchal, the legal and the gospel. They nil look unto him, testifying of him alone. With this seemingly weak equipment they surround the camp of the Midianites. At the right moment, following Gideon’s example, they break their pitchers, holding their lamps on high and shouting with their trumpets, “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon.” The enemy flees before that sound, and fades away before that glorious light exalted by Gideon and his little army. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” The pitcher of Gideon is the earthen vessel of the humanity of Christ. “Sacrifice and offering thou wouldst not, but a body hast thou prepared me.” The light in the pitcher is the treasure in the earthen vessel, which is “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God,” which fills the earth as the waters cover the sea. By the breaking of the pitchers and the exaltation of the light within, the Midianites were vanquished. So by the ending of the natural life of Christ upon the cross – the breaking of the earthen vessel – his light is unconfined, it is exalted, shining forth unto the Gentiles, unto every nation under heaven, and into the heart of every creature of his grace, putting to flight the enemy of darkness, the evils of our own nature. Thus Habakkuk saw the curtains of Midian trembling. This is but expressing the victory of Christ over all the enemies of the church, and the establishment of his prosperous and glorious reign as the King of saints.
It is only through the breaking of our own bodies, the, destroying of all confidence in ourselves, that the light of Christ is manifested in us.
HORACE H. LEFFERTS.
Philadelphia, Pa., May 30, 1904.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 72, No. 13.
July 1, 1904