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Lectures on the Book of Judges

Samuel Ridout

Prefatory Note

The Book of Judges is a most important link between the earlier and later history of Israel. It gives the history of the passage of rule from the theocracy of early times to the kings who continued till the time of the captivity. The unbelief and declension exhibited in this transition form the staple of the narrative, with the unrepenting patience of God who, spite of the utter incompetence and unbelief manifested by the people, comes in repeatedly to their succour. He is meanwhile manifesting His own purposes, which have their accomplishment alone in Christ, and which will be fulfilled, thanks to Himself, in the day now so near.

But Israel stood for humanity in all their probation, and we may well expect that the moral principles involved here will be of the widest application to all who are in responsible relationship with God. As the book of Joshua abounds with typical narrative which applies in a most marked way to the blessings of Christianity, so this book will be found to carry the typical lessons further. They deal mainly with declension and recovery, and one can hardly fail to notice the resemblance between them and the prophetic history of the professing church, given in the second and third chapters of Revelation.

If this be true, it will be seen at once that the book is of immense practical importance to the Church of Christ. Of the history of declension we are alas only too familiar from sorrowful experience. May it be ours to learn also more of the secret of recovery, and of divine power in days of universal ruin, through the instrument that is feeble enough, instances of which abound throughout the book.

As has been said, it is a thoroughly practical book. If it has its proper effect, it will bring us, individually and unitedly, upon our faces at our Bochim, there to find the tender mercy of One whose heart yearns over His beloved Church today with the same love that led Him to give His Son for its redemption. The ruin will never be rebuilt, and all must wait for the coming of our Lord. But how much testimony for God, how much quiet feeding the flock of Christ, and deliverance of His own from the enemy is yet possible for us if we but learn the lesson set before us in this book.

The following lectures are an effort to set forth these lessons, in the hope that real fruit for God may result from their perusal. Much help, both in disposition and subject matter, has been received from the divisions and notes in the Numerical Bible, which, together with those on the book of Joshua, are of new and especial interest.

Being here given in very much the form they were delivered in, the reader will find both the helps and blemishes of spoken discoursea familiar and colloquial style easy to be understood, while there is a tendency to diffuseness which prevents the book from being a manual for study. If it stirs an interest, and points a lesson, the reader will be able to prosecute the study for himself.

That our God may use this feeble effort to present His truth even as He used Shamgar's ox-goad and Gideon's lamps, is the prayer of the writer.



The historical books, of which the book of Judges is the second, form the largest group in the Old Testament. In the Pentateuch we have the counsels of God as the prominent thought. If any one were to ask what is the prominent feature in the Pentateuch, we would say it is God's will and His authority. Of course there is much of man in it. I do not mean to say that human will does not come in, but still you will find the thought running throughout the entire five books of Moses is that God has control.

Unquestionably God has control throughout the whole history of man; but in a special way His will is supreme in the Pentateuch; and therefore we rightly call them the Books of the Law, that is, the books which emphasize and bring out God's will.

In the same way the second division of the Old Testament gives us The Historical Books, where the prominent person is not God but man. I need hardly say that God is not set aside, but simply that in these historical books He has put the government of things, the responsibility, into man's hands to carry out what His will is. They are therefore rightly termed the books of covenant-history, or the development of what is the expressed will of God in the Pentateuch.

When we take up these historical books, we find that while they all have in common that which I have spoken of, yet they have their distinctive marks, each of them separate from the other. We are going to dwell particularly upon the book of Judges, and I might say it is the one that gives character to the whole division of the Historical Books. The whole division is the book of Judges you might say. It is the book of man's history, a history of his progress and development; and the results of that, I need hardly say what they must be. If you have a history of man, it must be a history of declension, of departure from God; a history of disintegration rather than unity, of weakness rather than strength, and of the need of God's interposition to deliver. Now while that is the characteristic of all these historical books from Joshua to Esther, yet it is particularly that of the book of Judges.

But let us first of all see how Judges stands in relation to the book of Joshua, for we get much important instruction just there. The book of Joshua is the first one of the historical books, and there are certain features which connect it very strikingly at either end. It is connected at its beginning with the Pentateuch, and at its close with the book of Judges. Take for instance the close of the Pentateuch; Moses about to die, names his successor, giving him his authority from God, and Joshua the successor, the chosen leader of God, carries on the work which Moses had begun. It is simply another leader. Now, when you follow the book all the way through to the close, you find in the same way connections with the book of Judges. Joshua calls the people all together, and sets before them the history of God's ways and mercy in the past. Then he warns them as to the danger of apostasy, of departure from God.

It was surely prophetic in Joshua, dear brethren, in view of the history of the Judges, to warn the people as he did, to tell them not merely of the danger that threatened, but of that which would certainly come to pass unless they took the warning. Thus Judges in that way connects with Joshua. Joshua gives us God's power, and the man of faith, and also, in figure, the Divine Leader. Typically speaking, Joshua, the successor of Moses, would represent to us the Holy Spirit, making Christ practically our leader into our inheritance.

The inheritance of Israel in Canaan is a type of our inheritance in Christ in the heavenly places; and as we are told in the epistle to the Ephesians that God hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ in the heavenly places, so in Joshua we are told that everything is ours; everything belongs to the people; God has given it to them; and it is now for them to take possession of their inheritance in the energy of faith.

But they must have a God-appointed leader to take possession of this their portion, and that is what Joshua is appointed to do. I want you to notice that he is the divinely appointed leader for the whole people, and throughout the entire book you get but the one leader. Now Joshua, as has often been said, is a type of Christ, Christ the leader in resurrection, just as Moses was a type of Christ the leader of His people when He was upon earth. That is why typically it was necessary for Moses, the earthly leader, to die, in order that the people might pass in to their heavenly inheritance; so it was necessary for Christ to die in order that He might, as risen from the dead, lead His people into the enjoyment of their heavenly inheritance.

But there is more than that. Joshua is a type of Christ risen, but still the actual leader of his people in the conflict in taking possession of what is theirs. Therefore it is Christ as He dwells in our hearts by the Holy Ghost; it is Christ in us, by the Holy Spirit, leading us with divine energy to take hold of all that is given to us. It is ours, and yet has to be taken hold of, the foot planted upon it, as we are told. It is to be practically ours. It is by the Holy Spirit alone that we enter into the enjoyment of what is ours. You take a company of Christians for instance: how different the measure of their enjoyment. They all have one common source of it; they all are Christ's, and all that is Christ's is theirs. There is no difference as to our portion; every one of us alike has the same possession; and yet, as I said, how different the measure of our enjoyment. Now our inheritance is in Christ, but our enjoyment of that inheritance is by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, who leads us to take possession of that which is ours. That is Joshua.

In the first part of the book you see the people brought into the land and gaining their victories from Jericho unto Hazor, till the last king is subdued, and the whole land lies quietly under their hand; it is all theirs. Then, in the second part of the book, you have the land divided among the various tribes, each of them getting that portion which God allotted to them. In this way it is very instructive and refreshing to see that where the thought is that God is supreme, and the Spirit of God is in charge, and leading the people, everything depends upon Him, and the faith that follows His leading.

But I have another thought that I would like to lay before you. The Holy Spirit when He came, came of course upon Apostles as upon the whole Church. We read in the fourth chapter of Ephesians that when Christ ascended He gave gifts unto men, and first amongst them the apostles, who are the foundation of the Church. In the book of Joshua, I believe that Joshua himself, while a type of the Holy Spirit bringing Christ practically to us, is also a figure of the Spirit dwelling authoritatively in inspired men. You have in other words in the book of Joshua the history of the apostolic Church being led into possession of its inheritance under the energy of the Holy Ghost through divinely-inspired men. These were apostles, a special class of men who do not continue with it to the present time, save in their writings. This is very important, and the reason I dwell upon it is because in the book of Judges you have just the opposite. You have no one answering to Joshua, no divinely-appointed leader, no successor to Joshua. The leaders who are raised up are simply to meet the emergency for a special work, and then pass out of sight. It is important to see that. If the believer in apostolic succession would simply take the spiritual meaning of the book of Joshua and that of Judges and compare them, he would see that while we have apostles introducing the saints into the truth of the Church and into their heavenly inheritance, we have not apostles to maintain them in that position. That is the history of the book of Judges.

Look at the close of the history of the book of Joshua and you find the aged leader looking, we may surely believe, into his heavenly inheritance with a full assurance of what is before him. I have often been struck with that.

People say that there is no revelation of immortality in the Old Testament; and in a certain sense that is true. But did you ever think of Moses and of Joshua as they stood facing death? Did you ever think of them as relinquishing everything which they held dear here in this world, without a quiver of uncertainty? Without a fear, without a single doubting question they give their directions to those that are left behind, and pass on, where? Who can doubt with such revelation as that regarding Abraham, that he looked for a city that hath foundations whose builder and maker is God? Who can doubt that Moses and Joshua were conscious as to where they would pass when they left this world, that they were going home to the blessed God whom they had seen and served by faith only, and now were to enter into His actual presence? That is very important, and it suggests a most interesting line of study, the intimations of immortality running throughout the Old Testament. I believe we would get rich profit for our souls in taking up such a line of study. But I simply mention it.

We have the aged leader gathering the people about him, and warning them of what is before them. Yes, telling them what was in their own hearts; for by the Spirit of God he knew what was there. He tells them of the danger of apostasy. He goes further and says, put away the strange gods that are among you. Already those gods had a place in their midst; and already the seeds of destruction and alienation from God were planted right in the very bosom of the people. I want you to notice a New Testament passage which is in keeping with what I have been saying. Paul gathers the Ephesian elders together. He is the apostle, and he is the representative in that way of the apostleship, as it were of all the apostles. He gathers them together and speaks of what is going to come in after his departure. I know that after my departurewhat do we come to? Other successors to the apostles? Ah, no; but exactly what Joshua said: After my departure shall grievous wolves enter in not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them. There is the close of the apostolic Joshua, just as you have the close of the literal Joshua. It is the warning as to the alienation and the departure that comes in when the inspired leaders have been removed.

Now that brings us to the book of Judges itself. I have dwelt upon this because it is very important for us to get the setting of the book correctly, if we are going to get into the current of the Spirit's thoughts regarding it. Joshua gives us the possession of what is ours, and Judges gives us the history of the people holding, or failing to hold it. Judges is the history of what should have been a progress. All through Joshua we are reminded that there remaineth very much land to be possessed. It was simply conquering the land as a whole, not conquering it in detail. Various boundary lines were marked out for the tribes, and yet as a matter of fact there were large numbers of the enemy still in possession of cities and strongholds in the midst of the tribes. The key thought of the book of Judges, one of the important thoughts in the whole book, is thisthe failure to make progress. A true and divine book of Judges would have been a history of progress. The literal and actual history of Judges is of failure to make progress. Why, you say, is that such a very serious thing? Beloved, let me assure you that failure to make progress is the root of all the failure and departure from God of His people. We who are familiar with this book of Judges know well how full it is of bitter, shameful failure; and how the history as it goes on developing, brings out not more brightness but more darkness, until we turn the last leaf of the book with a sigh and with a confession, that if that is the history of man, if that is the history of the professed Church of Christ, yea, if that is the history of ourselves, nothing but shame and confusion of face become us. Is it not so?

Failure to go on! Dear fellow believer, let me press it. Where are you? are you standing still? are you satisfied with all blessings being in Christ? are you satisfied with talking about your being in Him in the heavenlies and blessed with all spiritual blessings, and everything of that kind? Is that sufficient for you? Are you resting upon what Christ has done, in that sense of the word? For salvation we cannot rest too absolutely upon what Christ has done. But for possession, dear friends, for enjoyment, for practical ownership of what is ours we cannot rest upon what Christ has done; nay we must carry on the blessed work in the energy and power of the Holy Spirit.

Let me press this thought. Let us turn it over and look at it personally and corporately, in relation to the whole Church of Christ. If we have been standing still individually, we have been drifting away from God. If there is declension in your heart or mine tonight, if there is a sense of distance from God, a breach with Him, let me tell you the root of it is simply that you have stood still, after you were saved and had been brought to Christ. After you realized the fullness of your blessing in Him, instead of pressing on to get more and more of the enjoyment of that place, you let your hands hang down; and the moment Satan saw that you were willing for him to preoccupy that which you were not occupying, that moment, dear friend, Satan gained the advantage, gained an entrance into your heart, and planted there the seeds of whatever present alienation there may be from God in any of our hearts. Nay, the seeds of any future alienation. Oh, who can tell what will happen within a year for a Christian who is away from God in his soul? Standing still instead of going forward! You might write that at the head of the book of Judges. And the result of that was the whole subsequent failure, individually and corporately as well.

Here is the Church of Christ as it came from the apostles' hands. Ah, before even the apostles had left the earth, before Paul was taken home to glory, he not only prophesied of what would take place if they did not go on and hold fast, but that declension had already begun. He writes even in the second epistle to the Thessalonians, the mystery of iniquity already worketh, and in the second epistle to Timothy, all they that are in Asia have turned away from me. The apostle John writes in his first epistle, already there are many Antichrists. And that was in the bosom of the professing Church! It only shows us how the Church at the very start failed to gain full practical possession of the inheritance that was hers, and therefore was exposed to the power of Satan. Let me notice that it is not a question merely of the world coming in and taking possession of something, but it is Satan. In all these satanic false doctrines and attacks upon the Church of Christ, which have stood out on the pages of its history from the beginning, we see just Satan's work in making use of that which the Church has failed to make use of. That is the history of a declension and departure from God.

Now that is looking at the whole subject. You see it is one of intense personal and corporate importance. I believe that in this book of Judges we have God's voice to us at the present time. Surely if we look about us we need have no question of failure coming in. I might say, alas, if we look at our own history we need have no question as to individual failure. Then let us hearken to what the Spirit of God would say to His people who have failed lamentably and repeatedly, and, alas, who are ready to fail again, unless they learn the lesson that God would write upon the very tables of our hearts.


Lecture 1: Initial Failure and Amalgamations (Chap. 1)

When we look at the book as a whole, we find that it has certain characteristic divisions, three in number. From chapter 1 to chapter 3:4, we have the first division, which, I think, we might entitle independency of God. From chapter 3:5 through chapter 16, we have the result of that independency, the enemy come in, and bondage as the result. Bondage under the hand of the enemy; and secondly, deliverance under the hand of God for a repentant people. From chapter 17 to the end we have the full manifestation of a state of heart for which there can be only one remedy. In the second division, which is the main one, and marks the whole book, you have the outward bondage and deliverances. In the last division you have, alas! a state of heart amongst the people, that makes all other departure a possibility, and which also shows that unless the Lord come and take possession of that, there can be no real effectual deliverance. So the history of these deliverances is not an ascending one, but like that of the Roman empire the history of a decline and fall. The last deliverer, Samson, though strongest of them all, is weakest; and himself needs more deliverance than he gives.

Everything points forward to the coming of Christ, and though His coming is not spoken of it is really more emphasized by the fact that as He was not there the people were getting worse and worse, going down deeper and deeper into decline. It is also a significant fact that in the Church of Christ today things are not getting better and better. Deliverers have been raised up after deep exercise on the part of God's people; and they have brought back a measure of recovery. But we stand today not on a higher level than our fathers, though we have greater privileges. We stand in the darkest hour of the Church's history, and that of itself would emphasize the need of that yearning cry, not for more human helpers, but for the coming of the blessed Deliverer to take the Church to Himself, and by his own divine power to give us the enjoyment of that portion which He gave to us, but which, alas, we so little enjoy.

Let us now take the first division, and see what is characteristic of it. It is independency of God, or, if you please, rebellion, though that is rather a stronger word. Rebellion of a people that are the elect of God. In this portion we have several other divisions, two main ones, which we might look at first. We first have from chapter 1 to chapter 2:5, an identity which should have been a difference. The people are identified with their enemies, instead of being separated from them; a unity, alas, which is no sign of strength. Then in the second portion, from chapter 2:6 to chapter 3:4, you have the inner history of alienation from God.

Taking up now the first part, the identification of the people with their enemies, we have the various phases of that identification. I have been struck with the fact that here we have really a miniature history of the whole book of Judges. It begins right. It begins with that which links it with the book of Joshua: Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass that the children of Israel asked the Lord, saying, who shall go up for us against the Caananites first, to fight against them, and the Lord said, ‘Judah shall go up, behold I have delivered the land into his hand.' The first part begins with victory, and you will find that it is God's power in His people in going up and taking possession of their inheritance. To be sure there are features here that are not hopeful signs. We have already a suggestion of departure from the simple and clear word of God, and yet the brightest side is put first. The narrative is closely connected with that of Joshua. In fact it is evident that some of the narrative has already been recorded in that book. In the first twenty verses we see the tribe of Judah and the history of his victories. Next one verse, the twenty-first, gives us the history of the tribe of Benjamin. Then from the twenty-second to the twenty-sixth we have the history of the tribe of Joseph; from the twenty-seventh to the end of the chapter you have six tribes mentioned one after the other, and there is nothing but failure throughout. Let us look a little at these, because there are lessons of great importance here. Judah is first: God Himself tells us that Judah is to be the first one who goes up to possessto get more of their possession. I would entitle that part, The power of God through the truth. The more one studies the meanings of these various tribes, the more impressed you are with the fact of their spiritual significance. Judah means, as you know, praise. But what is praise? what is the ground upon which praise flourishes? It is not an ebullition of feeling, as many of us think. Ah, how often we make a mistake in that way; how often we try to get up a state of feeling, and call that praise and worship, when it is not. Judah was the leader all through the wilderness. He was the leading tribe in the land; and more than that, it was out of the tribe of Judah that Christ was to come.

Judah's inheritance was the whole southern part of the land, the land that lay toward the sun. In like manner the word of God illumines that heritage which is of first value. I have no question whatever, that, just as the basis of all true praise must be the truth of God, so Judah stands for the whole sum of doctrinal truth. That is the basis on which worship alone can stand. Wherever the truth is sacrificed, wherever the Word of God is set aside, or what is just as bad, wherever its truths lose their power in the soul, you will find that praise languishes and Judah ceases to be a victor. Now that is what is emphasized for us in the first part. God says to His people, if you are going to carry on the victory which Christ has wrought for you, if you are going to add to the practical enjoyment of the precious inheritance which the apostles have marked out in their inspired writings, it will be by the knowledge of the truth. Judah was to go up first. As I have said before, Judah has at the very outset a suggestion of weakness in the fact that he is not willing to go alone to take possession of what is his. He asks Simeon, who shares the territory with him, if he would come up with him and help him in the conquest, and then Judah in turn will help Simeon. What does that suggest? When God tells me to do a thing, do I have to turn around for human help? When God told Moses that he should go down and deliver His people, was it an honour to God or obedience to God for Moses to plead and plead until He gave him Aaron as his helper? Did it not show weakness in Moses? And wherever you find that the Word of God commands your obedience, and you turn to human support, you may know at once that the seed of weakness has been introduced, and it will develop into more manifest failure. That is what we learn from Judah's asking Simeon to help him.

To be sure, there was victory, but after all, if we read on, we will find that there was not that absolute wholeness of heart which would insure fuller development and a complete triumph for God. There does not seem to be the dignity of a complete victory over the forces of Adoni-Bezek. An enemy mutilated is not one completely overthrown, and though he dies later on, and Jerusalem is for the time taken and burned, yet the conquest is not permanent. As I have said before, a part of this narrative is given in the book of Joshua too. That beautiful account of the victories at Hebron and at DebirKirjath-sepher, as it was formerly calledwe have in the book of Joshua, but as it is repeated here and is so characteristic of this portion which we are looking at, we must notice it. The first eight verses give us victory on the part of Judah and Simeon. Now from the ninth verse to the fifteenth you have faith in very bright exercise on the part of Caleb and Othniel and Achsah, which emphasizes the supremacy of God's word, the supremacy of truth. If Judah is to gain and keep his victories, it must be by the truth, and if the people of God are to go on winning their triumphs, it must be by gaining in knowledge more and more of the Word of God. That is just what Hebron is. Hebron means communion, and Kirjath-sepher, the city that is closely connected with it, means the city of the book. It recalls to our minds at once this precious book, the Bible, which we hold in our hands, and it is the Bible, dear friends, that we are to conquer. You say, Conquer the Bible? Yes, to take possession of it, to take it out of the hands of its enemies, to make it for ourselves a Book of delight, a Book that speaks to us of God. Therefore when this city of Kirjath-sepher was taken, its name was changed to Debir, which means the Word of God, a book becomes the Word of God. That is what characterizes Judah's whole victory; it is the Bible become the Word of God. Ah! if Judah had gone on in that way, and taken full possession of the Word of God, and made its doctrines a living reality, the voice of God speaking to His people; praise, and worship and joy would have been unhindered, and power would have been increasingly manifest.

Alas! the Church has not done that; the Church forsook the doctrines right away. Instead of Kirjath-sepher being turned to Debir, a living oracle, the Church took the book out of the people's hands, put it in the monasteries, and forbade them the use of it. Instead of giving the people the living oracles of God, it removed those oracles, and as a result nothing but darkness and failure could come in.

So it is for us personally. Suppose you or I have this book closed, suppose it becomes a mere letter to us, the mere letter of the Word, and not its living reality? What is the result? There is no further progress. No further growth. It used to be the cry in the world, We don't want doctrine, we want practice; then it was transferred to the pews; and professed Christians said, we don't want doctrinal preaching, we want practical preaching. Now they have it, and they get instead of doctrinethe preaching of the truth of Godnot practice even, but that which is the sure result of the neglect of God's Word, anything that will cater to the taste of the natural man.

Thank God for every exception to this. But, dear brethren, that is the sad state of the Church, which has turned away from the Word of God. Little wonder then that there is so little joy amongst God's people, that there is so little delight in the things of Christ. How can there be when the truth of Christ is so little known and enjoyed; when the Word of God has been relegated to the bookshelves along with all the other literature; a literature priceless and precious it may be, but not the living oracle of the living God. Ah! brethren, if this Word is a literature, if it is man's literature, as a prominent ecclesiastic in this city stated, as he apologized for his disloyalty to Christ and His Word, if it is nothing but a literature, you and I have lost the voice of God, we have lost all power. The Church has lost its moorings, it is drifting, it is gone, and all the darkness and declension which are closing in around us now in Christendom can be well explained.

The remainder of the narrative of Achsah and Othniel is very beautiful. Achsah means Anklet, and her name suggests the adornment of the doctrine in walk and life which is so necessary a complement to the faith of Othniel, the lion, or strength of God. She desires a field, fruitfulness, and for this she knows she must have water springs. You will find that one of the characteristics of the land mentioned in the eighth chapter of Deuteronomy is the abundance of water. It is the Spirit alone who makes fresh and fruitful to us the Word of God, and Debir could not rightly answer to its name without the refreshing streams of the Spirit. Upper and nether springs are given, and thus whether it be high truth or practical truth, all is kept fresh. It is the one who answers to Achsah who alone desires this well-watered fieldone who longs for fruit for God. There could be no complaint that the Word of God was uninteresting and unprofitable, were there more Achsahs to claim it as their portion.

At the beginning the Church held to the Word in some measure, and just in proportion as it did, it got its victories. But you see here in the next part evidence of weakness. Here are the children of the Kenite (v. 16), Moses' father-in-law, a relation according to the flesh without the slightest intimation of any divine connection. They came up from the city of Palm Trees. Were they people spared from the city of Jericho? There is no mention of the fact that they had any right at Jericho. There was a curse upon any connected with Jericho. There you have these people coming up from the city of Palm Trees and making their abode right in the heart of Judah. That is the secret of further departure from God, when the world and all its evil influences, though there may be connections according to the flesh with God's people, can have a resting place in the bosom of the Church. You may rest assured that they will be heard from later on. There was a godly exception to this. Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, is heard from as working a deliverance. But they had left their own people who dwelt at Arad, and were evidently in heart identified with Israel. Heber, a pilgrim, suggests this.

Then you have Hormah. I will not speak of that. It is one of the victories which Judah and Simeon won together, and seems to be complete, as they utterly destroy it. From the eighteenth to the twentieth verses you have further victories. Altogether this first portion gives us in the main victories on the part of God's people. Yet, as I have been trying to point out, seeds of future weakness have been planted.

Remember then the one point, that what secures victory is the supremacy of truth. Truth must be supreme if there is to be power for God, or if there is to be recovery to God. We must get the truth again, the Word of God, and make it a living reality in our souls.

Now in the twenty-first verse we come to Benjamin. Just as Judah is a picture of the supremacy of divine truth, so Benjamin suggests the supremacy of Christ. Benjamin is the son of my right hand, and you will remember that he is the warrior tribe, the mighty one, a type of Christ in His victorywith the sword girded on, as in Psalm 45. It is Christ, too, in His people now who is the Ruler, the mighty One. In Jacob's blessing of the twelve tribes you remember that while Joseph suggests the fruitful inheritance that Christ has in His people, Benjamin, ravening as a wolf, suggests Christ coming forth in judgment. Now in this short verse we find that the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites that inhabited Jerusalem, but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem unto this day. Did not drive them out! the warrior tribe, which we would expect to succeed, if any did, fails to drive the enemy out of the very city where God was to put His name.

Now let us apply that individually to ourselves. Christ is to be enthroned in the heart. I have been speaking of the Word of God as being the basis of everything, but its theme is Christ, and there must be subjection to Him in our hearts and lives. He must be enthroned in Jerusalem, the centre. Christ may be enthroned upon your lips, He may be enthroned in your intellect, as it were; you may acknowledge that everything centres about Christ. But, if we fail to drive out of the citadel of our souls everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of Christ, everything that prevents the Lord's supremacy in our inmost soul, let us rest assured that Jerusalem is in the hands of the Jebusites. Did you ever think of that? that you may enjoy much truth, and have to a certain extent a good deal of communion, yet not have Christ absolutely enthroned in your inmost soul?

Apply it to the nation of Israel, and you see at once how clearly it refers to the fact that they failed to possess the very centre, where, as I said, God was to put His name. And when you apply it further to the history of the Church, alas! how it is written in its history, the failure to give Christ the central place. Ah! is Jerusalem for the Church in possession of Benjamin? Does it recognize Christ enthroned as the head and centre of all things for His Church? Take that which makes the highest pretensions to being the Church of Christ upon earth. Who is enthroned over it? A man, who is a deceiver and an antichrist surely. A man who takes the place of Christ, His Vicar upon earth, taking the place at once of Christ and the Holy Ghost; surely Jerusalem is in the hands of the Jebusites still, so far as the Church of Rome is concerned.

Take other systems with much of godliness in them, thank God, and with much of the recovery of His Word. But is Jerusalem in the hands of Benjamin, and is it Christ that rules? Ah! does not clerisy, and theology, and custom and much else take the place of the supremacy of the Lord Jesus in the very centre of His people? And so for us, applying it practically just to our present condition, if Christ is to be in His proper place, it means that not only in name but in fact, He is supreme amongst His gathered people, that His will is sovereign no matter how painful it may be to the flesh, that His precious word is acknowledged. Is not the failure that we see all around us due to a great extent to the fact that Christ is not enthroned, that the Jebusite is not cast out? Jebusite means treader down, and all that is not of Christ in the soul will trample down His Word.

There is often amongst God's people a real measure of appreciation of His Word unaccompanied by a bowing to His authority. We may be quite diligent students of Scripture. We may be quite happy in our knowledge of the Word of God, and yet not know in its real and full sense what it is to bow to that Holy Word in every particular. To bow to the Word of God means to bow to Christ's authority, for it is Christ that speaks in the Word. Unless we bow to the Word, we do not bow to Christ. Let me press that home; people sometimes say they obey Christ, they are willing to recognize His authority, willing to own His headship and His supremacy. But how are we to own His Lordship? Only in one way, that is in bowing to His Word. There is the connection that the Lord Himself gives between His Word and Himself; you remember in Philadelphia what marks the remnant there is that they hold fast His Word and have not denied His name.

It is easy to profess Christ in the midst, to make it a battle cry, a shibboleth for a sect or a party; but Christ in the midst means Christ obeyed, Christ honoured, Christ followed, whatever the cost, and every shred of Christ's truth and His will having supreme authority for us to walk by. Let us learn the lesson of Benjamin's failure to take possession of Jerusalem. Let us get the hint, and more than a hint. Our great danger is to deny the name of Christ and His authority.

We pass just for a moment to the next feature in this sad history, for I make no concealment that this failure of Benjamin to take possession of Jerusalem is a radical failure. It carries everything else with it, in a sense. In that one brief verse you have the pivot on which the whole subsequent failure turns.

From the twenty-second to the twenty-sixth verses, you have the house of Joseph going to take Bethel; and it is necessary to have Bethel. You well know the history of Bethel and what it means; Bethel is the house of God. Just as Jerusalem suggests the supremacy of Christ, so Bethel suggests the presence of God, the House of God. Its name was called Luz at the first, which means separation, mere external separation. You apply that to the history of the Church, or to any movement in the Church, and it will be seen how strikingly it corresponds.

Emphasize mere separation: we must not do this, we must give up that, you must refuse this, and so on. It is all negative, the cutting off this, that, and the other thing. There is no House of God about it. If you are to have the presence of God you must not only have separation, but-you must have the holy sense of His own presence.

Look at the weakness in getting possession of Bethel. Why did they send spies if God had given them the place? That in itself is a suggestion of weakness. Moses, when he looked here and there to see if any one was observing him, before he slew the Egyptian, showed that he was not looking to God. When they sent spies into the land of Canaan, it was simply unbelief that was being borne with by God in His patience. So they sent out spies to Luz, and they took possession of it by sparing the man who showed them the way into it.

Brethren, the moment that individual faith makes a bargain with any feature of the flesh in order to get spiritual power, the moment you or I make a bargain, whether it be the husband with the wife, or the wife with her family; or some business compromise, whatever it may be, the moment there is any sparing of the flesh in order to enjoy undisturbed the rest of Bethel, you set free an enemy, who goes off and builds another city, and calls it by the same name of Luz. How often have these spared enemies of God gone off and set up the same things over again, that we have to face again and find it all the more difficult to conquer. You make a compromise in your private life; you may call it a little one, as Lot called it; it may be only one single principle of unfaithfulness or disloyalty to Christ, but you spare it, and it grows up to a great city again and damages your whole spiritual life.

How many times the Church has spared the inhabitants of Luz. For instance, in the whole monastical system, you see the inhabitants of Luz spared. It came from the East and flourished in the Church. It taught separation from the world, the inherent evil of matter and the various forms of self-mortification, of which Church history is full. How the sparing of that inhabitant of Luz let grow up the whole monastic system, till it completely eclipsed Bethel, which was the sense of God's presence. A monastery is a hold of every foul and wicked thing, simply because it tries separation from the world, rather than the presence of God. I only give that as an extreme illustration, but the moment you find separation without the presence of God, you have the seed of failure, you have the enemy spared.

How much we need that, the sense of God's presence, the Holy Spirit in our midst.

Have we a Bethel? Or is it after all only Luz? Are we a set of people who have simply separated ourselves, or are we a people who are dwelling in the house of God? Is it God's presence, is it God's House, is it His precious blessed Spirit that controls, or are we a sect turning our backs, it may be, on much that is evil and all that, but not fully enjoying His holy presence?

We might go on to speak of the further failure that we find from the twenty-seventh verse to the end of the chapter. Here we have the failure of six tribes, more and more emphasized. We have, first of all, Manasseh, which signifies that spirit of oneness of purpose (forgetting the things which are behind and reaching forth to those that are before). The name means forgetting, and where the house of God has not been fully kept for Himself, how easy it is to lack in this devotedness of purpose which lays aside every weight, and presses forward in the race set before us to reach the prize; counting all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord. So there is failure in pressing forward.

Then the next failure is that of Ephraim. Ephraim is of the tribe of Joseph, which we have just looked at, and you remember if there is a failure to grow, the sense of God's presence is evidently wanting. Now here you have more distinctly failure in fruitfulness. Ephraim is the fruitful tribe, and represents work among the Lord's people, the proper fruit of faith, which shows itself as the apostle James tells us by works. If Manasseh has failed, if there is failure in oneness of purpose to press on, Ephraim will fail too. The works of our daily life will cease, and the enemy will take or keep possession of that which ought to be for God.

In the same way Zebulun, which means devotion or consecration to God, if there is the failure on the part of Manasseh and Ephraim, will also be too feeble to hold his own.

Then we have Asher whose name significantly means the happy one. Ah! need we say that if Christ is not chief, and if the house of God is not enjoyed, that Asher will fail to drive out the enemy from his territory? Tell me what is the sorrow or the dullness in your own heart, what is that lack of joy that so many of us have, alas, to confess to God? Is it not the failure of Asher, the happy one? Our name is Asher. That is. what marks and describes us. Does it describe you? Is the language of the apostle Peter (1 Pet. 1:8), ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glorya true description? Ah, brethren! unspeakable joyjoy that you cannot begin to describea joy that is full of the glory that awaits us. Think of the glory, of all the blessedness that is there, think of all its freedom from the defilement and jarring of sin, and everything of that kind. Is Asher your name? Is your heart filled with joy that is full of glory? Is it an anticipation of heaven? Alas, must we not own for ourselves, and for the Church of Christ, that if there is one thing where it has failed more conspicuously than in any other, it is in that spiritual joy that marks a genuine experience down here.

We have to pass through a terrible wilderness, beset by all manner of temptations, and in a world where tears are more frequent than smiles; but it is a lie to say that it is a world where the child of God should not be happy. Above all, when you look at our inheritance and our portion, it is a slur and a misrepresentation to say that the people of God should not be a happy people. Has Asher failed in your case to drive out the inhabitants of the land? Are the cities which ought to belong to Christian joy still owned by the enemy? What thief is it that is stealing your happiness? What little foxes are spoiling the tender grapes of your vine? Ah, beloved! we can see the cause of it, we can see what led up to it, whether it be in our own souls or the Church at large. Benjamin, Joseph, Ephraim tell the tale.

Naphtali is the next one, representing the mighty man of vigour and of valour. Naphtali, means a wrestler, and no longer in a spiritual sense a carnal wrestler, trusting in his own power, but a mighty wrestler for God; that is what he is in the mind of God, and in the sense of his sonship as belonging to God. He represents that spirit of power of man with God, the weak with the mighty One. Here again the dismal tale of shortcoming is told. The weak one has forgotten his weakness, and therefore he has forgotten God the source of his strength. Hence there is no power to wrestle, to overcome the enemy that is possessing his portion.

The account closes with Dan, who should have been a leader and a judge. He fails not only to drive out those who dwell in his cities, but the Amorites force him into the mountains and dwell in the fat valleys themselves. Ah! what decline is there; the enemy taking possession of the valley. The valley suggests lowliness and fruitfulness; fruitfulness because of lowliness. It is because the Lord went down into the valley of death that He could bear fruit for us, and it is only as we enter by faith into the reality of His death, and have the sentence of death in ourselves that we can be fruitful for God. And here you have instead of the people of God dwelling in the valleys, the Amorites. Amorites mean the lofty onesthose who are lifted up, but it is striking in what way they are lifted up. The Amorite means the lofty speaker. It means a people who talk a great deal. Their proper place, as the archaeologists tell us, was in the mountains, they were the highlanders. They are high talkers, and they drive God's people out of the valleys. Whenever you find the people of God given to talking instead of reality, making great profession, speaking great swelling words, you may rest assured that there is no lowly inhabitant of the valleys, therefore no fruitfulness.

Let us beware of mere talking. When tempted to talk glibly about being dead and risen with Christ, let us ask, is that an Amorite or is it an Israelite that is dwelling in the valley? We may talk of being blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ; let us ask ourselves is this a living divine reality in our soul? Let us search our hearts and never allow the Amorites to drive us out of the valleys.

Take another illustration in the history of the Church, that of the reformation. Take the controversies. What was the thirty years war due to? What were all the conflicts amongst protestants due to, but a clashing of arms amongst Amorites driving the godly out of the valleys? You take protestant Europe a few years after the reformation had been fully established, and you find many theologians, but very little godliness; you find plenty of talkers, plenty of fighters about doctrine, but, oh, how little of that lowliness of heart, that quiet spirit that dwells down in the valleys where the rain fills the pools, and where fruit for God abounds.

It is a good place to stop tonight, dear friends, with this thought of the valley. Apply it personally to ourselves. God dwells with him that is of an humble and a contrite heart. Have you been crowded out of the valley? Are you out of the valley tonight personally? Are you pushed up on to the mountains? Has there been so much of talk, as it were, that you have forgotten your lowly place of subjection to Christ? Have we as a gathering got out of that valley? Have we been thrust upon the mountain side of high profession by the talkers? Let us in the name of God come down into the valley. They tell us that the Amorites have iron chariots, but we have the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God is mightier than all the iron chariots of the enemy, and if we turn we will find that individually and corporately, too, we can get our place in the valley, and there find fruit for the Lord.


Lecture 2: From Gilgal to Bochim Changed Relations with God (Chap. 2-3)

Our first chapter has given us an outline of the external history of the occupation, or failure in occupation, of the land. It was largely taken up with the account of various victories and occupations of the enemy's territory, gradually decreasing in completeness till at the close the conditions were reversed, and the people were driven to the mountains by their enemies.

What is to occupy us in this present portion is the inward history of the people's relationship with God, with the results of that departure of heart from Him. It is intimately connected with the previous chapter, yet has comparatively little to say as to their portion, but is occupied rather with the deeper question of loyalty or disloyalty to God.

The whole chapter is general rather than specific, and we will find that statements are made which cover long periods of time and many occasions. The chapter in this way forms a sort of synopsis of the whole book, declaring principles which are afterwards worked out in detail. We will thus find several most important features which it will be for our profit to dwell upon at some length, before passing to the histories of the main portion of the book which will occupy us later on.

And an angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim. Everything in Scripture has a meaning; and surely we must expect a meaning in connection with a name that is suggestive of so many thoughts. Gilgal is the characteristic city of the book of Joshua. After they crossed the Jordan, and came up into the land, before they conquered a single city they encamped at Gilgal; and there the Lord said they were to make them sharp knives and to be circumcised; for they had been so long in the wilderness that they had lost the very badge of discipleship to God. The people were to be circumcised, and only after that would they be ready to undertake to fight in the land.

The spiritual meaning of that is simple enough, and very plain. The river Jordan represents, just as the Red Sea, death and judgmentthough the Red Sea gives us death and judgment in connection with our deliverance from Egypt. It has reference to Egypt, the land we were leaving. The power and dominion of sin, represented by Pharaoh and his hosts, is broken at the Red Sea. A way is open through death and judgment, by the death and resurrection of Christ.

Now the Jordan gives us a similar thought. It suggests the death and resurrection, not from Egypt but into the land. If we are going to enter into our inheritance, we need to enter through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. But remember, the people went through dry shod; it did not cost them anything to go through the Red Sea, to get out of the land of Egypt, nor did it cost them anything to go through Jordan, to get into their inheritance.

What did it cost you to get free from the wrath of God? what did you have to pay? what did you have to give up? what did you have to do to get out from under the bondage of sin and the thraldom of Satan? Not a thing; you went through dry shod. There was that mighty sea that rolled before you, threatening to engulf you. No human power could get you to the other side of it; no human power could deliver you from that awful host of Pharaoh. What was it that set you free? Why there was a way right through; it did not cost you a single effort; you escaped, walking quietly along the bed of the sea, as if you had been walking along a highway. It was God's highway.

Let me dwell on that for the sake of any who are unsaved. The way of salvation is as simple and clear as it is possible for God to make it. It does not cost you a single good work, or good feeling. All was perfectly done by Christ. The work was finished.

You are under wrath and judgment. All the world is subject to the wrath and judgment of God because of their sins. But here is God's remedy. The Lord Jesus Christ came down from heaven to seek and to save what was lost, and He, not by His life, but by His death, has opened the way of escape for everyone that believes in Him. In the cross of Christ I see the blood provided which shelters from judgment; and in that same cross I see a way opened for me of deliverance from the power and thraldom of sin.

Look at God's open highway. Look at that simple path of salvation for you. You have to do nothing to enter in, but to take your place as a lost guilty sinner. The path through the Red Sea is not a hard one. People often say that they are not able; they are afraid they will not be able to keep on in the Christian life. That is not the point. The point is, are you willing to take the step, are you willing to accept Christ? And the moment you accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, He engages to do all for you; and He has opened the way right through. It is not hard to have deliverance from the power of an evil that is greater than Pharaoh's power without a single effort on your part.

But you say that is dangerous, it is antinomian, and some of my Christian brethren would say, you are making the path of deliverance a little too easy. Beloved, I am solemnly persuaded of this. What is it that hinders many of God's dear people, who are not delivered from the power of sin in their own souls, and who are not conscious of what it is to be set free? Why can they not take the third verse in the eighth chapter of Romans, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death? Think of that. Could you go to God tonight, and on your knees say to Him, Blessed Father, I thank thee that the law of the Spirit has set me free from what held me in bondage. Could you say it? Could you in your soul say it? Not only that you are a forgiven sinner, but a delivered saint. If you can, you will agree with me when I say that the great error that God's people make is in thinking that the path of deliverance is a hard path. The path of sin is a hard one; the bondage of the seventh of Romans is a hard bondage, but brethren, the moment that in living faith we take hold of the Word of God, we are emancipated.

Let me tell you it is an easy thing to be set free in your soul. I do not mean for a moment to say that there will not be exercise after that, nor that we must not walk softly all our days, with no confidence in the flesh. But there is a great boundary line between the bondage and thraldom of sin, and the freedom and joy of deliverance wherewith Christ sets His people free. I see that line of demarcation in the Red Sea with its dry pathway.

It does not cost you a thing. It is no question of your getting a second blessing, or your attaining to a higher life, or of your having any remarkable or peculiar experience. How many of God's dear people are occupied with experience rather than truth. What you want is simply to tread that dry path through the waters. The waters on each side overtopping our heads, ready, apparently, to engulf us. What is there in us, what power in us could for a moment withstand those overtopping waves? Ah! beloved, the hand of power that holds them back has made an easy path for us to walk through. It is a path of perfect liberty. I believe that we need in this day to sound again that ransoming shout Thy people, Lord, are a free people. A free people , no longer in bondage to the world, no longer in bondage to sin or Satan.

But that brings us back again to Gilgal. This is no digression, but a blessed reality necessary for enjoying that of which we have been speaking. We come now back to Gilgal. How did we get there? It is a place in our inheritance into which we entered dryshod. We look about us and everywhere we can see our title-deeds to the whole of our inheritance. What next? Make thee sharp knives. Now we have come to something that does cost, not in any legal way, not in any way of human effort, but that which costs pride and self-exaltation and self in all its forms. The knife of God brings home to us now in a practical way the reality of that which is ours in a spiritual way. We have entered into the land; we know what deliverance is; we can say we have been set free, but if we are to walk as victors and freemen, the badge of the world has to be cut away, and only the cross of Christ can do that.

You remember how Paul in the epistle to the Galatians, the epistle of deliverance, speaks of the cross of Christ. In the first chapter, Christ gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us out of this present evil world; and in the last chapter, God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. In the first chapter you see the deliverance wrought for us by Him in the cross; and in the last chapter it is practically applied to us in the power of the Holy Ghost.

Dear brethren, God's people need ever to be brought to Gilgal. There is no such thing as a child of God having any power unless he has learned not merely his weakness, but death. Death having come in, the sentence of death having come upon him, he has applied it in the simplicity of obedience and faith, so that he has now no confidence in the flesh. The cross of Christ is not merely a title for him and not merely a badge of freedom, but it has become an emancipating weapon now, and he is cut loose from the power of the world, and from the energy of the flesh. How many of us know what this full deliverance practically is by the cross of Christsoul deliverance through that which is the badge of death. You remember that they went up from Gilgal and could face Jericho without a tremor or a fear, and Jericho's walls bow before them. They could pass from Jericho back to Gilgal to gather strength there again, strength out of weakness, to go forth to Ai, to go forth to war with the cities of the land, to meet every form in which the enemy would present himself. They go forth from Gilgal and win their victory, and come back to Gilgal to enjoy its fruits and be kept in the attitude which makes fresh victories possible.

Some of us know what it is to go out from Gilgal. Do we know what it is to come back to Gilgal? Some of us can look back upon an experience that humbled us even into the very dust of death. Do you know what it is to live there? You have been on your face before God. The cross has come in in judgment. You have been down in the very dust and seen the complete condemnation of self, and then God has lifted you up, and you have gone out and won your victory in the power of the Spirit. Have you gone back to Gilgal? Have you come back to the very place of your humiliation? Have you come back and rested there, where the sentence of death was upon everything?

Our book of Judges tells usand ah! how significant it isGod was at Gilgal, God was abiding at Gilgal. He had not moved His abiding place. He was there to meet them, the moment they would come to Him.

God still abides at Gilgal. He still abides at the place that speaks of the death of Christ as applied to us; and if we want to know in its fullness what it is to have to do with God, we have got to do with Him at Gilgal. There is no legalism about that. There is nothing to terrify us. Oh how sweet is the cross of Christ! It is the cross that has given you peace with God. It is the cross that we dwell upon every first-day. It is the badge of our eternal salvation. Are you afraid of the cross? You need be no more afraid of the cross for your pathway, than you are for your salvation.

But the people in Judges are not ready to meet God there. So, in His grace, the angel of the Lord comes up from Gilgal, where God is, from where, I might say, He has an appointment to meet His people, and where he is ever ready to meet them. He comes up to a far different place. Notice that little word up. It marks the distance between Gilgal and Bochim, and shows the difference between them. The place of lowliness has been forsaken, and high ground and a lofty attitude has been assumed. Ah, it is only too easy, whether as individuals or corporately, to make this ascent. Spiritual pride and self-confidence are in it. There are knives but no bitter tears at Gilgal.

What does God have to say to a man at Gilgal? Reproach? telling him of his shortcomings? Ah! no. When a man has been broken by the cross, God does not need to break him; when a man has humbled himself in the presence of God there, God does not need to humble him. When I have judged my course and my life, God does not need to judge it for me. So at Gilgal is a place of sweet and holy communion.

But ah! if God has to leave Gilgal, if He has to meet us upon another ground, what has He got to say to us then? He has got to unroll the wretchedness of our failures and departure from Him, to tell us, He brought us out of Egypt, brought us into the land, and said He would never forget His covenant, He ever would be faithful to His people. But He says: Ye have departed from Me. Ye have served other gods. Why have ye done this? And then He goes on to tell them that He cannot bless them, that He cannot be with them in any real sense so long as they have departed from Him. He tells them that He cannot drive out their enemies from their territory. That He must leave them in wretched bondage all their life long, because they have failed to meet Him in the place that is the badge of their nothingness and of His supremacy in all things.

You see how this has led up to and brought us right into the heart of our subject, and that is why I have dwelt so long upon Gilgal. Beloved brethren, it is the lesson for the child of God to learnit is the lesson for us individuallyand I was going to say, it is more important, if possible, for us to learn collectively. There are no degrees in that which is absolutely important, but it is just as necessary for God's people in association together, to be in the place of self-judgment as it is for individual saints. In fact the two are closely united.

The failure to realize this is the reason why the Church collectively has failed so conspicuously to enter upon what God has provided for it. It is easy to see that the Church collectively has departed from Gilgal. Take the companies of God's people. Take any company you please, dear brethren, and is it an easy thing to keep them abiding in self-judgment and brokenness before God? Nay, on the contrary, the tendency is constantly to fall short, and just as we have been seeing in all the tribes that they failed to cast out the enemy fully, so here we see the reason of it. They have failed to judge themselves fully.

Let us individually get back to Gilgal, or let us at any rate get to Bochim, the place of weeping. Let it be a time of Bochim for us; where we can see the witness of God that He cannot go on blessing because we have failed so fearfully to obey His holy will. Bochim, God can meet us there. You remember a holy and blessed Bochim, of which I am almost tempted to speak, in the New Testament. It is in the seventh of Luke. There is a poor soul that has nothing but her sins to bring to Christ, and she brings them; she pours them out in hot tears, in shame and sorrow on His feet. What could He do with her? Could the Holy Son of God meet her? Ah! it is a Bochim, a weeping place, where she can take her true place and find what He is to such. If there is a sinner here tonight, who realizes that he has nothing to bring to Christ but his sins, you can come with your sins to the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will find He will meet you there. There is a sacrifice at Bochim, a sacrifice that has put sin away forever from before God's face.

That is the tale; the people have departed from God, and God is now departing from them because of their failure. But they have taken it to heart, and as a result there is a confession, and the fear of God and a sacrifice that is a pledge that God's mercy is still unchanged, and that He is ready to meet those who in lowliness turn to Him.

We go on now to the rest of the chapter, which brings out the very same truth that I have been speaking of in the first chapter. In one sense there is nothing new developed all through this chapter. You find the same history gone over, but now in its internal aspect with reference to God, rather than with reference to their inheritance. We have been seeing how they failed to get possession of what was theirs. In this we see how the like failure marked them, to hold what was God's. If I do not get what is mine in spiritual things, I will not give God what is His in spiritual things. If I fail to enjoy my portion, I will not give God His portion, and the whole second part of this first division simply tells us how God was left out of account, how the people were alienated from Him simply because there was lack of faith and obedience to follow His will in taking possession of what was their own. You say perhaps in your inmost heart, if I am not enjoying the highest kind of spiritual life, it is my own fault, it is my own loss. No, my brother, it is God's loss. He is the loser. What He craves from you is the obedience and worship of a heart which is so full of His blessing that it has got to express itself in worship and service. No, you are not the chief sufferer, not the chief loser. Our blessed God is the loser. Will a man rob God?

Let us look at it a little closely. The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua. Joshua was a man that lived in the holy presence of God. He was a man whose soul was completely taken possession of for God, and therefore it was a simple thing for him to take possession of what was his. Let God capture my soul and I will want to capture everything for Him.

Joshua represents, as we have been seeing, not only the energy of the Spirit of God making Christ our leader, but the man of faith, too, who takes hold for God in living faith. The elders and Joshua who knew God, who followed Him, held the whole nation together as long as they lived. It is a mercy when God has such persons to hold fast His saints in allegiance. But we have no Joshuas now. We were seeing that Joshua had no successors. I believe he represented the apostolic spirit in the Church. Look at the time of the apostles; Paul and the other apostles held the saints together, and the Church was prevented from open and public failure by the apostolic power that was in their midst.

But the apostles all died and left no successors. The second generation of any movement is a time of failure. Israel under Joshua and the elders was faithful, outwardly at least, and living in the fear of God. But a second generation came inpeople who had not seen the works of the Lord, who had got the truths from the elders at second-hand. They had not come right down to them from God, but they had learned them in an indirect way, and I might add, in an intellectual way, rather than in their hearts.

How easy it is for the second generation of any movement to have truth in the head, but not in the heart. You have all these truths on your bookshelves. You can buy them for a few penniesprecious truths as to Gilgal and these other things of which we have been speaking. But it is one thing to pay for a thing out of your pocket, and another thing to pay for it out of your soul. It is one thing to get it into your head, and another to get it into your heart. And it was one thing for Joshua and the elders, men of living personal faith, to take hold of things, and quite another for the generation that followed them to do the same thing. Ah, brethren, there was a time when the Spirit of God sounded the midnight cry, Behold the bridegroom cometh. With what power it took hold of souls and brought them out to meet the bridegroom. How near was the glory! how dear the Lord! and how small the world!

Think what blessings the Spirit of God has revealed. A glorious Christ at God's right hand, a heavenly Church, and all the precious truths that flow from and are connected with it. It is one thing for us to talk about these precious truths, but it is quite a different thing to have them brought home, revealed to us by the Holy Ghost. The elders have gone; the first generation of this movement has passed away, and we are risen in the room of our fathers, and I ask you, and I ask myself: Has it been merely something handed down to us from faithful men, or have we had to do with God about these things? Is it between us and God? Have we been alone with Him about them? Have we been personally at Gilgal with Him about them? Or have we learned them because this or that one has held and taught them? Beloved brethren, leaders are God-given. We can bless God for them. But we cannot follow leaders save as they follow Christ. We must follow a living Christ in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

Lot, who was not a man of faith at all, might follow Abraham wherever he went. Abraham, to whom the God of glory appeared, when he dwelt in Mesopotamia, followed that beckoning hand of glory, out from his home, his country, his kindredeverything. Why did Lot follow? Because he had his eye on Abraham. Abraham went because he had his eye upon God. Lot went because he had his eye on man. Dear friends, why are we here, in this outside place? Why are we professing to bear reproach for the name of Christ? Have we followed the beckoning hand of divine glory? or have we followed near and dear ones? Have children followed parents, husbands wives, or wives husbands? Have we followed those whom we have loved and honoured in the flesh merely? Or have we followed Christ? Have we listened to the guidance of the Spirit of God, or to the guidance of men of faith? Men of faith can lead, but they cannot lead in reality except as the eye is fixed upon Christ.

Abraham goes into the land and Lot along with him. Abraham in an evil hour, when he is tried, goes down into Egypt. And where does Lot go? Down into Egypt with him. That is where the flesh takes him. You follow a man of faith, and instead of following his faith you follow him. If he goes right, you will go outwardly right, but when he goes into Egypt you will go, too. And then he comes back from Egypt by the restoring hand of God; but I do not read that God's hand was upon Lot in getting back out of Egypt. I do not read that God had to deal with Lot. In fact, I do not read that Lot had sinned and failed so grievously as Abraham did in Egypt. Lot was simply a figure who followed Abraham here and there, till at last the time comes when he cannot follow him any longer, when he has got to choose for himself just as every one of us has got to choose for himself, and Lot chose for himself. Where? Oh! where, brethren, did he go?

What will the flesh take as its choice? The fertile plains of Sodom, that is under the judging hand of God. If our faith is not a living faith, if it is a faith that we have by tradition in any sense at all, it is going to be tested sooner or later, and we have got to face the question: Where will we walk? Will it be in the path of ease? Will it be in the path that appeals to nature and natural affections? Or will it be in the lonely path of separation unto God, more and more, even as Abraham walked separately with God? That is the lesson that we can write across this second section; the people served God as long as they had a man of faith to lead them, but when the time of testing came, it showed what was in their hearts, and they departed. May God make it fresh in our souls. May He keep us from dealing with truth at second hand. May He make it a living reality to us.

But we find that this gives its character to the entire record here. It is suggested in the very burial of Joshua. You have often been reminded how Joshua's burial place in the book of Joshua is Timnath-serah, and in the book of Judges, Timnath-heres. When it was a question of the inheritance that he had entered into by faith as representing the people of God, it is Timnath-serah, an abundant inheritance. And surely God's portion is an abundant portion. And now when it is a question of the people failing and their departure from God, what is the portion where Joshua's grave is? Timnath-heres, a portion of clay. The abundance turned into a little handful of earth. That tells us the difference between a living faith and formal profession. Have you a portion of clay or is your heritage a goodly one? Is it the fruitful field, or the barren clay which yields no fruit for God, and no nourishment for your own soul?

But look at the next part. When Joshua dies the people depart from God; not merely do they fail to get what is theirs, but now they begin to serve Baal; they serve false gods; gods of their own manufacture, gods of the nations about them. They take their thoughts of God from people who do not know God.

I have been much struck in noticing the close of what is the epistle of the Sanctuary, I might almost say, the epistle of the Lord's bosom, John's first epistle. They are the closing words of an epistle which is devoted to setting Christ and God, who is light and love, before us. The last words are, little children keep yourselves from idols. Tell a man with his head on the Lord's bosom, keep yourself from idols? Tell a man who has been walking in the light, as He is in the light to keep himself from idols? Tell a man who knows the Father and the Son to keep himself from idols? Tell a Christian to keep himself from idols? Is there any need to guard us from idols? Surely if the Spirit of God has warned us of it, there is a danger of it.

What is an idol? A man makes an idol of his business, or of the world, or a mother of her child, you may say. Quite true in a certain sense, but if you will remember, in Scripture, an idol always has to do with the religious element. It is that which appeals to the conscience, and devotion and obedience come in. Now what is an idol? When the children of Israel made an idol in the wilderness, what was it? It was called Jehovah. Aaron said, tomorrow is a feast to Jehovah. And when he made the calf of gold, he said, these are thy gods which brought thee out of the land of Egypt. And Aaron, poor man, was trying to link what truth he knew of God with the idolatry that was in the people's hearts. It was a mixture of two, and the thing was to appeal to the religious sentiments of the people.

Now, as I understand idolatry, whether it be for Christians or for unconverted people, it is that which appeals to the religious element in us.

Look abroad; is there any idolatry among God's people? Has there been any admixture with God's truth? Here, for instance, we are told that the people served Baalim. That means Lords. And God's Lordship and ownership is a truth; God does own mankind. He is God over them, but oh! how many gods and lords there are, whom men have set over themselves, with some element of divine truth, but with only an element. What is it to depart from God and serve Baalim? It means when a single attribute of God is set aside and some human attribute is put in its place.

For instance, I may worship a God of power as revealed in Scripture, but if I do not add His holiness to it, I am worshipping an idol. I may worship a God of wisdom and knowledge as He is revealed in Scripture, but if I do not add to that His love and His righteousness, I have put elements in which make it idolatry for me. And so I conceive idolatry to be, not as you might say a total plunge into the darkness out of the full light, but the introduction into the light of elements of darkness. You find in one of the Psalms a description of the idols of the heathen, which is very instructive. They have everything outwardly that speaks of wisdom and power and intelligence without reality. They have eyes but they see not, they have ears but they hear not, hands but they handle not, neither speak they through their mouth. In other words, there is much outward resemblance to that which is suggestive of power, wisdom and all that, but it has been robbed of its reality. So to serve idols, is to have the heart and the conscience under the power of that which is not a divinely revealed reality to the soul. It is not the God of Scripture, it is not the God revealed by the Holy Ghost. It has some of man's thoughts added to it, and this becomes a Baal or an idol.

What is the God that is worshipped in this city? Money you say; nay, but seriously, what is the divine conception that is held up before men in this city or in this country? Is it God with all the attributes that we have been speaking of? Is it the living God? Is it La-ha-roi, the God that liveth and seeth me, that Hagar was brought face to face with? Ah, the God that men worship is an idol in this sense, that he is made up of the thoughts of men instead of the revelation of God.

A noted infidel, who was stricken down under the hand of God a few short weeks ago, had reared an imposing idol for men to worship. Was it the God of our Lord Jesus Christ? was it the God who is revealed in His Word? Nay, it was a Baal; it was a lord over man's lusts, simply being what man wanted, therefore, a false god.

Did you ever think why, in the epistle to the Romans, there is such a terrible arraignment of man's corruptions all set before us in the first chapter? There is unutterable corruption, almost inconceivable corruption, save to those who know what the heart of man is. And yet, why is this mentioned in connection with an epistle that deals with men who have the knowledge of God? I will tell you why, dear brethren. If men lose the knowledge of God, if they depart from Him, if they corrupt God, they will corrupt themselves. God gave them over to a reprobate mind because they had corrupted Him, and did not like to retain Him in their knowledge. That is the reason why all the unutterable vices of heathenism flourish.

Gaze with the prophet through the hole in the wall, into chambers of imagery in the idol's temple. See the almost inconceivable horrors portrayed there; human corruption in its lowest forms. You say, how could a people think that religious worship? Dear friends, it is just what all men do; they turn away from God as He is revealed to us in Christ, they make a god of their own imagination, they give free vent to the lusts of their own hearts. That is why there is so much corruption in the name of religion, and oh! it should make us tremble to think that if you or I depart from obedience to God, and begin to serve a god of our own imaginings, that God will give us up to the desires of our own corrupt hearts.

In the remaining part of the chapter you have the note of recovery. It is just the mercy of God coming in. The people depart from Him, they have set up idols of their own, the gods of the heathen about them. Then God gives them over to the enemy to come in like a flood and take possession. Then the people cry out for mercy under the terrible rule of their enemies, and God in His mercy raises up Judges to deliver them. That is how the Judges come in. First there is declension; secondly, bondage; thirdly, a cry for help. God in His mercy raising up a deliverer for the time being, who restores them temporarily, only to fall again into the same evil.

That is the lesson we are going to meet again and again in these chapters before us. I will not dwell more upon it, at present, but it is a solemn thought. God does not raise up another Joshua, He does not restore what has been broken to pieces. He raises up a judge for a specific purpose, and when the judge has done his special work and dies, the heart of the people slips off into evil, needing another deliverer, another recovery through another judge, but weaker and weaker, until it becomes well nigh total darkness.

The close of the second chapter, and the beginning of the third, show the result of this trifling with God. There is no further real conquest. Even the deliverances are but partial, and the enemy is left in the midst of the people, as pricks and thorns, both the witness of the fruit of their own unbelief, and a further test.

How true it is that the condition of things in Christendom is a witness against the Church. Little need, dear brethren, to prove that the Church has departed from its original state. The presence of moral and doctrinal evil within the limits of its profession, the spiritual wickedness only too apparent as the power of Satan, manifest the fact that we have failed to keep the compact implied in all the grace shown us.

Further, tooand may not faith gather comfort from the thought?the very presence of these evils in the professing Church is a test of obedience and faith. We are not to be overwhelmed by the condition about us. Faith shines brightest in the dark, and the book before us gives many examples of a faith that brightens by contrast with its surroundings. May we learn not to be disheartened by the ruin about us, but be rightly exercised. May we see God's purpose in leaving the evil about us, not that we should be engulfed by it, but conquer it. Let the very list of the spiritual foes, as given in the first four verses of the third chapter stimulate, and not chill us. Let Caleb's perennial faith be ours, a faith that never grows old or feeble. Above all, let us keep in a true attitude of soulabhorring all high-mindedness, having no confidence in the flesh.

I leave that word with you at the close. Let us go back to the place where we can meet God as He is, at Gilgal. The Lord lead us and keep us there.

Lecture 3: Othniel, Ehud and Shamgar The First Captivities and Deliverances (Chap. 2)

We saw in the last chapter that because of the unfaithfulness of the children of Israel in not going forward and overcoming them, God declared He would no more cast their enemies out of the land, but that they should be left as thorns in their side, an abiding witness to their unfaithfulness and disobedience. At the same time they would be a constant menace to their testimony, and to their national existence. You can imagine that any nation which has dwelling in its very midst, and occupying part of its territory, other nations which are not only diverse, but utterly hostile, not only to themselves, but to their institutions, form of governmenteverything that you can think of; you can understand that the presence of hostile nations like that, even in a political way, would threaten any national existence. We might mention, as a modern and partial illustration, the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, where you have not a homogeneous nation at all, but one ruling class, with which is connected the royal house, and another large class, who are practically the rulers, thoroughly opposed to the first; besides any number of other races who keep to their various traditions, habits, and everything of that kind. The result is, that the cord that binds the nation together is a very weak one, and there is a possibility of disintegration at almost any time.

Now that is from a political point of view, but when you come to apply it to a nation whose existence meant a religious testimony, a testimony for God, when you bring God into account, how much more disastrous will it be for a people to settle down with the various nations right in amongst them, and to amalgamate with them. How impossible it was for Israel to be loyal and true to God, and to carry out His law and to be subject to His government. It was an impossibility and, therefore, as I said, the presence of these unconquered nations in the land of Canaan was not only a witness to the failure of Israel, but a perpetual menace to their integrity and faithfulness, which eventually bore fruit in their being carried off into captivity. In fact, we are going to dwell upon the fruits of that in these lessons which are before us in the book of Judges.

That is on the one side. Then, on the other, you have what is brought out in the portion which I have read. God left these nations there to test their faithfulness. That is a very striking and most important lesson. Here were people whose presence was a witness of past failure. But, blessed be God, He does not stop there. If His people by their own unbelief and disobedience have compromised Him, and compromised themselves, God does not give them up. He is a God of infinite patience and long-suffering. He leaves them to the result of their own disobedience; that is the first thing; and out of those very results He brings fresh tests as to their future obedience.

So these nations, left in their midst to try them, where they associated with Israel day after day, were a constant test to the loyalty and obedience of the succeeding generations, to prove whether they would now go on to carry out the will of God, and cast out the enemy that was there. In other words, the presence of these men, so long as they remained, was always a witness of past failure, and an invitation to present recovery.

Let us apply that, for I am persuaded that God's dear people are often discouraged, and rightly so, by the results of their own disobedience. A man says, I have dishonoured the Lord, I have made alliances; I have put my head in a yoke that I cannot get out of; I am in a position from which I cannot be delivered. Therefore, there is no use for me to attempt to obey God further. I might as well give up. That is always Satan's way. First he gets you bound, then he says you cannot get loose; first lures you into the path of disobedience, and then says there is no use in your trying to do a single thing in God's way. You are to be a bondman till the day of your death.

Beloved, let us sound the bugle of victory, the bugle of warfare, right here. Let us say to one another that there is no position of bondage, no position where your own failure and disobedience to God have brought you; where you may not still count upon His power for fresh deliverance. You will not get the same complete victories, perhaps, which might once have been yours. But, it is never right for us, never for faith, to let the hands hang down, to say that there is no further hope. If you appeal to the God of hosts, you appeal to One who is never going to be overcome. Victory is upon His banners, even if you have been a retreating soldier. If like the tribe of Ephraim, you have turned back in the day of battle, still He ralliesthe mighty Leader rallies His scattered forces, and leads us back again to meet the enemy. This is His way, even if you had but one day of your life left.

The Lord stir us up, beloved brethren. Let us not submit to what is apparently the inevitable. There is nothing inevitable to faith except the mighty power of God to give us victory; that is the only inevitable thing. Let us not be discouraged; and the very presence of the enemy, which our own unbelief and disobedience has left all about us, is simply a fresh test. Will we now trust God? Will we now count upon Him? Will we from this day take fresh courage, and go on and carry out the plan that He decided for us at the very beginning?

Now that applies individually in our private, personal, spiritual experience. It applies as to all the associations of life which we make, to every form of alliance which you have made with the world, with the enemy, with that which would compromise you and your testimony. It applies to us corporately as well, to our united testimony, if we have allowed principles to come in and dwell in our very midst, principles which are diverse from the will of God, and the truth of His Word. If you are confronted with any circumstance of trial, any opposition of the enemy, remember this, first of all. These are left here that I may learn what war is, that I may learn now what it is to fight the Lord's battles, that I may, even in this late day, gird on the armour and go forth to the battle, which should have been won long, long ago.

Is not that encouraging? Is it not a beautiful way for God to put it? Is it not a touching way for Him to speak of the presence of the enemy amongst us? As though He were to say, I have left him here to test the loyalty of your obedience to Me.

Well, how did Israel meet all this? How did the people respond to this fresh invitation on God's part, to test them as to their faithfulness? In the fifth verse we read, The children of Israel dwelt, made their home, settled down. That is the thought, they have settled down; where? Amongst the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. There is a list of names, and I have no doubt that each of those names has its special significance. We might attempt to characterize them. Canaanites are traffickers; Hittites, Sons of terror; Amorites are talkers; Perizzites are rulers; Hivites are villagers; Jebusites are treaders down.

Now these represent spiritual principles which control conduct, and if you are dwelling where any of these spiritual principles control, you may know that you are living in the same circumstances as Israel. If you are confronted in your associations or your position, whether personal or ecclesiastical, with any of these principles that we have here, you may rest assured that God has a test as to your further obedience. Look at them a moment.

First of all are the Canaanites, traffickers, those who simply handle things for the profit there is in them. They are merchants, who have no heart in divine truth, but simply take it, and handle it for various reasons; some even for financial gain, some for social gain, some simply to avoid disagreeable conflict with those whom they love. All of that kind of handling of divine truth is mere Canaanite traffic, merely handling the word of God deceitfully. Suppose we are merely trafficking in it in an intellectual way. If we are, for instance, tonight, just seeing if we can get something, as the Athenians wanted, something new out of the word of God, not for our conscience and heart, but simply for our intellect; then that is a Canaanite principle. And if we recognize that amongst us, painful as it is to have to acknowledge it, let us cast out that principle of trafficking in God's truth.

There is a great deal of that. In the prophets we read that there should be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord. It is a name given to all forms of the enemy's presence in God's territory; it is the trafficker, the one who handles divine truth without a living interest in it.

There is also another point. I have said that these are principles of evil. But in Ephesians you remember that we are told that our conflict is with wicked spirits , and so wherever you have an evil principle, you have an evil person. Take for an example the one person in whom people have believed hitherto. He wants to obliterate himself from men's minds. He is the embodiment of the highest form of all pride and self-exaltation. And yet Satan's one object is to let Christians doubt his existence. Or if they believe that, they doubt his presence, or his true character. Satan likes people to think of him as a dreadfully immoral being. I was going to say that Satan was not an immoral being, in the ordinary sense of the word. The flesh, alas! with all its lusts, we know, is one of the fruitful servants of Satan, but the flesh is not Satan himself exactly. A man who is going on in immorality does not need, as it were, Satan to help in his destruction.

Satan is transformed into an angel of light. He deals with principles, and whenever you find principles of error, there you have Satan himself, there you have the personality, as well as the principle. For instance, if there is a spirit amongst the people of God of just intellectually trafficking in His Word, you not only have Canaanitish principles, but you have wicked spirits; you have Satan's power to battle with. And so with all these other principles that we might look at for a moment.

The Hittite empire was one of the largest of ancient times. The monuments show them to have been a vigorous and hardy race, different from all others, and that they spread over an immense territory. At one time the Hittite empire was an enormous one. Their name is suggestiveSons of terror. The principle of fear, of timidity, of holding back, shrinking from pressing forward, where God would have us, that is the Hittite principle. It is strange to speak of that as a mighty power which tells us of weakness; but as John Bunyan said, Shame was the most shameless fellow he ever saw, so fear is the boldest thing there is. We need not be surprised that after faith, the first requisite of which the apostle Peter speaks, is the soldier virtue, courage. Fear, the fear of man, the fear of consequences, the fear of walking on the water, the fear of walking the narrow path of obedience. Oh! how fear takes possession of God's people, and keeps them from fighting for Him, in His spirit and in His strength.

The Hittites dwell everywhere, and if you allow them, they will settle down in your midst. They will close your mouths, so you will be afraid to speak. Why is there so much silence amongst God's beloved people? Why is there so little testimony in the gospel? so little ministry amongst the saints? so few voices heard in prayer and praise in the assemblies? Is it not because the Hittites are allowed to dwell right in our very midst? You are afraid to speak a word for the Lord Jesus, afraid to lift up your voice in thanksgivingto lead the prayers and praises to Christ Jesus. You are afraid to take your stand for Christ, confess Him fullyafraid to do that which your own conscience and the word of God declares should be done. Oh, the Hittites' empire is indeed a wide oneit reaches everywhere, and their dwelling amongst us is a witness how we have failed to cast them out. Yet, thank God, their very presence amongst us is a call from Him to rise now and put them from us; to be done with fear, to be done with all this terror, this holding back, and to be strong in the Lord and power of His might.

After the Hittites come the Amorites; a striking kind of contrast; feartalkers. Constant talkers, boastful in connection with it. It means the word without the power. And is it not true that talk is easy? It is easy to talk even when people are really afraid of true confession. It is easy to speak our own thoughts. Of course, when I was speaking of the path of faith in confessing Christ, and speaking for Him, I did not mean in any kind of Amorite way; a voice and nothing else, simple talk and nothing else. It is a very easy thing to talk without practice, and that is the Amorite. Wherever we find that principle allowed among us, of high talk and low walk, much preaching and little practice, let us realize that we have amongst us an enemy that we should cast out.

Then further, not to dwell upon these too long, in the Perizzite you have that spirit of human power which rules; not divine rule, not subjection to God, to His will, and to His Word, shown in subjection to the humblest and weakest thing that expresses that will. But you have that high-handed spirit; the nobility. The Perizzite represents the nobility, the class that rules, that must be looked up to and obeyed, not for what they teach, but for what they are.

On the other side are the Hivites. These two go together. If you have a nobility you must also have the lower class. Here is the nobility and the peasantry, or, as you might say, the clergy and the laity. As a result, you have the Jebusite trampling down everything that is of God.

Now these are the enemies that dwelt right amongst God's people. They are in our midst today, and often have a lodging place in our hearts. Satan uses them to work mischief just as much as he can. What are we going to do about them?

That brings us to take up the first detailed account of bondage, and it is very striking, that not one of these enemies is mentioned as the conqueror in this first bondage. We are told they intermarried with these nations, took them into the closest union with themselves. They united with them, and adopted them as part and parcel of their nation. As a result, as we were seeing the other night, they adopted their gods, their religious beliefs and practices and service. Without dwelling long upon it, what multitudes of saints have been ensnared by literal marriages with persons of the world. What part hath he that believeth with an infidel? But the infidel here is not merely one avowed as such, but any unbeliever, anyone who is not personally a believer to the saving of the soul. Oh, the Christless homes, the aching hearts, the wrecked lives that have resulted from a neglect of the simple word of God. But to return to the narrative. For this reason the Lord sold them into the hands of their enemies. It is very striking, as I have said already, the enemy is not one that is amongst them, but one from a distance, even from far off Mesopotamia. They were sold into the hands of Chushan-rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia, and he ruled them with a rod of iron for eight years, till they cried to the Lord for help; they cried to Him, and he sent them a deliverer in the person of Othniel.

Now here is the first step of actual bondage. Who is it to whom they are brought into bondage? If we can discover the nature of the first actual rule over God's peoplenot the first enemy with whom they unite, the first enemy whom they sparebut the first actual one that takes charge of them, we will have a common starting point for all saints in like circumstances. Who is it? Is it not significant that he is outside of the whole land entirely? He is away from the place that God has given, and that suggests the thought of distance and separation from God. He is the king of Aram, which means exaltation and pride. In another connection Aram suggests our exaltation in Christ. And if there is exaltation without Him, the one who takes the place of Christ is surely the worst enemy there can possibly be, just as the Antichrist who opposes and exalts himself is the worst. Now this king of Aram, this king of exaltation, is rightly named Chushan-rishathaim, the blackness of double wickedness, intensified wickedness. Chushan is black. Anyone or any principle that takes the place of Christ is doubly dyed black. That is the thought. It is not a question here of immorality, nor of practice, but of principle.

Whenever there is that exaltation of the creature, apart from Christ and the supremacy of God Himself, you have the bondage under the king of Aram, of Mesopotamia.

Aram was the cradle of the human race. It is in Mesopotamia, between the two rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates. It was in Aram that the power of Babylon was developed, and it was to Aram that the Lord's people were finally carried away captive, for Babylon is closely connected with Aram.

That is very suggestive, and I am reminded very strongly that in the address to the Church at Ephesus, in the second chapter of Revelation, you have side by side the thought of their departure from God, their independence of Him, and the fact that they had left their first love. That was putting something else in the place of Christ, the exaltation of self. And the judgment pronounced upon it is, I will remove thy candlestick out of its place. In other words, there would be the final captivity as a result of this first step away from Christ.

So here, Aram or BabylonBabelbrings the people into bondage, and is the very first one to rule over them as a result of their self-exaltation and independence of God. And that Babylonian captivity is the final one, when the last vestige of the kingdom of Judah was carried off to Babylon, and the times of the Gentiles began. The whole government of God passes from the house of David over to the Gentile kings. In other words, the very first step includes the last. That is the principle in God's ways, and one of well-nigh universal applicationthe first step includes the last. It is the first step that costs, is the old proverb; and this rule of the king of Babylon over the people is the very first warning from God that shows what is the end of exaltation and independence of Him. To tamper with a false principle, above all to tamper with that which is the root of every other form of evil, is a sure sign that you will have the whole wretched result of that evil. Let us look at the case of our first parents. I make no question that there was nothing in the fruit itself to produce any such results as came from eating it. It was disobedience to God that brought in all the woe and misery and separation from Him that has existed ever since.

Apply that to the Christian. If you are cut loose from communion with God, you may hover about the country of God's peopleyou may linger amongst the saints and all that kind of thing, but if your heart is not attached to God, if your heart is lifted up with pride, you are away from Him. Your case is just like a boat that has been moored by a strong rope, and that rope has been cut. The boat may linger around the edge close to the shore; it may not be drifting far off, and to a casual observer it is as safe as any other boat, but if the rope that bound it is cut, it only wants a little puff of wind, a little wind of doctrine, you might say, a little ebb of the tide, and it is gone far away. Why is it that God's dear people wander from Him apparently so suddenly at times? Ah! The cord that bound them to Him in communion was cut long before. Now when the wind of doctrine, the temptations of this world come, there is nothing but to drift.

Let us now see recovery from this independence from God. Who is it that brings them back? What principle of truth is it that delivers them from this principle of unbelief? It is Othniel, whom God raises up to be a deliverer for them. There are two things to notice, and they come in the scriptural order, He judged Israel and he went forth to war. First of all self-judgment, then conflict with the enemy. It is just in that order. If you remember, in many a battlefield God let the enemy defeat Israel. He would not link His holy name with them, in the absence of self-judgment on their part. If His people had not judged themselves, they could not go to war. In the book of Deuteronomy we read, when thou goest forth to war, thou shalt keep thee from every evil thing. So Othniel acts. The man who is going to set them free from the power of independence of God, must first of all bring them on their faces, bring them, as you might say, to Bochim, the place of weeping, and there judge for God before going forth to war.

Why is it that God's dear people, when confronted by an evil principle absolutely contrary to God, have so little power to deal with it? Why is it that evil lifts its head and we cannot go forth to meet it as we should in the strength of God? Is it not because we go forth before first judging ourselves, because we fail to get down on our faces and ask God to search our hearts, and to bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ first? then we can deal with the evil. Brethren, a man that judges himself in the presence of God is the man who can go out and conquer for God, and cast down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of Christ. Is that not true?

But look a little further at Othniel. We have already seen this man as the hero of Debir, the hero of that mighty conflict in the South country, which gave them, as you might say, the power of communion with God. He took Kirjath-Sepher, the city of the book, and named it the living word of God.

Othniel means the lion of Godthe power of God, not the power of man, and he is the one who takes this book, which we believe to be the inspired Scriptures, and makes it practically the word of God. The man who judges Israel, the principle by which God's people can be brought into self-judgment, is the principle that recognizes that in this precious book we have God's word, which searches and tries our hearts. It is as His word searches us that we can be delivered from independency of God. Is that not true? Suppose pride and independency lift up their head, how can we get delivered from them? When the word of God becomes a living reality to us, when we bow to its authority. I love to hear of revival among God's people, or rather I love to hear of a revived faith. But what is it that marks a revival? Is it excitement, is it a wonderful kind of sentiment to gather us together by a sort of natural love? These would not be a genuine spirit of revival, such as has marked the great epochs of the Church's history. A revival is not effected in this way, but by bringing home the word of God to the conscience, mind and heart, and the people bowing under the authority of that holy Word.

If God's people are to be set free from their own wills, is there any other way but by being brought into subjection to God's word? I cannot put my will against my brother's will. I may say my brother is acting in self-will against God's will. How am I to overthrow that will? I cannot interpose my will, for my will is as bad as his. I must interpose the word of God, and subject him to that; and the power of double wickedness, the blackness of wickedness, of independency of God, will be driven away, and God will give rest from that spirit of self-will. That is the lesson written here upon this first conquest, the first bondage of self-will and independency is overthrown by subjection to the word of God and the power of living faith.

But now we look for a little at the next enemy and the next victory. That is a power quite different from what we have been contemplating. It is nearer home, and it is a twofold one. The remainder of the chapter speaks of the one down to the verse just before the last; and the last verse gives us the other, the Philistines. You have two enemies, one on the East side just across the Jordan, Moab; and on the West side, at the great sea, the Philistines. Only we get just a glimpse of the Philistines.

Moab, as we know, was a blood relation of Israel. He was descended from Lot, who was a relative of Abraham. So that the Moabites were the natural kinsmen of the Israelites. But, as we have already seen, Lot's relation with Abraham was largely a carnal, fleshly one. In his descendants' case it was entirely a fleshly one. Israel had no more bitter and relentless foes than these Moabites and Ammonites, who were their kinsmen.

You remember how our Lord said that a man's foes should be those of his own household; that is, the mere relationship of nature, instead of being a help in the things of God, too often proves only a hindrance. But that is not the only lesson. Moab suggests a people and principle which are outwardly connected with God's people, without any vital or divine connection. Moab could say, We are kinsmen, why should we be at enmity with each other?

He could thus gradually come in and take possession, until finally he ruled over his brethren, according to the flesh. Thus, while the encroachment may have been gradual at first, and made possible by the laxity of the people, at the last he smites Israel. Spiritual enmity is definite, and Satan will strike at last, though he allure at first. Now it evidently means, therefore, that here you have a principle by which God's people are brought into subjection, and that principle is closely connected with divine things.

Profession bears the closest resemblance to divine realitiesprofession without reality. Profession may claim natural relationship to faith; it may say we are the people of God, we are separate from the world, we belong to Christ. But all these things may mark mere empty barren profession, and thus the king of Moab govern God's people. Profession will thus gain and bring them down to its own dead level of worldliness.

Eglon associates with himself Ammon and the Amalekites. These suggest various forms of nature and the flesh. Ammon we shall have later on in the conflict of Jephthah, and Amalek speaks of the works of the flesh, which are the inevitable companions of a mere profession.

It is very striking that the king of Moab comes over into the territory of God's people just so far as Jericho. Jericho, as you will remember, is a type of this world in all its fragrance and attraction, the very first enemy that God's people had to overthrow. Here you have Moab, profession, making his headquarters in the world. Is it not so? Look abroad today. The world is full of profession; God's people are fairly honeycombed with profession. Where are the headquarters of profession? Go to the home of profession, I do not care what high-sounding name it gives, you will find that it has its headquarters at Jericho. Profession is in the world, and the reason why profession has such power over God's people, is because it furnishes a convenient link between them and the world.

It is a sad and solemn thing to think of mere profession, of those who have the name of Christ on their lips, but their hearts are in the world; that is an awful thing. But how much sadder is it to think of God's entire people being brought under the power of that which links them with the world. Not with Jericho, because the enemy is too clever to give a plain name to things. It is called the city of palm-trees. They are very beautiful, tall, stately trees, and do we not read in Scripture that the righteous shall flourish as the palm-tree? There surely cannot be anything very bad with Moab's setting up his throne in the city of palm-trees, that is righteousness, morality, reform, practical uprightness in walk and honesty. Well is it to remember where the throne of Moab is. Moab's power, the power of profession, is outward reform. Reform is very alluring; it makes a drunkard give up his drunkenness, and become a respectable citizen. Let us have political honesty, moral uprightness and benevolence. All that is Moab's stock in trade. Yes, the Christ-less professor can live in the city of palm-trees, can talk about uprightness of conduct and all that, but it does not make him love Christ, or unite him to Christ. Profession! oh! how that king of Moab has settled down on God's territory, and taken possession of it.

We read that Eglon was a very fat man. It suggests the absence of that vigour, of that power, that prevented him from being a strong, muscular, active person. And profession is a dead, inert mass, which settles down, and by its very weight stifles spirituality out of God's people. His name, Eglon, means a circuitone who goes around in a circle, just like the hands of a clock go around, or like the seasons of a year. It takes everything as it comes, and so you find the professor is like this. He is an easy-going kind of person. He does not bother himself to do anything that is going to make him exert himself very much. It is a very indifferent kind of thing, and, Oh how it absolutely hinders a soul for God, in enjoyment of God, or in testimony for Him.

Who is it that is going to rid God's people of such an incubus as that? that is going to set us free from the power of a mere empty profession. He is a Benjamite, Ehud by name. Benjamin, you know, we saw already is that spirit of absolute subjection to Christ, the spirit of Christ in us controlling and actuating our hearts and lives. Benjamin means the son of my right hand, and it suggests the perfection of our standing before God. We are in Christ, Christ is in us, for power down here. And now is it not striking, that while the man is a Benjamite, the son of my right hand, he is a left handed man? It is very suggestive.

As to our standing, we have a perfect one; we are complete in Christ before God, and Christ in us has complete control. But that means there is no power of my own. He is the son of God's right hand; his own right hand is useless. That is the hand of natural power, and he is simply a poor, left-handed man, helpless in himself. Ehud is such a man, and there are many other Benjamites that we read of who were left-handed men. I think the thought suggested is that we are to glory in our infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon us. Paul was a Benjamite, a literal descendant from the tribe of Benjamin. But more, he was a spiritual Benjamite who said he gloried in his infirmities, for when he was weak then he was strong. Caught up into heaven, as you have it in the twelfth chapter of second Corinthians, he gets that right hand crippled. He comes down here a poor, weak, left-handed man, to be a witness for God, to be a testimony to the power of Christ. Ehud means the same as Judahpraise, or rather confession. It is a con fession, and it is very different from making a pro fession such as Moab.

Ehud is a confessor, a confessor of his own weakness and Christ's power. He is the one that is going to deliver the people of God. You notice he comes from Gilgal. We were looking at that in another chapter. It emphasizes the lesson we are looking atleft with no strength in ourselvesdeath to the old man. He comes to the king of Moab, and has a sword with two edges, a cubit long. We are told that a cubit is the measure from the elbow to the hand, and I take it that a cubit is a measure of human capacity, so to speak. Here is a man who prepares a sword, and we know that the sword of the Spirit is the word of God. But it must be the word of God as applied to profession. Not the whole Scripture is a sword, but that scripture which with its two edges cuts, which applies to the case.

He comes with his sword in his hand, a sword a cubit long. It cuts both ways; it will cut every way. God's word will always cut every way. You cannot use the sword on one side to a certain class of people and let another class escape. The sword cuts in both directions. The word of God is no respecter of persons.

Ehud comes up to the king of Moab in his summer parlour of ease and indulgence. He says, I have a message from God to thee, O King. And he meets that man, that great inert mass of fat. What a contemptible thing it is after all, this profession, this incubus that settles its weight down upon God's people. I have a message from God to thee, O King. What is it? The word that I can handle, the sword up to the hilt, the sword with the handle and all. Drive the whole thing into the mass before him, handle and all. That sword of human length, representing my apprehension, the saint's apprehension, of the word of God now applied in the energy of human weakness, but of divine strength, and the king of Moab is slain.

And this mass of profession, and all his people who have been keeping God's Israel in captivity, is slain. The fords of Jordan are taken, the people of God are awakened by the trumpet, and as a result not one Moabite escapes, and God's inheritance is delivered, for the time being, from that fearful incubus of profession.

Do we know anything practically of the victory over profession in that style? Do we know what it is to see the flashing in all our victories of the quick and powerful word of God, sharper than a two-edged sword, smiting all profession; that rids our own hearts from mere sham? The Lord give us to know practically what that is.

As we saw the resemblance in the self-sufficiency and coldness of heart in Ephesus to the dominion of Aram, we can hardly fail to be struck with the resemblance of Moab's rule to the sway of profession, and mingling with the world as we have it in Pergamos. It is the world come into the Church, quenching its testimony and deadening its spirituality. It is the marriage of the Church with the world, the settling down in comfort at Jericho, where Satan's throne is.

The Ehud, too, with the sharp sword with two edges, is there spoken of. Christ, in His people, who now for their sakes fights with profession with the sword of His mouth. In the soon coming day He will use that sword in judgment only, upon professors. Now His word is for those enslaved, to deliver them.

In the last verse of the chapter, you have the enemy on the other side. I will not dwell on it long for he comes up again. It is not a national victory, but simply one man who conquers six hundred Philistines. Samson gives us the Philistines again, and even after him there was not a full victory. The Philistines on the West side were closely connected with Egypt. They were wanderers, as their name implies, wanderers who came into the land without exercise. They have come in by the short cut, not by Jordan. They are in the land, and in that sense they are professors. But they are more than that. Moab never gets permanently into the land; the Philistines do, and they take charge of it. They claim authority over it; they claim to have the right, though they are there without having to go through Jordan, that is without having passed through death and resurrection. Here you have profession again, but now it is more than a mere empty profession. It is a profession that is an imitation. I will not go into it tonight, but in them you have really the introduction of the principle of succession and of rites and ceremonies, and everything of that kind. They suggest ritualism, which is embodied and headed up in Rome at last. Here you have it just as it commenced, this spirit of ritualism of profession with its forms and its claims.

You have an illustration of it in the epistle to the Galatians where they wanted to introduce Judaism into Christianity, mixing the world's ordinances with the things of God. You have it again in the epistle to the Hebrews, where they wanted to go back again to the empty forms of Judaism from which they had been set free.

Wanderers and pilgrims may resemble one another, but a wanderer is a very different person from a stranger and pilgrim. A stranger and pilgrim has a definite purpose before him. A wanderer is merely going here and there without any definite purpose. Did you ever think that Rome does not give a definite hope to the people? Those who are governed by Rome are not journeying to a heavenly inheritance. No man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them, is a favourite verse. According to Rome, the best of them are going into purgatory. They are simply wandering in that which does not belong to them, and their end is uncertainty.

How different it is with those who are God's strangers and pilgrimsstrangers here, but well known there. Pilgrims going on to a certain rest, with a certain hope. And it is Shamgar, the stranger, who meets the wandering horde that was coming to bring God's people into subjection to them, and introducing their worldly and carnal doctrines. It is Shamgar that takes the ox-goad, which might well represent a pilgrim's staff, and with it slays hundreds of those wandering Philistines, who do not know where they stand. The lesson is simple enough. Anything in the hand used of Him wins God's victory. Anything in your hand that emphasizes your weakness. If you are a true pilgrim for God that is enough. A mere exhortation which acts like an ox-goad is enough. It stirs up the oxen to walk a little faster, or makes them walk in the right direction when they are going wrong. An ox-goad that pricks and punctures the conscience will destroy the profession that seems so mighty. Would that we were more familiar with the ox-goad.

As we have seen, the Philistines are here connected with Moab, both forming the mass of profession which controls the Church. In like manner we must notice that Thyatira is closely linked with Pergamos. As Philistinism reaches its full development in Rome, so does Thyatira.

The overcomer in Thyatira has given to him, as the power for overcoming, the pilgrim hope of the Lord's coming, answering thus to the pilgrim Shamgar.

I do not mean to absolutely identify these churches with the three enemies we have been considering, but without doubt there is a strong resemblance in the principles of each. Nor would I limit the comparison to those here mentioned. But if we have a history of the Church's failure in both these portions, may we not expect to find just the correspondence which we have been observing?

We might say, then, that the lessons for the Church in this chapter are warnings against pride and profession. While they may historically refer to the first steps in the decline of the early Church, have they not a clear voice for us in this day?

It is the hour of Aram, of man's exaltation and of man's profession. One might well weep over the awful state, in these respects, of the Church now. Oh for that brokenness of soul which will cry aloud to the living God for help and deliverance! O, for men of faithfor the divine principles of faith in ourselvesto rise and smite these foes. Where is that sense of God's supremacy that will break down all sufficiency in ourselves? Where that feebleness which smites, with the sharp word of God, all empty profession? Where that separate pilgrim spirit which lays low the arrogance of a carnal religion? Shall each of us in ourselves seek in some measure, even in this day, to furnish an answer?



Lecture 4: Deborah and Barak The Triumph of Feebleness (Chaps. 4-5)

The bondages under the three powers which last occupied us were largely those of Judah, or, at least, the tribes occupying the south country, of whom Judah was chief, with Benjamin and Simeon as associates. We saw that the latter two enemiesMoab and the Philistinesrepresented largely profession, whether the grosser form under Moab or the more refined and religious form under the Philistines. While the whole nation no doubt suffered from the bondage, yet it is evident that the entire land was not absolutely under the sway of any one power. Thus Moab and the Philistines occupied, as we have seen, the south country, and from Othniel of Judah being the deliverer from the sway of the king of Mesopotamia, it is probable that the first oppressor of Israel too was chiefly located in the south country.

The typical character of the deliverances has a close connection with the territory delivered, as we shall presently see. In all three cases the word of God was prominent: Othniel suggests the living oracleDebir; Ehud, the sword of the Spirit, quick and powerful, and Shamgar's goad reminds us of those words of the wise which are like goads, piercing with their pungent exhortations. Thus the word of God is prominent throughout.

We come this evening to another section of the territorythe north country, where we will find an enemy of a different character, and different methods of warfare are used to overcome him. Let us first of all look at the North and South in the way I believe Scripture itself warrants us, for everything in the word of God has its significance.

The South is the land towards the sun. Winter and Summer the sun passes over the south country. It is a land that is accustomed to the light of the sun. The North, on the other hand, is the land that is turned away from the sun, and the very word for North, hidden, suggests the absence of light. Thus the darkness of nature away from God is the thought, a darkness which is the result of the fall. God is light, and when man turns away from Him he is in the darkness of his own mind and his own devices.

You will find that there is a difference between the various classes of mankind. There are those who have been under the light of God's truth, who have lived, as you might say, with the blaze of divine light shining from Scripture upon them. There are others who have turned their backs upon the word of God, and are living on the dark side of the world, away from the word of God and revelation. There are thus those two sides on which we are exposed to the assaults and to the domination of spiritual enemies. We have enemies on all sides. I may hold an open Bible in my hand, but that is no guarantee that I will not have spiritual enemies who will misuse that very Word. Men may have an open Bible, as we have in this country, and yet profession may stalk abroad master of the whole situation; or ritualism even with an open Bible may claim its place as ruler over God's people. On the other hand, there is that which, as we know, denies Scripture its place and authority as the word of God, in fact, closes the book to us. This is infidelity.

That is what we have tonight. It is the northern enemy who lived in, and who gathered his power in the dark, away from the full shining of the light; the enemy who wants to rob us in every way of that light, and who wants to lay his cold hands of unbelief upon all that we hold dearest, and in that way rob us of our portion. It is the power of human intellect, as contrasted with the power of the word of God. It is the power of infidelity in all its forms, not merely the bold and blatant infidelity of the unbeliever, but any form of infidelity which has turned its back upon the word of God. You turn your back upon the light, and you are facing the North. You turn your back upon the Scriptures, and you are facing the spiritual North. You have turned your back on God's revelation, and you are left to the feeble glimmer of your own understanding.

That is the power we have to look at tonightthe power of human understanding controlling in divine things. It is a dreadful and awful power. It spreads its influence everywhere, and wherever that influence reaches, wherever man breathes it in, it exalts him at the expense of God's truth.

The king of Hazor, the king of this northern federation, has a significant name. It is Jabin, which means understanding. What a significant kind of name for a man to have who has typically thrown up, as you might say, revelation. He does not want the light of the sun, for he has the illumination of his own understanding; he is Jabin, the king of Hazor, the king of the enclosure, that which excludes divine revelation and is sufficient unto itself. That is very striking.

It is significant when we remember that Jabin was conquered by Joshua more than a hundred years before this time. In the conquests through which they had first taken possession of the land, they overthrew him and his people and all his chariots of war. They destroyed Hazor from off the face of the earth, and did not even inhabit it, as they did other cities. You may ask if Joshua had won the victory, if Joshua had completely overthrown Hazor, why do we hear of it again, with a king of the same name? And when we remember the spiritual meaning of the name, and the fact that for God's people, Jabin, understanding, has been vanquished by the apostles giving us the truth, we may be tempted to ask, Can human understanding again have sway? Or, to come to individual history, if the wisdom of the carnal mind has been for us overthrown, and we have possessed that which was once held in darkness by it, can there be any danger from the same source?

Ah! brethren, Satan knows what resurrection is just as well as we do. Satan knows what the resurrection of the power of evil is that can overthrow the believer, and bring him into captivity to that same power which he had once mastered. Perhaps you know what it is to have overthrown some power of spiritual evil that had mastery over you, and had gained the victory over you, and then, having overthrown that power, you supposed it was impossible to have fallen into the same evil. Do you know what it is to awake some day and to find the enemy just as strong, the same old enemy, the same old sin!

We know something of that, surely. The Church of Christ knows something of that. I believe it is a significant lesson for us here, that the Church of Christ only too often gets into subjection to the power of an evil once completely vanquished. Is it not spiritually significant that this enemy of rationalism, of the intellect of man, the exaltation of the understanding is what brings into captivity again and again? We all pay homage to intellect, to learning and understanding. Wherever there is a spirit of unbelief able to talk a little wisely and learnedly, how easily do the people of God bow under the authority of understanding and turn their backs upon the sunshine that illumines the South country, and pay homage to the cold dark North.

That is important to remember. The intellect used away from God means infidelity, I do not care what name it is called by, for it has hundreds of names. This northern power was a confederacy. Jabin was the head of all the kings of the North. In like manner the sway of mind is called by many names. At one time it may be the Arianism that denied the divinity of our Lord; at another, the deadly deism that excluded God from His own world. Later on, it may be rationalism, or, as in our own time, Higher Criticism. But whatever the form, reason, the understanding of man is exalted. They say, Of course Scripture is of great value, and, in a certain sense, authoritative; but, remember, intellect comes first. That is the keynote to the whole Higher Criticism. It is that man, puny, sinful man, is capable of giving his judgment upon the word of God. Now, I do not care what place you give Scripture, if you give it a place short of the absolute perfection of God's revelation with absolute authority, you are giving it a place which Jabin himself wants it to have. Do the higher critics, for instance, tell us that they are infidels? Do they tell us that they do not believe in the Bible? No, indeed, they say they believe in the Bible more than we. They say they bring their intellect to bear upon it, and sift out of it men's thoughts, so that sitting in judgment upon it all, they tell us what is divine and what is human. Thus you have sinful man giving judgment upon the word of God. When he does this, he becomes an absolute enemy to the truth of God.

That is only one thing; it is a glaring illustration of the power of the understanding. Perhaps you and I know something of it in a minor way. Perhaps we know what it is to put our thoughts in the place of God's word. Perhaps we have felt the chilling power of this Northern foe coming in and intruding man's thoughts where God has spoken. Oh! wherever your thoughts predominate, or any man's thought, and take the place of God's word, you may be sure it is the power of Jabin, king of Hazor.

Then the captain of the host is a great warrior. Poor man has high thoughts of his attainments and his knowledge. When you touch a man's knowledge you touch his pride. From this comes contention, each one asserting the truth of his own position. The apostle James answers his question, From whence come wars and fightings among you? by replying, Come they not hence even of your lusts that war in your members? There are lusts of the mind as well as grosser desires, and these beget a desire for war. The captain of Jabin's host, who is a warrior, is Sisera, which fittingly means a battle array.

In the list of the works of the flesh, the apostle has a significant arrangement (Gal. 5:19-21). After detailing the grosser forms of moral corruption, and the superstitions of idolatry, he adds, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies. How suggestive are these of that battle-array, in which the enemy would set the people of God.

You will notice, too, how it is Jabin, the wisdom of the world, that has Sisera as his leader. Turning to the first chapters of the epistle to the Corinthians, we find this battle array set before us in direct connection with the wisdom of the world. Before he touches the grosser lusts of the flesh, in the fifth, sixth and seventh chapters, the apostle goes into minute detail as to the worldly wisdom which characterizes the Corinthian saints as carnal and walking as men.

They were dividedeach sect or party with its head, and each arrayed against the other in the emulation and strife that resembled the conflicts of Greek philosophy with its antagonized schools. I am of Paul, and I of Apollos.

It was human reasoning, the wisdom of the world, reasserting itself in the bosom of the assembly at Corinth. We need not wonder at the strife of tongues resulting, nor need we be surprised at the rise of this same spirit among God's people whenever they turn their backs upon the word of God and adopt the wisdom of man in its place.

You will notice, too, that Jabin is king, not only of Hazor, enclosure,the mutually exclusive sects of man's partieswhere he reigns, but of Canaan, the general name for a large part of the inhabitants of the land. Thus his rule is widespread, and is marked by that spirit of trading in holy things which we have already dwelt upon, somewhat. Divine things are made but the material for self-aggrandizement; the Canaanite merchantman is in the house of God.

Sisera dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles , and, as we have been seeing, the carnal strifes of human reasoning are characteristic of men, of Gentiles, rather than of the saints of God. How humiliating it is to see the people of God in bondage to the world or its spirit, to be walking as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them because of the hardness of their heart (Eph. 4:17-18). In this brief passage we seem to have suggested, from one point of view, the darkness of the North, the vanity of Jabin and the Gentiles, among whom Sisera had his home.

But have we not at the present time cause to fear this sway of Jabin? We have already looked at it as illustrated in the use of the intellect in sitting in judgment upon the word of God, as seen in the Higher Criticism. But may we not see it further in the various sects and parties of today, each with their special creed, and each contending in unseemly strife for the correctness of its own views? Surely the divisions of the day speak loudly of a failure to have a common standard. But where can such a standard be found? Certainly in no creed of human devising, but only in that perfect word of God which sets aside all pretensions of the wisdom of this world.

You will also notice that this domination of Jabin takes place after the death of Ehud, upon which the people had departed from God. It is when the true confessor ceases that heart-departure begins, and this opens the way for the resurrection of the mind of the natural man. May our God keep us ever true confessors of His truth, that this enemy from the dark North oppress us not.

Such, in some sense, is the lesson of the bondage, but now for the remedy. Who is the judge that is going to deliver? Who is going to rise against the high tide, the flood of infidelity that comes in and rises higher and higher, and would sweep all before it? It would carry off their feet those men who boast in their knowledge and ability. It would engulf men of mind in their own carnal reasonings, rob them forever of the truth of God. Ah! dear friends, how the suggestions of human reason, of human intellect come in, till many of those voices are mute which once spoke boldly for the truth, or worse yet, they are turning to parley with the enemy. How unspeakably sad it is to see those who were once valiant for the truth descending to the level of the world, and associating with themselves professed religious teachers who are but the emissaries of Jabin. For surely this is what a man is who teaches evolution in any of its forms. No matter how piously one may speak, if the judgments of science falsely so called are adopted, he has turned from God, and is helping to bring the people under the yoke of practical infidelity. Those who unite with work like that are also helping to bring captive to Jabin king of Hazor the Lord's people.

But who is the deliverer? Who is the one that sets God's people free? A womanDeborah.

We cannot doubt that there must be instruction in this, that the deliverer is a woman, not a man. The man comes in later, but all originates with the woman. What a witness of the universal failure, that not a man apparently can be found to do the Lord's work. It shows how completely and universally the people had failed. But, on the other hand, it shows how blessedly God comes in, even using the humblest instrument. Wherever He can find faith, which in feebleness will trust Him, there He finds a chosen instrument for His work.

And here again the names are what tell us unmistakably the spiritual meaning. We have seen the exaltation of reason. What does Deborah mean? Deborah and Debit are practically the same word, and both signify the word. What a suited instrument for the overthrow of mere human reason. If God's word is the instrument you may rest assured that human reason, in so far as it exalts itself against God, will be cast down. More than that, she was a prophetess. It is not merely God's word according to the letter, not merely the written word, but the living word. That is the word of God as applied by the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit of prophecy speaking under divine guidance. Then she is the wife of Lapidoth, that is the wife of a flaming torch. This reminds us of that passage in the epistle to the Philippians, in the midst of whom ye shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life. Lapidoth, lights in the world holding forth the word of life. That is what gives the victory over human understanding.

Another thought is that Deborah judged Israel under the palm-tree between Ramah and Bethel. Deborah, the word of God, judging them as a flame of fire. The word of God is like a fire to burn up the dross and to melt. She judged Israel, and as we were seeing the other night, whenever Israel is judged, the first step has been taken which will result in the enemy being overthrown. There you have the deliverance foreshadowed. It emphasizes the two things that I have spoken of, man's feebleness and the power of the word of God. What a combination to effect the will of God! In ourselves absolute weakness, nothing but objects of contempt, you might say, so far as strength of man is concerned. But it is in our weakness that we cleave to His word; and if that word is like a flaming torch you may rest assured that God will search out and overthrow the enemy by it.

This, then, is the instrument at first sight. Next we have the other deliverer, who is called up by the prophetess, and who engages in the actual conflict. It is Barak, the son of Abinoam. His name means lightning. How quickly the fiery torch becomes a lightning flash, symbolizing the word of God, brought home to our souls by the Spirit of God, so that it becomes not only a flaming torch, but to all spiritual enemies a thunderbolt falling from heaven. That is what will conquer the enemy, no matter how great he may be; no matter how learned and self-sufficient. How often has the might of learning in the infidel, the great man of letters, with his Greek and his Hebrew, and with his archaeology and his monuments, and everything of that kindhow often has this great man had to bow before some feeble Deborah and Barak, who simply brought the word of GodThus saith the Lord.

When will we learn to use that Thus saith the Lord? When will that be enough for us? How that settles everything. How it gives us all the theology we need to understand, all the astronomy, all the archaeology, all the inscriptions we need to unfold the mind of God! Thus saith the Lord is worth more than all the lying inscriptions of the heathen world, who loved to exalt their great men, and which are often set up to antagonize the word of God by the poor wretched enmity of infidels. Infidelity is always enmity against God, and the only way of victory over that infidelity is by the word of God. I do not mean merely open blatant avowed infidelity. I do not mean necessarily that which we link with the name, when we say, so and so is an infidel. I mean that more subtle and more dangerous form of infidelity, which creeps into the Church of Christ and leads people captive.

We must take heed or we will be snared by its subtlety. No man who comes amongst us saying, I do not believe in Jesus Christ, could have any power over us. No one who comes to us and says that the Bible is a book of fables and lies has any power over us. But if he comes and says you must use your reason, you must use the principles of philosophy in order to understand the Logos (and when a man begins to talk Greek to untutored souls, beware)if he says you have got to know philosophy to understand the Scripture teaching as to the Logos; or you have to know all kinds of archaeology and history before you can understand the Bible, rest assured, dear friends, he is an infidel. It is the exaltation of the mind of man over the word of God, and setting reason as judge over that which judges us. It is a puny attempt to throw man's light upon this precious Word, which in the power of the Spirit is itself a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. It is the only light needed, and the only one there can possibly be. All else is but darkness.

And is that not the lesson that we get from Jabin's rule?

It is feeble Deborah who sends and calls for Barak. If the word is to be effective, it must find an instrument, and it is not Deborah but Barak who is to go to war. He comes from Kedeshone of the cities of refuge, and whose name is beautifully suggestive of where true shelter is to be found. It is the sanctuary of the wrestlerKedesh-Naphtaliand no wrestler can come forth to victory unless his home be in the sanctuary.

How strikingly in contrast is this with the abode of the warlike SiseraHarosheth of the Gentiles, Artifice of the Gentiles. This may not exclude the thought of cutting out or making the artificers' work, but the word also seems to have the suggestion of deceit, which is so common in the construction of human systems of thoughtthe sleight of men and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive (Eph. 4:14). If one be outside the sanctuary, he is exposed to all this artifice.

Deborah, true to her name, meets Barak with the Word: Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded? How reassuring is this! How it links with the strength of omnipotence. What are ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali, and of the children of Zebulon, compared with the mighty hosts and chariots of Sisera? Ah, if the Lord God of Israel hath commanded, the battle is already won.

In this light, Barak's unbelief comes out clearly. If the command of God has been given, it is a pledge of His presence. What need then of the feeble instrument through whom that command had been given? He had said, I will draw unto thee. . . Sisera, the captain of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thy hand.

Evidently Barak did not fully realize this, for he says to Deborah, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go; but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go. And this in the face of a plain command! Ah, brethren, if if we are disposed to blame Barak too severely, let us include ourselves. How often have we held back for some feeble instrument of nature, some arm of flesh, when the living God has given us His command.

Therefore, the full victory shall not be his, but Sisera shall fall by the hands of Jael, a feeble woman. How our blessed God would check, with a holy jealousy, all usurpation of His place even by the instrument he may please to use.

Not many details of this great conflict are given. Barak, accompanied by Deborah, leads his little army of men from Zebulun and Naphtalithe territory in which Jabin chiefly held swayto Mount Tabor. Zebulun suggests the abiding communion, and Naphtali the spirit of true conflict. They are, therefore, fittingly united. The mountain suggests that elevation of soul which comes from communion, and which enables one to take a wide and calm survey of the entire conflict. The name Tabor is by many thought to mean merely a heap, or elevation; by others, a broken, ridged mountain, descriptive merely of its form. The meaning purpose would fittingly describe its spiritual significance, and this has been given. The mount of purpose is a fitting place from which to enter upon such a conflict as this, for God cannot use one who vacillates.

Sisera, in his pride, hears of this gathering, and collects his mighty host to crush the feeble effort. The scene of the conflict is at the river Kishon, where, at a later day, Elijah slew the false prophets (1 Ki. 18:40). Its name comes from a root meaning to bend, and has usually been given as winding. Closely connected with this are other words also derived from the same root; a bow and to lay a snare. Thus the weapon of war is suggested, and the ambuscade into which the man of artifice himself falls. Kishon seems to be the place of his own choice for the battle. Into the pit which he had digged for others, he falls himself. Yet all had been foreseen and provided by God.

Ah, brethren, when the feeble are with God, what a mighty victory is gained over the power of reason and the strife of tongues! Man's haughty pride is humbled, Sisera the leader flees away on foot. Barak and his men pursue after the fleeing hosts and completely destroy all, not leaving one. Where is all the proud strength, the boasted resources of the mind of man? But Deborah's song will celebrate the victory; we will follow Sisera.

His army overthrown, the defeated and disgraced leader alights from his chariot, and, in the hope of eluding his pursuers, flees away on foot. He apparently has gained his purpose, for Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, gives him a shelter in her tent. We have already seen who these Kenites were, who came up from Jericho and made their home in the tribe of Judah. They represented there, as we have said, some principle of the world which has been spared, and which is allowed to find a harbour among God's people.

But Heber, though his name means companion, separates from his kinsmen and finds a refuge in Naphtali, close to Kedesh, the sanctuary. He will thus suggest the opposite of that which we saw in his relatives. Being a stranger, he might have peace with Jabin without laying himself open to the charge of failure, as it was for Israel. But there is no guilty complicity with the leader of Jabin's host.

It is not Heber, however, but his wife Jael who is used of God. She has faith which identifies her with the people of God, and makes their enemies her own. Like Rahab, she sees where God's truth is, and acts accordingly, though like Rahab, too, it may be her faith is so feeble as to express itself in deception. But before so deciding, we must look a little more closely. Let us just notice here the oft-repeated lessonwhich meets us all through the bookthat the way of power is through weakness, and that God will only use the instrument that is feeble enough to resign itself into His hands.

This is what we find in Jael. She is a woman, and with her tent pin slays Sisera. The tent suggests to us a pilgrim character, and after all, dear friends, a tent is a good house to live in while the Lord is not yet present. A tent is a pilgrim habitation, and is the only place for a pilgrim to live in really. If you live in a tent, you will have that other feature accompanying itthe altar. The tent is suggestive of being outside the existing order of things here. Man desires everything to speak of solidity and permanencethe very opposite to living in a tent. The altar is the other side; we are strangers in the world but near to God, so we offer our pilgrim worship.

The name Jael is significant. It means climbing, and so the (climbing) goat. The goat itself suggests sin, just as the female of the goat was always used for the sin offering. So here you have that which in itself speaks of the sin offering, reminding us of unworthiness and nothingness, but all met by Christ's death. The climber, too, reminds us of ascent, of one not content to remain in the low level of earth, but who desires to rise above the things here.

Thus we may say Jael has learned to climb, she has learned her way upward, she has learned, if I may so say, that if she is risen with Christ she is to seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. She is a climber, and a climber lives in a tent. Those who are seeking the things which are above realize that here they have no continuing city, they are strangers and pilgrims.

But, you say, what kind of spiritual lesson can you get out of this act of treachery, inviting a weary man into the tent and then wreaking vengeance upon him? We are surely to remember that our God is a God of truth, nor does He desire us to use artifice and deceit to win victories for Him. I have already referred to the feeble faith of Rahab, which, while it identified her with the Lord's people, and impelled her to use the token of the scarlet cord, yet did not lift her above the outward fear of man.

Be that as it may, we see here a clear spiritual lesson. There is such a thing as maintaining peace outwardly for the purpose of gaining a victory. In one sense God's pilgrims are so insignificant that the great of earth do not deem them worthy of assailing, and thus may be at outward peace with them. But here is a woman who sees the bitter intellectual enemy of God's people in her grasp. It was not a question of what was due to hospitality, but how her weakness could get him into her power, so that she herself might make away with him.

When you transfer that to the spiritual realm, and when you see that in Sisera this battle array is of human intellect against the revelation of Godwhen human reason confronts you, what are you to do? Give it a place? Give place to all sensible reason. Here a man comes to you with all his arguments; you do not agree with his arguments, but you listen to him, and this enables you to take him in his own craftiness. Ah, I will be glad to entertain an infidel, if I can put an end to his infidelity. If I can get the nail of pilgrim truth through his head, I am willing, dear friends, to listen to his presentation of infidelity. If I can, after I have heard all that he has to say, give him a divine testimony, the witness of a pilgrim walk, that will always be enough to overthrow him.

And remember we are not soldiers, we are pilgrims. We are not killing men, we are putting to death spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty, through God. I have learned much from the Scriptures of the lesson of retreat, of the ambuscade, of the flank attack, of the night attack, of everything that emphasizes a weaker power that contends with a mighty; and yet contending in such a way that the mightier power may be overthrown. You all know that, and while, perhaps, it may be a little difficult to understand the details, if you dwell upon it there is no difficulty in learning the spiritual lesson. We may be kind and friendly to those who are in error, and yet be loyal and firm in the maintenance of the truth.

Sisera is asleep, and then Jael takes the witness of her pilgrim lifeshe is a pilgrim and a strangerand slays him. The only weapon she has is feeble enough, but it says, here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come. It was the tent-pin that slew the mighty. Ah! Lot could not use a tent-pin with the men of Sodom. He had no tent to live in; I question whether a tent-pin could be found in all Sodom. Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom, and it is the last we hear of any pilgrim character to his life. It is the mountain climber, it is the one who is separate from the world, who is a stranger and a pilgrim indeed, who has a tent-pin. You can drive a tent-pin through the head of any infidel that arrays himself against the word of God. Dear brethren, here is the secret. Take that strangership of yours, take hold of it with your handsthe practical life; lay hold upon the hammer of God's wordit is a hammer in your right handand now apply it to that argumentation of yours that would tamper with God's truth. With it pierce that wretched reasoning of yours that would make you satisfied to go on with spiritual bondage. Take hold of pin and hammer, put to death the principles which are eating the very life out of your soul. Oh! how many Jaels there should be who thus get delivered themselves, then deliver the people of God. For it is this strangershipit is this being of another worldit is the realizing that our treasures and hopes are elsewhere, that enables us to overthrow the mightiest power that the enemy can bring against us.

We come now to Deborah's song of triumph. Barak is associated with her, but the words are evidently those of the prophetess. It is one of the few songs we find in the Old Testament histories, and the only one in this book of Judges. Without doubt, therefore, we may expect to find unfolded here God's thoughts as to the victory.

As I have said, we find but few such songs in the Scriptures. In fact, the one most like it is that of the Children of Israel after the crossing of the Red Sea. Both describe victory, the first, that of the Lord alone, and this His also, but through human instruments. There is also some resemblance to the last song of Moses, just before his death, in that the failures of the people are spoken of. But we must look a little at the contents of this song.

First of all we have the general theme; Praise to God for deliverance through leaders who, with a willing people, offered themselves for the work. But immediately the thought is turned to Him who is the source of all victory, Jehovah Himself. He is presented to us in His majesty as He passed forth from Edom, leading, as we might say, His people, after their desert journey, on to victory. That majesty is connected too with Mount Sinai, where He gave the law and entered into covenant relation with them. At once the soul is lifted into the atmosphere of majesty. How petty are carnal things, how puny the mightiest adversary, in the presence of a majesty that is divine. We are reminded of the opening of the sixty-eighth psalm:

Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered: let them also that hate Him flee before Him.

Or of the sublime strains in the third chapter of Habakkuk:

God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of His praise . . . He stood, and measured the earth; He beheld, and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow . . . Thou didst march through the land in indignation, thou didst thresh the heathen in anger.

How glorious is this mighty God! But how wondrous, too, dear brethren, it is to remember that the lips of a feeble woman were uttering this glory. The heavens above speak silently of His greatness, but it is out of the mouths of babes and sucklings that He has ordained strength and perfected praise. The Lord gave the wordit is all from Himgreat was the company of the women who published it (Ps. 68:11). It is feebleness that can celebrate the strength of God, and it is only for feebleness that His strength is enlisted.

We come next to see the low condition of the people and the causes of their wretched state, before God intervened in their behalf. In the days of Shamgar and Jaelthe dwellers in the two parts of the Land, the North and the South; the deliverers, too, from the enemy, each in their waythe highways could not be used, but the people, for fear of the dreaded enemy, had to move about over lonely by-paths.

What a picture of the results of spiritual bondage. The psalmist could say, He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake. And surely in God's path there never should be fear of the enemy. But here are deserted highways. Instead of busy intercourse between city and city, companies of men bearing the produce of the land to the various places of exchange, and returning with gold or merchandise; instead of the families of Israel going in with singing to the place where the Lord had put His nameall is solitude, and a lonely traveller, driven by need to move from his place, hides from the view of his enemies by pursuing his way over lonely paths. May we not well believe that these ways, crooked, as they are called in the margin, suggest that vacillation and uncertainty that mark a feeble faith? To what straits oftentimes, and to what devious ways are the saints of God reduced when Jabin rules. Contrast with this the highway of the Lord for Israel in the day of blessing:

And a highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called, The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there: and the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away (Isa. 35:8-10).

Similarly, too, we find that the villages ceased. Man is a social being, and it is a law of nature, as well as of grace, that he should not be alone. The cities are suggestive often of an artificial exaggeration of this desire for companionship, but the villages with their busy hum of activity, yet, not severed from the surrounding fields, would speak in the happiest way of the absence of constraint, and the normal development of life.

But when the enemy threatens, or the oppressor rules, the villages must cease. The people must be concentrated in the large walled cities either for better protection, or for preventing them from escaping from bondage. Ah, brethren, where are the villages, the unwalled towns with homes dotted among the trees and fields adjacent? They tell of rest and security which cannot be when the oppressor threatens.

And is not this a sad necessity, whenever the people of God are in bondage? It would be folly to dwell in villages when a hostile force might sweep down at any moment and take all captive. The walls and bars of a city are needed, and thither must all resort who would be safe.

We hear complaint, for instance, that fellowship is too limited and rigid; that the simple, unrestrained and informal life suggested by the village has given place to martial rigour and the challenge of friend and foe. But is there not a need? If rationalism and infidelity have sway, can we allow such to enter unchallenged the company of God's people? If any be parleying with the enemy, can they have a place among the saints?

Here we have a most important principle, a witness to our shame no doubt, but a safeguard in a day of ruin. Let us, by God's grace, maintain this principle and act according to it. Let us dwell in the walled towns and keep close watch at the gates, for our enemies, and God's, are seeking to gain a foothold wherever they can. I am not speaking merely of persons, but of principles. We cannot separate the two; a person who holds unscriptural principles, must be regarded in the light of his principles and not of his personal character. Lose sight of this, and we open the gate to all manner of evil. Church history and the present state of things in Christendom, witness alike to this. Let us then, dear brethren, instead of ignoring the need and throwing open the gates for widest fellowship, keep careful guard and acknowledge with sorrow that there is need for care in receiving those who profess to be, and who may be, the children of God. Thus while the villages are not fully restored, there may be a great measure of recovery, and comfort and growth witness the wisdom of God's provision.

But let us ask the reason for this state of things in Deborah's day, and in our own day: They chose new gods; then was war in the gates. Ah, it is the old story of heart-departure from God, and of idolatry, which we have already looked at. Let us remember that war follows departure from our God, partial or complete, subtle or gross; whatever usurps His place exposes us to the inroads of our bitter foes.

And what is the state, the preparedness of the people for such an inroad? Was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel? No weapons of war, no furnishing from the armoury of divine truth. Brethren, how is it today? Where are the well-armed soldiers of Christ? The word of God is our arsenal, and from that source alone can we obtain the weapons of our warfare. Alas, how few have on the whole armour of God.

But now we pass to a brighter side. We have had the voluntary choice of new gods, and now we see the leaders willingly offering themselves. We shall presently see the people doing the same.

What an awful responsibility have those who occupy a place of prominence and influence among the saints of God! How unutterably solemn it is to think of the influence, for good or bad, of men of gift who can largely control the acts of their brethren. It is a place no man would covet, for peace and ease. It means work, prayer, responsibility, firmness, love; or else the dreadful alternative of leading the people of God astray.

God's heart, as was Deborah's, is toward those leaders who willingly offer themselves for the service of the saints. And such who are faithful will have the joy, in days of peace again, of celebrating the Lord's victories, and of seeing the people again in the villages, with none to make them afraid. Alas, we cannot expect to see this for all the Church till the Lord come, but in some little measure we shall see it wherever there is even a partial victory.

But the song passes on, from the twelfth verse, to the people and the conflict which resulted in such a glorious victory. Surely it is God's victory alone, and yet how accurately He marks the faithfulness of all whom He associates with Himself; and with what holy jealousy does He point out the laggard and the indifferent.

Here we have Ephraim and Benjamin mentioned first, and Machir, of the tribe of Manasseh, from Gilead, beyond Jordan. Zebulun and Issachar are particularly mentioned as being associated with Barak, and as those who bore the brunt of the fight. Again, Zebulun is mentioned with Naphtali (v. 11), as a people who jeoparded their lives. Nor was this from selfish motives, for they took no gain of money.

Ah, where is such courage today? Where are those who are willing to lay down their lives for the brethren, to whom there is but one motivethe glory of Christ in the deliverance of His people? Such men are associated with heaven, and in the bold imagery of the song, the stars in their courses, fight with them; while upon earth, the river bears off the slain.

But, alas, there is the other side, and the spirit of God singles out by name the tribes who held back. First of these is Reuben, the first-born and natural leader, but whose instability had deprived him of a leadership which fell to Ephraim. His character abides with him still, as, alas, many of us know, and the same vacillation and selfishness mark him still.

You remember that Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh, chose as their portion the land east of Jordan, on the wilderness or earth side. Their reason for so doing was, thy servants have cattle. Here we have the bleating of the sheep still holding them down. There may be divided motives, a stirring of heart to join the noble company of faithful ones. There may be great resolves of heart and great searchings of heart, but there is no true decision; they remain with the sheepfolds, as Dan abides in his ships, and Asher with his commerce by the sea.

Beloved brethren, how many are there today who are utterly indifferent to the inroads of the mighty power of evil. How the bleating of the sheep drowns the sound of the groans of the captives. There may be momentary awakenings as the sighing of the prisoner reaches their ears, and makes them feel that they ought to be doing something. But, ah, their sheep are more important than God's sheep; their interests than His, and so whatever turnings on their bed of ease, like the sluggard, they may have, they never truly awake to the decision of faith that will lead them to put aside self and its concerns, and to take God's interests and make them first.

You and I never will be worth anything unless we make God's interests first. I do not care who you are; I do not care how little you have to do. You may not be a preacher, you may not be a public worker in God's service; but, my brother, if you make your business more important than God's, if you make your household concerns, family concerns, business concernsthe things of daily lifeif you make these things more important than the concerns of God's people, you have no wish to engage in conflict for Him.

The Lord Jesus said, Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. What had He been speaking of just before? Of what ye shall eat, and put onthat is the necessary things for our earthly life. Those are necessary things, but, dear brethren, in view of those very necessities, our Lord deliberately says, Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Are we hearkening to this word? What is first in our souls?

But we have a more solemn word for Meroz; a solemn judgment is pronounced upon it, Curse ye bitterly, Meroz, because they came not up to the help of the Lord against the mighty. Why is Meroz singled out this way? I have no question that it was for two reasons; first, because in their location they were specially placed where their help would be effectual. They were those whose example would turn their brethren to the right side, or whose aid would be particularly helpful at a critical point and time. But then, as ever, failure suggests something else as the cause. Meroz means, built of cedars, or, as we might say, dwellers in cedar palaces. You might say it represents the luxury of spiritual self-pleasing as contrasted with the lowliness of serving the Lord.

Put side by side the mighty cedar temple palaces of Meroz, and the lowly tent of Jael. A cedar palace and a curtain! Oh! how many of God's people have brought a curse upon themselves for having a cedar palace which stole their heart away from Christ. On the other hand, the tent of a pilgrim and its pinthose are things which can be used in victory. And so in immediate connection with this you have Jael and her place in the song of triumph. Beloved, it is not that we want a place, it is not that we are seeking honour and attention, but it is a blessed truth that those who are Jaels, who take their place on God's side and His worktheir name shall not be left out of that song of triumph at the day of the Lord's celebration, in glory.

But I want you to notice, before we leave this part, the remarkable expression used in describing the conduct of the inhabitants of Meroz. They came not up to the help of the Lord against the mighty. Think of it, brethren, what we are called to do is not to help one another, but the Lord. Of course He does not need our help for Himself; He can, and one day will, overthrow all His and our enemies with the sword that proceedeth out of His mouth. But as our Lord identifies Himself with His poor brethren who are afflicted or imprisoned, and regards help afforded to them as though done to Himself personally, so it is here. It is to the help of the Lord, against the mighty.

The Lord of Hosts goes forth to war;

Who follows in His train.

You will notice with what appreciation Jael's conduct is spoken of; how the details, of which we have already spoken, are dwelt upon. She is blessed above women, for has she not slain the proud and mighty foe who held God's people in bondage!

Last we have a piece of solemn irony in the description of the mother of Sisera. It reminds us of that awful word, He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh, the Lord will have them in derision. The derision of Jehovah! awful thought!

She has her wise ladies about herthis mother of Sisera, the leader of intellectual denial of God's truthand they can give wise reasons for the delay of the chariot-wheels of the supposed conqueror. So, too, in a day fast hastening, will the wise of earth be ready with abundant reasons for the tarrying of the victorious march of man's mind. Ah, for man, in the pride of his rebellion, there is no triumph, no spoils, no broidered garment to adorn the flesh. When they shall say peace and safety, then shall sudden destruction fall, and they shall not escape.

Then shall the lowly pilgrim bride receive her adornment, and be arrayed as befits one who is to be forever with Christ. And eternal rest shall be for the inheritance of the Lord.

So let all thine enemies perish, O Lord: but let them that love Him be as the sun when he goeth forth in His might.

Lecture 5: Gideon Preparation of the Instruments (Chaps. 6-7:9)

In the victory and song of Deborah and Barak we reach the highest point in the book of Judges. The happy and exultant celebration of victory in the song is unmarred by any subsequent shadow, so far as the participants were concerned. It reaches on in type to the full victory for Israel, and the earth which will usher in the glories of the millennium. As we are taught, it is the third section of the narrative of bondages and deliverances, which significantly reminds us not merely of the resurrection of the enemy, in Jabin, but of the sanctuary, of which the number three also speaks, with its worship. It is, as I have said, the clearest and highest point reached in the entire book.

We come now to the fourth section, which we might well expect to find somewhat in contrast with the previous one. It is the world as contrasted with the sanctuary, the place of testing and of weakness. We will find all these features in the narrative before us, both in the enemy, the deliverer, and in the sequel. The world, weakness, testing, failureare all prominent here. Nor need we be surprised at this weakness being manifested after as well as before the deliverance. Nor must we think that because there is failure we have no profitable lessons here. On the contrary, the lessons are many, and of the gravest importance. Just as in our individual histories, we have learned much!from our failuresor at least should haveso will we gather lessons none the less important because they are humbling. Be it ours to profit by the examples and warnings which have been written for our admonition.

Referring for a moment to the previous lessons, we saw in the first enemy, the king of Aram, the spirit of independence of God, which is the beginning of all departure; in Moab we saw profession, and in the Philistines we had a glance at the religion of the flesh. Jabin and the northern foe taught us of the intrusion of reason into the things of God. We have now to gather the lesson from the oppression of Midian.

First of all, we are reminded that the power of any enemy is put in his hands by the unfaithfulness of God's people. The children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. It was no might of Midian that could or would have prevailed had not the Lord permitted it; nor would He have done this had there not been a necessity in Israel's condition. Those who will not learn in communion with God, must do so in the hands of the enemy. Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God (Jer. 2:19). But I do not enlarge here upon a truth of which Scripture is full, and which is upon every page of the book we are studying.

The nature of the oppression is dwelt upon at considerable detail, and this will help us to definitely gather who these Midianites are spiritually. For fear of them the children of Israel are driven to dig dens and caves for shelter. They settled down upon the land, and with them the Amalekites and a mixed multitude of eastern tribes, like the plague of locusts, destroying all food and sustenance. Not settling, like the Moabites, on the borders of the land at Jericho, they swept like a destructive plague over the whole territory till thou come to Gaza, the stronghold of the Philistines. So dreadful was their oppression that the children of Israel cry to the God from whom they had so basely departed. Who then is this deadly enemy, for the Church?

Midian was a descendant of Abraham, and in that way, related according to nature with Israel, as were many of these peoples. But from an early day they had shown themselves the enemies of God's people. It was they who with the Ishmaelites carried Joseph down into Egypt and sold him into bondage there. When the nation had been delivered from that bondage and were nearing their inheritance, it was the Midianites, in connection with Moab, who first tried to get the curse of God upon them through Balaam, and, failing in this, succeeded in defiling them, and bringing God's afflicting hand on them, because of their participation in the unholy rites of Baal Peor. Because of this, God had commanded them to vex the Midianites.

That which brings God's people into Egypt, which defiles them with its unholy alliances, is only too common, and we cannot fail to recognize in it the spirit of the world. That it was closely connected with Moab, and in many ways similar to him, we need not be surprised; nor that he had associated with him Amalek, the lusts of the flesh, and nameless hordes from the East. The world and the flesh are close allies, and constantly act together, while with these come in a flood of evil principles and practices which, while not classified, are all confederate.

Midian means strife, a fitting name for that spirit of the world which brings in the strife of desires in the soul. The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and wherever the world is allowed it will introduce strife against everything that is of God. I need but refer to well-known illustrations. Look at that happy young Christian: the things of God are his delight, and fellowship with the people of God his only pleasure. But he wanders in heart, and the world finds an entrance. It will not be in some grossly immoral form, but some harmless pleasure is indulged. some agreeable companionship is formed. Mark the results. Strife with divine things ensues. Conscience will not let him go on declining in spiritual vigour without a vigorous protest, and the peace of his heart, which at one time was as a watered garden, is exchanged for the battlefield of contending forces. Midian, the world, has brought his strife into his once happy life, and it will continue to do its deadly work till he is delivered, or wholly ensnared and held in complete slavery. Some fellow-Christian seeing his peril, seeks to warn and to deliver him, but only to be drawn into the strife. What is the harm? Many others do worse than I. Ah, brethren, how strife accompanies worldliness. Do we not know something of this?

A man's foes shall be they of his own house. What is happier than a Christian home, where Christ is owned as Lord? It is a little foretaste of that heavenly home where naught can intrude to mar our eternal peace, because naught can interfere with Christ's absolute control. Contrast this with the divided house, where the world is allowed. Faith must stand firm, but O the sorrow and the strife that the world brings in. A faithful Christian parent is seeking to keep the world out of his home; a wife is seeking to walk with God, while her husband is doing his utmost to draw her into the world. Will there not be strife, must there not be if one is to be faithful to the Lord and His truth? Thus we seem to have clearly enough the meaning of Midian. But let us look a little further.

The Church has often been under the dominion of the world. We saw before, that Pergamos was a mingling of the Church and the world. We connected it then with Moab, the world of profession taking possession of the Church. The connection of this with Midian is only too manifest, as, indeed, we have the historical allusion in the address to Pergamos, of the defilement that Balaam brought in through the Moabites and Midianites. Very early in its history did the Church come under this power. Rome gained its power through the Church coming under the sway of the emperors Constantine and his successors.

But how has it been since? God in His mercy has granted seasons of revival to His people, and often the saints throughout entire countries have experienced His recovering mercy, delivering them from the world's power. But has that deliverance continued? Need we only look back to see illustrations of the sway of Midian? Alas, look around at the Church today, and see not merely the compromise of Pergamos, but the satisfaction of Laodicea. The Midianite is in God's territory, robbing His heritage. If we do not know it, we but show how abject is our slavery.

Look at those various testimonies which began as a distinct protest against the world. Do I need to name them? I would name all if I did so. What has become of their testimony against the world? Ask the sorrowing saints of God who sigh and cry for the abominations, and hide themselves as far as possible from the strife all about them. It is needless to specify: worldly amusements in the Church, worldly methods of money-raisingthe professed Bride of Christ has descended to the level of the world, and panders to its desires. We are told that the young must be held, and on this plea the professing church enters into competition with the theatre. But enough: tears shall be our only language as we think of the awful bondage to Midian all about us.

Let us come right home. Let us be warned. The moment the world is allowed among those who are gathered to the name of the Lordyoung or oldfarewell to the testimony of Christ. May our God awaken us to this dreadful and insidious foe!

But let us return to our chapter. Midian devours or destroys all the fruits of the earth. Canaan was noted, as it is even at this day in parts of its territory, for its wonderful fertility. God could speak of it as the glory of all lands, and He promised them they should eat their bread without scarceness. How many of the Lord's people have to complain of their leanness. They find so little food, the Bible is a closed book to them, their souls are suffering a famine. Ah, brethren, the world has devoured the food. You cannot enjoy the world and enjoy Christ. It is an impossibility. Christ is the food of His people, but He cannot be enjoyed if the world is allowed to usurp His place.

We spoke of Moab as suggesting an incubus upon the Church, an incubus of profession. Eglon was a very fat man, which suggests an inert mass, weighing down. But Midian does not seem to suggest anything of such a negative character. There is an energy in these hordes which tells of a foe that is constantly moving. He is constantly seeking new points of attack. We need not be reminded how active Satan is to bring people under the power of the world. Before we know it, some little loophole has opened the way, and the enemy has come in like a flood. Let us not think of the spirit of worldliness as something that moves slowly. It is wily and active, and its name is legion. If asked to give a list of what pursuits and habits were worldly, it would be an impossibility. The Spirit of God has, however, done what is far better for us; He has told us what the world is not. All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. We have the general characteristics of the worldlust; but what marks it unmistakably is that it is not of the Father. Whatever we cannot enjoy in communion with the Father, no matter how harmless it may seem to be, is a thing to be avoided as of the world. How plainly does the apostle James put it, He that will be the friend of the world is the enemy of God.

But how touching is that word Fatherthe Father's love, the Father's heart, the Father's care. What room or need in the soul that is in the happy enjoyment of these for the things that are in the world? It is satisfied, and the full soul loatheth an honeycomb. Does not even the first approach of worldliness tell of a coldness of heart towards the Father? Ah, how often is He grieved at heart. On the contrary, if we are engaged in the things that occupy the Father, if we are occupied with His thoughts, as unfolded in His word, delighted with Him who is the object of the Father's delight, there will be nothing in the world for us.

Its pleasures now no longer please,

Nor e'en content afford.

But the people of God at last cry out under the bondage. That is one sign of the child of Godhe must be miserable under the domination of his spiritual foes. Sooner or later he will cry to God. You notice, however, that the cry does not bring immediate relief. On the contrary, God sends a messenger, a prophet to deepen the sense of His displeasure. He goes back, as He always does, to the redemption from Egyptthe pledge and the power for all other deliverances, and recalls to them what He had done. He had brought them into this land, had driven the enemy out of it, and told His people not to fear the false gods that the Amorites had served. How simple was all this. How impossible, we might say, ever to fear the powers of evil which had been overthrown. Yet theyare they alone?had not obeyed His voice.

What holy wisdom we have here. The people are bitterly oppressed, and they cry to God, but instead of sending relief at once, He deepens in their souls the sense of the evil of their course. Our first thought is to get out of the consequences of our folly and disobedience: God's desire is that we should thoroughly judge what led us into it. His patience and His pity combine in divine proportions, that we may get the profit of the lesson. Let us remember this in our dealings with others, and ourselves, for Him. Let us not be too eager to deliver His people from an embarrassing position, but rather to see that they have been to the bottom of the matter with God. Were this always done, there would be fewer cases of disappointment at apparent lapses of those whom we thought recovered.

Having thus borne faithful witness to the sin of the people, our gracious God now begins to intervene in their behalf. He is going to deliver them from the bondage of Midian, but where will he find a suited instrument, one who will in himself embody the lessons of the deliverance, and who thus will point out the reasons for the servitude? He sends His messenger to Ophrah in the tribe of Manasseh, to Gideon, the son of Joash. He finds him threshing out wheat behind, or in, the wine-press, to hide it from the Midianites.

Remembering that Midian represents the world, we see at once how appropriate that the deliverer from this should have the character of that which overcomes the world. It is our faith that overcomes, as we are told, and that faith exhibits itself in the character suggested by the tribe of Manasseh. Manasseh means forgetting, and it is the heavenly racer who, forgetting the things that are behind, and reaching forth to those which are before, distances the entangling elements of the world, and has the prize on high ever before him. The principle that will overcome the world, then, is this unworldly spirit which has its hopes and expectations elsewhere.

Ophrah means dust, and one who truly realizes the shame of the people of God being in subjection to the world will abide in the dust; he will, like Daniel, pour out his heart in shame at the disgrace to the name of God that such a thing is possible. The mark of a truly spiritual mind is not criticism of the sins of the professing church, but sorrow and shame at such a state. The man who judges does not realize the common sin and shame, which has brought such reproach upon the testimony of God's truth. Such can never be used to deliver the saints from their bondage. Rome was full of satirists, who held up the vices and follies of the luxurious capital to the scorn of all; but all the scorn was ineffectual to break one bond, or to turn one soul to God. The reason is evident; criticism does not bring in God, nor does it mourn. If we are ourselves to be individually set free from the world, we must dwell at Ophrah, and there, at least, we can receive the message that will emancipate others also.

His father was Joash, the son of Abiezer; despairing, the son of my father is help. It is the one who despairs of any other help, realizing his own weakness, who will turn to the Father, in whom alone our help is found. We may not refuse the help and suggestions which such names give, dear brethren, for scripture is full, as you know, of examples which show just such a use of them. Often they are the key which opens a passage of scripture, which would otherwise be without meaning to us.

Gideon's employment is most suggestive; he is threshing out wheat and hiding it in the winepress, as being both secure, and an unlikely place for the Midianites to look. That which they destroy is what he is securing as his food. The wheat suggests Christ, the food of the soul, as He is revealed to us in the scriptures, and the threshing tells of that patient effort to find Him as our food, in the Word. The winepress reminds of the blood of the grape, and of His blood which cleanses from all sin. It may well then suggest the cross, the winepress for Him, and this, indeed, is an effectual shelter and hiding place for faith from all the power of the world. We take our place by the cross, and no Midianite dare dispute our position.

But notice the determination of faith. The enemy is everywhere present, but he must have his food. It is an absolute necessity, and without permission from friend or foe, he is getting it, and hiding it from those who would gladly destroy it. Israel has failed, the land is down-trodden by the enemy, but he must have food for his soul. Do you think he will be disappointed? Whoever goes hungry, Gideon will not, for there is the compulsion of a faith that will not be hindered in gaining what it needs.

Let us pause here a moment, brethren, and consider this solitary man. He is in tremendous earnest, there is no thought of giving up, for what he seeks is an absolute necessity to him. How is it with us? Is Christ a necessity to us? Must we have Him as our food no matter who has departed from God, or how great the obstacles? And do we know what it is to use the shelter of the cross not only as that which has secured our everlasting salvation, but as that which has delivered us from this present evil world? Thus it becomes the pledge that we shall not be disturbed in getting our food.

The angel addresses him in a striking way, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour. At first sight he might seem like anything but a man of valour. He is in hiding. A man of valour would be facing the enemy, leading the people against them, and driving them from the land. But God seeth not as man seeth. He sees the valour in that determination to get the wheat at any cost. He knows the purposes of heart that are forming, perhaps, not even with the knowledge of Gideon, and He sees that it is all connected with that lowly work of beating out the wheat.

Who are God's mighty men of valour? Where will we find them? Not necessarily in the public places, contending with infidels or denouncing the follies of the day; surely not there first. If you want to see God's mighty men, you must look at the closet. There is a mother, with a family of children, and work that never ends. There is the temptation to keep up with the rest of the world in appearances, and all that subtle allurement which makes slaves of so many mothers. There is the necessary work which must be done each day, and which presses on her every moment. How strong the temptation to offer a hurried prayer, and rush through the day with the heart out of the presence of God. Is it any wonder that the strife of Midian comes in? That there is little power to control the children, and none to guide them in God's ways?

But see; she lets her work stand, takes her Bible and goes off for a quiet season of reading and prayer. She pleads that the cross of Christ has purchased for her at least that privilege, and she claims it as her own. But I hear some busy housewife say, You do not know what I have to do. Ah, my sister, I know if you have not a settled purpose of heart to get food for your soul daily, you will never be an overcomer.

Here is the man of business, who will rise half an hour earlier than necessary for his business in order to get a word from God before he goes out to wrestle with the world. He must and will have that, if he cannot take his food, if his business goes. He seeks first as a matter of importance, the kingdom of God. It must be first, first, firstnot in point of time merely or necessarily, but in importance.

Do you smile, and say that is putting it too strongly. I tell you frankly, brethren, you are not Gideons unless your soul responds to that. You are no mighty men of valour, nor will you ever deliver a single child of God from the world, unless your purpose of heart is such as I have been describing. What wonder is it that the mother must deplore the constant inroads of the world into her family, that her children naturally turn to that instead of to Christ? No, let it be written in letters of fire in our souls, in our consciencesChrist and His word first; everything else, even life, but secondary. Soon will we see Midian flee, when this is the case.

This is what takes courage, far more than the excitement of public speech. If you doubt it, make a fair trial, and see how many hindrances you will meet in maintaining such a habit. If you are a victor in the closet, you will be prepared for the more open conflicts, and you will find that the battle has been already practically won. God can salute you as a mighty man of valour, and use you to help others. Again I ask, dear brethren, how is it with us?

Gideon means, cutter down, and we will presently see him at that work; but here we see where he gets his name. He cuts down for himself, with no eye but God's upon him. The one who can do that, can do more.

But how simple that is. We are not called to do great things, only to be faithful in the matter of our own soul's health, only to desire Christ above all else. Is it possible that we do not? And yet how few have the courage for this simple thing.

We return now to Gideon. You will see, as will ever be the case, that the man who is seeking food for himself is most deeply concerned for the welfare of all the Lord's people, and for His honour. 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? He goes back, as you see, as so many of the saints in the Old Testament have done, to the redemption from Egypt.

It is the plea of the remnant in the days of Gentile oppression, just before the establishment of our Lord's kingdom: Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: Thou hast cast out the heathen and planted it. We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work Thou didst in their days, in the times of old. How Thou didst drive out the heathen with Thy hand, and plantedst them. In view of these past works, faith pleads the present dreadful condition: But Thou hast cast off and put us to shame; and goest not forth with our armies. Thou makest us turn back from the enemy: and they which hate us spoil for themselves. How like the oppression of Midian is this, and how similar to the faith of Gideon is this heart-broken plea of the remnant. Our God will never refuse to answer such appeals, though He must work most deeply in the hearts of the people, to bring them to a true sense of their own sin.

So, too, with those who mourn for the state of things in the Church today. They will not merely mourn at the declension during the past few years. They will not merely deplore that things are not as they were twenty or fifty years ago. They will compare the present state with Pentecost. When the Lord said to Ephesus, Remember from whence thou hast fallen, He went back to her first love. How touchingly does God plead with Jerusalem in the same way: I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals. The true mourner goes back to the point where God met the soul, and with that as a standard, measures the present condition. Ah, brethren, we can never boast, no matter how wondrous have been the revivals, when we remember what the Church was in those early days of first love. Surely sorrow and shame become us.

It is such a man that God can use as His instrument to deliver Israel. Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee? You notice, He does not give him fresh might, but deems the might he had already shown as sufficient to deliver Israel. We have already seen the import of this, and I only call your attention to it again to show how God emphasizes the courage of a faith that gets its own food at all hazards. Go in this thy might.

But Gideon, like Moses and many another servant of God, has got to get fully to the end of himself. He must be done with his humility as well as his pride. Gideon had been assured that the Lord was with him, and he asks, wherewith shall I save Israel? He has himself before his eyes, for the time. He speaks of the poverty of his family, of his own insignificance in his father's house. But what have these to do with the living God? Did he think it was his own strength that was going to overthrow Midian? Ah, he was forgetting the lessons of his own faith, for the time.

But Gideon is not alone in this. How common it is to find those who have done with boasting and thinking they are great, now occupied with their littleness. But little I is as great a hindrance as great I. It looks very humble to depreciate one's self, to keep in the background, but there is often a very subtle pride that wears this garb of humility. It is not self, good or bad, that is to be before us; weak or strong I are to be alike refused, that God alone may have the glory.

With what grace is this bit of humble pride rebuked in Gideon, which evidently was not so deep-seated that it needed more than a word to displace it. Surely I will be with thee, and thou shall smite the Midianites as one man. After all, the enemy is, for faith, but a single one. He is a host for oppression, and to terrify, but the moment faith asserts itself, there is but one man, as when David met the giant.

We have now Gideon's response, and the demand of his faith for a confirmatory sign. He asks and gets these signs a number of times, and they are no doubt not only a confirmation in the way of a response to his request, but in themselves carry a suggestive lesson suited to the need. More than that, Gideon desires to bring an offering; he will be a worshipper. He, therefore, brings the familiar sacrificea kid, and ephah of flour and unleavened cakes. All these speak of Christ. The kid, while here apparently a peace-offering, suggests the thought of sin, for which it was most frequently used in the Levitical service. It reminds us thus of Christ made sin for us, but also the One who is thus perfectly acceptable to God. The unleavened cakes and the fine flour are fittingly associated with the kid, and recall the spotless person of Christ, as that did His work. All is put on the rock, another figure of Christ, and fire carries it all up to God. Thus we might say he brought nothing but Christ, whom God ever accepts. What better sign could he, or we, want than that? If we have nothing but Christ, His work and His person, we may be assured that God's acceptance of Him is the amplest assurance and pledge that we shall be more than conquerors through Him that loved us. The world never has, and never can, face these precious facts. It can never stand before the simplest soul that has them in divine reality as the basis and expression of relationship with God. They are at the same time the witness of his separation from, and victory over the world.

Gideon does not seem to realize that he has been face to face with the angel of the Lord until He has departed. Then he is overwhelmed with the solemn fact, and dreads the consequences. But grace quickly reassures him, and he builds an altar to the LordJehovah-Shalom, Jehovah is Peace. In the midst of all the tumult that raged about him, in spite of the dread conflicts that were soon to take place, there was one place where all was perfect peace, one Person with whom there was no conflictJehovah Himself. It reminds us of our Lord's words to His disciples: In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.

How beautiful and quiet is all this in the midst of utter ruin and confusion. When he giveth quiet, who then can trouble? Gideon has found the God of peace, and we see him, the accepted worshipper. He is hid thus in the secret of God's presence from the pride of man and the strife of tongues. After all, worship is the true remedy for worldliness. Both cannot exist together.

But this is not all. We have been seeing the preparation of the instrument in private. The scene now changes, and he needs all the faith he has for the next step. He is to cast down the altar of Baal belonging to his father, cut down the grove, or column, and offer a bullock upon an altar to Jehovah. After all, this is but the natural enlargement of the worship he had just enjoyed. God will not share His glory with Baal. One altar or the other must be thrown down. Gideon is to make good his name, the cutter down, and to show the vigour of his faith and the reality of his obedience.

But what a heart-searching test is applied to him. He is to exalt Jehovah in his own home. After his own personal relation with God had been established, we might say, after he had won his victory in private, he is to establish those relations in his own home circle. Does he worship and obey God for himself? then that same obedience must be claimed for the entire circle of his responsibilities. Is a man going to be a deliverer for all Israel, while his own family is in bondage? Is he to lift up the altar of Jehovah for all Israel, and are those who are nearest and dearest to him to bow to Baal? The circle of divine influence expands from the centre. How many are tempted to invert this order. They may be jealous enough for God's altar for all Israel, and yet have never set it up in their own homes. Apply this very simply to the family altar, as it is called very appropriately. How can one enjoy the privileges of the public altar, in its fulness, who disregards this home altar? He is too timid to read the word of God and pray with his family; how can he expect liberty and blessing in public prayer? I do not mean to confine it to this one thing, but here, as in many other ways, a single matter shows the general state.

But it is no easy matter to erect God's altar on the ruins of Baal's. Many a one who may have boldly confessed Christ in public, has shrunk from doing so in the home. But this is the test. It must be done, or there will be no further progress.

Naturally enough, Gideon shrinks from doing this publicly. I do not say he showed what we would call remarkable courage. Like Nicodemus, who shrinks from going to our Lord in open day, Gideon does his hard task under cover of the night. I want you to notice one thing, however. Whether courageously or not, the work is done; and that is the main point. I need not dwell upon details here, which doubtless the Spirit of God has brought home to the conscience many times. I do not ask what you are to do, but leave this matter with each conscience in the presence of God.

We can imagine with what trepidation Gideon may have awaited the morrow, or with what calmness, if he had God simply before him. The men of the city gather around and demand that the sacrilege to Baal be avenged, and naturally appeal to Gideon's father to deliver up the wrongdoer. But they have left God out of their reckoning, and he who had but just been a worshipper of the false god, is filled with contempt for a god who cannot maintain his own dignity. Let Baal plead, he says, and Gideon has won his second victory. God is now enthroned in the home. Has any one been trembling and hesitating to take some plain step of faith? Let them learn from Gideon, and take courage. How all the consequences you dread would fail to materialize, The very ones whose opposition you dread will approve. Or if not, what can happen? You do not really expect to be put to death, but suppose it were even that, have you any fear of that which will introduce you into the presence of the Lord?

The narrative now passes from the private to the public stage. Such a matter as the overthrow of Baal's altar seems sufficient to arouse the Midianites. At any rate, they gather an enormous army, and take the field. Gideon, too, comes to the front, and having been faithful in his own private circle, can send out the trumpet call for all Israel. The Spirit of God endues him for special work, and in response the men of Abiezer, who had but lately demanded his death, and Manasseh, Asher and Zebulun join his standard. Truly, when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of God lifts up a standard against him. Let there be the preliminary work of God in a soul, and he will find that others desire liberation from bondage, too, and will follow his lead, as he follows Christ. Ah, if Christ is before the soul, and Christ alone; if we have faithfully followed as He has led, we will find that He will use us each according to our measure, for help in the great warfare.

Gideon now asks and receives two confirmatory signs that God will save Israel by his hands. He puts a fleece upon the threshing-floor, and at his request it is filled with dew, while the surrounding floor is dry. The next night, the opposite occurs, and the fleece remains dry while the surrounding floor is wet. Thus Gideon knows that he is dealing with God, and that all power is with Him. What an encouragement it must have been to him, to have, as it were, a direct and tangible evidence that God was with him. The boldness of faith, even when it seems to need confirmatory signs, never offends our gracious God. When he promised all blessing to Abraham, and that he would inherit the land of Canaan, Abraham asks, Whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? Is God offended that His word is not sufficient? Ah, no, but He gives the wondrous night vision of the furnace and the flaming torch. Prove me now, He says to Israel; Ask of the Lord a sign, He says to King Ahaz.

But, as I have already said, these signs are no mere arbitrary wonders. They are meant to convey a lesson, as well as to confirm faith, a lesson appropriate to the occasion, and reaching far more deeply than the relief of the outward need. What then are we to learn from this twofold sign?

Dew was the familiar token of God's favour, as it was the source largely of the fertility of the land, which would have been parched and barren without it. Isaac, in pronouncing the blessing upon Jacob, uses this figure (Gen. 27:28). Moses repeats it, in his closing blessing upon the tribes (Deut. 33:28). Elijah shows God's judgment upon the land by declaring dew should not fall (1 Ki. 17:1). The prophet Haggai repeats the simile, Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit (Hag. 1:10). And Hosea, in describing the restoration of the nation, when God will bless them again, describes Him as saying, I will be as the dew unto Israel. She shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon (Hos. 14:5). These are some of the scriptures which show how the simile was used.

We know that all refreshing, whether for Israel or the Church, is by the Holy Spirit, and that the divine dew is His blessed influence bringing refreshing and help. Just as without the dew, the land would cease to be fruitful, so without the Spirit's unhindered work there can be no fruits. Barrenness will be the result.

The fleece is the wool taken from the sheep, and seems to suggest the removal from the owner of that which rightly belonged to it. It is significant that in three scriptures, where sheep-shearing is mentioned, there was evil. Judah's sin with Tamar was at the time of his sheep-shearing; Nabal's taunt to David was given at a like time, and Absalom slew his brother on a similar occasion. The prophet Ezekiel, in speaking of the false shepherds, says, Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed, but ye feed not the flock (Ezek. 34:3). Scripture abounds with illustrations from a shepherd's care of his flock, but it is striking that these instances of sin and violence should be the only occasions where the shearing of sheep is referred to.

And how the people had been sheared, we might say, by the Midianites, till nothing but the fleece remained, a remnant. This was looking at their state historically. But when we think of the subsequent history of the people, their captivity in Babylon, and their present complete dispersion, we can, indeed, say they are a people scattered and peeled.

The threshing-floor is the place where the grain is separated from the chaff, under the hoofs of the ox, or the teeth of the threshing-instrument. In that way it would suggest the enemy, but looked at as God's instrument to purge His people. In fact, the nations are so spoken of in at least one passage (Amos 1:3), while they themselves are to be purged by similar judgments. I think we are right in saying that the thought suggested is God's instrument of chastening.

When Gideon asks for the dew upon the fleece, it speaks of God's giving His blessing to His persecuted people, not only at that time, but in the last days, when He shall be as the dew to Israel. When the dew is seen upon the floor and not the fleece, it suggests the blessing that has come to the Gentiles during the period of Israel's rejection. We might say the present time.

But whether He give or withhold blessing, God is manifesting Himself for His people. His very chastenings are a pledge of future mercy. The very dryness of the Jews now, while blessing has come upon the Gentiles, is a sure proof that God will one day intervene for His beloved earthly people. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes.

May we not thus interpret all God's ways with His people? Faith sees both in the chastening and the blessing, the sign of deliverance. Why should He chasten, unless it were for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness? If there is faith to lay hold on Him, might it not receive as a sign even the dryness of the Lord's peoplea sign of a coming shower? For who shows us the dryness? and if He show it, is not that a pledge of the help we so much need?

We are now to see Gideon in connection with the people. It is not so much his, but their preparation for the service. The whole army, some thirty-two thousand, is encamped at an appropriately-named well, the well of Harod, or trembling. No doubt it fittingly described the condition of most, for when the Lord had him proclaim through the army that all who were afraid should return home, twenty-two thousand availed themselves of the permission.

God had provided for this always. In the law, He had directed that this proclamation should be made, in order that the timid should not make a panic by the contagion of their fear. But He has another reason here. The people were too many to make the truth perfectly plain, that it was not human, but divine power that had wrought the victory. Man is too prone to boast, and all occasion for doing so must be taken away, or boast he surely will.

There is a subtle desire for numbers with us all. Why the desire for statistics, numbers of conversions, numbers of members, if man has not the thought that the power is in the numbers? On the contrary, does not Scripture abound with illustrations just to the contrary? Numbers have too often been the occasion for the pride that goeth before destruction. When the numbers of the disciples increased, the murmuring began. Far be the thought that we are to refuse numbers for their own sake. We should surely rejoice for the many who receive blessing, but our eye is not to be on the many, but on the Lord.

Particularly is this true in a day of decline, when God has raised up a remnant testimony to His truth. Numbers, if not truly clearand I might say tested as these werewill but make the testimony unwieldy. Better far the little company, tried and tested by God Himself, than the large and respectable body which commands respect in the eyes of the world by its numbers. But this will be clearer as we go on.

The fearful depart. How humiliating to think of two-thirds of those who had rallied to Gideon being too timid to go on. Ah, are there not many in our day who see the path of testimony and conflict, and have not the courage to take it? We fear persecution, we fear scorn, we fear what the world will say. Then, alas, we are not ready for God to use, and must stand aside.

But do we realize this, and are we ready to own it with shame to God? Is not this itself enough to encourage us to count upon Him for the courage? You remember that Gideon feared to do his first work by day. Why should you not take the path of faith even with trembling? That is far better than boasting. May our God give us the courage of obedience, and though trembling, may we follow on in His path.

But a severer test is yet to be applied. God says, the people are yet too many. So they are to be brought down to the water, and there tried in a way they do not understand. It is to see how they drink the water. If they catch it up in their hands, lapping it like dogs, they are chosen. Only three hundred do so the remainder of the ten thousand kneel down to drink.

The test seems a plain one. It is necessary to quench the thirst, but it must not be such an absorbing necessity that it takes the chief place. The needs of this life are evident, but are they chief with us? Do we catch up as we pass the things of this life, or are they our absorbing occupation? Ah, brethren, how many of us can stand this divine test? How solemn it is, too, to remember that we are being tested without our knowledge. If we knew when the test was being applied, we would be on our good behaviour, but God is watching us when we little think it, and accepting or rejecting us for the posts of danger and honour.

I need not say this is no question of salvation. It is a question of service, of testimony. Can God use us as instruments to deliver His beloved people from the bondage of the world? Surely He cannot if we are partly bound to the world ourselves. But how dreadful is the thought that we are not in a condition for service, and God has to set us aside. May it bring us to searchings of heart, to see if there is in us a subtle slavery to the world, or a failure to make God's interests first. A trifle may make our state apparent, even as here such a trifle as a drink of water. Only one thing can make us answer to God's test, and that is a heart that is absolutely set upon His will. This one thing I do, says the apostle.

Dear brethren, how is it with us? Are we set aside as unfit for service, or are we vessels sanctified and meet for the Master's use?

And so the little company of three hundred are the honoured ones, to overthrow the power of Midian. Few and despised, doubtless, they were, even by many of their brethren, but still they are the chosen ones. Do you not covet a place with them? What would you give for a place with the three hundred? Money, nor knowledge, nor influence, can buy a place with them. It costs more than gold; it costs self. To refuse, to have no confidence in ourselvesthis is the only way to be fit for Christ's use. Are we bound to be fit for His use? Is it more to us than all else in this world, more than self? Then let us learn from God's way with Gideon and his company how He prepares vessels for service. It is the same lesson we have had before, emphasized by its new settingsthe lesson of no strength, no goodness in ourselves. Christ is all, Christ alone,

But one thing more is left to look at just now. The rest will be deferred. Again does the patient care of God provide for the absolute assurance of victory to Gideon before he goes into the fight. You will notice that Gideon does not ask for this sign, but avails himself of it when it is offered by God. It is something more than a sign, beginning in figurative language, the enemy himself gives the interpretation, with the assurance of complete victory.

One of the host of Midian had a dream, and Gideon is permitted to hear him relate it to his fellow. It is simple almost to rudeness. A cake of barley bread falls into the camp of Midian and overthrows a tent. His companion interprets it in plain language: This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon, the son of Joash, a man of Israel: for into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host. Thus from the lips of the enemy he gets God's assurance of the success of the entire movement.

Barley bread is the poorest of all foodsthe food of the paupers. It suggested thus poverty and feeblenessthe very lessons emphasized all along. The fact, too, that it was food and not a sword that was to overthrow Midian is significant. When the people of God are feeding upon Christ, they are getting a sword for the enemy. God can use even our feeble and partial apprehensions of Christ as a most effective weapon. The lad had but five barley loaves of bread, yet these were enough in the Lord's hand to feed the multitude. So it is ever. Will we not learn the simple lesson? Weakness, helplessness, nothingnessin Christ's hands will win the day against all the power of the world. The Lord grant that we may know more of this practically, for the sake of Christ our Lord, and the help of His Church.



Lecture 6: Gideon and Abimelech The Victory and its Sequel (Chaps. 7:10-9)

We now reach the place where we find all this preparation resulting in a full and wondrous victory on the part of Gideon. Everything up to this point has been a slow and gradual work of God in the man's own soul individually, and then in the people's, whom He had gathered about him, in order that they might be fitted to do real work for God. You will always find that to be the case. If God is to be glorified through us, it must be through vessels sanctified and meet for the Master's use. The vessel must be prepared if He is to use it for the display of His own power. Each step in the history has marked and emphasized that. There can be no true service and certainly no true victory where God has not fitted the vessel for His use.

We have seen already how the people were depleted till but a handful remained. We have also seen how God encouraged the faith of Gideon, giving him the final sign which was a sure pledge of victory. It is the message from God Himself, given through the lips of the enemy, a message which shows that this same lesson of weakness which he had been learning in his own soul was that which struck terror into the hearts of his enemies.

There is nothing after all which strikes such terror into the heart of the enemy, as to see a sense of weakness amongst God's people. There is an old couplet which, with certain modifications, is true,

Satan trembles when he sees

The weakest saint upon his knees.

His being upon his knees would indicate a sense of weakness, and it is only through weakness that there could be anything like strength from God. And so this cake of barley bread, uncouth simile as it seems to be, is that which witnesses of God at work, and man's utter helplessness. Here is that which speaks of the greatest poverty, of the greatest weaknessbarley. And it is a loaf of barley bread, tossed over into the camp that is going to destroy the whole power of the enemy. It is no wonder that Gideon could take courage when even out of the mouth of his enemies he finds the knowledge of the weakness of God's people; the knowledge of a weakness that has cast them upon Him, is a pledge of His victory. If I am strong, then it is simply myself that Satan has to meet. If I am weak and cast upon God, it is another matter. He knows whom he has to meet, the Lord of hosts; and that is a very different thing from meeting self-confident men, whose strength is their shame. Little wonder is it that Gideon bows in worship as this is made clear to him.

Now we come to the victory, which is easy, after these preparatory steps have been taken. It is an easy thing to do the work after our own coward hearts have been overcome. It is not hard to face the world, when we have faced ourselves. It is not hard for me to stand out against spiritual foes publicly, when I have already gone through the conflict in my own soul, and am before God, as having judged myself. I am then ready to judge others.

But still the lesson is emphasized again in that which is very familiar to us, but which must not on that account be overlooked. I mean the actual character of the warfare. They were divided, these three hundred menas if even that number was too great to be trusted togetherinto three companies. These are all armed alike and in a strange way. They had no sword in their hand, or bow, or spear; nothing but pitchers, earthen vessels, in which was a light concealed, and in the other hand a trumpet that was to tell out the note of victory.

There were lights in the pitchers. God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness has shined into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. God has shined into the earthen vessel; that is the light. God is light, and the grace of God which has been made known to us is the light that has shined in our hearts. But it has shined in our hearts, in order that we may let it shine out. But here you have the pitcher whole, with the light down in it;and therefore the pitcher conceals the light. There is nothing to do, as we find here, but to break the pitcher, and then the light is unhindered in its shining out. The only way to let the light shine out is to break the pitcher. And you can understand that the more valuable the pitcher is, the less likely it is to be broken. And the more you realize that it is an earthen vessel, in which you hold the treasure, the more ready you will be to break it, in order that the treasure may be exhibited.

Beloved brethren, that is the lesson that we all know so well, and may I say, that we all practice so little? The lesson of breaking the best thing that you have. The taking of your vessel, the breaking of self in all its forms, and all its excellence, self with all the preparation and care that has been put upon it, self that is so tenderly handled. This self has now become the recipient of the grace of divine light. God has shined into the heart, now what are you to do? It is a question between the light, that has shined in, and the vessel that contains the light and may hinder it from shining out. The vessel has received the light. That is what grace has done, and the same grace exhibits itself through a broken vessel.

As long as there is no light, I do not wonder at the sinner holding his earthen vessel as very dear. A man does not want to waste what he has. He is in a scene boasting in its own excellence, and all that; it is all he has got to boast about, why should he not boast in it? Now here is something else which has shined in the heart. The excellency of the knowledge of the glory of God has shined, in the power of the Holy Ghost. That at once raises the question, which is to be exhibited? Is it now the vessel that is to be exhibited, or the glory of God? And so we are brought face to face with the question that either our vessel must be marred, or the divine glory shining through us. What can we do? God's glory is filling your soul, with the sense of His love and grace, of all that He has given in Christ. What do you think of yourself now? What do you think of your self ? Why you think of yourself, if grace really has taken possession of you in that way, as simply wanting to obliterate yourself, and get it out of the way. And the best way, the most effectual way is not to take your light out, so to speak, and to set the pitcher carefully to one side, to be used again, but it is to break the pitcher, and that is the end of it. That is what faith will do. It will break the earthen vessel, in order that the excellency of the power may be seen to be of God and not of ourselves. That is all there is to it.

Oh this self; why is it that God's people have no power over the world? This wretched miserable self. I was much struck, some time ago in reading the seventh chapter of Romans, to see how many times the first person is there spoken of, I, me, my,forty times! Surely that was a vessel enough to prevent the light from shining out. You do not see any light shining out in the seventh chapter of Romans. I beclouds it all. There is nothing to do therefore as the apostle shows us, but to reckon ourselves dead. That is the practical end, the breaking of the vessel. Now it will be seen that the excellency of the power is of God.

What a comfort that is. Who can think of meeting all that we have to face in our own strength? I do not wonder, if the Lord's dear people are care-worn, oppressed with fear, when they think of meeting all kinds of things in their own strength. But, if you trust God, are alone with God, and just learn from Him that all He wants of you is to be a broken pitcher, with no strength in you at all, that is a comfort, and one is ready at once to blow the trumpet when the vessel is broken.

The apostle, in the fourth chapter of second Corinthians, is evidently making use of this history of Gideon. I have already quoted the part referring to the light; the remainder of the chapter is an illustration of how the pitcher is broken, by outward circumstances. There is first, the reckoning of faith by which self is refused, and then all the untoward eventstrouble, persecution, perplexity, even deathare but the practical breaking of that which faith had already set aside, creature strength. As a result, he is led about in triumph, in Christ. Stones, dungeons, long years of captivity only serve to let shine the excellency of the power of God, the light that no calamity can darken.

I believe that the blowing of the trumpet is necessarily connected with the breaking of the vessel. People may try to blow the trumpet of testimony, that which is God's martial note of victory. But the first necessity, the absolute accompaniment of a trumpet testimony is a broken vessel. The testimony and the breaking of the vessel go together. God does not want the trumpet testimony and darkness. He wants the testimony accompanied by light. He wants not merely words, no matter how powerful the words may be, no matter how true and clear they may be, no matter what trumpet ring of victory there may be in the words . He wants more than words. He wants the broken vessel, in order that the light may come to the front. Trumpet and light, testimony and life, as in Philippians. We shine as lights in the world, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, holding forth the word of life. We shine as lights. There is the light shining. Holding forth the word of life, there is the trumpet testimony, that accompanies the light. The world cannot stand that. It cannot stand the feeblest company of God's people holding forth the word of life, and they shining as lights in the world.

Therefore, you find that all that Gideon and his friends had to do, was simply to stand out boldly with their light, with their trumpet sounding. They proclaimed, the sword of the Lord and of Gideon, and Midian turned every man against his fellow, the army melted away. That mighty host fled like a flock of frightened sheep before the irresistible power of God. We, too, can put to flight the armies of the aliens. We, too, can be made strong out of weakness and wax valiant in fight, if we learn this lesson in our inmost souls. May it be a practical reality for us.

We come next to what, alas, gets only too common, as we go on with our book, and that is the strife connected with the victory, and in a sense growing out of it. The people flock to the victory, just as they will, whenever individual faith has opened the way, and it is a comfort to think that this is the case. We saw the same in Ehud's case; when he blew a trumpet Israel was gathered together after him. But first he had, single-handed, to slay the king of Moab. So here, when the battle has been won, and the enemy put to flight, the rest of Israel gather together, and join in the pursuit; Gideon, in fact, sending messengers to show them that he does not want to have the credit, if we may use that word, of the victory himself. He sends messengers to Ephraim, to go down and take the fords of Jordan, in order that they may obliterate the enemy entirely.

Here is where jealousy comes in. There is none on the part of Gideon, but Ephraim shows his envy of the man of faith. You remember, away back in the book of Joshua, that Ephraim began to show this jealousy as a tribe. Joshua was of the tribe of Ephraim. Though as leader of all Israel his tribal connection was not prominent, yet, no doubt, Ephraim's pride was fostered by it. When the tribe got their portion, they objected to it. The reason why, they said, was because they were a great people, and they had not a sufficiently large portion for themselves; they being such a great people. That is the lesson that Ephraim teaches all through his history. He is a great people. But Gideon was not a great man, and you will find that a man who does not realize, who does not feel that he is great, is not going to be drawn into conflict with a great people.

Joshua's answer to Ephraim at the time we have referred to was a significant one. He says, if you are a great people, go up into the mountain and hew down for yourselves. You are a great people. Go up and overthrow the enemy, with his chariots of iron. Let your greatness be shown in work, not boasting. That was his answer to Ephraim then; but from that time on, the tribe of Ephraim was always jealous as to its position in the nation of Israel. It always envied those who did any thing for God. We find them repeatedly putting themselves forward all through Judges and in David's time, till the jealousy bore its proper fruit in the division of the kingdom.

No doubt the tribe had received as a cherished tradition, the promise that Ephraim the younger should take precedence over the elder Manasseh. So it would be specially galling to see the initiative taken by the feebler tribe. But God's ways are the opposite of ours, and all excellency and pride of man must be humbled. In fact, Ephraim's precedency is an illustration of this, for he was the younger, and so when he was put over the elder, as Reuben the first-born was displaced, it emphasized God's sovereignty, which exalts the lowly and abases the high.

But now this has become a recognized fact, and Ephraim counts upon his headship as a right. Manasseh, on the other hand, answering to his name, is the figure of one who does not dwell in the past, but forgetting that, presses forward in the energy of a present faith.

If we look more deeply, too, we will see the far-reaching spiritual lesson to be learned from Ephraim's envy. He stands for fruitfulness in the child of God, We might say, in a general way, for works. But works can never lead, they follow. Judah, praise, must ever be leaderpraise based on and flowing from the truth of God and His word.

But how easy it is for works to seem the more important. It is the strife of Martha with Mary, that which is so common in the Church today. Especially where faith has waned, will works be considered paramount, and thus exalted from the place of service to that of rule, which they can never occupy.

Wherever self is put forward there is jealousy, discontent and uselessness. The lesson of Gideon is self put aside; the warning of Ephraim is self put to the front, and so they chide with Gideon, and ask why they were not called up to do the fighting and to overthrow the enemy from the beginning. Gideon might very properly have replied, the enemy is a common enemy, and had overwhelmed the whole land. Why did not you overthrow him? Why did not you drive him out? God raised me up to do it, and I have through His power done it. But why did not you do it instead of finding fault with one who has?

Do you know anything of the spirit of discontent, of envy and jealousy, dear friends? That cannot bear to see God use others. Paul had not one particle of that. When the gospel was preached, no matter by whom, Paul could rejoice at it. And when Christ was preached, even of contention, not in sincerity, he could still thank God that it was Christ that was being preached, for in some way or other God would get glory out of it. Here is Ephraim, though, they are just simply jealous, because God had used a more spiritual instrument than themselves. Jealousy is a proof that God cannot use you. If you are jealous of another, if you are envious of the spiritual state, spiritual power of another, it is simply the proof that God cannot use you. You would not be jealous of another, if God could use you; and the thing that jealousy teaches first of all, is to go on your face in the very dust, and own to God that you are not a faithful instrument. The man who envies his brethren, should rather criticise himself. That is what Ephraim should have learned, but did not.

Yet we see Gideon in grace speaking to them in a way that showed he had learned his lesson from God. How good it is to take the lesson I have learned from God, and apply it to my relations with my brethren. What a blessed thing it was that Gideon could turn around to them and say, what have I done in comparison of you; are not the gleanings of Ephraim better than the full vintage of Abiezer? God has delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb, and what was I able to do in comparison of you? Then their anger was abated toward him, when he said that. That seems a rather sad way to cool their angerto praise them; and yet it shows the unjealous spirit that Gideon had. He had not fought the enemy, he had simply in his weakness proclaimed the power of God; he had not done any great thing himself. He had set himself aside. Ephraim had taken the fords, and had captured the princes. In God's sight surely Gideon's work was far more valuable than Ephraim's, and yet in his own sight, dear brethrenmark thatin our own sight, our service is less than that of others. A beautiful lesson we learn in this dear man, whom God had raised up for His peoplea self-emptied man.

Nor must we think it was mere flattery in Gideon. He sincerely believed it, and set at its real value the work of Ephraim. He does not touch the point that he had taken the initiative. I suppose one who was so near to God had in a sense so far forgotten himself that he saw only God. How good it is when self is eclipsed.

Nor is it wise or right to depreciate the work of Ephraim, Oreb and ZeebRaven and Wolfthe princes of Midian had fallen at their hands at the fords of Jordan. These names suggest the destructive character of that world whose prince spares not. But the fruits of the Spirit overcome the hosts of this world, and the principalities and powers who lead them. When works are in their true placeat the Jordan, the river of deaththey do their work most effectually.

But the Manassite cannot linger, but presses forward, to make a complete victory. He crosses over Jordan, and follows after the fleeing host, faint yet pursuing. What is the connection between those two words? I think we might almost read it, pursuing them because faint. It is still out of weakness made strong. It is the very faintness and helplessness of the man that leads him to press on, for it is God who is working in him. Like one of the old worthies in David's day, whose hand clave to the sword, Gideon has lost sight of all but God, and will never rest till he has overthrown the whole power of the enemy.

In bodily weakness, he asks the men of Succoth and of Peniel for food. They were Israelites, and those who were to share in the victory, but oh! the shame of the answer that the men of Succoth and Peniel give. What a contradiction to their names. Midian, you remember, is the world and its power, and Succoth means tents; it is a pilgrim word; and surely men who dwelt in tents ought to be perfectly willing to help to overthrow the power of the world. And Peniel means the face of God. Men, who are looking upon the face of God, surely would be ready to give all assistance to take captive the kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna. How their conduct gives the lie to their names. But both of them reply, Are these men in thy hands, that we should tell thee.

They mock Gideon, and so you find that he had no gentle words for them, as he had for the men of Ephraim. It is a very different thing. Ephraim had taken the field against the enemy, but the men of Succoth were holding back, and were really on the side of Midian. No one can be neutral in a time when the lines between Christ and the world are drawn. No one can be neutral without being on the side of the enemy. He that is not with me is against me, says the Lord. So these men were really as much the enemies of God as Midian; more the enemies, because they were the professed people of God.

But he goes on without their help, and God gives the whole host of Midian, and Zebah and Zalmunna also, the kings, into his hands, and he executes judgment upon them.

To Gideon belongs the honour of destroying not the princes merely, but the kings of Midian. I suppose there being two would suggest the duplicity, the variety there is in the world, and the varied forms in which Satan presents himself.

Zebah, sacrifice, would in this connection suggest not, of course, the way of approach to God, but that slaughter which the world delights to inflict on the people of God, without mercy, as Zalmunna, shade, or refuge denied would intimate. Therefore, upon them would be visited a like slaughter without mercy to shelter: For he shall have judgment without mercy that hath showed no mercy. This victory over Midian is made the pattern for the final overthrow of Israel's enemies, both in the prayer of the suffering remnant (Ps. 83), and in the accomplishment as predicted by Isaiah (chap. 9:4).

After this, Gideon returns to those false people of God. People who professed to belong to God, and yet were neutral in a day like that. He takes the briars of the wilderness to teach the men of Succoth. The briars and thorns speak of the curse that has been brought upon this world because of man's sin.

How many of God's people get lashed with the briars and thorns of this life, because they are neutral in the question between Christ and the world. Do you occupy a neutral place between God and the world? You will get the thorns on your back. You will be taught by thorns, if you will not be taught by the word of God. How many a blighted life, how many who should be pilgrims dwelling in their tents, have in reality to be taught by the thorns and the briars of life which they have brought upon themselves. What a bitter way to learninstead of beating out the wheat and being fitted as the Lord's instrument, to learn by sad experience and alienation from God. And so these men reap the result of their own folly in this time of neutrality.

The enemy thus is fully overthrown, and Gideon, the hewer down, has hewed down the high things that exalted themselves against the knowledge of Christ. He is a mighty victor. We have one more part of his life to look at, and that is a sad one. Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou and thy sons, and thy sons' sons, for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my sons rule over you. The Lord shall rule over you. There was a constant tendency in Israel to have a visible ruler, some one like all the nations, who would lead them forth to battle, and reign over them in times of peace. That desire at last was gratified when Saul was put over them. Here you have the budding out of that desire in the wish that Gideon should rule, but he had learnt too much of God's authority to usurp authority for himself; and it is beautiful to see that the man who had been belittling himself all along continues to do so, and refuses to take the throne that had been vacated by Zebah and Zalmunna. For, brethren, if one is going to be king, he is going to take the place of the world's king. If one is going to rule the people of God, he is not going to take Christ's place, and be Christ's representative, but he is going to take the place of Satan, and be his representative. And I think that Gideon in a certain sense realized that the only throne which he could occupy would be the throne vacated by Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian, and he would not be a king of Midian over God's people, a worldly ruler. God shall be their king, he says.

If Israel had always remembered that God was sufficient, and that He alone should have been their king, how many bitter lessons it would have saved them. But they did not remember, and so they were willing for Gideon and his son, and his son's son, to be their rulers for all time. Gideon has faith to decline it, and refuses to have either himself or his son ruling over them. But in a little while it crops up again, and the very thing which the people desired is what they get a little later on.

But we come to something else that Gideon could not stand. I Suppose one of the greatest temptations with men is the desire for power. There is one thing greater, and that is the desire for privilegeoutward nearness to God. Something different from that which is enjoyed by anybody else. Gideon asks for the gold that had been gathered as trophies from the defeated enemy, and out of it he makes, not exactly a golden calf, as Aaron made of the gold that had been brought from Egypt, but a priestly ephod.

The ephod would be a witness that he was in a place of exclusive and peculiar nearness to God. If you trace it back, you can easily see how, if he had not judged himself, and kept himself in a low place, the very fact that God had been dealing with him so closely, would give him a sense of special nearness to Him, a sort of priestly position. He already had his altar, and God had already told him to offer a sacrifice upon it. More than that, he had brought out, at the very beginning, a special sacrifice which God had accepted. Were not these indications that God wanted him to be priest for the people?

After all, he might reason, was not the greatest sin of the people apostasy from God? They did not so much need a civil as a religious ruler, one that would maintain them in relationship with God. Thus Gideon might deceive himself and think that he was doing only what was God's will, to bind the people more closely to Him, by a visible priest. He would thus be forgetting that God had a visible priesthood on the one hand; and on the other, that the subtle attraction of idolatry in that golden ephod was even stronger than the desire for priesthood itself on the people's part.

Let us put it practically: you have had a low time before God; He has brought you down and has made you learn the nothingness of yourselves; He has broken the earthen vessel to pieces, and you have had a wonderful, an amazing experiencean experience of nearness to God, which other people look upon with wonder. They say, He has had a wonderful season with God; he has been alone with God. He must be a wonderful man. Ah, brethren, there is the snarethat you think you occupy a place of special priestly nearness to God, and that you want to be now in some sense a go-between between those whom, perhaps, you may have led in victory, and God who is their King. You refuse the kingship, but you want the priesthood.

I am persuaded that the rise of the clerical spirit, the distinction between the clergy and the laity amongst the people of God, has been not so much a question of spiritual authority, as it has been a question of spiritual priesthood. In the clerisy of the day, which we see all about us, it is more the office of the priest, in spite of refusing the name, than it is any spiritual authority and rule. Let me illustrate it in the simplest kind of way. Here is the Lord's Table, with the emblems of His Body and Blood upon it. Where will you find, dear friends, the simple untutored Christian, who would not shrink with horror from the thought of a layman breaking the bread and passing it to the people of God? That is the minister's work, the clergyman's work, and no unordained man should touch it. In that thought you have the element of priesthood just as clearly as you see it in Rome, where the priest consecrates the wafer and dispenses it to the people.

That marks the rise and growth of the priesthood. It is a spiritual leadership which the people are willing to recognize, and a special nearness to God, which will do away with the need of all being so near. Thus the great snare comes, which has changed the entire character of the Church, its worship, and its ministry. All Israel went a whoring after the ephod, and so you will find when a special, privileged class of people, perhaps men of special faith, and men that have been specially used of God are recognized, that the danger is to put them in a priestly class of nearness for themselves, nearness to God. Let us apply it to ourselves, brethren. Ministry, ministerial gift, the gift of preaching the gospel, or anything of that sort, has absolutely nothing to do with the ephod. Let us always remember it. Let us remember that the gift has nothing to do with the priestly functions, which belong either to Christ alone, the unique and peerless High Priest, who is ever ministering before God for us, or, if to any man, then to all His people alike, without the slightest distinction amongst them. He hath made us kings and priests.

One verse toward the close of this chapter (8:28) tells how completely Midian was overcome. Thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel, so that they lifted up their heads no more. And the country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon. Evidently it was a work of God, far-reaching in its effects, even after the energy of faith which had marked its beginning, had ceased. His enormous family and many wives is not suggestive of that spiritual vigour which is seen in men of faitheven in patriarchal daysand surely Abimelech, son of the concubine, is too closely connected with this grossness to permit us to overlook the lesson suggested. Ease and self-pleasing give birth to many a fruitful source of evil later on.

That brings us to the end of Gideon's life. It is important, too, to notice, that while apparently he has set at rest the question of kingship, by raising the question of priesthood, he has actually raised again the question of kingship, as you will see immediately in what follows. How solemn it is to trace these occasions of evil. You find, for instance, that Nicolaitanism, which means conquering the people, is practically the outgrowth of that loss of the first love which marks the loss, by the saints, of the sense of their priesthood before God. Conquering or ruling the people is clerisy, but that ruling of the people comes from the loss by the saints of access to God's own holy presence.

Gideon dies, and we read in the thirty-third verse what we have so frequently, that one almost wearies of its reiteration, It came to pass as soon as Gideon was dead that the children of Israel turned again and went a whoring after Baalim and Baal-berith their god, and the children of Israel remembered not the Lord their God who had delivered them out of the hand of all their enemies on every side. Departure from God means too, of course, the continuance of all the wretched fruit of that departure, bondage and degradation. But here we do not seem to have bondage to any power outside. The internal condition is what is dwelt upon.

The priesthood has been developed, but not according to God's order; in fact, entirely outside of that order. Disobedience produces its fruit, and you find now Abimelech, son of Gideon, rising up to take the place of his father. It is not as priest, for the people have turned to Baal and there is no desire apparently for priesthood, so quickly do men depart from God. But he rises as king, and his very name, which was given to him by some one (perhaps by his mother to show his relation to the great man of Israel, and to cover the shame of his birth), shows, therefore, how the subtle spirit was at work whether it found expression or not, My father was king. That is the very thing that his father was not. His father refused to be king, and said God alone should be their king. And yet here is the son of his father who declares that his father was king, and, furthermore, in the strongest way declares that his son also is going to be king.

He sets himself to exercise authority over the people of God, and in order to do so he builds his throne upon violence. There must be violence if there is rule of that kind; if there is the rule of man, it must be by violence. Therefore, he slays all his brothers, all the many sons of Gideon, with a single exception. Having thus cut off all rivals, he goes to Shechem, the town of his mother, the town according to nature, which is significantly in that very tribe of Ephraim, which is always, as you know, reaching out for rule, and gets the men of Shechem to endorse and recognize him as king. Then it is that his brother Jotham, the one who had escaped, propounds his parable, which is most striking, and embodies the whole lesson of this chapter. This parable on rule and government explains all that occurred, and shows what human government always is in the house of God (chap. 9:7-21).

You have in the parable a picture of what government, or rule, is. The tree itself is a picture of government. You remember that Nebuchadnezzar was a great tree, head of the Gentile kingdom. The mustard seed grew into a tree.

The trees of the wood ask for a ruler, and they naturally turn to those bearing fruit. First comes the olive; they ask it to be king over them, and the olive's answer is that of all the other trees, Shall I leave my fatness, wherewith they honour God and man, and go to wave over the trees? In other words the olive declares that fruit-bearing is its work, and not ruling. The fig-tree and vine return the same answer. When we apply the parable to the government of God's people, it is beautifully simple.

Who is going to rule over God's people? Naturally, the saints turn, of course, to those who are bearing fruit for God. Here is one, for instance, who will represent the olive. The olive with its oil suggests the energy and illumination, the power and fruits of the Holy Ghost. They say to those who are manifesting the fruits of the Spirit in their lives, Brethren, do you be rulers. Or, singling out one particular brother, who is full of faith and the Holy Ghost, they say, You take charge, and be governor of God's people. He says, Ah, brethren, I am too much engaged in the things of God, to attempt to rule His people. I am too much engaged in the blessed communion of the Holy Ghost, in that which refreshes the people of God, that which is an honour to God (for God is honoured and glorified by the fruits of the Spirit in His people), too much engaged with bearing fruit to be a ruler or a lord.

The fig-tree represents more particularly all that gracious nourishment and healing which is ministered through fruitfulness to God. The fig-tree producing sweet, wholesome fruit, says, If I am to rule, I must stop being fruitful, and I would far rather provide food for the people of God, than I would govern them. And so if the Spirit of God has empowered one in any way to bear fruit that nourishes and refreshes, heals and sustains the people of Godsuggested in the pastor and teacherwho would exchange that kind of a place for any pre-eminence over them as master or lord?

The reply of the vine is only another lesson of the same kind. The vine, perhaps, reminds us more particularly of the gospel ministry, that ministry which emphasizes the precious blood of Christ, of which wine is a type. Here is an evangelist, one whose delight it is to hold up the cross, the finished work of Christ, and the people say, He is the right one to rule; give us a good evangelist to rule over and govern us, to take charge of the saints. Ah! he says, shall I leave that which refreshes God, as well as man? Shall I leave that which cheers the fainting heart of the dying saint, brings peace to the guilty conscience, and glory to the grace of God? Shall I give up my ministry of the gospel of His grace for an empty honour of ruling over the people of God?

Who, then, is to rule over them? If those who are bearing fruit for God will not be rulers over His people, who really is to be the ruler? Ah, the lesson, dear friends, of government, is the lesson of service, and he rules best who serves best. He is really, practically, a head of the people, who is at their feet serving them; the ones who bring them the precious fruits of God's grace, the olive, the fig, the vine, these are the ones, and the only ones, by their service, who rule or lead the saints of God.

The spirit of rule is the spirit of service. The moment it passes into that of rule merely, it passes away from that of service and of fruit bearing. The moment you get away from fruit bearing, you get emptiness, and that is what you have here. A bramble-bush is elected to be the ruler of the trees, and the bramble's answer is a very significant one, If I am to be ruler, then you have either got to bow to me, or fire will come out and burn up all the trees, from the cedar of Lebanon, in its height, down to the smallest of them. It is rule or ruin.

What is a bramble but a mere fruitless thing that instead of giving its energy, sap and vigour to bearing fruit, has shrivelled up and turned in upon itself? Just as the thorn, it is the curse of the earth, an abortive branch. That which might have, if it had opened out, been a branch and borne much fruit, has shrunk up and centred upon itself. So the bramble, nothing but a thorn-bush, figure of a self-seeking, self-desiring man, becomes now a ruler. This rule is of that character which says, You must bow to me, or be burnt, no matter who you may be.

What a lesson as to what rule is amongst the people of God! How it searches our hearts, as we think of it; how it makes us realize how easy it is to become mere brambles, and to seek a place, not at the feet of the saints, but over their heads. Beloved brethren, he rules who does as Christ did, ministers amongst them. Whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? Is not he that sitteth at meat? But I am among you as He that serveth. Do you want saints to look up to you? Ah, you are a bramble, if you covet that. The people who are looked up to are those who do not take the place, but who are seeking to bear precious fruit for God, and for the blessing of the saints. Let us be occupied with that fruit-bearing in our own souls.

Let us not be seeking a place. Let us not be like Abimelech, wanting to step into the empty chair of some predecessor, which his father had actually refused. Let us not seek to be Abimelechs in any sense of the word. Whether it be one or a dozen, it makes no difference; the principle is the same: wherever there is a spirit of succession, wherever there is the thought that there are certain who are rulers, and who are going to be rulers in spite of anything in themselves or in the saints, rest assured it is the bramblesimply that which has no fruit for God.

Rule does not talk about itself, about its own dignity and its own authority. Rule is weakness which God takes up, and in its weakness stands for God at whatever cost. This is a lesson that not one of us can afford to overlook. It is a lesson which the Church of Christ has failed to learn, and for that reason has been broken to pieces. It is the great lesson of clericalism in every shape and form, which has come up to mar the peace of God's people.

If you will read the history of God's people from the very beginning, you will find that it is the man-appointed leaders of the people who have made troublethose who have intruded themselves into the place of leadership, not of fruitfulness, but of leadership. They are the ones who have brought in the distress and the dishonour to God, and the corruption, alas, that has marred the history of the Church from the apostles' times.

Is it not striking that Abimelech has the name of the Philistine kings? He bears the name that the kings of the Philistines bore, handing down the title from father to son, as also Pharaoh of Egypt. That is the spirit of Rome, the carnal, worldly religion, that must have the ruler named after his predecessor. If there is no succession, there is no rule; and so the very ruler of the Philistines is called Abimelech. My father was king, and I am king after him. It is the spirit of succession which Rome boasts in; apostolic succession she calls it. Alas, in Protestantism, today, how much of that apostolic succession people will claim too, which, after all, is only the bramble coming up to claim a place of authority.

Why is it that amongst the saints of God a spirit like this shows itself from time to time? Is it not because of this forgetting of our priestly place? Is it not because we forget we are all priests, and forgetting that, we naturally pass under this distinction of clergy and laity, until we have it full blown, as you see it in this case?

I will not go into the details; though they are very interesting and profitable reading, and show us how this prophecy of Jotham's was fulfilled to the very letter. Fire comes out from the men of Shechem and consumes Abimelech, and fire comes out from Abimelech and consumes the men of Shechem. The men of Shechem receive a rival to Abimelech. They receive him in a half-hearted way, and then thrust him out to meet Abimelech, who puts him to flight. The men of Shechem are still at enmity with Abimelech, and he is put into open conflict with them, and overthrows them. When they flee to their tower, he brings branches of these very trees, brings the parable of his brother, we might say, and sets fire to the door of the tower, and burns up those who had sided with his rival.

Then Abimelech goes after another man to another city, and there is seeking to do the same thing, to burn out those who had found shelter in the tower, when a woman's hand with a piece of millstonefeebleness using that which is a simple instrument of daily toil, daily humble toil of a weak womanmakes an end of him. She takes the millstone and throws it out, crushing Abimelech, and all his power with him. It is done by the hand of a woman.

Now look at the contrast with Jotham. He cannot join in all this conflict and strife, so he flees to Beer and dwells there. Beer is a well, and he dwells by the well, while the people of God are in their unseemly strife over authority. He drinks of the fountain of the word of God, from whence alone come sustenance and refreshing.

So, for instance, while bishops have been fighting with bishops, and pope with pope, as to whose pretensions to pre-eminence shall be allowed, the saints of God have been glad to betake themselves to the retirement of the word of God, and there drink of a stream of life and love infinitely superior to all the Abimelechs in the world. As fruitful boughs growing by the well, there has been even something for those who need it; the branches hang over the wall.

We have been speaking of human government and rule. If there is anything abhorrent to God, it is that spirit of human rule. But is there then no government in God's house? Is there to be no authority, or is the thought of authority so repulsive to the people of God? If it is a question of somebody else's authority against minethe clash of two human wills, the one against the otherif that is all, you might as well be openly under human authority. But if it be the order and government of God's house, exercised in the power of the Holy Spirit according to the word of God, woe be to those who disregard it.

Why is it that we ought to be so jealous of any human intrusion into the place of authority and government? It is because it is displacing Christ's authority. It is because if one man takes the place of rule, of leadership, of control, amongst the people of God, he is usurping Christ's place just as really as Gideon usurped the priest's place, or Abimelech the ruler's place.

Christ is the ruler of His people. How does He rule them? By His Word, by His Spirit, according to His truth. How do we show our subjection to Christ, and to His government? Beloved brethren, we show it by subjection to His word. People may talk of obedience to Christ, but obedience to Him is shown by obeying His word. They may talk about recognizing His headship here. We have His precious word, and all the truth that word unfolds to us, which is the command of our Ruler and of our Lord. I am to obey that word, whoever brings it to me, no matter if he is like the little messenger boy who brings a despatch which conveys an order from the president to a general on the field. The messenger boy is nothing, but he brings the message, and if the general were to despise the boy so much that he would not read his message, he would be despising the one who sent him. So it is in the house of God. Whoever brings me the word, the will of Christ, a message from Him, the Head and Lord of His people, am I to discard it because I despise the instrument? Ah, I despise Christ if I do that. No, dear brethren, true government means Christ's government, and He governs through His word, and He brings His word to us through any instrument He may see fit to use.

The Lord honours that which is truly government in His house, and He honours it in this way too, that those whom He can use, who are best acquainted with His mind, those who are least in contradiction to that which is the established order of God, are the ones He would naturally make use of for His government.

Pardon me if I speak of something further. I refer to leadership amongst the people of God. There is no question that the leadership of Christ will be more frequently exercised through the elder brethren amongst the saints. That is because it is consistent with God's order. Nature itself teaches obedience to, and respect of those who are older, particularly of parents. And in the family of God it is but right and proper that the order of God should be recognized as far as possible.

But that means, of course, that the elder brethren are abiding in communion with Christ, and can be used as channels for Him to send His messages to His people. It is not because of what they are themselves, but simply because He would make use of that which is according to His order, even in nature itself, to lead and guide His people, but if you see the elder saints amongst the people of God not abiding in Christ, not being filled with His word, not walking in separation from the world, can we expect that the Lord will use such as His instruments? Oh, how often it must be, I might say, that He is compelled to make use of that which is less according to what He would preferyouth instead of agebecause age is unprepared.

It is a word for our conscience. I am speaking simply of what is abstract and general, but it is a principle of the greatest importance. If we are going to be used of the Lord in bringing His truth to His people, in this matter of the order of His house, we must be in fellowship with Himself. Then there will be necessarily that obedience to, and that respect of the Word and the authority of Christ; and respect, too, for the one who brings it to us, not because of anything in the person himself, but because we recognize such as watching for our souls as those that must give account. We recognize such as those who are abiding in Christ; therefore, they are giving us, not human will, but the will of the Lord Jesus.

I would commend this ninth chapter of Judges to your prayerful study. It is just here where rule goes to pieces. You will find it reasserts itself with a much sterner hand in Jephthah, whom we look at next. You will find that it fails more disastrously under Samson, and finally crumbles into nothingness at the close of the book. Take this ninth chapter of Judges, and see how the spirit of succession comes from that of priesthood, and how this spirit of succession must rule or ruin. It must rule at all costs. That is self-will in the things of God, and see how it brings in anarchy and strife and confusion. Let us learn this one lessonthat we are to bow to the Lord Jesus Christ, Lord of His Church, as well as Head of it, Lord over us all, and whoever is near enough to Him to have His word, we bow to that word, beloved; we bow and own Christ's authority in His house. But there must be a walk with God. Nothing can take the place of that, and where there is that, there will be the fullest rule, the freest exercise of oversight; but Christ will be all.


Lecture 7: Jephthah His Predecessors and Successors (Chaps. 10-12)

The last part of the ninth chapter gave us the account of what is the inevitable result of a course of self-will and high-handed authority, such as that seen in the character and course of Abimelech. As we saw, he himself in his rise, progress and downfall, is a fitting illustration of the rule of the bramble as contrasted with the service and ministry of the fruit-bearing trees. I would again commend the lesson of that parable of Jotham to your careful and prayerful attention. It seems to me one of the characteristic lessons of the entire book of Judges, when you come to the relation of the people to one another. The lessons which we had previously been gathering were largely in connection with the relation of the people to their foes; that of Abimelech is their relation to one another. And if a corporate testimony is to be maintained for God in these days, it must be on the lines of those principles which are laid down for us in connection with the parable of Jotham.

There is a very striking contrast in what we have nextat the beginning of the tenth chapter. There are two brief portions, and their very brevity, it seems to me, is suggestive. There is the rule of Tola, and that of Jair, succeeding one another. The very brevity of their rule shows the simplicity of it. It is the Abimelechs largely who make the long chapters in the Bible. It is the history of self-will which God has to break down and humble that makes many details necessary to be dwelt upon; but when there is divine blessing, when there is a real work of God, it can frequently be described in a few words. As the historian tells us, that which makes the most interesting and exciting chapters of history, is the worst time in which to live; while that which seems dull and dreary enough on the page of the book, is indeed the best time to live in, the era of quietness and prosperity. There is very littlein fact, the narrative is entirely barren of detailsthat would strike one in connection with these two judges. Yet their coming immediately after Abimelech, and being mentioned as after him, suggests the thought of contrast. And after Abimelech there arose to defend Israel Tola the son of Puah. Tola has very little except his name to give us a clue to what we are to learn from him. But, as we saw that Abimelech's name suggested his claim for succession, My father was king, and, therefore, I will be king; so here in Tola you have that which corrects and contradicts the very thought.

Tola means a worm. A worm to judge Israel! Striking contrastis it not?with the self-assertion of pride which boasts in its descent and in its own prowess, and which lays its hand on everything that would not bow to its own will?

Tola's genealogy is given for two generations back, he making the third. Dodo, his beloved, is the first; the second is his son Puah, speech; and Tola, a worm, is the third. The love of God is the source from whence all flows, and when one realizes that he is the object of that love, speech is not wanting to give expression to the heart's sense of it; while fittingly the lowly setting aside of one's self, suggested in the worm, will be the result. Puah, speech, or utterance, is from a root meaning to breathe, and by this we are reminded of the Spirit, who is breathed into each one who believes in the love of God as shown in Christ; and of the breathing out in the power of that same Spirit, of praise and confession.

Tola is a man of Issachar, reward or hirespeaking of the recompense both now and hereafter of the life of faith. But it is striking that he does not dwell in any of the cities of his own tribe, but in Shamir of Mount Ephraim. In lowliness he leaves the thought of recompense, not serving for a reward, but in the fruitfulness of a self-surrendered life. A Tola in Ephraim is not in danger of the pride to which that tribe is particularly exposed.

He dwelt at Shamir, a word derived from a root meaning to be stiff, or firm. Growing out of this, the chief derivative is the word watch. This suggests the watchfulness necessary in a ruler, he that ruleth with diligence.

It is noteworthy that Tola died and was buried where he had lived. Steadfastness and unchangeableness are indicated in this. Death, as we might say, made no change in the principles for which he stood.

I have been struck with the thought that in both Tola and Jair, and in the few judges that are mentioned after the history of Jephthah, we have more distinctly perhaps than in any other portion of the book, types of Christ Himself. There is much in Jephthah, for instance, just as there is much in Gideon, and in the others, which we could not ascribe to our Lord; but here we have so very little, that the very position and name seem to suggest Him. You remember in the twenty-second psalm He speaks of Himself as a worm and no man. In His takingHe who had the place of highest glory in the heavensthe lowest place, humbling Himself and making Himself of no reputation, we see the character of the One who truly rises to save the people, whether it be Israel or His Church. It is the One who takes His place in humiliation who can judge His people and gather them, as you see in that psalm. Having taken His place as a worm and no man, and thus died upon the cross, He rises from the dead, the Centre of blessing for His brethren, the remnant of Israel; for the great congregation of the whole nation; and finally all the kindreds of the earth hear and flock to Him for blessing. Thus it is from the cross as a centre that all blessing radiates, and it is through Him whose lowliness brought Him to the cross that all our hope of deliverance comes.

I do not say this is a type of Christ, rather a suggestion of Him. But because he is in that way suggestive of Christ in His humiliation, what a picture does Tola give us of the true spirit of government and judgeship. In contrast with that self-assertiveness which will rule or ruin, and which would crush everything that does not bend to its own ambition, Tola, in his quietness, apparently without any conflict, either with foes without, or with the people within, still faithfully judges, and from the beginning to the close of his long and peaceful life we are told that he defended and saved Israel. There was real work, and most effectual. So it will always be.

Then you have after him still another who also is spoken of very brieflyJair, the Gileadite (and we will come to Gilead again). He judged Israel twenty-two years. What we are told of Jair is that he had successors who ruled, who were really successors. He had thirty sons that rode on thirty ass colts, and they had thirty cities which are called Havvoth-Jair to this day. Jair's descendants are thus rulers, and you notice they are not claimants of rule, but are practically rulers; not, perhaps, in a very wide way, but each in his own circle of influence has a place of power and authority over a city. These cities are named after the fatherHavvoth-Jairthe lives of Jair. That is, they carried on the life of Jair, as it were, even after his death; he lived after his death.

Jair is the light giver, and just as you have suggested the thought, in Tola, of our Lord's humiliation unto death, so you would have in Jair the thought of His giving light to his people, by which they can grow. And in these thirty cities you have growth through the truth perpetuated to his descendants.

That is very simple, and there is no clash of arms about it, but how blessed it is to remember that after all, in the midst of our ruin and decay, if there is going to be any measure of recovery for God, if there is going to be any restoration from the chaos which Abimelech brings in, it has to be through the quiet and peaceable rule of humility; the rule of lowlinessthat rule which is all the more effective because it has been abased into the very dust. The king who reigns, if you can call him a king, is the one who reigns from the dust. The power that sways the people of God is the power of feebleness, resting on almighty strength, where one has low thoughts of himself, and is often despised by others. If we in our lowliness can take our place beside the Man of sorrows in humiliation, we have got the key to government. You have the key to a power and authority amongst the people of God. When did you ever see the people of God taking their place with Tola in perfect abasement, answering to his name, that you did not see deliverance come in through that?

And growing out of that comes the knowledge of divine truth, with its transforming and administrative power. Where this is present it effects a growth and progress which is most delightful to see. We have a sample of real authority, though it may not be in a very prominent way, identified also with real growth.

It is very interesting to see this taking place in Gilead, which is on the earth side of the inheritance, the wilderness side of Jordan. The name Gilead, you know, means a witness or testimony. So that you have God's people there by actual growth, maintaining a real testimony before the world. The very place where the enemy comes in first is on the side of Gilead, the side of our testimony, as we shall be seeing a little further on; and what a comfort it is when through the enlightenment of the truth, God's people are maintaining a testimony, and growing in connection with that testimony, so that the very world itself sees the lives of Jair.

Ah, brethren, after all it is the life that is the true witness, in the eyes of the world. It is these cities of Jair, these cities of the life that are established through the enlightenment of God's truth. The world cannot deny conduct, it cannot deny spiritual growth. It may deny profession, it might make a mockery of mere talk, but the world cannot deny, nor can it despise, even if it affects to do so, real true spiritual growth.

You will also notice that growth is in connection with government, for the allusion to riding on asses' colts means that. Our Lord was saluted as king riding into Jerusalem. In the east it was the sign of the governor or ruler. Deborah alludes to the custom in her song (chap. 5:10).

Jair dies and is buried at Camon. Different meanings are given to this word, though its derivation from a root to rise is evident. One that is certainly significant is a place of grain, for in such lives we have the pledge of resurrection with abundant harvest.

Thus we have the contrast to Abimelech. Blessed contrast. May we learn the lesson of itlowliness and enlightenment. It is something more than a contrast; it is a remedy.

Now we come to that which is prominent again, a long section, and, alas, as I said, when there is a long portion you may expect to find some conflict between the principles of God and the practices of the people. You have in the life of Jephthah that which furnishes much food for prayerful thought. First of all you have, what is not spoken of in connection with either Tola or Jair, the account of fresh departure from the Lord of the children of Israel. And here the number of their gods is so multiplied as to include all the gods of the heathen by whom they were surrounded. They served Baals and Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, and the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines.

There is an apostasy which seems even deeper than any which had yet been reached, and so complete that there is only one God excluded from their service. They will serve all manner of gods, except the living God, and that is what apostasy will always do. Error is tolerant; it is truth only that excludes all that is not true. The flesh has ten thousand ways of manifesting itself. It has, as you might say, thousands upon thousands of gods which it worships and serves. There is only One whom it cannot bow to, and that is the living God. And so we find it here with Israel. The more she multiplied her gods the more she departed from the true One. The prophets are full of the mournful presentation of this, and of the pleading of divine patience.

The result is, of course, simple and inevitable. If the sense of God's authority over our souls is lost to us, it follows as a necessary result that He must give us over to the authority of what we have followed after. How significant that is. It shows usand it is very touching to seeit shows us that our Blessed God does not delight in judgment, that He does not delight in chastening, He simply, as it were, permits His people to reap the result of their own folly. It is as though He said, You see I am not inflicting this chastisement; I am not visiting you with evil, I am simply showing you the result of your own evil. And so as they were serving the gods of the Philistines and of the Ammonites, they were also delivered over to those people to be crushed, as the word is, under the iron heel of a foreign power.

Dear brethren, let us bear witness for God. When did you ever find His government grievous; when did you ever find anything bitter or hard in His service? There have been trials and difficulties connected with it; there has been many a time when the flesh has been shown. But I say again, when did your heart feel any of the grievousness of a yoke which is always easy and a burden which is always light? The apostle of love, the apostle who was closest to the heart of Christ, has told us that, His commandments are not grievous. I ask again, if we were to testify what about the rule of evil in any form, was it ever light, was it ever anything but a crushing tyranny? Take the service, no matter what it may have been, whatever form of evil it may have been, from mere worldliness to the grossest immorality, from simple indifference to God, to the most complete infidelity of God: when did you ever find that the service of evil was anything but galling and crushing, and bitter to the soul? Never!

And so it was with Israel here. This bondage to the Philistines that is spoken of here stays with them, all through the remainder of the book, on into Samuel itself, until David arises, who completely delivers them from their power. We have not the Philistine prominently brought before us here, but we have those intimations, which we had in the account of Shamgar. You remember there was a foe on their western border, between Canaan and Egypt, who was threatening to come in as soon as he had the proper opportunity. Here we find that the people had thrown their arms open to every form of idolatry in their departure from God, and, as a natural result, the Philistines had taken up that power which had been put in their hands, had responded as it were to the invitation, and were now the rulers.

But in connection with Jephthah, what we have is the power of the children of Ammon, those who dwell on the east side of the Jordan, and it is of them that we are to speak now. Ammon was the other son of Lot. We have already seen what Moab represented, and in learning what Ammon is, we shall simply find the lesson of Moab repeated with certain differences to give character. Moab, you will remember, we saw was connected with Israel by nature, and Ammon had the same connection; therefore, at once we think of that which has some sort of outward resemblance to the truth of God, or, in other words, it is profession as contrasted with open and absolute dissimilarity.

Moab stood for a mere profession with all its emptiness, and, I might add, with all its self-indulgence of the flesh. Moab was a fitting link with Amalek, the lusts of the flesh. In Ammon we have also profession, that which can claim a sort of kinship with Israel; but it is after all mere profession, though there seems to be an added thought or two. It is not a profession that connects so much with indulgence of the flesh, but which is under the power of a ruler, who once had possession of Ammon. Sihon was king of the Amorites, king of Heshbon, and he was practically the ruler over the children of Ammon, and while the children of Ammon might preserve their natural identity, yet their ruler was this Sihon, king of the Amorites. The Amorites were talkers, as we were seeing the other evening. Those who speak great swelling words of vanity. Their speech is very high and exalted. They are full of their own talk, and in that way they suggest at once the activities of the human mind. It is the capital of this king, Heshbon, that seems to give us the key to the character of the Ammonites. Heshbon, reasoning, is the use of the mind in the things of God. The reason, the introduction of the mind of man into the things of God.

You will remember we saw this also when we were speaking of Jabin, king of Hazor, the northern enemy. There is no doubt a great similarity between Jabin and Ammon. The difference, I think, you will find, is that in the case of Jahin it is more decided, it is the open attack of infidelity which would refuse entirely the name and yoke of Christianity; its springs of influence are outside the pale of revelation, though it may later on apply its reasoning to the word of God, as in the Higher Criticism, or formulate its theology as a basis for the strife we saw there. In Ammon it is the inward attack of profession. There is still the profession that claims to be Christianity, and yet is not that. But it maintains its kinship, although external, with the people of God, and yet destroys all their faith. It is the use of the mind in connection with divine truth, building systems of error out of a misapplication of the word of God.

If we were able, it would be exceedingly interesting just to trace the history of error, the history of heresy amongst God's people. It has always come in this way, making use of divine truth as a basis for going on and grafting upon it that which is evil and false. I would suggest this as the difference between Jabin's rule and that of Ammon. Jabin introduces infidelity or philosophy from without; Ammon takes the truth and makes it teach error. It will not deny revelation, nor explain it away, exactly; but it makes a system of error, using scripture terms, and, perhaps, some scripture doctrines, but ending with that which is absolutely unscriptural. This is heresy.

Those of you who are familiar with the history of false doctrine in the Church, will remember how some of these heresies, such as Gnosticism, which arose very early in the history of the Church, spread until they well nigh enveloped the whole professing Church. It was a system of philosophy. It used divine names, and to a certain extent divine truth, but it absolutely destroyed the power of truth by making use of it without the power and aid of the Holy Ghost, or without any subjection to the word of God. I was struck in noticing the other day that this system of Gnosticism is still believed, and its teachings to a certain extent practised in Europe. That system is just one of the many forms of heresy which I think you will find suggested by this Ammonite invasion.

It belongs to the east side of Israel; that is, it belongs to Israel on its earth side. It is a very sweet truth that the highlands are safer. Across Jordan is the safe place, if we are really and not formally there. To be associated with Christ in His death and resurrection, is to be practically in the safe place where no power of evil can touch us.

But it is an indescribable state of things, this power of false doctrine. I believe, if our eyes were opened today upon the state of Christendom, we would be fairly appalled at the horrible inroads that are made by heresy upon the truth of God. They are made by Ammonites, people who have the name of Christian, who use the language of Christian people, who hold the Bible in their hands as they talk. When I mention Seventh Day Adventism, Christian Science and Millennial Dawnism, and many other forms of the deadliest and most horrible of heresies, you can see that the Ammonites are by no means dead at the present time. It is a fearful and a dreadful power. It is the power of man taking up the letter of the word of God, and claiming it for Satan instead of for Christ, and all the while makes a profession of Christianity. What we get today is not the attack merely of infidelity from the outside, but it is the attack of profession from within, that which claims again its old territory, as you might say, the territory of the Ammonite, from the faith which had once conquered it.

This power of false doctrine sweeps over the whole of the eastern territory. All are under its sway in Gilead and east of Jordan, and, as a matter of fact, they have come in into the land itself and assailed the strongholds of Benjamin and Judah and Ephraim, that which always represented the very heart and the bulwark of God's inheritance. So does heresy spread, and there have been times in the history of the Church when such a heresy as Arianism, that denied the divinity of Christ, had laid hold upon the professed people of God so completely that any witnesses for Christ would be banished, and Athanasius himself, the great confessor of the truth as to the Person of our Lord, was banished. As a matter of fact, the emperor Constantine himself was an Arian, and multitudes, of course, simply followed the leader. Thus, you see, that it is this power of false doctrine creeping in amongst the people of God through profession.

The oppression is so crushing and so complete, that at last, thank God, the children of Israel have got to cry out with confession of their sin, confession that it was their own departure of soul from Him that had made such things possible. There will never be any real power over heresy until there is first confession of how heresy has come in. Why should false doctrine come in amongst the people of God? Why should we be under the power of evil in this way? Ah, brethren, if Christ occupied the place He should in our hearts and minds, if He ruled in the Church as He should, do you mean to tell me that heresy could plant its foot right upon the very high places of God's heritage? It would be an impossibility. It is only when the heart grows cold, when we ourselves, the people of God, have relaxed our watchfulness, that profession finds its opportunity, and wicked doctrines are introduced. I repeat again, it would be appalling for us if tonight we realized how this form of evil has spread in the Church today. We see it controlling many in the orthodox churches, those which in times past stood as witnesses of the truth of God. Amongst them today you will find such horrible heresies as annihilationism, restorationism, the denial of the divinity of Christ, and kindred doctrines. It is solemn and awful to think of it.

There is confession, but God is faithful, and He must show them that it is one thing to get away from Him, and quite another thing to get back. It is one thing to have departed from Him, and to confess the power of the enemy, but mere confession is not going to undo my departure from God. I may be brought back after a long course of chastening to a sense of my sin, and I may turn and heartily confess it to God. Does that mean that I am going to regain all that I have lost at once? Ah no! We have got to drink the water that has the ground up golden calf strewed upon its surface. We have got to reap what we have sowed, and that is what Israel found, and it was pressed upon them. In solemn irony, God says, Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.

But then it has a blessed effect. They turn. Their very misery compels them to turn from the enemy who had so enthralled them. Their very misery makes them confess at the very last point when the power of the enemy is greatest. They are forced to confess their sin, and they throw off the yoke, they put away the false gods from amongst them, and serve the Lord. They make a true confession to God and resign themselves into His hands: We have sinned: do Thou unto us whatsoever seemeth good unto Thee; deliver us only, we pray Thee, this day. How infinitely tender is our God; He cannot contemplate misery unmoved, though produced by sin: His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel. Whenever there is true repentance, our Blessed God will not let His people be without some measure of deliverance at least.

That brings us to the person who is going to be the deliverer from this heresy, this terrible incubus of false doctrine that has taken hold, through profession, of the people of God. Who is the one that can do it? We are reminded at the outset of Tola. It is a despised and rejected one who can effect a deliverance. I think, that with many reservations and additions, you have certain things in the life of Jephthah that are very suggestive of our Blessed Lord. His brethren cast him out. They would not have anything to do with him. They refuse him as a disgrace to themselves, and when they saw him, there was no beauty that they should desire him. In that way he reminds us of Him who was rejected by His brethren; as Joseph before, when he came to his brethren, was rejected and cast out by them, and David, in later years, when he was sent on a message of love to his brothers in the camp, in the very face of the enemy, was despised and set at nought by them. So with Jephthah, he is rejected, he has to leave his own country. In a far-off land he gathers about him those who like himself were despised, vain fellows, as they are called, like David's company in the cave of Adullam. I have said that Jephthah's life suggests our Lord's. I use the word advisedly, and with great hesitation. There were moral reasons for his brethren's rejection of Jephthahhe was the son of a strange womanwhich makes us shrink from linking his name with the spotless Son of God. Bearing this in mind, the rejection suggests Him who was separate from His brethren.

The only deliverer, then, of the people of God from the power of evil and evil doctrine, is one who himself has been rejected by his brethren. So it points us in this way to Christ as the only One who can deliver. Taking him up personally, we find that what is suggested by his name is very striking. How am I to be set free from false doctrine? This man's name is the Opener, the one who opens the word of God to us. It is as the truth, the word of God is opened to us, that we are enlightened by it. Our hearts open to its action upon us. Our eye is opened to see the wondrous things out of God's law. Thus as there is an opening of the Word, the power of error will take its flight.

I think that may be the reason why you have none of the details and methods of conflict in connection with Ammon. Instead of the methods of conflict, you have a chapter of the Bible read to them. Jephthah goes to them, and, as it were, reads to them a chapter of Scripture. He gives them the history of God's ways; how God had overthrown Sihon, king of the Amorites, and had brought His people into that inheritance which Ammon now claimed from them. For three hundred years they had enjoyed it without dispute. During this period of three hundred years Ammon had been compelled to acknowledge the rights of the children of Israel as having received the inheritance from God. Jephthah opens up the Scripture to them, and as he does so, he takes clear issue against them.

That is what is needed in meeting false doctrine. We need an opener, we need that spirit of faith which would take our Bibles and open up the truth in the face of any false doctrine, no matter what its name may be. And it is a blessed fact, that no matter whether a heretic holds the Bible in his hand or not (all the better if he does hold it in his hand), you can use the word of God against him, if you are an opener. If you have had your heart opened by the Spirit of God to His truth, you can meet the holder of wicked doctrine, no matter what his profession may be, and you can overthrow him in the power of that Word.

But I do not want to anticipate too much. There are certain things in connection with Jephthah which foreshadow, alas, his failure, for failure there was, even in this man who acted for God. He made a covenant with the people, that if he were to deliver them he should be their head. No doubt, spiritually speaking, one would say it will be very nice for the Word of God to control His people, for them to make a covenant to be subject to the word of God. But surely there is something more than that. When we remember that Abimelech craved headship, how he used every effort to get kingship over Israel, we see here the traces of that same spirit in this man, though Jephthah is a man infinitely superior to Abimelech. Abimelech has no trace of any spirituality about him, while Jephthah is a man who is steadfast for God. But he will be head, and is going to be recognized as that. His previous rejection rankles in his bosom. It has not been taken as from God, but as evil treatment. So he reminds them that they had once despised him, and now if he is going to be of any service for them, they must recognize him and give him a high place. I think in that claiming of headship we can see, dear brethren, some of the springs at least of what led to sad failure later on.

He meets Ammon; he gathers the people together and goes to meet Ammon, on the basis of the truth of God. He simply, as I said, opens his title deeds to that portion of the inheritance, and shows them how God had given it into their hands, how in spite of all the opposition of Sihon and Og, and all the powers of the enemy, they had taken possession of it, and then he throws the taunt in their face, claiming for God the right to that portion. He says, Wilt not thou possess what Chemosh thy God will give thee? He taunts Ammon to his very face, throws down, as it were, the gauntlet, and then in the conflict, of which we have no details, he gains a complete and absolute victory over the power of evil.

There is the victory over heresy for us. It is with an open Bible, and an open heart and conscience. We will find that the first thing we have to do is to draw the line between ourselves and the false doctrine. That is why it is an utter impossibility for God's people to allow for one moment anything like alliance with those who hold false doctrine. We may bear with ignorance; we can bear with any failure to grasp fully the scope of divine truth. A fellow-Christian may be ignorant of the truths of prophecy; he may be ignorant of the full extent of redemption in all its blessed results, but I can go on patiently with one who is only ignorant.

But suppose a man brings a question as to the deity of the Son of God, can I go on with that? Suppose a man comes, denying the true humanity and incarnation of our blessed Lord, saying He was eternally a man. Can you go on with that for a moment? Must I not open my book and say, No, these are things that are ours, and we cannot for one moment give them to you. If a man denies the value of the atoning work of Christ, or anything else that touches the foundations of our most holy faith, to go on with him for a moment, to give place by subjection, even for an hour, is disloyalty to Christ who has bought us. There is only one thing to do, dear brethren, when you meet false doctrine. Do like Jephthah did; face it with the word of God, and absolutely deny it and all its power. So he gains the victory for the people and for God, and the inheritance which had been theirs for so many years still remains in their power.

We come next to that which shows the failure of Jephthah, which opens up a very interesting question. It is in the eleventh chapter and thirty-fourth verse. Jephthah had made a vow that if the Lord should give the children of Ammon into his hand, whatever came out of his house he would offer it for a burnt offering to the Lord. It should be the Lord's. I do not propose to go very fully into what I know is an exceedingly interesting question in the abstract. That is what Jephthah did with his daughter. I must confess, that with all I have read on the subject, I have never been able to disabuse my mind of the fact that Jephthah did what every simple soul who reads the passage believes he did. I have never been quite able, though I would be glad to do so, to think that the stern, self-righteous, self-opinionated manand, dear friends, there is no tyranny like the tyranny of a self-righteous conscience, there is no suffering like the suffering inflicted upon oneself under the goadings of a legal consciencethat a man of Jephthah's make-up, who a little later on could take the fords of Jordan, and with a good conscience cut the throats of forty-two thousand of his fellow Israelites, was a man too tender-hearted to do just what he said he would do, to his daughter, offer her up as a burnt offering to the Lord.

I will mention what is frequently taken as the explanation of it, that he dedicated his daughter to perpetual virginity. But, as I say, I confess that whatever others may think, it seems to me that Jephthah's whole character was such that he was perfectly capable of carrying out such a vow. People say he knew the Scriptures too well. Well, he knew about Abraham. How a distorted conscience might very easily make a wrong use of God's commandment to Abraham, might forget that God arrested Abraham's hand, so that he did not do what He told him to do. A morbid, self-righteous conscience, and one who had all the time felt the galling character of his brethren's scorn of him; one who was self-occupied, and self-centred to a good degree personally, was not above having a wrong conception of such a thing as this.

And how sad it is when we think that those who sometimes are most faithful in overthrowing heresy, often fail to discriminate between the overthrow of the real heretic, and the destruction of that which is nearest and dearest. It is a matter of history, and a matter of experience, that unflinching firmness with the enemy, oftentimes is followed by equally unflinching firmness in the same degree with our brethren. Is it not true, beloved, that Jephthah's offering up the daughter of his bosom is followed by his slaughter of his brethren? Is it not true that the man, apparently, reduced everything to a dead level? He had his sword drawn, and as he had slain the Ammonites, he would slay his daughter, if he promised God to do it. As he had slain his daughter, he would take the fords of Jordan and slay the Ephraimites. Were they not arraying themselves against the truth of God in a certain sense? And so you will find this sternness and harshness of the man carried him beyond mere faithfulness to God on to the work of destruction of his own brethren. Ah, brethren, need I interpret that for us? Need I speak of that spirit which, alas, we have seen so much of, which makes no discrimination; which, as the epistle of Jude says, does not make a difference of some, saving them with fear? Have we not seen something of treating foe and friend alike? Have we not seen too much of that, of treating the people of God just exactly as we would treat the enemies of God?

Now, it seems to me, that there is just where Jephthah's failure comes in. It is a hard and fast use of Scripture, if I may so apply it, which makes no discrimination at all. Here is one who loves Christ, whose heart is filled with love to Him, one who desires to please Him. Am I to treat such a one in the same way that I would a teacher of blasphemy, one who brings in all kinds of false doctrine as to the Person of the Lord? Are Ammonite and Ephraimite to be the same, and is the same judgment to be meted out to both? Surely not, brethren. I am to remember that the Ephraimiteeven if he is self-conceited, even if he does as he does here, taunt the Gileadites with being fugitives from Ephraim, and jealously complain that Gilead has won a victory that by rights belonged to Ephraim, is a fellow Israelite, and a brother.

I can deal with Ephraim, as I surely should, but it is quite another thing for me to take the fords of Jordan, and compel every one that goes through those fords to say just thus and so. To compel him to say shibboleth, and if he cannot say it quite, to cut him off. Shibboleth is the flood, you know, that which divides. It refers to that which divided Gilead from Ephraim. So if those of Ephraim cannot quite pronounce as to what divides, to treat them simply to the sword, that surely is faithfulness gone mad; it ceases to be faithfulness, and comes to be destruction. And I think, dear brethren, that just as we had in Abimelech, the failure of man's rule when he is seeking his own aggrandizement, so in Jephthah we have the like failure of man's rule when the conscience is under the power of legalism. It is harshness and sternness without a bit of light to relieve it. It is simply the claim of an ascetic. Because it is unhappy itself, it will make everything and everybody unhappy about it; and all the sadder when it opens up the Scripture, with which it has dealt out judgment to heretics, and applies that Scripture relentlessly to those who may not see with it.

Here again you can find in the history of the Church much that would answer to Jephthah. I am sure, as we speak of Roman Catholic persecutions of the people of God and are horror-struck at them, we must not forget Protestant persecutions of the people of God. We must not forget the hard, harsh laws of those who fled to this country for religious liberty, because they wanted freedom of conscience to worship God, and yet who made laws of such a character that some of the best people in the colonies, such as Roger Williams and others, were banished, under their edict, to the Indians. All of these things are intensely interesting; they are exceedingly significant. It shows us this, that if we are going to exercise rule for God, there has got to be something more than a half view of Scripture, and surely something more than a conscience which does a thing because it is unpleasant to do.

I get that thought of Jephthah, that he seemed to think that God wanted him to do what was unpleasant for him to do, simply because it was unpleasant. That is the reason why he would slay his daughteror banish her from his home; the principle is the sameand, once get a taste of blood, and forty-two thousand of his brethren cannot quench the taste. Is it not solemn, and is it not a fact, that in the history of the Church those who have met and overthrown heresy, are those who have then crossed swords with their brethren, and fought to the very knife over things that were not a vital question of truth? You remember how Luther, who delivered God's people from the errors and heresies of Rome, turned round and contended with his brethren about the real Presence in the Lord's Supper, and would not under any consideration yield a single point. We can apply these things; yes, brethren, we can apply them today, and if we are going to do better than Jephthah, we must beware of just this morbid conscientiousness which is really an undelivered soul in the bonds of legalism, which is going to crowd upon the people of God that which is not His test, that which after all simply divides the people of God from themselves, and does not divide them from their enemies.

Return for a little to this slaughter of the men of Ephraim. We see in it the evident contrast to Gideon's conduct under very similar circumstances. There was, apparently, greater effrontery and provocation this last time; but in how different a spirit was the evil conduct met. Gideon, in all lowliness and self-abasement, recognizes not only as brethren, but as more excellent than himself, the men of Ephraim. What have I done in respect of you. Gideon had not sought or bargained for the headship. He had not become chafed and soured by reproach. There was abundant rejection of self, but no immolation of self under a fancied sense of what was pleasing to God.

Do you doubt for a moment that if Jephthah had been actuated by a similar spirit, he would have found abundant means to correct the men of Ephraim beside this wholesale slaughter? I am not pleading for indifference or weakness. But there must be discrimination. Here is where Jephthah failed, and I do not think it possible to see that it was not zeal for the Lord, but a personal affront which he was avenging. It was because Ephraim had treated them badly, had threatened and insulted them , that their anger burned against them.

Alas, when we turn to Ephraim we find but the growing fruits of that unjudged pride, which had blossomed out before, but had never been turned from. It was pride of positionself-exaltation, which claims for itself a place and dignity. It may plead its past history, present acquirements and gifts, as the ground for its pre-eminence, but it is pride , and self will.

This has to be broken. God can never go on with it. If unjudged, it will destroy all faithful testimony for God. He may bear with it, as we have seen in the case of Gideon, but He has lessons for it to learn in the undue severity of Jephthah. Had Ephraim learned these lessons, the division of the kingdom under Rehoboam would have been an impossibility. There are thus lessons on both sides.

Not to detain you further as to this, we have, I have no doubt, in the latter part of the twelfth chapter, just the remedy for this wretched condition, the contrast to Jephthah's failure. You have there those who are successors, and, as I was saying before, the brevity of the description reminds us again that we may expect that which emphasizes God's side, rather than man's. After the death of Jephthah, Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel. The meaning of Ibzan is probably purity, from a root meaning to be white. That is the remedy for harshness and relentlessness, such as Jephthah exercised. There must be purity. The wisdom which cometh from above is first pure, then peaceable. You may have thought, in speaking of Jephthah's harshness, that I have forgotten that there is need of faithfulness amongst the people of God. I have riot forgotten, and I want to give the other side in connection with the Scripture that presents it. Jephthah's harshness must be criticised as it deserves. It will not do to take the fords of Jordan, and slay our brethren indiscriminately. Let us then, you say, throw up all contention about things; let us not be careful as to what our brethren hold, or how they do, or how subject they are to God; let us open our arms and take them in.

No, that is the mistake on the other side. The wisdom which cometh from above is first pure, and there can be no peace without purity. Sacrifice that, and you sacrifice all.

You notice that this judge, in contrast to Jephthah, has thirty sons and thirty daughters. And in this you have again that which seems to intimate the growth and multiplication of that which stands for God. Here is a judge who, instead of slaying his brethren, and his one daughter; who, instead of putting an end to any hope of growth of the principles for which he stood, gathers in, and is able in that way to multiply his family. He is thus able to carry out in increased measure the principles for which he stands, and those are the principles of purity. There is nothing mentioned of his rule except this. But you may be assured, where purity has sway, Ephraim's pride will be dealt with in some way. It will not be allowed, if possible, to come to a head and produce division amongst the people of God, but it will not be treated with indifference.

After him you have Elon the Zebulonite, who judged Israel for ten years, and there is nothing mentioned except that he judged them. Zebulon is the tribe that speaks of abiding in communion with God. And Elon, the strong, shows how after purity comes strength, and in that way prosperity.

There must be strength in the government of the people of God. It is sheer madness to ignore this. It is worse, it is mischievous evil, to plead for carelessness or unfaithfulness to the principles of divine truth. The order of God's house must be enforced with a firm hand. Indifference to the will of God cannot be thought of. Farewell to any testimony to Christ where it is allowed.

Nor can numbers be considered. If we fail to bow to Christ's authority, for fear of losing or not gaining persons, we are not acting according to divine purity, and in divine strength. How solemn is the responsibility of those who would weaken the hands of those who are endeavouring to maintain God's order.

Let us be specific. There is absolute need of pastoral care and oversight among the saints of God. Nor should there be backwardness in reproving and correcting those who need it. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. Here we have full provision made for a strong and firm, yet loving, pastoral care. Are you surprised if unrebuked evil spreads until it has to be dealt with in far greater vigour than if there had been faithfulness at the beginning?

Or further, there can be no strong government in the house of God where great care is not taken in receiving to the fellowship of the people of God. Weakness here means weakness throughout. All is to be done in love, but all must be done according to truth. We need not be surprised if a conflagration breaks out once and again which was inevitable because of the neglect of the first precautionscare in reception, and faithful pastoral care. May the lessons of the past teach us for the future, should the Lord yet tarry.

The last judge mentioned in this connection is Abdon, the son of Hillel the Pirathonite, service the son of praise. Service that springs out of a heart filled with praise. He dwells in a place that speaks of redemption and deliverance. That is not a Jephthah. It is not one who has but one rule by which he measures people. And if they do not come up to it, he cuts them off. But you have the spirit of service, of which we have already been speaking, and that which is the only spirit of rule and service, love that flows out of a heart filled with praise. And where there is that; where God's people are over flowing with praise, dwelling in His house, and so still praising Him, there will be service to their brethren, and there will be the government of God's house, which will be maintained, not by violence, but in the power and strength of purity. Let us remember, then, these things as that which is the antidote to Jephthah's harshness. The antidote to sternness is not carelessness. Oh, that we might learn that in our souls, that the reaction from sternness has this threefold characteristicpurity, strength and service. Ah, brethren, let us hold fast to the purity of God's truth; let us be firm where His truth is in question. and then in the service of praise, a heart filled with praise, we shall find that it is not necessary to be Jephthahs in order to stand fast for God. How we need the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left. How we find ourselves guarded in every direction from many mistakes, and, beloved brethren, may the Lord impress this lesson upon us, a lesson which, I am sure, we need as much as we do the others.



Lecture 8: Samson and the Philistines Nazariteship (Chap. 13)

The last of these biographies, if you might call them that, is one of the most striking and interesting in the whole book of Judges. It is the history which is familiar to us from our childhood, of Samson and the wonderful feats which he performed. These I think have for children an added charm from the fact that they are feats of individual prowess, rather than any united action on the part of a company of people. I have been struck, and would say at the outset, that this seems to be the characteristic of all that God did through Samsonif one may use an expression which may have to be modified later on, for it seems as if Samson did it himself. But it is all individual energy, and does not result in any corporate activity.

If we remember that the book we are dealing with gives us the narrative of how a corporate testimony was to be maintained by the people of God, or how they failed in this; and if we remember that Samson's is the last record of any attempt at real work, and that this work was done by an individual, and not by the whole company of God's peopleI think you have one of the saddest comments on the degradation and deterioration of the spiritual power of the people. Things have dwindled down. We have reached in this portion the last of the deliverancesfor there are no further deliverances spoken of in the book of Judges after that of Samson. And when I say deliverances, I must correct myself at once, for they were not real deliverances at all. Samson himself needs a deliverer, is himself overcome. He even dies in the hands of the enemy.

And so everything tends downward, ever downward, until the very saviour whom God raised up needs to be saved himself. Such are the instruments that God would have made use of to help His people, and such, alas, is the state of His people at large that renders such a thing possible; for had not Israel been in the condition that it was, surely the history of Samson need never have been written in the way it has. He was but a reflection and example of the whole nation.

I speak of this by way of introduction to the whole narrative of Samson. National faithfulness is gone; you have scarcely anything but the individual. And in corporate things when you come down to the individual, mark my words, you come down to failure. Sometimes you hear people say it is a day of individual testimony, even as to principles which have to do with the people of God collectively. What is meant by individual testimony when it is a question of corporate testimony? It means the ruin, the wreck of what God wanted to be maintained. How can I as a individual maintain what should be the truth for God's whole people? I sacrifice His truth when I give up the corporate testimony. So by His grace, dear brethren, we will never give up our sense of responsibility to maintain a united testimony. Let us hold fast to this even if Satan should attempt to break it to pieces, until scarcely more than the literal two or three should be left to maintain a corporate testimony for God. These are the immensely important subjects that face us, and at the close of the history of these deliverances, how sad it is to see them dwindle down into the hands of one man.

But let us take up the account a little in order, beginning at the beginning in this chapter, and following on through the sixteenth chapter, to see the various steps in this history, and to get the lessons from them, as far as possible.

It is the same old story, alas, that we have had so oftenthe failure and sin on the part of the people, and as a result they are sold into the hands of their enemies. God never allows the enemy to gain power over us, unless it is a judicial result of our own failure. He never allows us to be brought under the power of evil, unless there has been a primary state of soul departing from Himself. The weakest, the most ignorant believer will be kept from the wiles and power of the enemy so long as the heart is true and loyal to Christ; true and faithful, and the conscience open to the enlightenment of the Word and the Spirit of God.

How blessed and comforting that is, dear brethren. What would you and I do in the face of Satan, who is only too glad for us to depreciate his power? He wants to make himself so utterly insignificant, that we will think but little of him. He would like even to obliterate himself from our minds. This is ever like the father of lies, most active when we least imagine it. Think of the power, the wisdom, or rather the cunning, and above all the malice of Satan: what could we do in the face of such a power, if we were left to ourselves?

What could we do in the face of this terrific Gulf Stream of worldliness and carnal religion that would sweep God's people like a mighty tide far off into the ocean away from Himself? How could we resist it for a moment? What a comfort it is that the weakest and most untutored saint, the youngest child of God, is perfectly safe from all this, so long as there is the simplicity of communion with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. Just so surely as the soul is abiding simply and quietly at the feet of Jesus, like Maryand I might remark in passing, that there is no such thing as abiding at the feet of Jesus without also hearing His word, and without the growth which that suggests;but just as surely as a child of God is abiding in quietness at the feet of Jesus, hearing His word, not all the power and malice and cunning of Satan can succeed in drawing him away.

But that only emphasizes the guilt of the Church of Christ today. As we look about usnay, as we look amongst ourselvesand see the proneness to departure, the subtle power that the enemy has over the people of God; as we see the condition of the whole Church of Christ, what a comment it is upon what has led to that state. We must remember that it is all, absolutely, entirely, the fault of the people of God, and not the fault of His almighty grace and power. He would have held us fast, protected us, kept us as the apple of His eye, had we allowed Him to do so.

Thus the attitude which we must take in view of the captivity of God's dear people, is one of humiliation and confession as to our responsibility, yea, as to our guilt. We must all of us take our share, not throwing stones at any of God's dear saints, but each one taking his share of the universal failure that has made such a chaotic state as you see today, possible amongst the saints of God. Christ's sheep hearing His voice, one flock, one Shepherd who will guide by the power of the Holy Spirit; where do you see it, dear brethren? It has vanished, it is dissipated, it is scattered everywhere.

And whose is the blame? Ah, solemn fact, the departure of soul in the individual, the individual departure of soul from God is responsible for all. And another word for our conscience individually in this connection, is that just in proportion as you and I grow cold in our affections, as our faith wanes, or our eye is fixed on something rather than Christ;just in that proportion we are contributing afresh to further departure and disintegration amongst the saints of God.

There is no such thing as a person without influence. The simplest believer is either a link that serves practically to bind the Body closer to its Head, or it is that which weakens that tie. As the word of God says, None of us liveth to himself. We are the Lord's, and in that sense are His people's too. We all of us have our responsible place in the house of God, and every day that we live, and every hour, is but an opportunity for us either to cement the saints of God more closely to Himself, or to spread them more widely apart. The secret of being a tie, is a life of communion with God, of abiding fellowship with Him. If we are abiding there, we will be holding together. We will be strengthening the things which remain, which are ready to die, as you have it in the address to one of the churches in Revelation.

And what an opportunity, the opportunity of our lives. The opportunity of the ages. Even in the times of the apostles there was no such opportunity as there is at this very time, for individual faith and energy and zeal and loyalty of heart. Who would not live in the Church of God today? Who would not seek to take up and bear some of the burdens which should be borne for that precious Church for which Christ died? Who would not seek to learn what the constitution of that Church is, what the mind of God is as to that Church, in order that we might fall into the current of His thoughts, and bear manfully and in faith our share of suffering as well as of service for the Church for which Christ died?

Beloved brethren, let us take courage. We are in the last days of the Judges, things are going to pieces, but if Samson's life has been written, it has not been that we should plunge into the same quagmire of failure that he did, but that we should take warning from his failure not to repeat it. Do you think that our God has given us the history of failure among His people in order that we should walk along the same path and plunge there ourselves? Has He not rather given us these as warnings? There are examples for our faith, as well as samples of unbelief. Let us take courage, the word of God is ours; the Spirit of God is amongst us, and the grace of our God is as fresh for us today, as it was at Pentecost. All that is needed is the living faith to cleave to Him, and the spirit of obedience to follow at all costs in the way that He has marked for us.

Ah, brethren, there is a nobility about Christian living, there is a dignity about a place in the Church of Christ that we all fail to appreciate. We get little glimpses of it, but we fail to realize the wondrous place of dignity and honour, and of danger too, which is always a place of honour. This is the place that we should be glad to occupy in these days.

Now I know that this is more or less or a digression from the unfolding of Samson's history, yet I have been led to it because of the place which Samson's life occupies here. It is at the close, and one feels that we want to get clearly this last lesson, to get the warning, so that we will profit by it in reality. We return now to the enemy. The Philistines are the enemy into whose hand the Lord sells His people. We have had several glimpses of the Philistines in the previous history. Shamgar wins a noted victory over them with only an ox goad; and we saw in Abimelech, from his name, that which reminded us of what the Philistines are. But we have never till now had them prominently before us, occupying the whole scene. I will briefly give what Scripture seems to point out as to the character of these Philistine foes.

In the first place, they are the people who give the name to the whole land. It is called Palestine from the Philistines. It is very interesting to see, however, that God never uses the name Palestine, in speaking of His people's heritage. It always designates a hostile country. Thus in Moses' song of triumph at the Red Sea, Sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina. Faith looks on it as an enemy's land till it is possessed by the people of God. The prophet Isaiah pronounces a woe upon it, as one of the hostile countries, along with Moab and the rest. The usage of the Psalmist is the same. Edom, Moab, and Philistia are spoken of together.

It is thus the land of the Philistines, as you might say, and yet they had no right to it. They were intruders, or, as their name suggests, wanderers, people who had no right there at all. They had wandered in and had settled down along the sea coast, where there was an easy way of getting into the land. This was a way by which God distinctly refused to lead His people, because they needed not only the training which conflict and hardship would give them, but they needed to be examples for all time, that the only true way to get into God's heritage is through death and resurrection.

The river Jordan speaks in this way of the death and resurrection of Christ; all who pass in to their inheritance in that way are His people, whereas any who take their place claiming a portion amongst the people of God, who have not really been identified with Christ in His death and resurrection are wanderers or intruders upon God's territory. For instance, take this company tonight, take any company you please. Any one of them may have the name of Christian. How can we distinguish those who are His from those who are not? We might make, any one of us, the highest kind of pretension; we might claim all kinds of dignity in the Church of Christ, but that would not make it true. There is one thing would settle whether we are rightly in our heritage; have we come into it by virtue of the death and resurrection of Christ, and by living faith in Him? Have we been identified with Him in His death and resurrection, so that practically for us there is a new creation, and we are alive unto God in Christ Jesus? Thus the old man is set aside, and it is a new man that has come into existence. It is a living man in his heritage with resurrection life, a life which links him with that eternal joy which shall never fade.

But that is not a Philistine. A Philistine has slipped in by the easy way, the way of profession. It is more than that; it is the way of the world. There has been for him no unbearable bondage in Egypt, no sense of divine wrath for sin met by a divinely appointed sacrifice. He has not seen a Substitute, who in love to his soul, went down into the dark waters of death and judgment for him. He has seen no waves and billows of Red Sea or Jordan, pass over that blessed Substitute, that a way out of bondage and into a divinely provided heritage might be opened up for him. Ah, no; the Philistine is a stranger to all this; he has slipped in by a short and easy waythe way of nature. My hearer, are you a Philistine, an intruder into God's heritage?

The Philistines, in that way, correspond to the world church. It is the earth link with the Church. I have been struck in going over the addresses to the various Churches in the Book of Revelation, that when you come to Pergamos, where you have the Church married to the world, you have growing out of that Thyatira, which is, as we know, the great world system where the Church usurps the place of Christ, the great world system of which Rome is the representative. But she is not the sole representative. Pergamos already has those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes; it is there. Succession, the spirit of clerisy and a priestly class, that spirit of the rule of man as contrasted with the rule of Christ is what marks a world church.

In connection with that spirit, you have the law which appeals to the natural man, and the ritualism and ordinances, which, while they have a show of wisdom in will worship, are really, after all, but the puffing up of the creature. Now, all true worship sets aside man. Man is lost sight of; he is, as it were, simply identified with his worship, and true worship always puts him in that place. The fragrance of what Christ is is so completely before his soul that it obliterates every thought of himself.

Ritualism is exactly the opposite. It includes carnal ordinances, carnal worship, everything that appeal to the eye, ear and sense of the natural man. Everything that excites what people call reverence, by which they mean feeling. Everything that simply pleases man in common with all mankind.

Take, for instance, the whole gorgeous ritual of Rome with its vestments, its incense, its rolling music, its wondrous pageants, its processions, and everything of that kind, its imposing places of worship, and long line of hierarchs that can be appreciated by the world. It requires no spiritual sense, no guidance of the Spirit by the Word, no new birth. All can appreciate the ritualism of Rome. All that is suggested in the Philistinesit is the world coming in and taking possession of the religion of the Church; and when the world takes that possession, it introduces its legalism, its ritualism, and its apostolic succession as that which is to tyrannize over the people of God. The apostle calls them, The weak and beggarly elements of the world.

Another thing you will notice is that while they take a very small slice of the landPhilistia being a very small portion of it, that south-western strip along by the plain of Sharon close to Egyptyet they tyrannize over the whole people of God. And this tyranny is more particularly exercised over those who should really be the leaders amongst God's people. Judah was particularly exposed to the inroads of the Philistines; and Judah, as you remember, represents that spirit of praise which is indeed the spirit of rule and government amongst the Lord's people. The Philistines spread all over their territory and prevented them exercising their God-given privilege, and enjoying their God-given portion.

There is much more to be said, of course, about the Philistines. I could speak, for instance, of how the very names of those from whom their descent is traced seem to suggest that distance from, as well as professed nearness to, the things of God which is so characteristic of Rome. You have, for instance, their boast of forgiveness. But when examined closely it is seen to be forgiveness only in name. It is a forgiveness on the lips of the priest to be purchased with penance, and all that, but after all, it is no true forgiveness, which enables one to draw near to God, eternally saved. Then they claim to be instructors and interpreters of the truth of God; but it is after all not true interpretation. Rome claims to be the teacher, but when you ask what she teaches, you have nothing. She claims to have the right to interpret the word of God, but when you ask what it means, she closes the book and puts it away in her archives, and then says you must listen to the church instead of the word of God. If you ask for the Church's teaching, you get the contradictory statements of popes, fathers and councilseach different from the other, and all opposed to the word of God.

So that all these claims of Rome are simply names, simply professions, and not, after all, the reality at all. This is all suggested by the descent of the Philistines. They are from the Caphtorim, and that word means as though they were Jephthahs, as though they were openers, and Cashuhim, as if forgiven, not really forgiven. Thus you have a make-believe teaching, and a make-believe nearness to God, when after all there is nothing of the kind.

I know, dear friends, many would be glad enough to hear us talk against Rome. People rather like, you know, to run down the system of Rome. They say, Papal Rome, what a horrible thing it isthat woman Jezebel, that false prophetess, and the harlot riding upon the scarlet beast. You cannot characterises her for them in any too dark colours. But what I am after is the practical thing for ourselves. You may rest assured, for Rome is a popular system, that it is popular because it appeals to the flesh, and the flesh in us just as much as the flesh in anybody else. You may rest assured that if Rome has laid its unclean hands on the holy things of God, and undertakes to dispense a substitute, a counterfeit for the divine reality, you may rest assured that it is because there is certainly in the natural man, and even amongst the true people of God, that which answers, which responds to it. What is Rome in relation to us?

What are the principles of Rome? We have already seen some of them. For instance, take that very matter of counterfeit forgiveness. How common it is amongst God's professing people to hear of a forgivenessif. You are forgiven if you have repented enough, or if you have believed in the proper way, or if you continue in faith. What kind of forgiveness is that which has something added to it that may snatch it out of my hand at any time? What kind of a pardon is it if I cannot look into God's face and bless Him with all my soul, and say to Him, Abba Father? Does it not show that after all a little bit of the spirit of Rome exists in anybody's heart who will allow unbelief to nestle there? If there is anyone here tonight, for instance, that does not bow implicitly to the word of God as to forgiveness, that we have redemption through Christ's blood, even the forgiveness of sins; if you have attached any condition to that forgiveness, if it is, as I said, a forgiveness if you have got the right kind of faith, repentance, holding on, and so forth, I know you have not peace. You have not settled peace.

That is not the kind of forgiveness that God bestows. He gives you a forgiveness that has attached to it past, present and future sins. We are put out of an unforgiven place into a place to which forgiveness attaches. Sometimes the Lord's own dear people are not clear as to that. They do not realize, for instance, that their future sins, if they should commit them, have been forgiven. But, let us ever remember that we who believe in Christ are a forgiven people. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord WILL NOT impute sin. The believer is in the place where sin will never be imputed to him again, as to his eternal security.

I would make that as bold as Rome would make it cloudy. I would make it as clear as it is possible for words to make ityea, as the word of God makes itthat every believer in Christ is so completely and eternally forgiven, that he can never again during his entire life be in a place where sin can be laid to his charge, as to his salvation. He is out of that place forever more. You know how it is put in Colossians. Gloriously put. He says, And you, being dead in your sins, and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses (Col. 2:13). Our union with a risen Christ is connected with our forgiveness, and if we are a quickened people, if we have life with Christ risen, we are out of the place for evermore where imputation of sin applies. He never can lay sin to our charge, there is no condition at all. Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.

How the Philistines have come in there. You meet the people of God, and ask them, Do you know that your sins are forgiven? can you rest assured that for all eternity you are a forgiven soul? and how many will reply, as they look you in the eye, and look God in the eye, Thanks be to God, I am eternally forgiven everything? If persons cannot go into their closets, and have communion with and worship God over their forgiveness, you may rest assured that the Philistines have possession. The Philistines are preventing them from enjoying what is so sweet and clear a portion for every son.

And that is only one thing. Take the question of law. I dwell a little on this. Why you would hold up your hands (unless you were delivered yourself) in horror, if I said, the child of God is delivered entirely from law. Delivered from law, what, to be lawless? To go and do as he pleases, to go and plunge headlong into all kinds of sin? Hold, not so fast, dear friends. All kinds of sin,is that what a believer likes? Is that what a child of God delights in, to plunge into all kinds of sin? Suppose he is let go, where would he go? Where would you go if you had your choice tonight? Let go? I think we would go right into the Father's bosom.

We are born of God, that is our place. What is all this talk that if people are not under law it would open the floodgates to antinomianism? Why, brethren, that is an impossibility for those who have been born again, an utter impossibility. It is impossible that any child of God would want to plunge headlong into all kinds of sin. I thank God, though once I was the servant of sin, once, alas, I loved sin, but, ah, brethren, can you not join me in saying that when the grace of Christ laid hold upon your soul it made you hate sin? It made you rejoice that you could be free from sin, and the desire and the purpose of the soul is now for righteousness and not for sin. Is not that true?

So then we need not be afraid of the Philistine objection that people who are delivered from law are going to plunge into sin. But, in view of this, ask now, how many of the saints of God realize that freedom from the bondage of the law. It is only another word for freedom from the bondage of sin, for the strength of sin is the law. But how many of God's people know what practical emancipation from the power and thraldom of sin is? They turn to the law for strength of righteousness, only to find in it the strength of sin.

I say it deliberately and advisedly, on the authority of God's precious Word, that anything short of a full, real and practical deliverance from the authority and the thraldom of sin comes short of our Christian portion, and, so far, we are under the dominion of the Philistines. Dear brethren, that is true if we are not a delivered people; I say what I believe to be the very truth of God. Ah, that presses. That comes into a pretty narrow circle of God's saints. You find that the Philistines have reached pretty well up into the land, and they have got possession.

There are plenty of people who delight in the fact of assurance, who cannot delight in the fact of deliverance. And yet deliverance is by the truth, it is by the simple truth of God. That is what sets the soul free. The truth received by faith sets us free, and we find ourselves delivered from the thraldom of sin, because we are delivered from law.

Thus far we have looked at only two points, dear brethren, and yet I think we know something now of the Philistine power. There are only two points that I have spoken of, and if we cannot return a clear unequivocal answer to our conscience and to God, that we are free both from doubts as to forgiveness, and free from the power and bondage of legalism, which brings us into subjection to sin, beloved, you need to be set free from the Philistines. That is how close the enemy is to us.

Let us take a third feature, which has already been hinted atthe whole question of worship. I have dwelt on the gorgeous ritual of Rome, with her vestmented priests, her clouds of incense, and all that. You include in this at once, all the weak imitations of thatwhich sport themselves in the borrowed plumes of Rome. But we can be all the more severe on that because we can thank God we are not as others.

Let us come nearer home. Carnal worshipdoes not that include all that is not of the Spirit, all that depends upon mere nature? The Spirit of God uses only the word of God; therefore, all worship that is not according to that Wordah, how it cuts! Who is unexposed to the keen edge of that sword? May not a Philistine lurk in the most inornate service of some Protestant chapel? May he not intrude into the plain unobtrusive quiet of an assembly? Ah, brethren, we see here a common foe, a common danger.

Is it not significant that these Philistines are the last enemies that are mentioned in Judges, the last form of evil. To go back to Revelation a moment, you find there that Thyatira is the Church that goes on to the end. You may end with Thyatira. Everything after Thyatira is only partial. Thyatira gives you the Church as a whole, and the Church as a whole is under the influence of Rome, even where Rome's dominion is rejected. Even where it is refused, people are yet practically, and to a great extent, under its influence. Will you tell me what all this aping of Rome in architecture, in church ritual, means? Does it not mean that we are servants to the Philistines? Brethren, it is a serious thing. Rome is relegated, as it were, to Italy and Southern Europe, with exceptional authority elsewhere, but the error of Rome today is world wide, and it is in every heart that has not been emancipated by the grace of God from the false teaching that goes with that system. There is a vast amount of the teaching of the errors of Rome in that which calls itself Protestantism, and that is what I want to get at.

But that is sufficient as to the enemy, though we have but touched upon a few points. If I have gone at too great length into it, my excuse must be because it is an intensely practical thing, a thing that we want to be clear about. I have already mentioned, and, therefore, will not go into that, the principle of succession, of clerisy. Wherever you have cloudiness as to teaching, you will always have one man put in a place of nearness to God. Priesthood, true priesthood, can only flourish where the false priesthood has no place. All the people of God are priests, and you will never find that all His people realize their priesthood, except where they are emancipated from the thraldom of Philistia.

What now is the character of the person whom God is going to raise up to deliver from these Philistines? It is the character of the man who will answer, as Gideon did in his day, to the special need. We find it in the history of Samson. There are two distinct things; what God intended Samson to be, and what he was. These are two very different things. The history of Samson, as he was, furnishes abundant material for warning; but the history of Samson, as God intended he should be, shows us who and what it is that alone can deliver God's people from the power of the Philistines, from the power of a mere fleshly religion.

It is very interesting to see how far you go back in his history. It is not now, as with Gideon, God merely working in the individual. He is actually working in the parents of Samson. And it is beautiful to see, as emphasizing the lesson of weakness, that we have been learning all through, that he takes up a woman first of all, and she is a nameless woman. It is one who is in the place of subjection, and not of sufficient importance, as you might say, at least in the world's eyes, to have her name mentioned. Who ever thought about the name of Samson's mother? so, too, we sometimes forget that Moses's mother has her name given in Scripture. They are eclipsed by their children. Here the Spirit of God does not even give us the name of the woman.

But there is another reproach attached to her, a reproach which she shared in common with many a woman whom God raised up to be a channel of blessing to His people. She is barren. Like Sarah, like Hannah, like Rebekah, there is nothing of nature's energy and nothing of nature's strength in her at all. Perfectly desolate, perfectly helpless. May not the very fact of her sense of thisfor while it is not spoken of, yet we know the intense longing, the intense sense of reproach amongst Israelitish womenmay not that have produced exercises in her own soul which prepared her for God to reveal His will to her? Just as we have in Hannah one so deeply exercised before God about her need that He can give it, and answer the request of her soul.

Here is a poor nameless woman, nameless helplessness; what could be weaker than that? You have helplessness of such an intense character, so general, so vague even, that you could not even give it a name. Nameless helplessness is reached by the word of God, and that word which is living gives her the assurance that there is to be life and power through her, the nameless one, whose weakness alone appeals to God. When did weakness ever appeal to Him in vain? When did the sense of utter helplessness ever leave itself at God's feet that He did not make use of it? It is our strength, our vigour, that He has to break to pieces. It is our helplessness that He can use, our utter worthlessness.

It is to her, and not even to Manoah her husband, that the messenger goes. It is the message of a deliverer, one who is going to deliver Israel, as far as God's purpose is concerned, from the most subtle, dangerous and persistent snare that could possibly hold them, that of Philistia. Now what is it that He emphasizes for her, and afterwards for Manoah her husband, when he prays that he may get the message and instruction for himself?

There is one great thing that is emphasized in connection with this child, who is to be given as the deliverer for Israel. He is to be in one word a Nazarite. He is to abstain from wine, strong drink, and everything of the grape; everything that grows of the vine he is to be kept from. More than that, the mother herself is to keep herself from everything of the kind, and when the child is born, from his birth no razor is to come upon his head. He is to be a Nazarite to God, as Samuel was, as John the Baptist was, a Nazarite from his mother's womb.

What is a Nazarite? Go back to the sixth chapter of Numbers, and you find what the Nazarite means quite plainly. The very word means separation. How it cuts, that word separation; how it hurts; how self-righteous it sounds; but, brethren, God says that if there is to be any true victory for His people, it must be on the lines of Nazariteship, separation from the very things that the world counts absolutely necessary.

Wine, the grape, is a figure of human joy and human strength. The ingathering time, when the vintage was gathered and the blood of the grapes burst from the vats, was always connected with festivity and songs and gladness; it was the time of joy. You remember in one of the earlier psalms, the psalmist in faith says, Thou hast put gladness in our heart more than the time when their corn and wine increased. Ah, brethren, it was merely reminding them that said it of the happiest times in nature, the fullest natural joy, and comparing it with a fuller, deeper joy. Wine is the type of human joy. It is just at the crown of the year, when everything is reaching its vintage, when everything is ripe, ready for enjoyment. The time of work is over, the time of rest and pleasure has come. Labour can rest its weary limbs and enjoy the vintage season.

But then wine is a figure, too, of stimulus, that which stimulates natural man; strengthened as with wine, is a common expression; one that shouteth by reason of wine, feeling the blood coursing through his veins, every muscle tense under the stimulus of that which has imparted, alas, a fictitious strength. In that way wine speaks of human joy and human strength.

Our joy comes from a purer spring than the wine vatour strength comes from a mightier source than that which merely stimulates nature. By wine, Scripture means, of course, not the literal, material thing; but it means that which stimulates and stirs up the flesh, whatever it may be. One can be a thorough teetotaller as to the use of wine, and yet be absolutely under its power, spiritually speaking. Everything that simply imparts fleshly energy, fleshly stimulus, or fleshly excitement in the things of God, has got to be eschewed.

God cannot use the flesh. Sometimes you will hear the expression that a strong will is a good thing, that plain speech is a good thing, if it is only on the right side. That means that God can use wine, that God can use the natural stimulus of this world in His things. He wants no strong will, whether it is on His side or the enemy's side. I quite believe, that God would rather have self-will on the side of the enemy than on His own side. Nay, it cannot truly be on His side. I quite believe that plain speech, as it is called, in a large majority of cases means mere selfish, fleshly indulgence, the mere indulgence of pride, the absence of self-control. I care not how truthfully one speaks, if he does not speak by the power of the Spirit of God. If it is plain speech without the Spirit, it means fleshly speech; and if it is a strong will, it means fleshly will. It is not for God. It is only the stimulus of nature's wine. It is not Nazariteship.

Nazariteship means the absence of all that. I may have a strong will, and if I have a will, it must be broken, rest assured of that. If you have a strong will it must be broken, for it will never be of any value until it is broken. People tell me that Saul of Tarsus was naturally a strong character, and that is what explains his after life. If it does, the grace of God is a fiction. If Saul of Tarsus simply used the energy that he once employed in the service of the law, and Judaism, if he simply diverted that energy into Christianitythere is no miracle of grace about it.

What was the miracle of grace? Who that knows the spiritual history of Paul would say for a moment that he turned the full current of his powerful will, and of his mighty intellect into the channel of God's will, and, therefore, He used it. Nay, beloved. There was the earthen vessel, and a beautiful one indeed. There was the power of the man, and God transfixes his power with a thorn in the flesh, in order that there might be no power in himself, and the word of Christ to him was not, My strength is made perfect in your strength, when your strength goes along with mine, but, My strength is made perfect in weakness.

That is the lesson of the Nazarite, and it is a hard lesson to learn; it is a lesson that searches the soul. After abstinence from wine comes the mention of long hair, which tells, not of boasting, but of shame; not of natural vigour, but quite the opposite. It tells of the woman's place of subjection and weakness and dependence. That is what God is going to use. Thirdly, contact with death was absolutely prohibited. A man lost his Nazariteship who touched a dead body. God is the living God, and all not of Him defiles. Much that is most fair to the sight comes under the ban of death.

Thus this whole thirteenth chapter emphasizes the truth that the deliverer from the Philistines has got to be a Nazarite; he has got to be one who eschews nature's stimulus, he takes the woman's place of perfect helplessness and weakness, and in him must be alone the energy of life. And so if we are to be set free from a carnal religion, it is as a separate people, true Nazarites. Truly weak in ourselves, and refusing all creature help and strength, in our absolute helplessness and weakness, we are to let the power of Christ be manifest in us. How we should rejoice at that thought! Are we willing that God should use us as Nazarites? Are we willing that He should take us up simply to emphasize the humiliation of the flesh, the humiliation of nature, in order that all the excellency may be of Christ, His, and not ours?

If we are going to be Nazarites, there is a certain sense in which it must be a voluntary thing. We must be willing to be Nazarites. When any one voweth the vow of a Nazarite. There was only one true Nazarite that ever walked this earth, and His Nazariteship was not a mere negative thing, it was that positive thing which associated Him with God, rather than merely separated Him from the world. As a matter of fact He was not a literal Nazarite. John the Baptist was a literal Nazarite. He was a man who abstained from all kinds of things; he came neither eating nor drinking, and the compliment he got was that he had a devil. The Son of Man came eating and drinking. He was a Man with men. The blessed Lord did not need any external self-righteous separation. Ah, His holy soul was separate unto His Father completely, and He needed nothing to witness outwardly of that. None could ever approach Him with defilement, none could ever link His holy Name with even the thought of sin. He was so completely absorbed in His Father's will, so completely yielded up to His Father, that the very finger of the world itself could scarce point at Him as anything but what He was. It was such a palpable falsehood, when they spoke of Him as a gluttonous man and a winebibber, as not even to require contradiction. He even takes the name of reproach Himself. Yes, He is the Friend of sinners, and associates Himself with that expression. Do not our hearts delight to know Him in that way! But who thinks of Him as the friend of sinners in any way save to deliver them from their sins? Who thinks of Him as in any way identifying Himself with the low state about Him, save in grace coming down to bear the consequence of man's distance from God, in order that He might associate His people with Himself in true Nazariteship unto God!

Now that, I think, is what we gather from the offering that is brought by Manoah and his wife. Manoah had prayed that the Lord would send the messenger a second time, and He in grace grants the request. But, you notice, when the angel comes he comes to heralways comes to weaknessand she goes and calls for her husband. When he comes you note Manoah is very anxious to know all about it over again. He gets no more than his wife had got before, simple instructions as to Nazariteship. Then he bustles about to do something of a religious character. There has got to be a feast. He is going to bring this messenger, though he calls him a man of God, rather on a level with himself. He will share his hospitality, and he wants to know the name of his guest, that he may honour him after all these things have been fulfilled.

And is it not significant that the very name that the messenger hides from himnot as here, My name is secret, but seeing it is wonderfulsuggests the Name above every name? Does it not suggest the very thing about Nazariteship, of which we have been speaking? His name shall be called Wonderful. Whose name? The name of the only Nazarite that ever lived. It is as though the messenger simply pointed from external Nazariteship that he had been telling them of, points away from that to One, not even himself the messenger of God, but to One who is the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Father of eternity, the Prince of Peace, as you have it in the ninth chapter of Isaiah. He puts Christ before them, and then as though to emphasize it further, disappears in the sacrifice.

That which was intended as a mere act of hospitality, no doubt of a religious character, becomes now a sacrifice to be put upon the rock. That rock again reminds us of the Rock of ages surely, of that which is the only Rock, the only thing firm in a world that is as weak and unstable as water, and amongst the people of God who are as unstable as Reuben was in his day. It is on the Rock Christ Jesus. That is the only basis of communion with God, and instead of having the feast spread, as it were, upon Manoah's table, it is put upon the enduring Rock as the only basis of relationship, and the only basis of power which anyone can have who is to be a Nazarite and a witness for God.

The messenger acts according to the name that he has given. For this very messenger after all is, as you see, the angel of the covenant. He is that wondrous Stranger who came again and again in the Old Testament dispensation, with His face veiled, with His identity hidden away, and yet, after all, with sufficient suggestiveness to remind us that Jehovah and the angel of the Old Testament is, after all, our Jesus, who is Jehovah the Saviour. So He revealed Himself there. It is as if He would say to this lowly, weak, helpless couple, If you are to be true Nazarites, you must follow me by faith where I am. You must see me as I am first of all identified with the Rock, as the altar. This shows us the Person of Christ. Then the sacrifice upon it, the meat for the burnt and the sin-offering, and the meal as the meat offering speak of the work of Christ. Thus as He ascends in the smoke of the sacrifice, He says, as it were, to them, You must identify me with One on high, who has linked you with His sacrifice and the Rock.

All true Nazariteship, all true separation to God, all true testimony for God, and thus victory over unreality, must come through our identification with that Wonderful Person who is none other than Christ, the Blessed Christ of God. And so, when we talk about Nazariteship, and long hair; when we talk about renouncing this and that and the other thing, it is really renouncing, and yet it is more than renouncing; it is having the eye and the heart and the mind filled, controlled by Christ in glory. There is no true Nazariteship except as we are so identified and occupied with Him. Is it not that which He meant in the seventeenth of John, that holy chapter, where He is speaking to His Father? For their sakes I sanctify Myself. You can, as it were, see Him in the gospel of John passing up in the smoke of the sacrifice to God. You can see Him, as it were, ascending unto God. Why is He taking that place, sanctifying Himself, taking the Nazarite place, separating Himself from everything in this world? It is to show us the path of true sanctification and true Nazariteship, to follow Him there, and as we follow Him, looking upon Him, we are changed into the same image.

He leaves behind simply the savour of His wonderful name, and the savour of what He is before God, as the power for our Nazarite testimony down here. There, brethren, you have the birthplace of Samson. There is the spiritual birthplace of every Nazarite for God. There is where you get God's mighty men; there is where they are born; that is the only kind of mighty men God has.

Did you ever notice that in Samuel? David was describing the true king in the twenty-third chapter of second Samuel. He sets an ideal king before the eye, and he has at once to say, My house is not so with God. But after he has said that, then you have at once These be the names of the mighty men of David. How suggestive the connection. There is the ideal king; there is the One who is as the morning without clouds. And it is as Christ in glory fills the soul you have mighty men. God's mighty men are there.

It is like Elijah, looking upon him for the moment as the type of Christ ascending, going up where His place was. He says to Elisha, If thou see me ascend, then it shall be done for thee; that is, a double portion of his spirit will be given. As Elisha sees Elijah ascending, the mantle of Elijah drops upon him, and he becomes practically the representative of the one who had gone up. Scripture is full of that. Here are the disciples, led out to the mount of Olives. How suggestive every word of Scripture is; to the mount that speaks of the olive, the Holy Ghost surely, led out to the mount of Olives as far as to Bethany, the house of humiliation. Ah, brethren, what lessons are in those things. They are led out to where the Holy Ghost can witness unhinderedly to hearts that have nothing but humiliation, their own weakness, and there they see Him ascending, and as He ascends, they come back to be witnesses for Him, occupying His place, the place that He had vacated upon earth.

So, I say, there we get the birthplace of spiritual Nazarites. In that One ascending in the savour of the sacrifice from the Rock, you get the spiritual secret of all true testimony for God, and victory for God. Samson starts there, and begins to show his vigour, the vigour of life that he had, before there was any well-ordered, or well-sustained conflict. He showed what manner of life there was in him. He began to move himself in the camp of Dan against the Philistines.

We will all be Nazarites just in the proportion that we are gazing by faith there where our Lord has gone. We will all be witnesses for Him just in that proportion. I was going to say we will be Samsons. We will not be Samsons historically. It was because he failed to live, poor man, in the way that God's grace had marked out for him, that he ceases to be a Nazarite for God, and became a monument to what departure from God means.

May we not covet the Nazarite place? May we not do more, and enter by faith into that which will make us victors over the dead formalism that is all about us. A Nazarite is a heavenly man, one whose hopes are there, whose life is hid with Christ in God. The Church was espoused as that to Christ; what is she now? What are we?

Lecture 9: Samson Alliances and Conflicts (Chaps. 14-15)

Our subject last evening was largely and necessarily introductory to the life of Samson, and therefore we scarcely had anything to say about him at all, but rather about that which was to characterize his life and service, according to the purpose of God, and the peculiar character of the enemy against whom he was to be used by God, for the deliverance of Israel,

You remember we saw that the Philistines represent that carnal, worldly religion, which introduces the flesh into the things of God; that it answers largely to the church of Rome, and everything that has the principles of the church of Rome. It is a carnal religion, with all its uncertainties with reference to God, and with all its tyrannies with reference to man. Connected with it you have not only the introduction of legalism, ritualism and formalism of various kinds, but also the tyranny of the priesthood, clericalism and everything that would bring God's priests and freemen into bondage.

The one who is to overthrow all that must be a Nazarite, must be separate. It is a separate personality, a separate walk and a separate testimony which alone can give power over that which is external, carnal and formal. You might say the entire thirteenth chapter is devoted to emphasizing the fact that Samson is to be a true Nazarite. He was promised of God, the purpose of God was declared, and he was in that way to represent God Himself in his relation to the Philistinesseparation. Thus he was to have power over them.

What is before us tonight is the history of Samson, and, alas, dear brethren, I am sure that none of us who knows what grace is in our own souls, but realizes how God's purpose and our accomplishment are two very different things. We have just been singing ( Hymn 67, Little Flock Hymn-book. ) what we are in Christ. Sometimes the words seem almost too strong to describe a place that sinners by nature and practice should occupy, and yet they are not too strong, for they are Scripture words, and show us our place in Christ, but only in Him . But as to the practical manifestation of this in the lifeto turn grace into history, to turn the counsels of God's love into practical reality that can be handled, that is visible in the eyes of even the world, that is a very different thing. So Samson in the purpose of God is a complete Nazarite: in actual character of his life, what was he? That is what we have to learn, and what a humbling lesson it is. How far short he comes in any measure to answering to the purposes and counsels of God.

The very first act of his life shows that we cannot emphasize too much the importance of the first step. It is that first step that costs. It is the first step that opens the way to all of our subsequent steps. For a young man who is going to enter upon a career of service for God, how absolutely necessary it is that the first step he takes should be in the right direction. So we look at Samson's first step, and what a step it was! It was a step down .

You remember we were reading in one of the earlier chapters, that an angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bochim; it was an ascent. The thought suggested was that lowliness is the place that becomes God's people, lowliness in the presence of God; that is, down at Gilgal. Any leaving of Gilgal is an ascent, a great and terrible folly. To go down to Gilgal is a blessed thing. You say, then we have something encouraging in Samson, for he went down. Ah, brethren, he did not go down to Gilgal. It is in relation to God we must go down; in relation to man we must go up.

We must maintain a very lowly position with reference to our blessed God. The sense of His holiness and of our nothingness and helplessness ought to keep us humble before Him; but when it is a question of our fellow-man, we are not to take a low place. I do not mean in our relation with one another as Christians. Surely, we are to gird on humility one toward another; but in relation to the world I am not to take a place low down. I am to maintain my high place, my position as a heavenly man, separate from them.

So when you read that Samson goes down, it is suggestive. The first step that he takes is a downward step. But more than that; he went down, as we are told, to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath, of the daughters of the Philistines. He goes down to that which is claimed as a portion of the Philistines, and going down there he forms an alliance with his enemies. The first step that Samson took, thus, was an alliance with the enemies of God.

Look at it in a natural way. Here is a young man, going to enter on a career of service for God. How important that he should make no alliance that will hinder his usefulness and service. How important that every step should be taken in dependence upon God, with earnest prayer for guidance, particularly in so important a step as choosing a partner, a companion. How absolutely important it is that she should be of the same mind with himself. First of all she should be one of the Lord's people, surely, and besides she should have like faith and obedience with himself.

But here is a man whose testimony is to be one of separation, and the first thing he does is to link himself with the enemy. Thus he has settled the whole question of his relationship and testimony at once. A man that can receive a Philistine into his bosom cannot be an uncompromising witness against them. Let us apply it personally to our relationship with this world. Who that receives the world into his bosom can bear faithful testimony against it? Or remembering what Philistinism is, spiritually, who can dally with a carnal religion? Who can dally with formalism, sacerdotalism, everything that is suggested by this Philistine imitation of the reality? Who can take it to his bosom and expect to maintain a godly testimony against it?

Ah, how many there are who desire to be Nazarites for God, and yet the very first step they have taken is to link themselves with a system which is against the will of God. How can I fight Philistines if I have one in my bosom? How can one truly maintain a testimony against a system when he has become identified with it in the closest way? It costs, it hurts, to maintain a separate position, but Samson wrecked his whole testimony by this first act of his. He never actually and fully regained what he lost in that step.

Look at it in detail and you will see he has no thought of God in it. God has His thoughts in it, blessed be His name; He overrules even our follies and mistakes. His parents, we are told, did not know that it was of the Lord that he might find occasion against the Philistines to overthrow them. But it is one thing for God to have His purpose and quite another thing for me to be accomplishing that purpose. God's purposes will be accomplished in spite of my disobedience, but I can never use His purposes to endorse my disobedience. I cannot be a partaker with God when I disobey Him, and so here, though God intended to overrule this thing, to bring Samson in collision with the very people that he was seeking an alliance with, yet we can get no comfort, nor can Samson get any comfort, from any such compromise, for he had not God in his thoughts.

Get her for me, for she pleaseth me. What is the thought of a Nazarite? To refuse all self-pleasing. Self-denial was one of the characteristics of a Nazarite. He refused that which was naturally pleasing to the flesh. He denied himself many things that ordinary people enjoyed. Here is a man then who should be characterized by self-denial, and the first thing he does is to please himself. How often is a path of union with the world pursued, simply because it pleases. Samson did not ask whether it would be pleasing to the Lord, but it was pleasing to him. Do we not oftentimes ask the Lord's guidance after we have formed our desires? Something pleases us, and then we will ask the Lord if it pleases Him. We need not be surprised if we get no clear answer; for the Lord will never have the second place. If you have made up your mind to pursue a certain course, you may rest assured that going through the form of asking God's consent is not going to change your mind, nor is it going to bring an answer from Him. No, God must be honoured, and He can never be honoured unless He has the first place.

Samson's parents too are linked with him in this entire chapter. He drags them down into this defilement completely, making them partakers of his own folly. Is there not instruction in all that? For his parents had been instructed of God entirely apart from him. It was a failure on their part entirely irrespective of Samson's failure. What answer could Manoah give to the angel of the Lord who had given him such definite instruction as to how they should bring him up? What answer could they give the Lord when Samson carried them along in his own course? They might have said, We brought him up as a Nazarite, but he departed from the path of obedience when he came of years.

But they could not answer that way, because they went along with him in his disobedience. They made a protest and went along with him in it. How many people protest against that which they go along with. How many seem to satisfy their consciences by registering a protest, saying that a thing is not of the Lord, and that it is disobedience, then quietly go along with it. How many today are connected with systems of things which will not stand the test of God's truth. They do not bear the stamp of Nazariteship, and well is it known, yet these dear people who know that the thing is not of the Lord, register their protest against it, and then quietly succumb and follow along with it. I think, as I said, that there is real instruction, real warning in this course of the parents, their weakness in submitting to Samson's self-pleasing.

It was on the occasion of his going down to get his Philistine wife that we have the first feat of strength on the part of Samson. A lion attacks him, and is torn to pieces by him, all unarmed as he was. He has not yet lost his strength, and there is no doubt some of the freshness of spiritual vigour about him. He has not yet become defiled by association with the Philistines.

But we want to get, of course, the spiritual lesson out of it. As he goes down into the Philistines' land need he be surprised that a young lion roars against him? If one forsakes God's place, and goes down on low, carnal ground, need he be surprised if he finds an assault of the adversary, Satan, who is like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour? Satan flourishes where the path of obedience is left. There is no lion in the path of obedience. It is the slothful man that says, A lion is without, I shall be slain in the streets. No one was ever slain in the street. He may have been assailed when he was in the path of disobedience, but, as Bunyan has put it so vividly in his allegory, the lions are chained so that they cannot reach the path of obedience. In God's path Satan can never assail; the path of obedience is the path of safety. Forsake that path and the lion is there.

God's path for the prophet who went down from Judah to Israel was a clearly marked one; he was to go down, to bear witness against the king of Israel, and not to eat or drink, and return back to the place from whence he came. It was a clear path, apparently a dangerous one, as when the king of Israel reached out his hand to smite him. But he was protected, and the king's hand was shrivelled into helplessness, from which it could only be restored by the word of the prophet. No power of the king could assail him, nothing could hurt him; but, ah, when he left God's path of obedience for himself, and listened to the old prophet, and went to eat and drink with him, a lion met him and slew him. There is a lion when you leave God's path.

So that roaring of the lion ought to have been for Samson a warning, at least, that he was getting on Satan's territory. To be sure he takes and rends him as he would a kid, which is the mark of a certain kind of faith. But it is a sort of disgrace in having met certain enemies. How do we have to meet them? I think in one sense Israel could get no great credit for having overcome Amalek. Why should Israel be fighting with Amalek? They would not have been fighting him if they had not been lagging in the rear. If they had been pressing on diligently to the front, Amalek would never have overtaken them. A man says he has had a terrible conflict with Satan, but thank God he has won the victory; but how did you come to have the conflict with Satan? Been in his territory? Been leaving the path of faith where God would have had you? It is all very well to gain a victory, but some victories tell plainly the need for fighting.

You know the ordinary use of Samson's riddle growing out of this victory. He goes down later, and he finds that a colony of bees have established themselves in the carcass of the lion. He gets the honey out of the carcass and eats it, and gives it to his parents. When he goes down to take his wifestill going down, bound to consummate the alliance, to have his own pleasurehe propounds this riddle to his friends: Out of the eater came forth meat, out of the strong came forth sweetness.

You know, as I have said, how it is usually interpreted, and I will not question that interpretation, though I cannot but believe there is something more too. I will give you that interpretation first. Satan is the eater, the lion. Your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion goeth about seeking whom he may devour. As the lion conquered is the occasion of providing food, so when we were captives of Satan and in his power, our blessed Lord came down and overthrew him. Through death he destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. As a result, the very fact of Satan's mastery over us, gave the occasion for Christ to overthrow him. That very occasion becomes the means of our spiritual food, the richest sustenance of heaven, honey out of the carcass. Surely from the cross of Christ all sweetness and all food has come. No one would question that when Satan was vanquished at the cross, the door was opened wide into God's treasure-house, and His inexhaustible resources were made ours to feed upon. We eat and drink abundantly because of that slaughter of the lion that was in the way. I will not further dwell upon that, the gospel side. You can preach the gospel from it surely.

And when you apply it to our own experiences you could find some time when Satan has been overthrown. We will say, in the energy of faith you have found sweetness as a result of his very attack. For instance, Satan has roared against you with some special threatening, some special temptation. You have met him and conquered him, and you have found that having conquered Satan, there is a spiritual repast for your soul. This seems to be suggested in the twenty-third psalm, Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.

We find it so corporately speaking. The enemy may threaten a company of God's people, and they in the simplicity of their faith may meet and rend him, for you resist the devil, and he will flee from you; he has no more power than a kid. As a result of meeting Satan and overthrowing him, you find that there is a rich spiritual repast for the saints. How often have these attacks of the enemy been but the occasion of real and fuller blessings.

Now these are applications which have been familiar to you, I am quite sure, and they are upon the very surface. I would not contradict them for a moment, and yet, I confess, when I think of that man Samson and of all the opportunities he had, and how utterly he failed to make use of them; when I think of the mission upon which he was when he met that lion, and how he pursued it, after he overthrew the lion, it seems to me that there must be some warning, some practical lesson connected with it also, and that I will try to give you.

Honey is sweetness, and you will remember that the land of Canaan is described as a land flowing with milk and honey. Honey in Canaan is good. Thank God, we will feed forever upon the sweet and the fat, we will delight ourselves in it. Thank God, there is no question that in heaven's fields we can eat honey without any danger. But honey in the Philistines' land surely suggests something. Hast thou found honey? Eat so much thereof as is good. The question of eating honey is settled, as far as God is concerned, in connection with the sacrifices, where He forbade it. It stands for natural sweetness and natural attractiveness. Now the sweet things of a heavenly nature are, of course, proper food in a heavenly place, but to feed nature, and to enjoy the sweets of nature on the enemy's ground, I think is something else. To eat honey in that way is not now feeding upon the precious things of Christ, but upon that which may very easily be a snare to the soul.

So you have the enemy met in one form. Satan as a lion is put to flight and destroyed. That is one form of overthrow. But then, out of apparently a carcass that can do no harm, a conquered foe, ah, that subtle and insinuating honey is found that will draw the soul away from God. I do not think these two applications contradict one another, for the simple reason that if we look at the parable from the point of view of true Nazariteship, as we see in it our blessed Lord who carried it out really, it means the sweet, blessed things of the gospel. But if we look at the parable, dear brethren, in the light of facts, how Samson was departing from God, I would at least commend this view that I have suggested, that he was taking a downward path; and Satan, finding that his roar did not terrify Samson, tried what honey could do for him.

Poor Samson is always telling his secrets. He is always anxious to talk about things that nobody ought to know but himself. Things that surely Philistines ought not to know about, he wants to tell them. And if you will notice, he does not come right out and tell them plainly, but he propounds a riddle to them. Why should he want to propound a riddle? Ought he not to have seen, as surely any one could see, that he was getting mixed up terribly with these people? He went down to marry one woman, he finds he has thirty Philistines as companions. What kind of companions are these for a man who is to be the bitter enemy of these people? He is linked with one, and that one has grown to thirty. There he is with a whole company of Philistines in his house, and he associated with them.

The lessons are so plain that we cannot fail, I am sure, to see them. You are only going to compromise on one point. You are only going to adopt one principle that is not quite scriptural. You adopt that one principle, you take it into your bosom, for you know the woman stands for the principles of conduct. You take a single Philistine principle into your bosom and say, This pleases me well. It is some piece of religious machinery, some short cut to spiritual success that is going to work wonders, and you say, Ah, this is a good thing, I will make use of it. To be sure it is a Philistine thing, but then it will draw the crowd.

Here is a man going to preach the gospel, for instance, and he is tempted to take some principle of formalism, some principle of legalism into his bosom, into association with himself, and use that. You take but one, you are just going to marry one Philistine, and find your house is full. You have got thirty, and they are companions for you, they are your friends. They are your spiritual companions. You cannot adopt one unscriptural principle without finding a whole host of others equally unscriptural that follow with it.

I am not quite clear that Samson's riddle could mean in his lips, the lips of an unfaithful man like that, what we usually understand about it. Nor do I believe that we can speak of him as a type of Christ. How could such an unfaithful man be a figure of Christ in His redemption? I must say it creates a sort of revulsion in my heart to connect him in any way with our Lord. Though, as I think of God's purposes in the Nazarite, and of what Christ has really been, I can see a contrast. Had Samson been faithful he would have been a type of Christ. But I cannot bring myself to think of the historical Samson as a type of Christ. Can you think of the Lord Jesus Christ going down and allying Himself with His enemies in that way? To meet souls in grace surely He came down to the lowest.

But you cannot think of Him taking enemies into His bosom, or doing aught that would compromise His Father's holiness. So, while God's thoughts are that out of the eater comes forth meat, and out of the strong comes forth sweetness, and that every one who can guessto whom God will revealthat secret, will get a change of raiment, will get a new standing before God; will, as it were, be clothed with the best robe, which makes a beautiful gospel, yet, when we look at the personal side of it, there is a warning there such as I have suggested.

Samson wants to tell his secret, and you will notice this, that the person who wants to tell the secret, and yet does not want to, the secret will come out. The person who dallies with the enemies of God, who is not quite ready to unbosom himself absolutely to them, but still suggests possible ways of their coming into the secret of his spiritual life, he will find that the very principle that he has adopted as the partner of his life, is the one that is going to betray him into giving up the secret which he holds so jealously. And so Samson finds it. These companions of hiswhat a wretched state it is, what wretched company, just looking at it for a moment in a purely natural way; what company he had got intohis wife's friends threaten her that they will burn her house with fire if she does not get the secret out of him somehow. Fine company for a Nazarite to be associated with. They will burn her and her father with fire. And so under the fear of that threat she spends the time, which naturally is a very happy time, in weeping, for well she knows that her companions are cruel enough to carry out their threat, and that there will he no home for her, and her life probably sacrificed, if she does not get the secret out of Samson.

Samson met his end because he told his secret; right here at the beginning his telling the secret forebodes what the end may be. Samson tells here the secret, and finally has to tell the deeper secret of his whole separation to God, the secret of any testimony and power that he may have.

There is much more in that chapter that is of sad and striking interest, but these are the outlines of it, and I think that you can apply it for yourselves, and see how wide-reaching it is. I would like to say just a word or two further as to the ecclesiastical application. It is that even a spiritual mind, even one that desires to please God, may be tempted to form alliances that are not of God. That is particularly true in the day in which we live. There is a vast amount of activity going on in Christendom, of religious activity. Much of it of a philanthropic character, and a good deal of an evangelical character, so called, in reaching out after people.

Here is an earnest soul who really desires to do something for God, and he finds, perhaps, that his Nazarite position is rather a dull one. He finds that in the path of separation, perhaps with those with whom he is associated in that path of separation, things are rather slow in the gospel. They are not as warm hearted as some others that he may know, and there may be a temptation just to link himself in gospel activity, just in the gospel . He says, I will link myself with that, which, I will admit, is not exactly scriptural, is not exactly what God wants, but still I will link myself with only that. Ah, brethren, how many have found themselves quite surrounded by Philistines, who have simply sacrificed the one point. I speak of that ecclesiastically, because these truths are meant for us in these days, meant for warning in Church matters, in assembly matters, and wherever we may yield in one single point, we may find to our cost that we have yielded in more than that.

For the time Samson gets the better of his enemies; God overrules even this. He tells the riddle to his wife, and she, of course, tells it to her and Samson's companions, and then, as they give the answer to him, he, seeing the treachery, says, If ye had not ploughed with my heifer ye had not found out my riddle. Ah, if he had only reversed it; If I had not ploughed with your heifer. But he blames them, you see; he is blaming them for an alliance which he himself had formed, and from which, as a result, his secret had been disclosed to them. Did it not belong to them? How did he get his secret except as going down there at all. How had he got it except as he met the lion on his way down to the Philistines' land. Perhaps it was their right to have it in that way.

And now he is brought into open antagonism with them, and there is a breach, for you must always remember there was living faith in Samson; he was not dead, only defiled and dulled by that alliance. So he slays other Philistines, goes down to another place and slays them, and brings back their garments. He gives them, not changes of raiment in the spiritual sense, but simply other garments like the very ones they wore, Philistine robes. He gets these garments and gives them thus, as it were, in very mockery. For the man who gets the gospel secret not in God's way may get a change of raiment. There are plenty of people that get the gospel secret in their heads, but not in their hearts; plenty of people that can tell you that out of Satan's power has come the sweetness of the blessing of God, and say it off because they have heard somebody else tell it. They have not learnt it in their own soul. They may get a change of raiment, but it is only a new garment of the old creation yet. It is only the turning over of a new leaf, mere reformation, or something of that sort, it is not really the soul set free. With the best robe put upon him that means heart work, and to be in the presence of God.

In the next chapter, fifteenth, you find more than the individual alliance of Samson. You might say that even a conflict to provide robes for the Philistines would be better. He goes down in the time of the wheat harvest to visit his wife with a kid, and finds that she has been taken from him, for surely no Philistine alliance is a binding one, even on their side, much less on the side of faith. She is taken from him, and when Samson protests, the father-in-law answers that he thought she had been forsaken, and, therefore, he had given her to a friend, and he offers another one. Philistines are always ready to do that, offer some fresh link with themselves. This Samson resents, and he goes now to take vengeance on the Philistines for this personal wrong. It is a mere personal vengeance. The personal element comes in now to put a man on the right side.

There are many suggestive things here. Perhaps it is scarcely up to the dignity of an illustration, and yet I feel like giving it, simply to make it very plain. One allies himself with that which is not of God, Philistinism, and now he finds that he has been treated unfaithfully, he has been treated in a very shabby manner, and there is the personal resentment. But how often you have met with people that have been treated outrageously, they tell you, at the hands of the church that they have done so much for. They have worked, given their money, their time, and everything else, and they have met with nothing but ingratitude. As a result of that, there has been anger and the desire for vengeance, and how many a church quarrel is simply the result of this personal animosity, rather than zeal for God's honour. So with Samson here, he is angry because of the treatment against himself, and he goes and takes jackalsstrange thing for a Nazarite to be tampering with, the uncleanest beast that roams around Palestine, the beast that feeds upon carrion, that hides the bones that it preys upon in the earth, until it is ready to renew its putrid repast. It is a striking picture of the flesh, which feeds on putridity, on carrion, on corruption. He takes that which feeds upon corruption, he catches these three hundred jackals, ties them tail to tail, and puts a torch between them and lets them fly. He is not caring what they do, and I don't read that he killed a single Philistine by doing it. He burnt up corn, he burnt up vineyards, he burnt up olive orchards, but in the land these things stand for spiritual blessings. In the land these things represent what the people of God had a right to. Why not drive out the Philistine and enjoy the corn, the olives, and the vineyards? why burn them up and leave the enemy?

How often personal strife, personal vindication, and everything of that kind simply results in consuming, not the enemy, but the spiritual things that we should enjoy. Have you not seen jackals turned loose that just burn up everything, as it were, everything on the face of the ground that would be food for the soul? As the apostle says, If ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. And so Samson turning loose jackals I do not look upon as any kind of dignified, or spiritual conduct. The man seems to be playing, and not in earnest.

Could you imagine Jephthah, even with all his harshness, turning jackals loose amongst the enemy? Does that look anything like Gideon? He held his torch in his hand, and did not use it to inflame the flesh. He held it simply to maintain a testimony, the torch and the trumpet proclaiming the sword of the Lord. There is no resemblance between them. I think that Samson is on very low ground when he does this. It effected no victory for God surely. Let us beware of fighting with jackals, let us beware of trying to use the flesh against one another. Beware of stirring up and inflaming that which feeds on corruption. If you tell a whispered word that you know is going to stir up resentment, to make enmity, it seems to me that you are getting ready to put the torch to a jackal, and turn it loose. As a madman who scatters firebrands, arrows and death, so is the man that deceiveth his neighbour and saith, Am I not in sport? The very next verse adds a warning about tale-bearing.

The Philistines repay Samson's wife and his father-in-law for all this by going and burning her and her father with fire. Then, at last, Samson takes open and public ground, and now smites the Philistines hip and thigh, and there is a great slaughter. But how long it has been before he gets into direct and open conflict. How much that is purely idle and beneath the dignity of a servant of God has there been in all this grotesque exhibition of a strength which, while it was superhuman, did not seem to suggest divine power.

These are serious thoughts, brethren, I am quite aware that they are not in the ordinary line of what is presented in connection with Samson, but, I confess, having meditated upon his career from end to end, I find very much to mourn over, but very little to be thankful for, so far as he was concerned. That little we get now, and it is the one bright gleam in the whole history, that which we reach here at the ninth verse.

At the close of the eighth verse we find something suggestive. He went down and dwelt in the top of the rock Etam. The top of the rock. The coneys be a feeble folk, but their dwelling is in the rock. And when he takes the place of dwelling in the rock, which suggests the thought of Christ, and of hiding in Him, you may expect something more now than what we have been having, and so you will find it.

The Philistines resent any such place as that. They went up and pitched in Judah and spread themselves in Lehi, and the men of Judah said, Why are ye come up against us? And they answered, to bind Samson are we come up, and to do to him as he hath done to us. Samson had made himself an outlaw, and though now he had retired from conflict, or had retreated, as it were, from the territory of the Philistines, and had taken his place amongst the men of Judah, they are bound to have their revenge. They were far from being overcome by what he had done; they press on, and must have his blood.

But what a mournful picture you have in what follows. The men of Judah come to Samson, and they are simply horrified that he should dare to array himself against the Philistines. Knowest thou not that we are the servants of the Philistines? Their slavery was so abject, so complete, that they were simply horrified at anyone resisting the authority of that which had such a powerful hold upon them. And how true it is, dear friends, that a vast amount of the people of God seem to be perfectly horror struck at the idea of your resisting in any way that which is an evident encroachment of the Philistine.

To illustrate again in a very simple way, as I did before: there are certain great principles such as I have already alluded to. These principles have been adopted amongst professing Christians, such, for instance, as unscriptural thoughts as to justification, worship, and things of that kind. We have already alluded to the Philistine views of these things. If one now dares to protest that these are not the truth of God, that they are simply the enemy's device, and a witness of his power, people raise their hands in horror. What! the idea of anybody but an ordained man performing a sacred work! The idea of having anything but a humanly constructed organization, the idea of declaring that these things were unscriptural and contrary to what God intends! Knowest thou not that we are the servants of the Philistines? What do you mean by raising questions that can only bring the whole power of the enemy upon us? Beloved brethren, is it too strong a figure to say that God's people shiver at the very thought of raising any opposition to the authority of this terrible power that holds God's dear saints in its grasp?

Samson says to the men of Judah, I will only ask you one thing. You will not kill me, will you? This is the only bright gleam that you have in his whole history. No, they say, we will not kill you, we will hand you over to the Philistines. He can meet them. He is not afraid of them, just so that which links him vitally with his own people, the vital link with the people of God is established and kept, so they will not cut him off, spiritually speaking, he will meet the Philistine.

So they bind him with the ropes, that suggest regulations to hold him down, and deliver him safe enough to the Philistines, as they think. But, ah, when he comes into the presence of the enemy, faith exercises itself, and these regulations which his own people have put upon him to hold him down, these new ropes, snap like tow touched by the fire, they have no power to hold him.

It is beautiful and striking to see this. And I think it is closely connected with his dwelling in the top of the rock. His own people spiritually, his own brethren, Israel, had not the faith to act as he did. They actually were base enough to hand him over to that whole system which was contrary to God, did all that was needful to put him in the enemy's hands. But here, at least, there is a simple faith that counts upon God, and that God can make use of. He is not in the power of the Philistine, and in the open field will have a free conflict with them, in the energy of something like faith.

I regret that again I have to point out that which, it seems to me, is the characteristic of Samson all throughhis disregard for his Nazariteship. All the days of his Nazariteship he shall come at no dead body. For an Israelite, if there was one thing above another that was defiling, it was to touch a bone. To touch a dead body was defiling, and an Israelite lost his ceremonial Nazariteship if he did so. Yet, here is Samson with all the lessons of the pastsurely one would have thought that he might have learnt something at any rate with all the lessons of the pasthe takes up an unclean weapon to use against the Philistines. He takes up the jawbone of an assthat which was an evidence of death, and the beast itself an unclean beast.

An ass is typical of a strong self-will. The natural man is like a wild ass's colt. He takes up that unclean weapon, and does gain a victory with it surely, but you never use the flesh, an unclean thing, never use self-will without suffering for it. No matter how right the cause, you use a wrong weapon, and sooner or later it will react. So, I think, we have here an indication that the man did not prize his Nazariteship. He did not realize that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God. Oh to use spiritual weapons in spiritual conflict, not to take the weapon of the enemy, not to get down on the level of the enemy, no matter how wonderful it might be for him with that jawbone, as he says, to pile up heaps and heaps of Philistines, with that single weapon. He may boast if he please, but he has used an unclean weapon, and there is a shadow even upon this which is the brightest side of his life.

Then after the victory is won, another bright gleam comes out. Poor dear man, it is the first time we hear his soul going out to God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God. We find him parched with thirst, and even after this great victory his soulas well it might be, having used an unclean weapon, well he might find a parchedness and dryness in his soulis afflicted with most grievous thirst. But he turns to God, he calls for help, and he finds that in that place which bore the name of his victory, Lehi, the jawbone, God cleaves a place out of the rock, and there the water flows forth for his refreshmentanother type of Christ.

This portion begins and ends with the rock. He dwelt in the rock, and out of the rock, under the cleaving hand of God, flows forth the water for his refreshment. The well is called En-hak-kore, the spring of him that called to God. Now it is in connection with that, growing out of all that, that we read he judged Israel twenty years. That is, the record of his judgeship was connected with this period, this bright period in his life. Just as he dwelt in separation from the Philistines, in open conflict with them, he had power to judge the people of God. He could be no real judge for them when he was down allying himself with his enemies. Alas, he could be no real judge when he was later on grinding in the Philistines' mills. But in this period of absolute separation from them, when he dwelt, as I was saying, in the rock, and when he broke the bands which even his own people would put upon him, and stood out in all the energy of divine faith, then he could judge, and only then could he judge the people of God.

That brings us to the close of that part of his life, and leaves us, at the sixteenth chapter, with what is deeper and deeper darkness, and sadder, sadder failure. The gleam of light has been brief, as to its record, though one hopes there was a quiet faithfulness for God which has not been recorded.

I trust, dear brethren, that this apparent criticism will not be misunderstood. I verily believe that this last man, this sixth of all the heroes of Israel, is a man from whom we ought to learn some of the most important lessons that we have yet had before us. I believe that the lessons plainly written here, written upon the very surface, are lessons of failure largely, and I think, as I said at the beginning, that any effort to make Samson a type of Christ does violence to our spiritual sensibilities. Ah, our Holy Lord. Would you think of making David in his sin a type of Christ? You might make David in his rejection a type of Christ, and rightly so. You might make him in connection with his final kingdom a type of the Lord, and rightly so. You might make Solomon in his splendour and glory a type of Christ. But when Solomon departed from God, is he a type of Christ then? As a child of God in his disobedience can he be a figure of the truly obedient One? It seems to me that such handling of Scripture, which does violence to the conscience of saints, and does violence to our blessed Lord, and a sense of loyalty to Him, is a thing that is to be refused. We are rather to get warning from a man who might have beenoh what a wonderful type he might have been of Christ, and yet, alas, he is simply a beacon, not to invite us into the harbour, but to warn us off the rocks, the rocks that he split upon.

What is the warning, brethren? She pleaseth me well. Ah, let us beware of self-pleasing. Even Christ pleased not Himself. Let us beware how we please ourselves. Let us keep our Nazariteship inviolate. May we remember that the cross of Christ is that which has crucified us unto the world, and the world unto us; and more than that, that they who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts.


Lecture 10: Samson His Closing Days (Chaps. 16)

We have had before us the brightest part of Samson's life, although it was a brightness not undimmed with weakness at the very time, and with intimations of further failure unless he really turned to God more fully than ever. Yet, in spite of the partial deliverance granted, because of his dependence upon God and his crying to Him for help, there really was only an approach to what we could call a corporate movement among the people of God.

All that Samson did before this time was personal. It was his own individual will, though we could hardly add, to his own individual profit, for he did not seem to reap any true benefit from his feats of strength, and his overthrowing of various Philistines. All that comes after this period of national movement, (and that is to occupy us tonight,) is also individual, so that, as I have already indicated, Samson wasin great measurea failure as a national leader. Even in that part he does not put himself at the head of the people and lead them to victory, but wins a victory for them. He still keeps his individuality, and, if I may say it, wherever there is a measure of strong individuality that excludes the people of God, just that far there is a measure of selfishness, and wherever there is selfishness there is weakness and failure.

He never associated the people with him, as Gideon, for instance, or Jephthah even. All that he did was out on the platform for others to see, as you might say, how he acted all alone. Partial, therefore, as it is, it is in connection with this period that his judgeship is spoken of. You cannot think of his being judge when he was dallying with the Philistines.

Such men have not been unknown in the history of the Churchmen of brilliant gift, but who never seem to have fallen into their place as members of the Body of Christ. They have dazzled by their eloquence, perhaps, and have attracted attention to themselves. But for abiding work they have been largely valueless. No doubt, at each period of the life of the Church's history there have been such men, nor are they wanting today.

Will we not find, too, that the secret of this is in a violated Nazariteship? There is some dalliance with Philistine principles, some failure to maintain a rigid and spiritual separation from all that would mar the fullest communion. Is not the temptation, for instance, for a man gifted with great eloquence to be intoxicated with a success which does not speak of the absence of the wine of nature's exhilaration? Such persons find it difficult to obliterate self, and to take a lowly place of service. The Philistine Abimelech will obtrude his personality. This is a principle of wide and deep application; it is most searching. Any movement, no matter how excellent and scriptural it may be in many of its features, if it fail to awaken and identify itself with the people of God corporately, on the lines laid down in the word of God, never leaves the sphere of what is individual, and is, therefore, partial.

But we must leave this bright gleam in his life, and go down into the gloom of his later history. If the lesson is a sad one, we may rest assured that its darkness is not overdrawn, and that God Himself has painted the picture for us, in order that we may understand how things look in His eyes. What we have here, if it is a humbling lesson, is a needed one, a lesson that will act as a spiritual tonic for our souls, as the bitter does. God's medicines must be bitter, as medicines usually are, if they are to act upon the soul, and nerve us for that which is a real conflict, and show whether we are to stand for God or not.

There is quite a striking resemblance between what we have in the first part of this sixteenth chapter, and that which occurred at the beginning of Samson's public life. This shows, however, a moral declension, for he does not even go through the forms of regularity, but now gratifies his own desires, in spite of the blot upon his own moral character that it leaves. Samson goes down unto Gaza for the gratification of his own appetites, little caring what blot there might be left upon the name of God, and upon the name of his people, in so doing. He goes down there a victim to the flesh, and, beloved brethren, if one is a victim to the flesh within, it is only a matter of time when he will be a victim externally, visibly, too.

We have in this first part, Samson's going down unto Gaza, that which surely shows a state of soul that required the most vigorous and unsparing judgment of oneself, and yet there seems to be nothing of the kind. It may seem strange that a man could have any power at all who had so completely sacrificed his conscience, as Samson had, but it is a sad fact that the strength remains for a little season after conscience has gone. It seems to be, as it were, the lingering mercy of God that would hold one back, where even conscience is asleep, where it has been prevented from acting. God in His mercy would still have a word for the soul in the strength being yet preserved to a certain extent.

So, in spite of Samson's wretched state of soul that made this possible, he can rise during the night of his indulgence and carry off the gates of Gaza, that would have held him in captivity. He can carry off those gates, can carry them up the hill toward Hebron, in a sort of defiance of the people, who thought they held him surely because the gates were barred.

No doubt Samson thought he had done a great thing when he carried those gates off, and broke loose from the power that held him. He did not really break loose from it. It was only God's mercy speaking to him and showing him that he had the power to break loose if he would, even now. But from the fact that he did not do that, but simply used his strength, we have an illustration of how God's warning was unheeded, and so there was nothing to hinder further failure.

After all, it was a retreat this man of might was beating. He was running away from the Philistines. Even supposing he did carry their gates on his shoulders, he was running away from them. He was not facing them. He had no power to face them. How could he have power when his own conscience was not right with God? How can anyone have power whose conscience in the presence of God is not right?

It says he carried the gates up to the top of a hill that is before Hebron, or, as the meaning is, the hill that looketh toward Hebron. It looks as if he were going toward Hebron, but Hebron is many a mile away from that place. Gaza is down by the seashore, and Hebron is away off in the hill country of Judea, many a mile away. There might be a hill that looked toward it, and Samson might be apparently on his way toward it. Hebron means communion, and it takes something more than shaking off a power for the time being, for the soul to get back to God, to communion.

Suppose one is ensnared, entrapped in something that is contrary to God, something that holds him down, as it were, but he still has power, quite power enough to get rid of that thing; and he shows you that he has power by shaking it off, turning his back upon it, and goes on toward Hebron, toward communion. He does not reach it. He carries the gates up the hill and drops them, but he goes no further. Very likely this partial victory is a snare to him, for if he had learnt his weakness fully, he would have been brought on his face to God, and his further humiliation might have been prevented. The partially recovered soul goes, as it were, toward the place of communion with God, but does not reach it; he stops short of it, and you may rest assured that the next time he is ensnared it will be worse for him, because God does not permit us to trifle with conscience, or to trifle with His word.

If it was wrong to be in Gaza, and if it was only God's mercy and power that delivered him from Gaza, we may be certain that it was to bring him back to what Hebron answers to, to communion with God. And if he does not come back to the full place, his subsequent failure must teach him what his need truly is. For us what a needed lesson that is. One feels tempted to dwell upon it a little, for how oftentime there is a measure of recovery to God, at least in the way of giving up this or that indulgence, or this or that associationsomething is given up partially; but it is only cut off above the root. The outward fruit is cut off, but we do not cut clearly loose from the root of the thing itself, and above all, we do not get clearly back to God. If ye will return, return unto Me, is what God says, and there is a great danger in partial restoration to communion, in travelling the road part of the way to Hebron and coming short of it. We want to be restored to communion, and being restored to communion means more than the carrying of Gaza's gates up the hill a little way; it means getting back to God, and getting back to God means a judgment of the principle which has ensnared me, and of the root which has led me astray, and when I judge the root of it, I judge all the branches too.

That is the lesson that we learn from this act of Samson's. Such acts bring nothing but sorrow to our hearts. Surely you could not think of his boasting of having done such a thing as that. You might well ask him, How did you get in Gaza, and how far did you go away from Gaza when you left it? And so, when a man talks about his strength in giving up this or that habit or association, you might well ask him, How did you get into it first, and how far have you got away from it now? Have you got the distance back to communion with God?

Just in passing might one speak a word of the gospel truth right here? There is a great deal of preaching nowadays which would bring a sinner, as it were, out of Gaza up the hill toward Hebron without bringing him there. There is a great deal about giving up this or that, about cutting off this or that evil association, judging this or that wrong state of soul in the heart, and yet not going to the bottom of things, which iswhat? The bottom is to reach the end of self. It is to see myself, not as a sinner who can shake himself loose from the shackles of his sins, but as a helpless and guilty soul in the presence of God. It is to see myself a ruined worthless object that can only cast itself in its sins, and in its unworthiness, at the feet of infinite grace, and find in the cross of Christ deliverance, not from Gaza, not from this or that bad habit, or this or that wrong state, but to find forgiveness and deliverance by grace from self through the cross of Christ.

That brings me right into the presence of God. Right into Hebron; right into the place where I know my association with God, and that, dear friends, is what the gospel of God's grace does, as contrasted with any preaching of reformation, any improvement of the old man, only to be like the sow that is washed returning to her wallowing in the mire. The gospel delivers one completely in the grace of God from every place in which he was held captive, sets him free to enjoy fellowship with God.

What a comfort it is to have a gospel like that to preach. What a comfort, dear friends, that you do not have to point souls to a hill a little way outside of Gaza, and say, Well, we will bring you that far on your way to Hebron, to the house of God, to communion with Him, and then leave you to yourself. It is rather our happy privilege to declare that through the death and resurrection of Christ our Lord the soul is fully freed, to be at home in the presence of God. That is what the cross, the blood of Christ, means. It means that through His death the way of access into the presence of God is perfectly open, so that we draw near in full assurance of faith into God's presence, to have the happiest and holiest association with Him. Not brought half way to God, but brought all the way to God. Ye who sometimes were far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

Though as Christians we do not need to be saved over again, yet we do delight to speak of the way how one can be saved. We are saved once and forever ourselves, but that gives us the capacity, in a spiritual sense, to enjoy the precious truth of salvation, and above all, lovingly and earnestly to commend it to any heart that is a stranger to the love of God. The grace of God takes you out from your place of bondage, and from your place of servitude to your lusts, and it puts even you in the home of God, through the work of Christ, and makes you at peace forever with Him. What a precious gospel! It is the ministry of reconciliation, the ministry of bringing the distant soul, the soul that is at enmity, estranged from God, back to Him in full confidence, and in the full peace of His own blessed, holy presence.

That is by way of contrast to what Samson has done. Samson did nothing of the sort, as we have abundantly seen, and therefore, one would not link our Lord's holy name with such a history of shame as that. One would not take notice of a mere external resemblance, as some have even done, and illustrate from it the gospel, that our Blessed Lord carried off the gates of Gaza, and opened the way for our souls to come out. I would not link His holy Name with such a history of shame as you find there. It is a contrast to what Christ has done. It was simply for Samson an incomplete and partial deliverance in the mercy of God from a thing that was still his master, and which was still going to ensnare him. Let us never link our holy Lord's name with such a record of shame.

There was a man who got out of a city in a very different way. It was the apostle Paul. What had kept him in the city was loyalty to Christ, and the Jews watched the gates of Damascus day and night lest he should escape in that way. All the power of God was on his side, all the strength of Christ risen, but what did he do? There was no such foolish exhibition of his strength, no miracle was interposed between him and his enemies that watched the gates. Paul in perfect weakness was let down in a basket, and flees from his enemies. He was a true Nazarite, whose very weakness was a constant witness of another power that wrought through his weakness, and that did not make him, as one might say, either a physical or a spiritual athlete, but made him a lowly man.

I think it is very striking that you have an allusion to that letting down in a basket in the eleventh chapter of second Corinthians, which is followed in the twelfth by the record of his taking up into glory, where he has unfolded to him things that it is not possible for a man to utter. If Paul had nothing but weakness here, so that he had to get out of the city in a basket, let down from the wall, he was caught up into glory, there to see what was really his, and really ours, dear brethren. Then, when he comes down from that height, the Lord explains to him, as you might say, how it is that he is not to be allowed strength of his own. It is in order that Christ's strength may be for him, and that strength is made perfect in weakness.

Which would you rather be, Samson, with a great deal of wonderful power of your own, or that poor, feeble servant, who was hunted, like a timid deer is hunted in the forest, by remorseless enemies, and is let down out of the city, going off in his weakness to prove that the everlasting strength of Christ is for him? Which would you rather be? But, beloved, to be Paul means to learn Paul's lesson, just as to be Samson means to fail to have learnt the very lesson for which he stood.

But now we pass on to the next part of the chapter, which is even darker yet, a part that surely has a voice for our consciences. We find that Samson goes off again, as we saw that he would go off. You may be sure that for one who is not truly restored to God, it is simply a question of time that he is going in the same way that he went before, only worse. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a manour Lord gives us the example. The unclean spirit leaves the man, and leaves him empty. He is, as it were, partially delivered, he is delivered from that one evil spirit. But what is the use of being delivered from one evil spirit, if the empty heart is made, as it were, to open its doors in invitation to the sevenfold power of evil, more wicked than the first? What is the use of deliverance even from the first evil spirit?

Samson does not heed God's warning, a warning expressed in mercy; and, dear brethren, in passing, I might say for us in a corporate way, God gives us little seasons of lifting up. He gives us little seasons of recovery from the results of our wrongdoings when we rise out of the Gazas where we had brought ourselves, corporately speaking, into Philistine strongholds, and we get out of them in an amazing way. We find the very gates no barriers at all, and we can carry them off. But for an assembly of God, as well as for an individual Christian, this partial deliverance may be the signal for a fresh downward course, unless there is true judging of the roots of things, as we have seen. So He gives us warnings in this tender way. It is a needed thing for us to take these warnings, as He intends that we shouldnot as though everything were now all right, and there were no need for further watchfulness and more deep self-judgmentbut to take the warning and to go to the root of things, whether it be as an assembly of God, or as a single individual.

Now Samson goes back, just as an assembly, or as an individual saint would, back to the thing from which he thought he was delivered. We find presently that he gets literally back there, even to Gaza itself. He is ensnared by a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. The valley of a snare. He loves a woman in the valley, and when you come to Philistine valleys, you do not have that spirit of lowliness that a valley in the land speaks of. A Philistine valley means a moral descent, you go down morally, spiritually. He went down into the valley where his trap was set, the very name of the valley speaking in that way of a snare, or entanglement. It is that which is going to entangle his feet, how effectually we shall soon learn.

He is attracted there. He is not brought there by any external power. What is it that brings us under the power of evil? It is not a mighty outward constraining force that does it. It is an attraction that brings God's people under the power of evil. It is something that allures, that appeals to the taste and desire of one's own heart. You may be certain that God would never let all the hosts of evil prevail against a soul who was loyal in heart to Himself. The weakest and most pliable naturally, the most helpless naturally, are as strong as Christ Himself, because they have His strength, if their heart is true and loyal to Him. All the snares that the enemy can set, all the valleys of Sorek that there may be, can have no power over a saint whose heart first of all is not ensnared with some of the allurements that are in the valley.

Here is Delilah, a Philistine woman again, which reminds us how Samson was constantly led astray by these principles which were not of God, things of nature which can never answer to the will of God. You know that, figuratively speaking, the woman reminds us of principles of conduct, principles of testimony which are not true, or according to God, which come short of God's truth. Samson is attracted in this way by some principle of evil, which is not according to God. He is attracted by it, and he wants to link himself with that. There is the strong man taken in the snare, and the weak womanwhose very name seems to mean weakness or helplessnessthat very woman in her weakness and helplessness is the one that draws and holds him by a power which nothing can deliver him from, for his own heart is brought under that power.

He goes down there and puts himself in association with her. And you find that the Philistines make full use of that. You find that if he has put himself under the power of the principle that is not according to God, he will soon be brought under a visible power, something more than that over his heart. They offer this woman pay. Philistines are not very scrupulous in their way of doing things. The first time that they appealed to one of Samson's friends was with a threat that they would burn her and her father's house with fire, and now they appeal to this one with silver, 1100 pieces of silver, if she will only entice from him what he had never yet disclosed, the secret of his strength.

The citadel of his heart was yet inviolate. It seems a strange thing, an almost unthinkable thing, that a person who had failed so conspicuously as Samson, should yet have a heart whose citadel was on the right side. It was not in the hands of the enemy, although it had been unfaithful time and again. But the stronghold, the inmost soul of the man was still for God, who in mercy had thus far providentially interfered in his behalf. Now it is that citadel of his heart to which Delilah is to lay siege, and to extract from him the key to that citadel, in order that the enemy may rush in and take full possession.

I have thought much of this telling the secret of his strength to the Philistines, and of what it means for us. What spiritual lesson are we to learn as to telling the secret of our strength to God's enemies? Is it not the fact that we have a secret? It is not so much what the secret is, though it is a very real one, but it is the fact that the heart is willing to tell a secret to the world. We meet people, for instance, in our business, and we are polite to them, and that ends the matter. We are thrown casually with persons to whom we are introduced, a temporary acquaintance, or a permanent acquaintance springs up, but it is simply external, there is nothing to compromise one in it. But now the friendship grows more intimate, and some of the springs of the life are gone into; and then it gets still more intimate, until the very secrets of the heart are laid bare, and there is nothing but what one soul has in common with the other. That would be telling the secrets. It is telling out everything that marks one's separation from another.

As long as I keep my own counsels, I am separate from the person who may touch my elbow. I am entirely distinct from him. But if I open my thoughts, if I tell out the secret purposes of my mind, and everything of that kind, then we are blended, we are friends, and there is no separation any further. I am in that person's power, for the simple reason that my heart has been given. A simple illustration would be a Christian woman giving her heart's affection to an unsaved man. But there are numberless applications, individual and corporate.

And it was so with Samson. This telling of the secret of his strength was breaking down the wall that separated him from the Philistines. It was giving up the very citadel of his soul, which, at least, had been kept inviolate up to this time. You will at once think of illustrations of this, and I want to point out how in a threefold way there is just this danger for the Lord's people individually; for the Lord's servants particularly; and for the Church of Christ in its corporate testimony before God, and before the world.

The individual Christian is in constant danger of breaking down the wall of separation between his soul and the world. Ah, how often you have seen the young Christian, with a heart filled with love to Christ, rejoicing in the Lord, assailed by subtle temptations to break down that narrowness, to break down that which would separate him from the world. It is not put in an ugly way, nor in a wicked way. Satan does not present the wicked world to a Christian. He presents the harmless world, the attractive side of the world, not the wicked side. And ah, if there is the sense of giving way in the soul, if there is the sense of having things in common, of telling out, as it were, the secrets of the heart, the soul has surrendered. I do not mean necessarily in word, but of practically telling out that which is to distinguish that soul from the world. There is the yielding up of the secret if there is the breaking down of the soul's separation from the spirit of the world. You have yielded your secret into the hands of the enemy, and just as surely as you have, you have lost your strength, you have lost all spiritual power.

How often have you seen Samsons shorn of their strength in just this way. They dally with a little thing it seems harmless, it seems a trifle. Something else comes along, for Satan always gives something more and more attractive, that takes possession of the mind. Then something further, until at last, as Delilah says, he has told me all his heart.

It is like the lock in a canal, if you have ever seen one. There are the gates that keep the waters back, keep them separate from the waters below. There is a great difference in height between the waters above and the waters below. But a man goes to the gates and opens hidden doors down near the bottom of the canal, and the water simply passes through those doors, until finally it is on a level on both sides, and the gates swing open with perfect ease.

Ah, beloved, are there not hidden doors of intercourse with this world, are there not hidden doors of association with evil principles, and with the thoughts of this world? I am not speaking of immorality, but O brethren, how many of us have known what it is to have these doors opened until the difference in level between the child of God and the world has been lost, the distinction between the saint and the worldling. They are on the same level, and what hinders now the opening wide of the floodgates, and letting everything in that is of the world?

There is the individual Nazariteship lost. You apply the same to the servant of Christ. If there is anyone that has to be in his soul separate from the spirit of the world, from the spirit of the Philistine, it is the servant of Christ. The secret of his strength is what we have been seeing all through. It is the secret of self being judged, of weakness, utter helplessness that leans on almighty strength. If he has not learnt that lesson, if he has not taken that place, he is not a true servant of Christ; and if he has taken that place, there is no power that he need fear so much as the hidden alliances with what is not according to God. Those hidden doors, which would gradually lead him to tell out the secrets of his heart, gradually lead him to take common ground with the world, will sap his strength, and no ability of gift, no eloquence, nothing of any kind can ever take the place of those long locks that speak of a separate life for God. Apply it to the Church of God. Alas, she is shorn of her locks of weakness, which were her glory, and you see a Church today which is on the same level as the world. You see a world-church at large, and I need not dwell upon that, for we all mourn over it. But you apply it to any united corporate testimony for God, and, dear friends, do we not have the same thing? Do we not have the same dangers, the world constantly, insidiously appealing, the danger of telling out the precious things of God, not in the way of gospel, but of simply opening the heart and opening the mind of the saints to take common ground with what is all about us.

How easily we imitate that by which we are surrounded. How it leaks into even the most carefully-guarded company of God's people, if there is not constant watchfulness and constant care. How we will find that the enemy has all that we have, that there is no secret between us, that there is nothing between our souls and that which surrounds us. Thus people sometimes actually say, Why are we making such a trouble about separation, for there is no difference between us! What do we make such a trouble about separation for? Ah, brethren, the very fact that we can ask such a question as that, shows that already there is no distinction. The secret is toldnothing remains.

Let us now look very briefly at the steps in this telling out his secrets, as we have it here in Samson. He first of all tells her an untruth, when she asks to know the secret of his strength and how he might be bound. What he first of all tells her is evidently in trifling, and he apparently has no intention of letting her know the real secret of things. He says, If they will bind me with seven green withs, or, as you will notice in the margin, seven new cords, that were never dried, then shall I be as weak as another man, or, as one man. I have thought that Samson must have had in his mind how the men of Judah had bound him with cords when they handed him over to the Philistines. No doubt he remembered that when he was bound with those cords, he simply broke them like tow. So he does again. When she says, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson, he simply snapped the cords, just as tow when it touches the fire.

Have you boasted of some past victory in such a way that it has become the beginning of a fresh snare? Samson here is thinking of his past victory over the Philistines, how he snapped the cords. He says, I will do it over again. I will snap the cords, I will tell her just what the men of Judah did to me, and then I will show what wonderful power I have. And so he did have; he broke the cords, but, beloved, he had a fresh cord around his soul. It was just that boasting in a past victory in the presence of one who had no business to know anything about it, and in whose presence he had no business at all. He did not tell her the truth, nor did he give her the real secret of his strength; but he tampered with her, and the result was that in a little while she knows more.

So wherever there is the tampering with evil, wherever there is having to do with it in any way answering it at all, even if wrongfully, keeping a certain measure of separation in the soul, and yet at the same time linked with it, dear brethren, the step has been taken, and the soul is really in the hands of the enemy.

I wish that I could put it more clearly. I think your consciences must see what is meant here. I mean to say, dear brethren, that any dalliance with what is not of God, which is not a help in my communion with him, anything like trifling with it, anything like linking the things of God with the things of the world, is going eventually to end in shipwreck and ruin, just as Samson found it.

The next time he gets a little stronger. Let them bind me with ropes. He is getting stronger, and, if he only knew it, he is simply adding another cord to those with which he was to be bound. He has got on further in the downward way, and I think that we see in that God's mercy laying His hand on him to bring him back and restore him, even though he refuses to hearken to God's mercy. Instead of that, we find that he takes a deeper step into evil. So here with these ropes he is now bound, and if he breaks himself loose again, he is more tightly held than he was before. This tampering a second time, after conscience has been awakened, and, above all, a conscience that has been awakened by the mercy of God a second time, and still going on with the thing, shows the man to be in greater danger than ever before.

Beloved brethren, I would speak with all tenderness. It is an intensely earnest and solemn subject. Has your conscience ever been used of God to deliver you from a snare, and yet you have gone back to that same snare again? Then I know your conscience is less sensitive than it was before, even as Samson's was less so. It applies to the Church in every way that I spoke of before.

Then comes his third answer to her. He is still trifling with her, but the moth is drawing ever closer to the candle, and now he touches what is the secret of his strength. He says, If thou wilt weave the seven locks of my head with the web. He is speaking about his hair; he is not going to tell her that if they shave off that hair, or anything of that kind. But the hair was the source of his strength, and now you can see how near he had drawn to disclosing the secret of it. He is talking about his own spiritual strength, and he is telling her, as it were, how that strength can be taken from him. He is telling her falsely, but he is talking about the very thing. It is as though a man were talking to the world about his faith. He may not quite give out the very secret. He may not be fully identified with the world, but he is talking about the one thing that separates him from the world. What right had Samson to talk to a Philistine about his Nazariteship? Ah, none. It reminds us of Eve talking with the serpent.

So he takes the last step. She will have it all out of him. You may rest assured, dear brethren, that any person who dallies, who tampers with evil, will go on to the full extent of it, just as poor Samson did here, unless God in His mercy interpose. Yes, he says, take my hair. That is the point. He has got to the end, and if my hair goes, if my Nazariteship is lost, I shall be as weak as another man.

Is it not significant that he does not speak of his abstinence from wine, or separation from death? His past life would indicate that he had not been careful as to those parts of his Nazarite separation. Conscious weakness, a spirit of dependence on God, was suggested by the long hair. Is it not possible for these to remain after the holy separation of heart has been lost?

Dependence finds its natural and normal expression in prayer. The only perfect Nazarite was a Man of prayer. Let us be assured that there is no greater peril than losing a sense of the need of prayer. A neglected closet means the loss of the dependent spiritthe long hair. I do not need to multiply words here, rather let conscience speak to us all. Is prayer an absolute necessity? Is it the habit of our lives? It is possible for even the knowledge of grace to be used by the enemy to lessen the sense of dependence and so to cause prayer to become less constant. My brother, if you neglect prayer, you are indeed in imminent danger of losing your Nazariteship.

The same is true of a corporate testimony. Whenever a knowledge of divine truth ceases to humble us, and begins to make us careless as to united prayer, we may be certain that the Philistines be upon us. If you see the prayer-meeting neglected by the many, or a feebleness in prayer, few participatingthese are certain marks that the testimony, no matter how it may have been used of God in times past, is slipping from its true position. Unless it be recovered, all will lapse into Philistine formalism. May we give earnest heed to these things. But let us return to the sad narrative of Samson.

He had told her so many lies, that the Philistines did not believe him any more, but, dear friends, she believed him. This wretched harlot of a world knows when you have told your secret. This wretched world knows well when the Christian has given up the separation from it, and when all is broken down. After that it is simply a little more sleeping, a little more of the sloth into which he had long since fallen, he puts his head on this poor wretched world's lap, and then all is gone, and he wakes but to find his strength forever departed. Gone, not to be restored in any true sense. His strength is gone, and gone by his own fault.

How solemn it is; how we need to take it to heart, lest we also fall after the same example and warning that God has given us. She says, The Philistines are upon thee, and he, poor man, thinks he will do over what he has done a good many times before. I will go out and shake myself; and, dear brethren, he did not even know that his power had gone. How many a soul has tampered with the world, and continued to tamper with it, and who does not know that his spiritual strength is gone. He wist not that the Lord was not with him, and he goes out. He may shake himself, but, ah, if he has lost the secret of his strength, his dependence on God, he is as weak as the weakest.

Many an one will go through the forms of activity, long after the power has gone out of their lives. They may shake themselves in the busy activity of religious workthe preacher may shake himself in his pulpit, the visitor in his or her ministrations, the Sunday school teacher in his classbut, brethren, the power is gone ! Oh the sadness and the shame of it!

Here is a Nazarite testimonypreviously owned of God, which has put its head in the Philistine lap and lost its locks. It may boast of its past prowess, of its knowledge, attainments and all thatit may shake itself, but alas, alasIchabod. The Lord keep us humble, prayerful, dependent, It is for us , the danger is. We need to be alert and on our guard, else we may awake from our dream of ease and find ourselves irretrievably in the hands of the Philistines.

The world would call it getting strength. He had laid aside, they say, his unmanly narrowness, his rigid exclusiveness, his strict adherence to the letter. He had ceased to be the woman, and can now take his place amongst men, and be of some use. So says the world, and the world church, but faith mourns over the lost Nazarite, and will not be comforted. Her Nazarites were purer than snow. . . their visage is blacker than a coal.

The Philistines take Samson and bring him down to that very city of Gaza, where in folly he had disported himself. They bind him and bring him down there where he had gone willingly, and the place of his own willing bondage is the scene also of his unwilling bondage. Now he has to grind corn; the very strength which he has left is used simply to grind corn for the Philistines, instead of being God's freeman to judge his beloved people. What an awful warning, what an awful lesson it is for us tonight.

Samson first loses his strength; that is his own folly. Next, his eyes are put out by the Philistines, for formalism cannot endure open eyes. He has lost his discernment, and this he never regains. What a humiliation! What an irreparable loss. One has described this threefold degradation as the binding, blinding, grinding bondage of sin.

I have left room for the widest application of all this sorrowful lesson. It refers in the widest way to any form of dalliance with evil. But remembering what Philistinism isa carnal, worldly religion in the churchthe lesson is doubly solemn.

Nor let us forget that such lapses as that of Samson, translated into spiritual language, would not mean open and flagrant moral evil, but something far more insidious, and, in the world's eyes, eminently respectable. I have already hinted at this. There are religious systems, doctrines, practices that are clearly carnal, just as Judaism was, after the introduction of Christianity. Any going back to that is dalliance with the Philistines. I may say the Church of Christ is largely there today.

Apply it to any testimony. God raises up a Nazarite testimony like Philadelphia in the midst of a corrupt Philistine Thyatira and a dead formal Sardis. Is it not significant that after Philadelphia comes Laodicea, as though God would warn of the danger of lapsing back into something that is as bad or worse than what we have been rescued from? Oh, brethren, let us beware; let us watch and be sober.

I would remind you, too, that a testimony may judge Israel. Any movement that is of God acts upon the whole Church. Who today can measure the influence of that testimony, which, while separate and often despised, has shed the light of divine truth upon the masses of saints who are still in greater or less bondage to the Philistines? Let us not, in any measure, lose that place of dignity, by consorting with principles which would rob us of strength and eyesight, and turn God's freemen into grinders of corn for the world church.

We will have just a few words as to what measure of recovery God grants. There are two things to notice, one is as to Samson, and the other as to God. As to Samson, his hair began to grow again. Ah, he had learnt. He was learning over again that there was no strength in himself. The badge of dependence, the badge of separation and Nazariteship is coming again, but he has lost something that will never come again. He has lost his eyesight, he can never regain it, for God never restores fully that which has been once forfeited by one's own deliberate and oft-repeated fault. He may partially restore. The Church today should be a Nazarite for God. We see a certain measure of recovery from time to time in the Church's history, but do you see anything like getting back to apostolic, Pentecostal days? Ah, the Church has lost her eyes, even if she has regained a little of her outward dependence, and, like Samson, the measure of strength which she has is as nothing compared with that which God would have had for her, if she had never departed.

Some of us can speak of God's recovering mercy. Beloved, do you think lightly of the sin that led you away? Some of us can speak of how He has brought us back; has it not been with the loss of something that will answer to the loss of eyesight? Have we been brought back as fully and completely as if we had never departed? What about all that lost time, those lost talents that might have been so fully developed for Him? They have gone, they have not returned again, and so the very strength that one has recovered is accompanied by the loss of the eyesight, that is not recovered here again. We cannot as a church look the world in the face any more. We cannot take our stand in that way. We are, after all, only a poor recovered remnant in the mercy of God, with but limited vision.

But as to Samson, his dependence grows. He gets his weakness, and so he gets his strength. Then as to God's side of it. Ah, the Philistines always make mistakes; Satan overreaches himself always; the Philistines are now going to give credit to someone else. They are going to give credit to Dagon their god, and now it becomes, not a question between poor failing Samson and the Philistines, but a question between Dagon and God.

When God's ark was taken from Israel, so long as it was a question between Israel and the Philistines, God lets His ark go, for they were an apostate and sinful people, they had no right to the ark. When the ark is carried into the house of Dagon, and set before Dagon, as acknowledging Dagon's supremacy, then God must speak for Himself, as He always will, and Dagon falls. So, when they would make a great celebration for Dagon, and attribute to him the victory over Samson, they are simply defying God, casting in His face that which they had done, and, therefore, God must speak. He does speak; how effectually.

They gather in great multitudes to hold a feast to Dagon, and they want Samson to make sport for them. Oh how low has that man Samson sunk, to make sport for the Philistines! Beloved, I see a gifted man, a man with abilities of eloquence, and all that, a man with a knowledge of Scripture, I see himshall I say?toadying to a worldly spirit in the professing church. I see him using his eloquence, using his knowledge of Scripture, all these things, for what purpose? Oh, it does seem to me that it is either grinding corn for the Philistines, or it is making sport for them. Ah, brethren, many a man who looks a veritable Samson is really a poor, blinded slave of the Philistines.

May I just here say a few words which may be unpleasant to us all, but which are none the less true? In His great mercy God has recovered for us, in these last days, a mass of most precious truth. I will not specify, beyond reminding you that this truth has practically opened to us our Bibles. Things new and old have been brought out of its treasure house, to the edification and delight of the saints of God. The whole Church has, directly and indirectly, profited by this ministry of truth.

At the beginning the truth suffered the reproach of the position in connection with which God brought it out. But things have changed. The truth of the Lord's coming, the perfection of the believer's standing in Christ, the various judgments, the two naturesthese have becomeshall I say? popular . A literature has been scattered broadcast, and multitudes who know nothing of the ecclesiastical source from whence that literature has sprung, have profited by it. For this we can, and must unfeignedly, thank God.

But the effect of this truth, at the beginning, was to separate those who received it, from the world and the world church. It led persons to see that they were outside the system which, as a system, was Philistine; it was a carnal religion. I ask humblydoes the truth so separate now? And if it does not, is not God-given strength being used to grind corn for the Philistines?

You understand, I am not speaking of the Lord's own people, but of the systems which too often hold them in bondage. Have we not a responsibility here? We are not to obtrude ecclesiastical truth, nor are we to refuse to give the truth of God wherever there is an ear to hear; but surely we are not to forget that the truth, if properly received will emancipate from Philistine error. Let us remember this, and in our prayers seek God's delivering power for His own. Let us not be content to build up a worldly system by making the truth popular.

But then God is going to intervene, and He does it through this very man whose weakness is now so apparent. He has been crushed, he has been brought to the end of himself, and there, as he is showing acts of prowess before the Philistines, he says, as it were, I must get clear of this bondage. But there is only one way, and that is by getting clear of himself. Samson gets to the end of his bondage when he gets to the end of himself. He takes those pillars, for the Philistines have no Jachin or Boaz at their temple which will hold it up, as God's temple is upheld by the everlasting truth of He will establish, and In Him is strength. He takes hold of the two pillars of the Philistine house, and then, bowing himself, as if in acknowledgement of his own utter folly, he tears down the whole wretched fabric. He is crushed beneath the load which crushes his enemies too.

But, beloved, how solemn it is that a man's whole life has to be sacrificed. He is shipwrecked. He is saved as by fire. Everything is gone, and he only truly conquers the Philistines in his own death. That which slaughters them, slaughters him completely.

But to go back. We have at the very end the lesson emphasized over again for us, that if we are to be true victors, we must be victors over self, and it was when Samson had done with Samsonalas, it was at the end of his lifehe was done with the power of the enemy too. What is it that makes a happy deathbed for a Christian rather rare? Why is it such a remarkable thing? People speak of a happy deathbed as a remarkable thing. It ought to be an ordinary thing for God's people going home to Him. I believe that you will often find that a Christian never gets to the end of himself until he gets to his deathbed. Really, his whole life has been spent more or less in temporizing with the world, until he gets face to face with eternal issues, and there is an end of self as there is an end of life. His liberated soul flashes before us just as it goes up to God.

It ought to have been before. We ought to reach our deathbed long before that. We ought to reach the end of self long before that; surely so. The end of self should be reached at the cross, and there we should abide, always counting ourselves dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus. Let us reach the end, not in the providence of God, not under His chastening hand. Let us reach the end, not merely as Samson did, in crushing the life out of ourselves, but calmly and deliberately, applying the cross in faith to all that is of the old man, so that it may be not I that live, but Christ that liveth in me. Then for us the history would be inverted, as it were, and we would begin where Samson ended. We would begin with the death of self, and, as a result, we would end by true Nazariteship according to the purposes of God.

We have traced this poor man from the counsels of God as to what he ought to be, right through his history, and we find that it was failure to carry out the will of God in separation from the world, and now at the end we see the very reason for it all; he had not reached the end of himself. Do not let it be an earthquake that brings you to an end of yourself. Go to your room, go to your heart's own chamber, and there take the truth of the cross of Christ, and ask God by the Holy Ghost to make that a practical reality in your soul, that you may not learn by bitter experience, but that you may learn by the truth of God what it is to say, I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.



Lecture 11: The Development of Idolatry (Chaps. 17-18)

We have now concluded our examination of the history of the manifold deliverances which God effected for his people through the various instruments, the judges, who were raised up for that purpose. I think you will all agree that the last deliverer was that only in name. He was simply connected with the former judges, as showing the full outcome of a weakness which was manifest, alas, in the very beginning in those whom God raised up.

This weakness had its culmination in one who was renowned for his strength, and whose strength effected nothing actually in the practical deliverance of God's people, however much it might exhibit a power that was capable of doing wonders, had it only been applied in the right way. For, after all, in one sense it is possible to use God's power in a wrong way; and how often persons richly endowed by grace with gifts and abilities which even Christ has bestowed, misuse them either for their own glorification, or in a way that simply fritters them away without practically effecting the edification and upbuilding of the saints of God.

With Samson ends the tale of the deliverances. There is no more deliverance in the book. It has been a downward course, and ends with the captivity of the deliverer himself, instead of leading captivity captive, as Deborah called upon Barak to do in the early history of these deliverances. Early in the history we had that song, and, as I was saying at the time, it is the only song that you have throughout. The time of Deborah and Barak was, perhaps, the brightest of the entire period. There is no song now, but the sighing of the prisoner himself, whose life goes out with the last act, by which he would seek, not to deliver the saints of God, but to be avenged upon his enemies for his own loss of eyesight.

We come now to what reaches on from the seventeenth chapter to the close of the book, and find an entirely new style of treatment. It is no longer the story of Israel's declension and bondage in the hands of the enemy. Nor of their being brought very low, and then crying to God for help, and His raising up a helper, with the account of the deliverance wrought. We have no more of that, but we have from this on, in the two main parts, as you might say, the complete state of soul of the people manifested in their departure from God, which is the root, and in their violence to their fellow-men, the moral corruption, which is the result.

I do not want to dwell tonight upon the second part of this, the relation of the people to one another, except to call your attention to the fact that we would often invert things. We would often give the prominence to that which is, after all, but the fruit of a root far more subtle and deeply hidden than the fruit itself. Anyone who reads the awful narratives of the last of the book will blush for his fellow-men, to say nothing of blushing for the people who were called by the name of the Lord. But the violence and corruption in their dealings with one another spring from men's relation with God, and, therefore, you have most significantly the account of that first.

It is the history of idolatry introduced amongst the people as a regular system. You notice that the account here probably extends over the whole period of the judges. In fact, we know that the idolatry which was inaugurated, which we are going to look at tonight, really never ceased until the days of Samuel the prophet, just prior to the introduction of the kingship. It began early, in connection with the history of Dan. But what you have here is not something succeeding the time of Samson. The record is not chronologically, but morally arranged. We have before us a new subject, the internal history of the people, while the previous part gives us mainly the external history. We have been dwelling upon the bondages and deliverances from the outside; now we are to see the state of heart on the inside, which was just as bad as the worst bondage in which they were held by the enemy externally.

It is idolatry that we are to look at. But it is not such idolatry as the worship of Baalim and Ashtaroth, the gods of the nations amongst whom they had dwelt, or by whom they were surrounded, not heathen gods as you might say. We are to see gods of domestic manufacture, and the rise, progress, and development of idolatry as practised by a people who, in connection with the idolatry, preserved the names, and apparently the relationship of those who belonged to God.

It was not apostasy in the sense that it was the throwing overboard of everything that was called God. It was not the outside enemy coming in like a flood, and obliterating every trace of God and His authority. No, it was men bringing inIsraelites by race, men who would devoutly use the name of Jehovah, and devoutly call in to their aid His servicesa system of their own, and linking God's holy name with it.

I am sure that our knowledge of the word of God will show us that this kind of idolatry, while it is more subtle than the other, is much more dangerous, because of this very subtlety. The thing that can easily pass current among the professing people of God as being His will, is far more dangerous than that which has printed upon its very forehead the names of blasphemy, so that anyone can see that it is a distinct and absolute substitution for God.

That is what we are to look at here. And it comes at this closing part of the book, in order to show us, as it seems clearly, a state of soul which was going on unjudged amongst the people throughout the entire period, developing and making possible that more horrible looking apostasy, the outward idolatry. Here was an inward state of soul that made idolatry a possible thing, and which accounts for the power of the enemy.

Let us now look at this that we have characterized a little, and see how it starts. We are introduced to certain scenes which are very humiliating, and yet which ever mark idolatry. Here you have a son who has robbed his mother, and the mother who has cursed, without knowing whom, her son, cursed the robber who had taken the 1100 pieces of silver from her. He has robbed her of that and hid it, but under terror of the curse he is afraid to keep it any longer, and so restores it to his mother. She very piously, the one who had just cursed, could now bless, not because of repentance in her son, who had restored the stolen thing, but because she had got it back. She blesses him of Jehovah, and tells him that she had dedicated it to Jehovah for the strange use of making a graven image.

She does not give it all, for you never find any idolatry, any god that we set up with our own hands, costs us everything. No matter what the claim may be of that which we have undertaken to set up in the place of God, it never costs our whole fortune, you may rest assured of that.

Take the system of Rome itself. It lays its hand upon everything and claims it as its own, but I tell you, dear friends, that the devotees of Rome know quite well that they have only paid, as it were, two-elevenths of what is theirs. They give liberally, to be sure, of their money, liberally of their allegiance to the system; but, as a matter of fact, there is a vast lot of self-will that is allowed, a vast amount of pleasing of the flesh. The man who must go very early to mass is allowed to do just as he pleases the rest of the day, or the ones who for the forty days of Lent are compelled to be very religious, can be quite the reverse of that all the rest of the year.

So idolatry does not give its all to make its god, but gives only a fraction, and then, as though to make up for its lack of full devotedness, adds an energy of profession which is supposed to take its place. Rome claims everything for her false gods. She claims it all for them, in order that she may be allowed to do largely as she pleases.

It is very interesting to notice who this man was. He is a man of mount Ephraim, whose name was Micah. You would think a man with that nameif it meant anything, as names ought to mean, especially when they were given in faith and recognized as having significance among the people of Godwould be proof against every form of idolatry. Who is like Jehovah? would be enough to settle any question of idolatry.

The mother takes 200 pieces of the restored silver, and has a graven image made, after which she seems to disappear from the history, having thus proved how utterly disloyal she is, and how utterly in contrast with the faithful in Israel, even such as the mother of Samson. It is all with the evident approval of the son, who takes his molten, graven image, and sets it up in his house as an idol.

He is of the tribe of Ephraim. That demands attention too. The tabernacle was set up in Ephraim at Shiloh. It was the tribe which represents the activities of divine life as contrasted with Judah, which stands for the truths of divine life. Divine truth must be at the base of all divine worship, and so you will find that in Israel things never settled to their true centre until, as we have it in the Psalms, God forsook Shiloh, forsook the tribe of Ephraim, and chose mount Zion, which He loved, saying, This is My rest, here will I dwell forever, for I have desired it.

Judah stands for divine truth and the praise, or worship, which flows from a heart illumined and filled by the truth. Ephraim, which means fruitfulness, stands for that walk and activity of the divine life which is the result of an apprehension of the truth. You find it practically illustrated in Mary and Martha. You have in Mary that which answers to Judah. She is sitting at the Lord's feet hearing His word. She is in the place in that way of receiving the truth from the Lord, and as there in true subjection to Him she learns the Lord's mind for her. Surely all His people are to learn it in the same way. Martha represents what is assuredly right and proper in its placeservicebut then service must always spring from communion, or it will only envy that communion. Ephraim will envy Judah. How many a heart is filled with Martha-like envy simply because it is not in the place of true subjection, the true learner. Judah has been subordinated to Ephraim. Ephraim has been made the ruler, and, as a result, there is this discontent, and Christ is not supreme in the soul.

It is because of this that you have the possibility of idolatry. It is out of many a fruitful life of activity that idolatry springs. You have there what is characteristic of Ephraim, a great deal of zeal, a great deal of doing what is very right and proper in itself. Everything seems to be right and proper except one thing, that is the supremacy of God's truth commanding the soul.

In the day in which we are living how common is this putting of Ephraim over Judah, putting our Christian activity, our worknot always Christian work, but philanthropy and all that, drawing, however, further and further away from God, and, as a result, exalting man before faith and the truth of God.

Notice how that leads right up to idolatry. Here is service; blessed and true service, which, of course, is occupied with the objects of its service, men, human need. That activity of service goes on. It may be even in the gospel; it may be even presenting truth to God's people. If in presenting truth it is simply the saints who are before us, that will most assuredly lead to idolatry; that is all. If one is engaged in preaching the gospel, and is so full of his work that it displaces in his soul the supreme claims of the word of God, that leads up to idolatry.

And so you find it is a man of mount Ephraima man of the tribe that suggests fruit and service and workwho is the introducer of idolatry amongst the people of God. Is not that suggestive? And when you remember also how the tribe of Ephraim, as we have been seeing in the history of Gideon and that of Jephthah, was constantly jealous, constantly filled with pride of its service, and with the thought of its own greatness, you see how idolatry goes along with pride in a very striking way.

I think we have now the materials which will enable us to answer the question, What then is the idolatry that we have before us here? If it is not the absolute setting up of a false god in the place of the true; if it is not serving Baal and Ashtaroth, what is it then? It is simply, as to its root, allowing the activities of divine life in the soul to alienate one from the truth of God, and thus service brings in pride, pride brings in self-will, and self-will in its turn fashions its god to answer to its own desires, instead of fashioning itself to answer to the desire of God.

The root thought of all idolatry is the same, and I might say in passing, that this idolatry in Israel is really idolatry in the human race. Only for that we would go further back. But the root of all idolatry is self-will, it is making a god of our own. It is starting with self and fashioning a god, not necessarily out of silver, nor necessarily with our hands. In this enlightened nineteenth century you would say there is very little danger of people fashioning gods with their hands. Ah, but there is a tool more cunning and skilful than the hands, and that is the intellect of man, and wherever self is substituted for the will of God, you will find the activity of the human mind fashioning a god to please itself, and it does it in the name of the Lord, in the name of the true God.

Look about us for instance today. Look at all the fashionings of man's hands as you see them everywhere. Surely you can see the cunning device of the graver with an instrument, and the molten image; but is it not all under the Name that is familiar to us? Cannot the name of Jehovah be written upon it all, as you might say, and is it not written upon it all? Do you not find that as in Aaron's day the people are told, tomorrow is a feast unto Jehovah. When they gathered they found the calf which man had made, their own image. Are not men today really worshipping Christ after their own fashioning, worshipping a god which they themselves have manufactured, out of their own thoughts, calling it by the name of the living God? Now the root of it allnot that I would say a single word against true Christian activitybut the root of it among professed Christians is substitution of Christian activity for Christian faith. Faith must ever be at the foundation, and if there is not a Christian faith at the foundation, there is bound to be an idol of some kind, no matter how great the activity may be, apparently a fruitful activity for God.

The details of the development are very simple. In the fifth verse we find that he has an image, so he must have a house to put his image in. Then, as he has a house, there must also be an ephod, or priestly garment, and teraphim, minor images, as you might say, connected with it; and over all these there must be a priest to preside. Micah appoints one of his own sons for priest, but he soon finds something better than a priest of his own manufacture, for he gets one who is partly at least a priest of God.

Here comes in the Levite; and this is very instructive. The Levite comes, a young man of Bethlehem-Judah, of the family of Judah. We have just been seeing that Judah should always be pre-eminent. Here is a man who leaves the place that answers to faith in divine truth, and comes, in all the restlessness of discontent, seeking for something better for himself. As you see in Elimelech, one leaving Bethlehem, the house of bread, because he wanted food; so you have the same thing here, a man leaving the house of bread in order to better his condition. How could one better his condition more than by being in the house of plenty? And yet unbelief always acts in that way. The restless discontent will always take one away from blessing, and surely bring him into a lower place than even he imagined he occupied before.

This young man goes unto mount Ephraim, and in reply to Micah's question as to himself, says he is hunting for a place, he is seeking for occupation. Micah says, I have occupation for you, Dwell with me, and be unto me a father and a priest, and I will give thee ten shekels of silver by the year, and a suit of apparel, and thy victuals. And the Levite was content to dwell with the man and the young man was unto him as one of his sons, and Micah consecrated the Levite, and the young man became his priest. It seems an easy thing to do; a man who has made a god can surely consecrate a priest to take care of the god. Micah concludes the whole matter with the pious remark, Now know I that Jehovah will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to me for priest.

It is almost ridiculous, dear brethren; and as you dwell on it, you can almost see the whole thing, and, alas, you can apply it easily to what we have all about us today. Here is this restless Levite who is going to better himself, and here is a place. It is a very good one. He is only a Levite. Doubtless in his restlessness he had often wished himself on a higher plane, wished, perhaps, that he was a priest, one who had not merely the right to minister about divine things, but the right also of access, to stand between God and His people, thus being a channel of communication. Here is the opportunity. He is invited by Micah to come into his house, and be to him a father and a priest. He is to assume charge of all his religious interests, so that Micah will be entirely free from any care and difficulty as to these, because he will hand them all over to another one, who will take entire charge of them. And in order that he may be without needless anxiety as to his support, he is promised definitely a stipulated salary, and it is by the year, so that he is provided for during a long continued time. He can look on for a year; he is provided a salary and his clothing, and his board is included.

Why, brethren, was it written as foreseeing what is so much practised all about us today? Is it not just that, a Levite coming from the place where he belongs, in restlessness, seeking for something to better his own condition? Is it not the minister striving to be something more than the minister, leaving alas the house of bread, both spiritual and temporal? Is it not the minister wanting to take the place of the priesthood, and, on the other hand, a people quite willing and desirous that he should take that place? For you know the heart of man does not like to be in close contact with God; it likes very well to have somebody come in between him and God. That is how priesthood originates, and it is very nice to have a man, for instance, who will attend to the more sacred and delicate parts of religion, and leave you with a satisfied conscience just to go on as you please. Yes, it is of deep importance that we should see to what this applies.

True ministry of the Word is a blessed thing. But let us remember, as we saw in Gideon's history, that there are only two classes of priests; one class has but one solitary figure in it, the High Priest. No one dare usurp His place. The other class of priesthood has in it all God's people. Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood. The two classes are Christ alone, and all His people. But the man-made priesthood will ever take ministry, that which should be for service, and turn it to priesthood. In the old days, the Levite prepared the sacrifice in order that the priest might offer it to God, so all true ministry is simply to prepare the materials of divine truth for the people of God, in order that they may present them as the sacrifice of their hearts.

Any ministry that dares to usurp the place of the people of God as priests is simply usurping the place of the Holy Ghost in their hearts. Any kind of service that intrudes into the sacred sanctuary of the heart of the believer, and tries there to dictate as to its worship, is the Levite becoming a priest. And you will find that wherever there is a man-made priest, there is a man-made god back of that. What do I mean by that? I mean, dear brethren, that the human mind has been at work, fashioning a god after its own thoughts. It takes the name of Christ, it takes certain of the truths of Christ, His teaching, everything of that kind; but out of these materialssignificantly it was silver out of which this idol was madeit fashions that which is not really Christ.

I ask you, as you look at the ministry of what is called Christ today amongst the people of God, do you find it, dear brethren, the Christ of God, or is it the Christ of man? Is it a Christ whose character has been formed by man's thoughts, instead of Him who is presented to us by the Spirit of God in His word? Have we not, after all, in Christendom today a Christ who answers to the thoughts of men? And it is necessarily a consequence of this, that where there is a human priesthood, there must be a human object for that priesthood, to make known for worship.

The god who is known today, or whom men profess to know, the god who is taught and who is spoken of today, what is he after all? Is he not a man? Look at his attributes; has he not been shorn of them? Surely he has. Is the god whom men hear of today one of almighty power? If men will tell out the thoughts of their hearts, they believe the power is in themselves. Is he a god of sovereign will? Men when they tell out the thoughts of their hearts say that they are creatures of their own will, that they are free moral agents, as they love to say, and that everything depends upon man. Is he a god of absolute holiness? Again you will find that men have fashioned him, making his attribute of holiness to answer to their thoughts, and not according to what He has revealed in His holy Word. Is he a god of righteousness? One would be hooted out of the pulpit today, in many places, that would dare to proclaim the inflexible righteousness and judgment of a God of almighty power.

That explains, dear brethren, why you hear nothing of the preaching of responsibility, of men having to answer to God at the great judgment when they shall receive for the deeds done in the body eternal judgment, if they are sinners unsaved. That is why you hear nothing of future punishment, and why that awful word hell has been erased from the preachers' vocabulary. That is why you have God presented in this low, weak, humble way, a God that is despised by man, just as the heathen laugh at their own gods, and think that they can deceive them. How it is all rebuked in the book of Psalms, where God, as He speaks to those who are attempting to do this, says, Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself.

So man has made his god, and he must make his priest to help him worship his god, and in doing so he has opened the door for all this idolatry which goes by a Christian name. And then he is happy about it. He thinks that the Lord's work is prospering; he thinks that the Lord will surely bless him now, as he has a priest and a house, an ephod and an image which he calls his god. Surely there is nothing lacking, and he is completely satisfied at the state of things.

A state like that cannot stand still. It must either be judged, or it will spread. We have been looking at it in connection with a single individual. We will next see how it begins to spread, until it takes in a whole tribe, and that the tribe of Dan. Just as Judah stands for the truth, the basis of all government amongst the people of God, so Dan stands for the execution of government. Dan means judge, and he stands for that in the prophecy of Jacob. Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. Most significantly, too, the patriarch foretells the apostasy, of which we are seeing the beginning here.

It is significant that the words all their, in connection with inheritance, are in italics; they are not in the original. It really says, [Their] inheritance had not fallen to them. Practically they had not inherited a place. Here is a people without a portion. As a matter of fact, the tribe of Dan had not taken their inheritance. The Philistines occupied a large portion of it on one side, and they were not able, as we saw, to expel the Amorites, so they were driven up into the mountains, and cramped so closely that they had no enjoyment of their inheritance.

There is a suited opportunity for idolatry to come in. The people of God who are not satisfied with the full enjoyment of their own inheritance surely are just ready for the enemy to come in and lead them astray. It is an unfilled heart, a heart that has failed to enter upon its own portion, which is open to these assaults. Just as we were seeing what was characteristic of the whole nation of Israel; it failed to enter upon possession of all that was its own; so here; and the heart that is unfilled with what is its own, that is not in the enjoyment of that, is ready for the enemy to come in and lead it into idolatry. The Danites become restless, just as the Levite did, and like a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place.

There is quite a long narrative here as to how they go to spy out another portion for themselves. They go up into the northern part of the land, and the north is always significant as suggestive of turning the back on the Lord. It is the hidden part, the part where, you remember, Jabin was supreme, at Hazor. They go up into the northern part of the land, and there they spy out a place for themselves amongst a people who had not yet been disturbed.

Of course, one would not say a single word against their conquering territory that really belonged to them, but the point is, that their activity was not in connection with what God had given them. If their activity had been directed against the Philistines; if they had been content to widen out the boundary lines that God himself had given to them, surely that would have been faith. But here, not able to enter upon the enjoyment of what God has actually given them, they go elsewhere to seek an easier place than that held by the redoubtable Philistines. An easier place for themselves; and, dear brethren, how often do God's people slip into an easier place, and desire, as it were, to settle down into a pleasanter portion than the rugged inheritance which He has given them. Though it be a rugged inheritance, yet it yields the choicest fruit.

But is it not a common thing in our own history to choose what costs us least, and to try to meet the enemies which, after all, are secure and at ease, and easily overthrown, rather than those who are stronger and mightier than ourselves, and whose power we fear, and who, if we are not really in communion with God, will overthrow us? So Dan sends off elsewhere to have a portion rather than in the place that God had marked out for him.

The very things that you fear, that hamper you where you are, that are next to you, and that hinder you in the enjoyment of what is distinctly your own, those are the things that you are to meet and overcome. We see a great deal in the history of the Church of going off into foreign fields. Surely one would not say a single word against going off into the foreign field to carry the gospel of Christ everywhere. But, beloved brethren, the first thing, the absolutely essential thing, is for the people of God to have an activity of soul in the enjoyment of what is really their own here.

And so that hard thing that lies at your very door, that you have looked at and feared, and yet which has been like a great barrier between you and what was your true enjoyment and privilege, that is the thing for you to conquer, otherwise you will be like Dan, turning away from your proper sphere and further opening your doors to taking lower ground as to God, and all His things. Is not that true? Is not that a real and important thing for us to notice, that it is just this spirit of compromise and seeking an easier path that opens the way to dishonour, and to disobey our blessed God?

And so as these spies go, they recognize the voice of this Levite in the house of Micah. He is a priest, and they ask guidance on the basis of what he has established. They ask direction from one who has himself departed from the path which God had called him to. They ask guidance, as it were, of a god of man's own fashioning, a god whose attributes have been clipped; whose wisdom, holiness and righteousness, have been shorn from him, as it were, and the image of man's thought, something that will not be too hard for man to obey and follow, set up in its place.

Of course they get the very direction they want. They did just as people do today; they will go and enquire of the god of their own thought. Ah, brethren, when you ask God's guidance, is it asking of an idol, or is it asking of the living God? The living God has His will expressed in His Word. How often you find people saying, the Lord led me thus and so. The Lord laid it on my heart to do this, and that, meaning by that that they had an impression to do this and that. Was that impression of God, dear brethren?

God does not act by providence merely, and certainly does not guide His people by impressions, unsupported by His word. You might say the Lord led me to do this or that, but if it has not been His holy word that has led you, if it has not been His Holy Spirit that has led you, through that Word, beware lest it be only your own inclination that is leading you, or worse, that an enemy has put a certain thought into your mind, and arranged the circumstances, it may be, so as to make them seem providential. There is a vast amount of what is called guidance, and the leading of the Lord, that is enquiring at the house of Micah of a Levite who is taking the place of priest, and of an image which is representing your idol, or mine, instead of the living and true God.

Then they go and spy out the land, and everything, as I say, seems to answer to their expectations. Here is a nice, easily-conquered settlement for them to take. They can do all the work easily, and so they go back to Dan and call the tribe together, a good number of them, and start out on their expedition. Here again we have things which are so familiar to us, and so striking as I say almost to raise a sad smile, except that it is too sad to smile at. You see here a company of people desiring the services of a man who has been serving in a more retired sphere. He has been the priest of one family. Is it not better, these men argue: Here we offer you a greater field of usefulness. We call you to another charge. It is not now a small insignificant charge, one family, but we ask if you will not move your whole system of things and take charge of a tribe. Is it not better, instead of your little circle of influence, to include a whole tribe of Israel?

So the Levite, under the expectation of such advancement, is quite glad, and considers it now a distinct leading of the Lord, that he should enter upon this larger field of usefulness. In other words, he gets a call to a place of more service, of wider usefulness, and he thinks he is led to go. I don't want you to understand me, of course, as saying a single word against anything like true, godly, devoted service to Christ by whatever name it may be called. I am speaking of that state of things which makes it possible for a man to intrude himself into the priesthood, and to usurp amongst the people of God to their own hurt, and to God's dishonour, a place which Christ alone can occupy. For that we must have absolute contempt and abhorrence, and if we see it today, and wherever we see it, beloved, let us stigmatize it as it deserves. If the Lord can say of the system of clerisy, which thing I hate, let us hate it with perfect hatred, which abhors that which intrudes self into the things of Christ, and which thus displaces the Holy Spirit.

And so, after the ineffectual resistance of Micah, who finds that the tribe is stronger than he, and that the inducements are stronger than he can hold out, the Levite goes into his larger field with great gladness and moves his idolatry, his image, and his ephod and all the paraphernalia which he had, up into Dan. There, until the captivity of the land (significant words), until God comes in in judgment, and the ark is taken away from Shiloh, this subtle form of idolatry prevails in the tribe of Dan. It prevails there, and leavens the whole nation and makes possible I doubt not, that deeper form of idolatry, which is simply the outgrowth of that, the two calves which Jeroboam the son of Nebat set up; one in the place near which the idolatry originated, in Ephraim, and the other in the place where it culminated, in Dan.

Thus you find absolute idolatry marking all of apostate Israel in the days of the separation under Jeroboam the son of Nebat. How a thing spreads. And, beloved, as you look at it today, and see how the system of clerisy has leavened the whole house of Christendom, when you think how the servants of Christ (who should have been that) have been pushed into the place of priestly sanctity, I do not think we have spoken too strongly about this. If there is anything we should resist and abhor with all the energy of our souls, it is that which thus contradicts the presence of the Holy Ghost in every believer, contradicts the absolute and sole priesthood of Christ on high, and the precious fact that every believer has access into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.

Let us abhor it, and by whatever name it may be calledand let me tell you that idols are not always named; it is easy for us to have idolatry, easy for us to have a class priesthood without knowing itlet us cast it from us. It is spiritual sloth that makes class priesthood possible. It is spiritual sloth of soul which relegates to greater activity of faith, even where it is faith, our responsibility for worship and praise and thanksgiving, that makes possible a class priesthood, and that in its turn makes possible the idolatry which we see here.

This idolatry which we have here is simply the inside view of what you see outwardly in the apostasy of the whole people, brought under the iron heel of the enemies of God without. Is it not solemn, and is not this in fitting accord with all that we have seen before of their helplessness in the face of the enemy, because of their state of soul as manifested here?

Just at the close we are told who this man is (chap. 18:30). He is the son of (as the Revised Version also renders it) Gershom, the son of Moses, and he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land. This Levite, who took the place of priest in connection with idolatry, was a descendant of no other than Moses himself, the great lawgiver of Israel. What a thought, beloved! Ah, is it not true, is it not written upon every verse that we have read, Ye must be born again? There is no such thing as spiritual descent. There is no such thing as inheriting spiritual traits; and the child of Moses may become the leader in an apostasy, just as much as an enemy of God, as an uncircumcised heathen king.

How solemn the thought that sons of those who have been nearest to God in point of privilege, in point of service, those who have been used of Godif they have not the same faith, may really use the spirituality of their forefathers as an excuse for their own apostasy and idolatry. Do we not see it sometimes today in sects and parties who can look back upon the spirituality of those who founded the sects? Upon the spirituality of men who really loved Christ, and, according to their lights, were faithful to Christ? Do we not find people making capital of that kind of thing, and really laying claim to spiritual excellence because their fathers were near to God?

Let us remember, one precious fact settles for us all such questions, the presence of the Holy Ghost in the midst of the people of God. We do not have to look back to our fathers, thank God. We do not have to look back to the days of Luther, or of Wesley, or even of Paul in one sense. We have to remember that the same Spirit who energised every servant of Christ who has been faithful to Him in days gone by, that same Spirit who spoke through Paul, dwells in the Church of Christ today, and in every believer, and therefore that every believer is an instrument for the Spirit of God to use, if he will yield himself up to Him.

It is that blessed Spirit who opens to our souls the reality of what God is, and thus keeps us from idolatry; who reveals to us the beauties and glories of our true Priest, even Christ, and thus keeps us from any thought of a human priesthood. So that if the people of God would only realize the presence of the Spirit of God as dwelling amongst them, they would find a cure for this tendency to clericalism, which is also connected with the idolatry that we have been tracing out.

Let us remember the words of that apostle who so fully spoke of divine love, and divine truth, the Apostle John, who, at the close of his epistle, an epistle that was devoted to unfolding the realities of the divine life to the believer, said, Little children keep yourselves from idols.

Let us beware, beloved, let us be jealous of having any thoughts of God that He has not given to us. Let us beware of clipping anything away from the Spirit's revelation of what our Blessed God is in His Holy Word, and the Spirit's revelation of what our Blessed Christ, our great High Priest is, and we shall be free from idolatry.

Though we may rejoice in our possessions in Mount Ephraim, we would not be connected with the discontent that ever seeks something else; and we will delight too in our portion in Judah, and praise will flow forth. Thus God and Christ will be enthroned practically in our hearts and amongst His people. These dangers that He points out to us can be avoided even in our day. Even now, even amongst a feeble remnant of the saints, these dangers, so pressing everywhere, can be avoided if faith takes God's provision for us.

I have thus sought to trace the lesson marked for us in these two chapters. Part of it has been before us at another time (See end of lecture 2 Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar), but the Spirit of God has enlarged upon it here, and we cannot ignore the lesson. May it be written on our hearts.



Lecture 12: Corruption and Ineffectual Government (Chaps. 19-21)

You remember, we saw that the concluding portion of the book, after the record of Samson's life, is not a chronological sequence to what has occurred before, but that it is in moral sequence. This is particularly true with what is now before us. It goes back to the early days of Israel's occupation of the land, to the time of Phinehas the priest, who came into the land with Joshua. The narrative is in moral order, and is intended to show us the source of all the corruption, that which made all the evil that we have been dwelling upon a possibility. The apostasy of Dan came first in this moral order, and showed us that which is the root of all declension, whether it be moral or spiritual. That which is at the root of it all is idolatry, the substitution of anything for the full revelation of what Christ is.

Idolatry always intrudes a priest between the soul and God in some form or other, and, as we dwelt upon it, I trust we saw in some measure at least that we ourselves are not without our dangers in this regard. For, after all, that is the point we want to get at, not merely to see the scope of the book, and its general application, and to speak, perhaps, in terms of somewhat harsh criticism of others who may not have so much light; but what we want to hear is the voice of God for ourselves, that our own consciences may be awakened to the dangers which confront us in every step of our life, for we may be assured there are such dangers.

Now we have had the root, and here we see the fruit, these two brought together. God brings them together in such a way that we cannot fail to see how they are connected. He brings them together with a divine purpose, to strike horror into our souls at the character of the evil, in order that we may judge the terrible bitter root that produces evil of that kind.

I will not read these chapters. I could not read them before you; they are chapters which give us the record unspeakably corrupt, of the possibilities of the heart of man, and of the life of man. Chapters, dear brethren, which as we read I am sure, if we are to be properly exercised by them, will make us say, Is it possible that this is a picture of my heart? That is the point; it is not a question of what was done in Israel, in the days when there was no king, but it is the possibilities of the heart of man disclosed; for, as our blessed Lord has told us, all these things flow from the heart; Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, and everything that defiles the man.

To go deeper yet, it is the heart that is alienated from God that produces these things; and, therefore, the idolatry that we have been looking upon is the root which produces this awful corruption. It is the ignoring of God's claims upon us that makes possible the ignoring of man's claims as well. The claims of what is called morality, common decency and honour, and everything else, all go when God is set aside.

That is just what the first chapter of the epistle to the Romans puts before us. You have there a catalogue of crime which brings the tinge of shame to the cheek even to read it, and it is given, not as some exceptional result of man's sin, but as the legitimate fruit of his departure from God. It is given in a way that includes every unsaved person, Forasmuch as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge. Who that is unreconciled to Him, does like to retain God in his knowledge? Not one. What then is the fruit of it? He gives them over to evil like that which brought the judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah; He gives them over to evil which cannot even be spoken of, so horribly corrupt is it. Thus it is as though the Spirit of God put the root and the fruit side by side, and said to men, Cut loose from God, and you give rein to every form of evil that the flesh is capable of.

What a humbling lesson, dear brethren; and let us remember, as we think of this sin that is before us tonight, that it is a sin which comes from the corrupt heart which you and I had by nature, and still have. That is what Israel did not remember, and that, I believe, is one of the reasons why we have the narrative given here.

The evil is of such a glaring character, so unspeakably atrocious, that the nation itself is shocked, shocked out of measure, and forgets that it had its lessons to learn in connection with it. I am sure the lesson would be lost upon us, too, if, like Israel, we simply have our minds occupied by a horrible form of wickedness, and fail to remember the capabilities of the same wickedness in our own hearts. When we think of a holy God, who measures things by the germ, by their possibilities, not by their actual accomplishment; when we remember our blessed Lord, who said, for instance, that he that looketh committeth the same sin that the Pharisees were ready to stone one for; when we remember that God looks at the heart as much as He does at the outward life, dear brethren, the possibility of thinking evil, the possibility of having evil thoughts chase themselves through our minds, is it as unendurable to us as it ought to be? The soul that is in the presence of God hates the thought of sin as much as it hates the deed of sin. Beloved, ye that fear the Lord, hate evil, His word says, and when there is a true judgment of sin it always looks at the root of it in the heart, just as much as it does at the fruit in the life.

Now, with that before us, we need not go into the wretched, awful details; for is it not a humbling thing to think that you and I carry about with us that which, unchecked by divine grace and divine holiness, could produce the same evil? You remember the old Christian who used to point to drunkards or criminals as they passed by, and say, There goes myself but for the grace of God. Could you say that this is a record of yourself but for the grace of God, and mean it? actually mean that these things are the things that we might naturally expect to be given up to, unless God, in His sovereign almighty grace, had interposed? I tell you, dear brethren, it would make the heart leap with praise and with joy as we thought of the grace that had snatched us from a corruption which is worse than the punishment for that corruption could possibly be.

Thanks be to God for deliverance from the bondage to sin, as well as deliverance from wrath against sin. Thank Him, brethren, because the wrath against sin is the only mercy that an unbelieving world will allow God to give them. It is the best that they will take; for it is better for them to have His wrath than it is to have the sin that brings the wrath. It is better to be shut up in the prison house, where evil is at least restrained, than to run rampant through a world free to sin, free to live on, the slaves of our own awful lusts.

Let us look a little quietly at these things. You have in these three chapters three points. The first is the evil, the second is the dealing with the evil, and the third is the result of that dealing with the evil.

The evil starts just where we might expect, as we have been seeing, from that loose state that characterized the whole people. Here is a Levite, just as we had a Levite before. You remember that God distributed the Levites amongst the twelve tribes, that they might serve as links to hold the people in a common spiritual life, to hold them in a common allegiance to God, to His house and His service. How completely they failed to do it we have already seen in the Levite of the previous chapter, who was the minister of idolatry, leading a whole tribe, as you might say, away from God in idolatry and disregard of Him.

Here you see a Levite, instead of being engaged in the blessed work of knitting and holding the people together, working disintegration. At least, in a very suggestive way, he is one who, instead of being a minister to others, was himself being ministered to, his own corrupt desires having control of him. Trace the whole history, and you find what marks it is self-indulgence and the ungirded loins. All the way through, a careless, unguarded state of soul makes possible the occasion which gives rise to the awful crime.

His concubine leaves him, returning to her father's house. He goes to get her, and gives himself up to carousal, and passes day after day in eating and drinking. Then, as the evening shades begin to fall, he leaves suddenly, as by caprice, to return now to his place again, his place of service presumably. In spite of all the requests of the father-in-law to remain another day, he goes off, the shades already falling. Surely evening it was indeed, for her, for him, and for the nation too. Evening was closing in.

He comes to Jebus. Why is it not Jerusalem, a city of Israel, in possession of God's people? Benjamin had failed. It was a Benjamite city. He had failed, as we saw in the early part of the book, to take possession of it, and yet Jerusalem was to be the very centre from which all government was to radiate. And Benjamin was typically the tribe that afterwards was to represent Christ in His kingly rule and government over the people, and over the nations too. He is closely connected in that way with the government. Government has failed, Benjamin speaking of that; Christ's authority has failed to be owned, and in the place where Benjamin should have been supreme, you have the wretched Gentile in control. The Jebusites, tramplers down, were there trampling down everything of God and man; but, alas, the Jebusites were in Benjamin, too, and we find a worse trampling down on their part, than even in this city.

They go on to Gibeah, and there they find, after asking for it, a welcome in an Ephraimite's house, and there occurs the awful crime like that of Sodom and Gomorrah. After the awful crime is committed, the Levite takes the most dreadful way of making it known to the whole nation, cutting in pieces the body of the poor wretched woman and sending it round, one part to each of the tribes. You see the whole nation shocked, as it were, suddenly shocked into a horror against this dreadful crime that had been committed in their midst.

I want you to notice what has awakened them. It has been the commission of evil that has awakened them, and they gather together as one man, for what purpose? To take vengeance upon the evil. It is evil that has awakened; it is evil that brings them together; it is the execution of judgment upon evil that nerves their arm and unites their hearts. Ah, beloved, evil will never serve as a tie to hold the people of God together. Have you ever seen in some much more quiet way, people drawn together by occupation with evil? It will draw together for the time being; you may have your indignation meetings over evil, but having indignation meetings over evil is not the way that God would draw His people together. We were singing at the beginning:

Thou Holy One and True,

It is the Holy One and True who draws His people together.

Our hearts in Thee confide

And in the circle of Thy love

As brethren, we abide.

It is Christ, the Holy One and True, who attracts us by His love, and who holds us within the circle of His love, and that makes possible the exercise of all care and love as brethren together.

Now that is the first great lesson, I believe, that we are to learn from the next chapter. The people are brought together and held together by only this one thing. Evil has been committed, and until that evil is judged, not a man of them will go to his home. Did you ever read of any gathering together at Shiloh to keep the feast of the Passover like that? Do you read of the Feast of Tabernacles drawing the whole nation together with joy? Ah, beloved, God had been tacitly inviting them year after year to come up and keep the feast, to come up and enjoy the holy fellowship of His things. But they had preferred to dwell amongst the heathen; they had preferred to settle down with their enemies by their side, teaching them their ways, and all that. But it is only when they are shocked out of their lethargy by this unspeakable corruption, that they flow together, drawn, not by grace, not by the attractiveness of love and goodness, and the fullness of blessing, such as you have described in the basket of first fruits in the twenty-sixth chapter of Deuteronomy. None of these things draw them together, but an evil has been committed, and they are galvanized for the time being into wonderful faithfulness to God.

Now I want you to notice something, dear brethren; there is not a single comment upon the deed that was done. It needs no comment. God does not need to characterize it. Even the natural man revolts from the awful details that we have. There is no need to stigmatize it as unspeakably wicked, horribly corrupt. But you do find that what the Spirit of God dwells upon is the state of soul amongst the rest of the people that rendered them utterly incapable of executing divine discipline upon the wrongdoers.

Let us look at it a little in detail. An evil has been committed in Gibeah of Benjamin, one of the cities belonging to that tribe. There was provision in the book of Deuteronomy for tracing an evil to its source, and for dealing with it. Everything was to be done deliberately and quietly, after due meditation, and above all, in the presence of God. It was to be done in the spirit of subjection to Himself. These people take a short cut. They have not been used to the presence of God, they have not been accustomed to dwelling in that holy Presence. And now they think the matter is simple enough. They send a curt message to Benjamin, Deliver over these men of Belial, and we will deal with them.

It is a curt and short message, and it has the effect that you would expect. It arouses Benjamin against his brethren. The whole tribe is summoned before Israel; it is made a matter of tribal pride, and Benjamin is arrayed against all Israel. The men of Belial are done for, they are out of the account. You hear no more of the wickedness done. Do you not think there must have been as much conscience in Benjamin as there was in all the other tribes? Do you not think that if the matter had been dealt with in the fear of God, and in dependence upon Him, that Benjamin would have been as ready to purge himself from the awful shame as the rest of Israel was ready? But ah, this sudden bluntness, this harshness, above all this covert pride, which would say, Such an evil could not take place in Issachar; Ephraim would not have such a state of things in her midst; but Benjamin allows it. Ah, it is the stirring up of all the worst passions in the human heart, of pride, and at once Benjamin forgets entirely the corruption, and says, We will stand out in the face of all Israel, and we will not allow ourselves to be trampled upon.

Well, they were wrong surely. We quite admit at once they were grievously wrong. They had no right to array themselves in this way; they ought to have united with their brethren in execration of this horrible thing. But then the steps that were taken to deal with the matter at once, and the self-righteous curtness, left out the wrong-doers from their mind. It was not a question of dealing with them, and so it became a question of dealing at once with Benjamin herself. Dealing in that way, stirring up the pride and rebellion of the natural heart, is the surest way to produce the very same fruits spiritually, as you have here literally. There is such a thing as taking people by the throat, and trying to shake the evil out of them. There is such a thing as, pounding out a man's sin, sin that he may be connected with, not personally, but responsibly, in such a way that you touch his pride, and bring out in him the antagonism of his nature, rather than show him the evil which he should judge and abhor. Let us learn that lesson. Let us not be as Israel, just simply trying to stir up opposition, instead of leading people in the fear of God to judge evil with which they are responsibly associated. I need not apply this; I am sure the application is simple enough, and in our own minds we will very easily make application of it to things that we have seen, alas, too often amongst the Lord's saints.

Well, all Israel come together; they are united at last, as I said. What grace has not effected, judgment seems to do, or the desire for it. You will notice one thing. These people were thirsty for blood. That is what marks them. I do not see any horror at the sin. I do not see in it a spirit crushed at the possibility of such evil occurring in Israel. As a matter of fact, if they were going to hold Benjamin so rigorously to his responsibility, why could they not do it for the whole nation? If they could say, for instance, that it is an awful thing that such evil is possible in Benjamin, why not say it is an awful thing that such evil is possible in Israel, too? Ah, there was the snare. It was pride and self-righteousness in their own heart.

Let us look for a moment at the fifth of first Corinthians, where you have the New Testament counterpart of this evil, to a certain extent. There is moral corruption of a degrading character, as the apostle tells us, such as was not even named among the Gentiles. What was the state of the saints? The second verse shows us. Ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned that he that hath done this deed among you be taken away from among you. They are puffed up, not over the sin, but doubtless puffed up that they had not committed the thing, puffed up that they could thank God that they were not like this one who had fallen into it. In other words, instead of being crushed and broken, on their faces before God, crying to Him, confessing to Him their own moral state that had made such an evil possible, they are puffed up, and go on with their gifts and everything of that kind, and in that way having no power to deal with the evil.

You say, Israel over in Judges was better than that. They did, at least, endeavour to deal with the evil, they did not dally with it a moment. Ah, but they were puffed up about their position in regard to it; they would show their zeal for the Lord, and as they gather together there is a thirst for blood, rather than a zeal for the Lord's honour, that marks them.

Well, God let's them alone; He does not check that which was so manifest, He does not hinder that, and they are going to bring God into it; but you notice the first question they ask is not even, Shall we go up: but the first thing they ask is, Who shall go up first? They have decided that they will go up against Benjamin, they were going to wreak vengeance upon the whole tribe, and the only thing they want the Lord to tell them is who shall go up first. He takes them at their word, and lets Judah go first. There were some 26,000 Benjamite warriors, and some 400,000 Israelite warriors, and you know that Benjamin almost, man for man, killed his own number, killed 22,000 warriors out of Israel!

Is God on the side of sin? Is He on the side of carelessness about judging sin? Ah no, He is a holy God, but His holiness is farther reaching than ours. His holiness will probe down into the hearts of a people apparently innocent and bring them to a sense of their own guilt, as well as the tribe, and the individual wrong-doers; and so He lets them fall before those who have arrayed themselves in pride against them.

How often are God's people discomfited, even those who are on the right side. There is a right and a wrong side, and sometimes you will hear people say, Is not that view wrong? Is not that the wrong side to take? Quite so; one would not dare for a moment to take the wrong side. Well, is not this the right side? Is it not right to reject that evil, and so on? Not quite so fast. There are three sides to a thing, more often than two. People sometimes say there are two sides, and if A is right, then B is wrong. And if A is wrong, then B is right. Is there not another side? Suppose both are wrong. Ah, beloved, that is the point. There is the side of one and the side of the other, and there is God's side; and the point is to take His side, no matter though it seems the slow side at first, rather than the harsh, careless judgment of evil, which by its very severity lessens the sense of sin in the soul.

Now that is what God is to teach the nation. He is to teach them their own sin, and He is going to bring home to them the fact that they are under His judgment for the state of things, just as really as Benjamin is under His judgment for her allowance of the thing in her midst. So they fall before the Benjamites, and are slaughtered in this way.

They go up again the next day (twenty-second verse); they encourage themselves. They needed encouragement. But it is far better to do as David did when the people spoke of stoning him. David encouraged himself in the Lord. Here we read the people encouraged themselves, and set their battle again in array in the place where they put themselves in array the first day. Now that statement is given first, that they encouraged themselves and set the battle in array; then in parenthesis, as a sort of postscript, showing the minor and secondary place it had in their own heartsThe children of Israel went upyou might say, had gone upand wept before the Lord until even, and asked counsel of the Lord, saying, Shall I go up again to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother?

Now there is an evident softening here, an evident recognition of the fact that the Lord must be allowed to come in. At first they did not need the Lord at all. Why, this case you do not need to pray about, some people say. You do not need to trouble the Lord. Is it not a clear case? All you need ask for is the Lord to guide you as to some minor detail; who will do the work, who will write the letter, and so forth. Ah, you do not realize your need of God; then He will teach you your need of Him. You will find that you flee before the wrongdoers, and have no power to judge the evil. Evil will still lift its head, in spite of your indignation against it.

That brings them lower, and here they weep before the Lord, over their loss, weep doubtless over their humiliation, for pride humbled brings tears quicker than grief and sympathy. Yet there is a touching of the chord. It is their brother they have been fighting. He deserves judgment, but he is their brother. Shall I go up against Benjamin, my brother? And they weep, and as they weep they begin to realize they are dealing with their brother. God says, Go up again. He is not a cruel God. Surely He is infinite love, but again the people who had wept and prayed, the people who seemed to have been right are worsted, again they flee, and 18,000 more fall in the dust.

Has God forgotten? Is He again on the side of evil? Shall we throw it up in disgust, shall we be careless and indifferent to evil? No, beloved. But does it not tell us in tones of thunder that what God wants more than judging evil in another is to judge it in ourselves, and that what He wants, if we are to be ready, whether it be as individuals, to pass judgment upon evil, or whether it be as a company of His people, to execute His own discipline, there must be that self-judgment above everything else that will give us spiritual discernment and spiritual power? It speaks to us in a way that, I am sure, we need to heed.

If there is one thing that is characteristic of the day in which we are living, in Christendom, it is every man doing that which is right in his own eyes. Evil is unjudged. It may not be this glaring corruption that we have here, though we do not know what is carried on in the darkness, and I would not set any limits to the evil that is committed even under the holy name of Christ. Look at the horrible corruption of Rome itself, and you can see the possibilities of the human heart still finding expression in conduct of that kind. But we are living in the time when there is no power to judge sin. Everybody goes and does as he pleases. There is no power to meet sin in the fear of God and to judge it, and to see Himself acting with us in it. Very little power for discipline. You take the average association of Christians, what place has discipline amongst them? If a man did something for which he would be turned out of his club, he would be turned out of church; but not much more. The thing that would take him out of polite society, would take him out of his church fellowship. But not much worse than that. He might do many kinds of things just so he did not get into publicity. There are all kinds of evil done by professing Christians who are in good and regular standing in their churches, and there is no power to deal with them. Surely that is an awful state of things.

There should be as much discipline in the Church of God today as there was in the apostles' day. God's judgment upon Ananias and Sapphira was no exceptional case. God did not mean, as it were, to single out those two people as the only wrongdoers who would be in His Church for all time. He meant to give a sample of His judgment of evil. And, if you look at the sin of Ananias and Sapphira, do you not see in it that which is committed every day by professing Christians, and, perhaps, by true Christians? Do you not see people today that want a reputation for devotedness that they have not got? Do you not find people, as it were, professing to yield up their whole lives to God, who are keeping back part of them? If that is the impression they are desirous of conveying, is not that the sin of Ananias and Sapphira? And yet where do you find any judgment of evil of that character, and evil like that would require the most spiritual judgment.

Take other things; take worldliness, take covetousness, railing, back-biting and falsehooduntruthfulness in dealings; take all these things, and where do you find amongst the people of God the power to deal with them? Does God in His Church want evil like that dealt with? Surely He does; but what is the reason there is no power to deal with it? It is because, first of all, there must be the deepest judgment of self, there must be the sense of my own sin and shortcoming, and the most inflexible judgment of myself, if I am to execute any discipline on my brother. As the Lord says, Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eyeNo matter what it is, if it is in my eye it is a beam, and no matter what it is in my brother's eye it is a mote until I have judged myselfand then thou shalt see clearly to cast the mote out of thy brother's eye.

Now that was the lesson God was teaching Israel as a whole, and He was teaching them through bitter loss and sorrow. Eighteen thousand fall, and now its effect begins to be felt. You notice they go up again before the Lord, and let us see the state they are in (twenty-sixth verse). Then all the children of Israel and (as though to emphasize it) all the people. It is universal. It is serious. It is not enough for half a dozen people to be exercised about evil. You take an assembly; it is not enough for a few brethren to be exercised about it, and to endeavour to deal with it quietly as a few; all the people, all the saints must be exercised in conscience about that which has appealed to them. I am not speaking of a secret sin, which may be known only to a few, and they seek to deal with it in the fear of God; but I am speaking of that which is apparent and open. The reason why there is so little power is because all the people, all the children of Israel are not exercised before God about it.

All the people went up to Bethel, to the presence of God, His house. God, the God of His house, as Jacob had to find Him, not merely the God of Israel, the God who has given me benefits, but God who is over His house as Lord and Ruler, and who will dictate His will. They wept and sat there before the Lord, and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. And the children of Israel enquired of the Lord (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, and Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stood before it in those days) saying shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease? And now they get the answer from the Lord that they might have had at the beginning if they had asked aright. And the Lord said, Go up, for tomorrow I will deliver them into thine hand.

You notice what exercises they pass through. They go up to the house of God, to Bethel, into His presence. Ah, brethren, you cannot be merely indignant against sin in the presence of God. Do you know what the presence of God always does? It makes you judge sin in yourselves; that is the first thing. Thus they go up into that holy presence, they weep. Ah, the very springs of their hearts have been touched, and they can weep before the Lord. Further than that, they fast. It is not a question of some light thing. They will deny everything else, they will take no refusal from God, their hearts are so absorbed that they neglect to take their necessary food; they are in desperate earnestness to get His mind.

The next thing is that they sit there. They do not go up and stand, as though saying, We have got to be about this business, and it has to be done; we would like to have an answer, but if we cannot get the answer we have got to go ahead and do it. People need to learn that lesson too, that you have got to go before the Lord, not only to weep or last, but to sit before Him and wait until He sees fit to answer the desire of your hearts.

Now all that is for us today. I am persuaded that there would be more power in discipline amongst the saints if there were this exercise that we are seeing here. How little of that sitting before the Lord there is. Not sitting, dear brethren, to get a due sense of the evil. They had that at the very beginning, but sitting to get the mind of God, for God has His mind. He not only has His mind as revealed in His word, but He has that mind as applying to the special case in point. And to get that mind we must wait on the Lord. An unseemly haste is never the way to get His mind.

Now they are in a proper state for God to speak to them, but that is not all. They not only weep, fast, and wait before God, but they offer burnt offerings and peace offerings. How appropriate. I suppose we would think of their offering sin offerings. In one sense it certainly would seem to be a case where a sin offering was called for. The whole people of Israel had sinned, and yet the whole people of Israel did not realize their sin. If the whole congregation sinned they were to bring a bullock for a sin offering, but they do not seem to be up to that, to their confession of national sin. But they are up to one thing, that if there is to be any relation with God, it is to be in connection with the sacrifice which He had appointed as the ground of fellowship with Himself. They offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. The burnt offerings, you know, speak of the infinite preciousness of Christ, and of His death, to God; and the peace offerings speak of fellowship, the participation in that preciousness. So that in the peace offering part was offered to God and part the worshipper had. They offered to God typically the preciousness of the death of Christ.

There was a day when Aaron stood in between the living and the dead, when the priest came in in intercession; he brought his censer, that which speaks of the preciousness of Christ, and waved it in between the living and the dead, as though to intercede with God on the basis of the preciousness of Christ. And I am sure that in this burnt offering we have a suggestion at least of that. They are offering to God. It is as though they said, We are helpless, we are at the end of ourselves, we are at the end of our wisdom and strength. We do not know what to do. This evil still looms up in its horror. At any rate, here is something that God appreciates. He is judging us, He is chastening us. Ah, here is something that ever is a sweet savour to Him. It is Christ. And, dear brethren, if the Lord's people will go there in self-abasement, where they can offer to God the sweet savour of what Christ is, they will have communion with Him; you will find the peace offering, and they will get some answer from Him, just as these do here. They get His answer, and it is an answer of peace. He is going to help them, and He is going to be with them at last. For Benjamin, be it remembered, has not learnt his lesson. Benjamin had his lesson to learn. God must teach him, and He will use His people to teach him. He will show that He is not on the side of wrong, that He is not on the side of those awful corruptions; but first, as I was saying, He must teach the people to judge themselves.

Now they go out and overthrow Benjamin, but they have to do it in a way that emphasized the very lesson they had learnt. They have to do it by their weakness. They have to do as they did at Ai. They retreated before Benjamin, as they had before the men of Ai. An ambush was laid, and they came in behind and burnt up the city in which the Benjamites were harboured. Thus the whole tribe of Benjamin was at their mercy. I hardly think that God would have blotted out a tribe in that way. It was at their mercy, and there was still enough of vengeance to execute it to the very last dreg.

Now what is that ambuscade and retreating, retiring before the Benjamites? I believe it is that spirit of prayer which realizes our utter weakness and helplessness. Just the lesson that is all through Judges in other connections. If we are to deal in discipline, there must be a sense of our utter helplessness. Anybody who is going to act as a lawyer or a judge amongst the people of God will have no spiritual power. To have spiritual power there must be that spirit of prayer which looks in the enemy's eyes like running away. Let the wrongdoer think that he has too much power for us to deal with him. If our weakness is shown by being on our knees and in prayer, we will soon find that God gives the opportunity for executing the discipline and the government that He would have us perform.

Now from all this I would not want to leave with you the impression that the exercise of discipline is an impossibility in these days. I am sure it is not. I would not want to leave you with the impression that I am criticising every earnest and honest effort to judge evil. God forbid. Thank God for every particle of faithfulness, and for every one who wants to be faithful to Him. But if we are to be guided by these chapters; if we are to be guided by the lesson that speaks to us so eloquently from these chapters, if we are to be guided by the burnt villages of Benjamin, and by the bereaved households of all Israel, I am sure that the lesson we are to learn is the lesson, first of all, of personal humiliation before God .

Is it not true, have you not found it so in your own experience? What gives a parent power in dealing with his children? Is it not the power which he gets from self-judgment in the presence of God? What is it that gives an assembly power to judge evil in their midst? Is it not that which brings them down on their faces crying to God in their helplessness, with a confession of their own failure and their own sins? Ah, beloved, God speaks from that sense of helplessness. He speaks to us and bids us, as it were, rise out of the dust from before Him, and He will go before us, as we seek to obey His holy will.

But let us be assured of one thing. He would never have us condone sin. He would never have us allow sin amongst us; He would never have us careless about the honour of His holy Name. We have the name of Christ upon us. We dare not, as much as our lives are worth, we dare not be careless as to the existence of evil. But, oh, if we are to have power over evil, if we are to have spiritual power that will purge the saints of God from that which holds them down, and which dishonours Christ, it is to be the power that you find in the house of God, in fasting and in the sacrifices of God. The sooner that place is taken, the quicker we will find the power.

This is something that we are all concerned in, that which is so much lacking today everywhere. The thing that is characteristic of Christendom today is this absence of government. It should characterize any testimony that there is for God. People sometimes say, We are to be characterized by our great knowledge of truth. Very blessed to be so. I am sure it is a mercy when God uses us as vessels to have His truth conveyed to others. But I believe that the one thing that is a testimony for God in this day of ruin, is a testimony to the government and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ amongst His people. Look at Philadelphia; what do you find there? What is it that marks Philadelphia? It is loyalty to Christ and subjection to His word. It is not great strength; it is the very opposite of that; it is a little strength. It is not brilliant pyrotechnics of truth flashing out and dazzling peoplethat is what Laodicea boasts in; her knowledge, acquirements and gifts. But what marks Philadelphia is that brokenness and subjection to the authority of Christ, and, at all hazards, carrying out obedience to Himself. Philadelphia, as you know, means brotherly love. True brotherly love, as the apostle of love tells us, is when we love God and keep His commandments. That is how I love my brother, by subjection to God Himself.

I will say very little about the recovery, the third and last chapter. There is very little to be said. It shows that the recovery, of which we have a glimpse, was only partial. I do not believe, as I have said, God would have required such action as the complete destruction of the tribe. I do not believe that it was necessary. Had they proceeded in the right way, there would have been no reason for that.

So when they have done, they sit down and weep again; they weep over what they have done; they have blotted a tribe out of Israel. Their pride is broken; their national integrity is gone. Instead of twelve tribes there are but eleven, and only a few fugitives hiding in the Rock Rimmon are left to tell where Benjamin is gone. And now they are going to bring it all back. How? In righteousness? They are going to restore Benjamin. They say, as it were, Here is a nucleus for a new tribe, 700, but where will they get wives? Where shall we get wives for them? We swore before God that not one of us would allow any of our daughters to marry into Benjamin. That was their oath. It is a very strange proceeding. It is a strange way of reasoning around in a circle. They had sworn not to give them wives, and the first thing they do is to go to Jabesh Gilead, and kill everybody in the place except those whom they could give as wives to Benjamin, and yet they said they would not give them wives! That was a violation of their oath. Still there were not enough wives to go round. They have a feast to the Lord, and while they are engaged in the festivities they invite the men of Benjaminthey won't do it themselvesto go and snatch them wives for themselves. So. they get around their oath in that way.

It only shows us that they had not really gone to the bottom of the sin yet, and, therefore, you would expect some similar outbursts, showing that they were not before God. That is why I believe that it was not of God that the whole tribe should have been annihilated. Benjamin surely had arrayed himself in this way, but just as in Jephthah's case, he had no right to destroy such an enormous number of his brethren; so it seems very clearly that there was not full spiritual power yet to exercise God's government over these people. This state of moral carelessness, which is shown by the way they restored this little handful of the tribe, would not have existed, had the people been to the bottom with God.

There is one verse at the close, the same verse that we had at the beginning of this portion. It is very striking. In those days when there was no king in Israel. That is at the beginning of the nineteenth chapter, and here at the close of the book the twenty-fifth verse of the last chapter, In those days there was no king in Israel, every man did that which was right in his own eyes. And what awful confusion and utter chaos was brought in by every man doing what was right in his own eyes.

But, beloved, what a world of yearning there is in that expression, there was no king in Israel. How it tells of the only hope there could be for God's people. It was to have His King. God Himself surely wanted to be their king, would have been their king, but they refused Him. There was no subjection to Him. Later on they desired a king like all the nations, and He gives them a king after their own heart, King Saul; and they find in him not a deliverer at all. But at last God gives them, in figure, the man after His own heart, a king after His own heart, and David in that way is a type surely of the coming king for Israel, the King for whom the nation still waits, though not consciously. He is the King in another sense for whom the people of God everywhere wait, and for whom, all unknown to itself, this poor world is groaning and sighing today.

What means all the sorrow and all the lawlessness and injustice that makes the heart burn with indignation; what does it all speak of? Within the past few weeks the eyes of the whole world have been turned to one nation in the hope of seeing justice at last administered in a gross case of the violation of it, and looked and waited, only to be disappointed. Now I assure you that we will fail to learn the one thing that God has to say to us in all this, if we simply have our indignation stirred against that people, or any one in that nation. I am sure that what He has to say to us is that the government of this world will never be worth aught until the King comes whose right it is to reign. What we see in France, the yearning cry, the longing cry that is going up inarticulately from France is the cry (alas, which they cannot interpret) for the coming of the true Ruler, the One who shall reign in righteousness, and who shall abundantly protect the humble, the meek, the poor, and those who are downtrodden by the great of this world. That is what the world is sighing for, if it only knew it. What all creation is groaning for, and never will be satisfied until it gets it, is the coming of the King who shall tread down evil, but who shall lift up in grace the poor and afflicted people, and who shall extend peace and blessing to the uttermost ends of the earth, and who alone can do that.

But, beloved, for us, too, is it not true that, as we have been speaking of our responsibility in discipline and all that, and as we must execute that, is there not a feeling in our hearts, that, after all, we are only seeking to hold together a few little remnants of things for a little while? But what is it we are waiting for? Is it the re-establishing of the Church as it was at Pentecost? We shall never see it in this world. Are we waiting, dear brethren, to see the scattered fragments of Christendom all coming together in one harmonious whole, to be subject to the word of God, and to walk to the praise of Christ in this world? We shall never see it.

What is it we are waiting for? Ah, beloved, not in helplessness, not in despair. No rather, Who is it that we are waiting for? Is it not the coming of our blessed Lord to take His Church, the Bride of His bosom, out of this filthy scene, where she is a stranger and a pilgrim, and must be that, to take her with unsoiled garments in light to be with Himself? Then will He come to sway His sceptre over a world which will have to own that the only government, the only sceptre is the sceptre of righteousness, and the only hand that can sway that sceptre is the hand of God's Christ. It is He whom He has made King in Zion to rule to the ends of the earth.

So as we close our book of Judges, that is what is before us, the desire for the coming of the Lord. It has been a sad book, as I was saying at the beginning, a gloomy book, a book of failures, increasingly dark and closing in this picture that is so utterly discouraging, as you think of man. It is a book that people would speak of as very pessimistic, something to discourage you. Not at all. It is something to cut you loose from everything in this world, something to give you no confidence in yourself, no confidence in your brother, no confidence in the spirit of progress that the world talks of. It is something to shut you up to one thing, and that is to look, to long, to wait for the coming of our Lord Jesus.

But more, while we wait, and look and long for His coming, it is a book that teaches us that we are to learn to judge ourselves now, and that we are to learn in the obedience of faith to walk here just as though the whole Church were united. To be as obedient with a little remnant, as we would if all Christendom were one, and to thank God for the day of small things, which gives an opportunity for faith and obedience to show itself as much as in the brighter days of the Church's history, when the multitude were all of one heart and one soul.

Thus, dear brethren, we have these two thoughts to close with. First of all, the desire for the coming of our Lord as the only thing that can ever bring peace and holiness and blessedness; and secondly, while we wait, the desire to obey Him in weakness and helplessness, but to obey Him, to honour Him.

Blessed is that servant whom when his Lord cometh, He shall find so doing.



Lecture 13: Glimpses of Christ A Brief Review

Judges is the second book of this historical series, Joshua being the first. In the proper and spiritual order of things Judges would simply be the book of progress, carrying on to full completion that which Joshua had inaugurated. Joshua was the book of blessing, the nation entering into the blessings which God had given them in their inheritance. Typically it is the book which tells of our being blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Judges, naturally, as a second book, would have been simply the development of that, a book of progress, as its number would suggest. And yet we have found assuredly, as I need not remind you, that instead of progress there has been the other side, retrogression.

When you turn over the leaf of a book, you will either go on to something better, something brighter, or back into something darker; and, alas, as we turn the page from Joshua to Judges we find in fact, as we are prepared toward the end of the former book, that we are in darker days. The days are darker, not because God has changed or because the blessing is diminished. Quite the opposite of that; but there are darker days simply because faith has waned, and wherever faith wanes and God is thus put at a distance, you may be sure that everything else will come nigh, every form of the enemy, everything that will assault and hurt the souls of God's people, will come nigh when He is removed to a distance. So that the whole book, you might say, is the book of distance and separation from God, instead of progress in the ways of God. It is getting away from God. Instead of adding to what they had gained, they lose what they had, and the lesson that God would impress upon us in the whole book, is the danger and folly of declension, and its sure results.

Now, bearing that in mind, the three main divisions of the book are very simple for us, and it is in connection with those that I want to speak tonight. In the first two chapters, down to the fifth verse of the third chapter, you get the first division, which is introductory. Then in the last five chapters you get the third division. In the centre of the book from the third chapter, fifth verse, through the sixteenth chapter, you get the main part of the book, that which gives us its theme, which is declension with its causes.

Then coming in, as I might say, almost in a sort of incidental way, you have that which is inevitable when God's mercy is in activity, God coming in to restore and recover His people from their own folly. But you have in these three main divisions of the book, the people's rebellion from Him first of all, then their bondage as a result of that rebellion, and, in the third division, you have this corrupt inward state fully manifested, worse even than the bondage which you have in the second part.

Now as to the first part, there is one thing that is prominent in it. There is much, as we saw, that is very suggestive, but the one prominent thought is that they did not answer to God's mind for them, they did not go on to possess what He had put into their hands. Here was their inheritance, and there were enemies who occupied the inheritance, who prevented them, literally speaking, from enjoying it. Their work was, in the energy of faith, and implicit obedience to God, to cast out the enemy, and everything was ready to their hand. Houses which they had not built, vineyards which they had not planted, wells which they had not dugeverything was ready to their hand, to go in to enjoy it.

What have you ever done, or I, brethren, in connection with our inheritance? You enter into it, that is all. That is one of our favourite expressions, we enter into things. It is very real, too, and describes the act exactlywe simply enter into that which was made ready to our hand; not a house to build, not a vineyard to plant, not a well to dig; all is there, and everything that is needed is simply in the obedience of faith to withstand the enemy who would keep us out of it. No matter what form he may take, it is the thing that keeps us out of the practical enjoyment of our inheritance, as given to us in the word of God, as revealed to us there; this enemy is to be cast out by faith and obedience, and everything is ready for us to enjoy.

Now you get in that first partbeginning with a measure of success, which surely was encouraging, but as a general thing you getthe failure of the people to occupy the land. There is failure to do what God told them to do, and without which they would be absolutely exposed to the fresh assaults of the enemy. For, let me tell you, brethren, as you know by experience, that an enemy half conquered is an enemy unconquered, and unless there is a complete overthrow of the power of evil which would keep you from one corner of your inheritance, you will find that enemy come up again. Though you may bring him into subjection for a time, make him tributary, secondary, as it were, as people sometimes speak of the flesh as a sort of a secondary thing that they have got a certain measure of control over; still, if the enemy is not really a conquered enemy, he will conquer us one day, rest assured of that. That is what is emphasized in this first division.

Judah begins well, goes on with brilliant success, and if he had continued in that, and in absolute obedience to God, he would have gained entire control of the part that was to be his. As a matter of fact, no tribe got so full possession of what was entrusted to them as did the tribe of Judah; it stands first. This tribe speaks of the grasp of truth which produces the spirit of praise amongst the people of God. You might say he represents the apprehension of Christ as His people's portion.

But after Judah you have, in sad uniformity, one instance after another of the various tribes coming short of doing what God had put before them. Benjamin fails to get possession of Jerusalem, and you have Benjamites and Jebusites living together. What a mixture! Benjamin, as we saw the other night, became so tainted by their surroundings that they have to be treated as heathen, treated as the enemies of God, and are well nigh annihilated. May we not trace the final results with Benjamin to this initial failure to take possession of Jerusalem?

The great strong tribes of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, likewise fail to drive out the enemy in their territory, and the enemies live in one city and they in another. And so it goes on, one after another, these various tribes fail to take possession of what God had given them.

It is easy simply to talk about it; it is easy to say that Manasseh, who should have been pressing forward, stands still, and as a result does not drive out those who dwell in his portion; that Ephraim fails in the same way, and Zebulon and Asher, and Naphtali and Danthat these all, one after the other, each fails in his place. But how about ourselves? In a practical way how is it with each of us individually? How much of what is ours do we own? How much do we share, as I might say, with the enemy himself? Are you enjoying your boundaries? Are you enjoying all that God has given you? If not, then your name and mine can be added to these; neither did we drive out the enemy that occupied our portion, and as a result they are living there with us.

We may make them, as I said, tributary, and apparently have them under our power; but a tributary enemy is more dangerous than one in the field, for the simple reason that you have links with them, just as you find Israel had. They intermarried with the people of the land, and then with intermarriage comes, of course, the sadder and more dreadful result of adopting their gods; and, as a natural consequence, you have them brought into bondage to their enemies.

Look at the order, and see the necessary progress of evil: first, there is the failure to drive out the enemy; secondly, they bring them into servitude and make them tributary; thirdly, there is intermarriage, linking themselves with them; fourthly, there is the adoption of their false gods, and the departure from God; and lastly, there can be but one result, God hands them over to an enemy to make them taste what an evil and bitter thing it is to depart from Him.

Now have we really translated that into our everyday life? Have we really made these things practical truths for our consciences today, so that we know what it is to come short and to make things tributary to us, as it were? To have them under our power? Do we know what that means? Do you know what it means to have evil, an evil principle, tributary to you, and yet not to have driven it out, to have expelled it completely?

How can people make use of principles which are evil in themselves? How can they make them tributary and expect to keep clear of them? If I make use of an evil thing I am going to be linked with evil. It is absolutely necessary that if I am linked-with evil I am going to be brought into bondage to it, and I will be brought, alas, into that idolatry of which we have been seeing instances from time to time. For idolatry means the setting up of our own thoughts, instead of bowing to what God has put before us as His will.

Now that is the first part of this book, the first division. That, I believe, is the lesson that is pressed home in all the wisdom and in all the goodness of God, as He has put it before us with instance after instance. The lesson that is pressed upon us is, if you do not go forward, you will go backward; if you are not making progress, you are going behind; if you are not entering upon what God has given you in His word, you are losing what you already have; or, as you have it in the New Testament, To him that hath shall be given, and he shall have more abundantly; but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he seemeth to have. Surely, thanks be to the grace of God, not absolutely and finally, but, as to our enjoyment of it, we are deprived of our own. Do you not think of illustrations of it? Can you not take portions of your own history for confirmation of thiswhen you have not been pressing forward, have you not been going backward? In your own heart's history, each day of your life you re-enact the history of Israel's progress or decline.

Then another thought. I have been speaking of our blessings, and I want to make that not vague in the least, but perfectly distinct and clear. You will remember in Ephesians we are told that we are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. Every blessing we have is in Him and connected with Him, and it is an utter impossibility for saints to enjoy their blessings without enjoying Christ. It is an utter impossibility for us to have the truths of God as food for our souls unless they bring us into personal contact and fellowship with the blessed Son of God Himself. So when we look at this failure of Israel to enter upon their portion, we must remember that spiritually it means our failure, the failure of the Church of God at large, not only to grasp certain truths, but to apprehend Christ in anything of His fulness which there is for us to apprehend.

Ah, every blessing that is in the word of God gets its life, its beauty and its preciousness, because it is in Christ. If you could conceive of such a thing as God giving us every promise in His word, everything that is there set before usif He could open heaven itself for us with all its ineffable beauty, and you would find no Christ, beloved brethren, there would be no blessing, there would be no inheritance. What would forgiveness be, if it were not a forgiveness through Christ? What would peace with God be? You could not even think of it except through our Lord Jesus Christ. Everything we know, everything that He has put in His word for us of spiritual blessing finds its preciousness in Christ, and in Him alone.

Therefore, how solemn it is to remember if His people have failed to go on and possess their portion, they have failed to apprehend Christ. And so you find Paul in the third chapter of the Philippians, where he was going on to apprehend that for which he was apprehended of Christ Jesus, says, summing it all up in one word, that I may know Him , and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings. The fathers are marked by their knowledge of Him that is from the beginning; and to know Christ, to go on to know Him better, to know Him in the way that He is revealed and set before us in the word of God, that is what is meant by going on to know your inheritance and your blessings that are in Him.

Now we come to the next part, which is the main division of the book. Here you see the results of not going on to apprehend Christ, of not pressing forward and getting more and more of what is our own in Him. You find here bondage after bondage. With painful uniformity you are told that the people did evil, turned away from God, united themselves with the people of the land, and, as a result, God sold them into the hands of one enemy after another. They are thus brought low and to a sense of their utter helplessness and absolute failure, and departure from God. When there was no help for them, He raises up for them a helper who delivers them.

I want tonight to try to see in each of these enemies, in each of these bondages, what form of evil it represents, what that is not of Christ, what it is that the enemy used that is not of Christ, that is contradictory to Christ, to rob us of what is our own in Christ; and next to see in the deliverer, whom God raises up, what element there is of Christ in him, that enables one when he apprehends it to gain the victory over the power that had overthrown and taken possession of him. You see how these two thoughts fit together; for every one surely has felt, we know, the enemy's power, the power of something that is not Christ. As the apostle says, Ye have not so learned Christ. It is not merely what the evil is, but that it is not Christ. It is a failure in various ways to apprehend what He is.

Let us now look briefly at each of these, with that thought in our minds. You have, first of all, in the third chapter, fifth verse down to the eleventh, the first bondage. It is to the king of Aram, or Mesopotamia. They served him. He was king of Mesopotamia, and his name was Cushan-rishathaim. Aram, you remember, is Exalted, and the country of Mesopotamia was near to or connected with Babylon. The plain of Shinar was part of it, where finally Israel was carried into captivity. Here in the beginning you get them under the power of the king of exaltation. The very first thing that takes possession of God's people, that which is not Christ, the very opposite of Christ, is this exaltation, whose king is called Cushan-rishathaim. Cushan means blackness, and rishathaim means double iniquity. The blackness of double iniquity, is a name that is dark enough surely to tell us how intensely evil this enemy must be.

How exactly the opposite of Christ he must be, if he has a name like that. Our Lord, when He was here, was meek and lowly in heart. He sought not great things for Himself. Trace the Lord from the time He leaves heaven's glory until He returns thither again, and His history is one of self-abnegation and lowliness all the way through. He humbled Himself, He emptied Himself, made Himself of no reputation, and in all the progress from the throne of God to the cross it was one descent after another, the very opposite of Aram or exaltation. In the history of our own souls, and in the history of the Church, what is the secret of all blessing? Is it not this lowly mind, the mind that was in Christ Jesus? As long as His people are in a low place they will flee from the power of the enemy; but, alas, when we lift up ourselves, exalt ourselves, we are simply doing what the first great transgressor did, Satan himself; he exalted himself against God.

Pride is the first enemy, and it is the blackness of double iniquity; it is the intensest kind of wickedness; it is that by which Satan fell; he became dim by reason of his brightness. What a contradiction it is that his very beauty had a spot put upon it, because he sought to exalt himself by reason of his beauty. So when the Church of Christ, or an individual Christian, lifts himself up, and is satisfied with himself and filled with pride, you have there that intensest form of wickedness, because it is independence of God, it is the exaltation of self, and, therefore, the very opposite of Christ. We see much of this in Ephesus and in Laodicea in Revelationthe beginning and ending of the Church's history.

Next we have the deliverer out of that state. The enemy is what is not of Christ. In the deliverer we will see what is in Christ to deliver His people from this bondage, which is unlike Himself. Othniel is the deliverer, and we have seen that he represents that spirit of faith which counts entirely upon God. His name means the Lion of God, the power of God brought in. Pride will never make use of any power save its own; it will never own its need of power. When Othniel comes in, you have, of course, the acknowledgement of weakness and bondage, and then as a result the power of God is exerted for us. Christ is the wisdom of God and the power of God. What is the real remedy for bondage to pride? what is the real remedy for bondage to self, bondage to all this wretchedness that puts self on a pinnacle and degrades God? Is it not Christ the Lord Himself, Christ as the power of God, through whom alone come all things? And when you and I are ready, and when the Church is ready, to acknowledge that she has no strength of her own, that she has nothing of her own, and is willing to let Christ be all, you have Othniel the deliverer who comes in; and in that way he suggests Christ to us.

Of course, I do not mean to say that Othniel is what you would ordinarily call a type of Christ. As we go on, as you will remember, we found the judges are anything but Christ-like, until at the close you find that which is the very opposite of Christ. It is the apprehension of Christ by faith in these characters that will give us practically the deliverance that was wrought here typically.

Another period of declension follows, and another deliverer. We saw that in Moab you have the bondage to a kinsman according to the flesh, but who has no spiritual relationship to the people of God. Moab was one of the children of Lot, and represents in that way an outward relationship without an inward reality, which you know is profession. Profession is a great and terrible enemy who settles down upon the people of God. Alas, the Church has many and many a time been under the fearful incubus of a barren, empty, Christ-less profession. The forms of orthodoxy may have been used, everything of that kind may have been quite according to the letter of Scripture, and yet there has been no power, no spiritual joy, nothing to answer to the living reality. The children of Israel, the true people of God, have been held down in bondage to this inert mass of profession that robs us of every enjoyment that we have. It is not Christ. Christ, beloved, is not profession, He is the very opposite of that. To know Christ is not even to be religious; to know Christ surely is not to make a profession. To have Christ before the soul is the very opposite of all that; it is to have in living reality communion with the Father and with the Son.

How profession sets Christ aside; how you will find that it can make itself a comfortable place in the world, it can rear its religious buildings, have its religious services; have its philanthropic work, and yet everything be icy cold, because it is profession without the living reality of Christ. You may be a Church member, a worker and all that, with an empty heart. Not profession, but Christ must be our portion.

What is the remedy for mere profession? What is the remedy for this incubus of Moab? This that is not Christ, but simply the profession of Christ? Ehud, the deliverer from the power of profession, is the Confessor, as his name means. With the knife, which speaks of the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, he delivers the people of God from mere profession. To confess Christ! Ah, Christ Himself is the real Ehud in all his fulness. He was the Faithful Witness, One who ever confessed God, and because He confessed God in this world He was put out of it. He is the true Confessor, and, beloved brethren, the power of the enemy that would bring us into mere profession, is overthrown by the confession of what Christ is, the enjoyment of the Lord Jesus in the soul.

God's own people are in danger of profession. If you are dwelling with your past experiences, instead of in present communion, you are under the power of Moab, for Moab dwells in the past in that way. You are having your past experiences, and making yourself a professor on the ground of past experiences. There must be the living enjoyment of Christ which, as it were, forces today's confession out of our lips.

And may there not be a further suggestion in this man's name? He is the confessor, he confesses the real state of things. He acknowledges, as it were, that this profession is nothing, that it is an absolute enemy to God; he confesses that. So in the power of the confession of our failure, the confession of the nothingness and emptiness of profession, you will have the power of Christ coming in to set us free from mere profession. Do you shrink with horror at the thought of being a professor? Then confess the fact; own it before God; open up the whole heart, the whole state of things, and there will be reality at least; and where there is reality Christ will come in.

You will remember that we saw a resemblance between the bondage to Moab and the state of the Church as described in Pergamos.

Then we come to the next enemy, Jabin the king of Hazor, and Deborah and Barak, those through whom God overthrew him. We saw that Jabin was the name of a king whom Joshua had overthrown more than a hundred years before this time, and yet here he is revived again with all his old power, and unless God interpose, the whole land of Israel will be under his sway. His name is Understanding. It is the intellect exalted against the knowledge of God. It is the opposite of what you have in Christ, who brought all His knowledge and everything else to His Father's feet, and had simply His Father's will as His one thought. He also put that before men, If any man will do His will he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself. Christ is the very opposite of Jabin. If we want true understanding it must be as we know Christ, for in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. When the Church took to philosophy instead of Christ, it put itself under the sway of Jabinof the understanding.

There is only one remedy for that, and that is what we see in Deborah and Barak. Deborah means the Word, and Barak, Lightning; you might say the power of that Word applied. When weakness, which is what the woman speaks of, applies the word of God to all the wisdom and understanding of man, it crumbles into dust. So it is through weakness that the victory is wonChrist presented to us. As you might say, it is Christ without any of the strength that the world can appreciate. The world despises the word of God. It despises that which presents Christ to us.

It is feebleness and weakness that you get in Deborah, and in Jael, and that you have also in Barak himself, in holding back and hesitating in helplessness until the faith of the weaker vessel, the faith of the woman presses him on to do what God would have him do. Weakness is written all over that part. The entire narrative speaks of weakness, and yet it is the brightest in the whole book.

Victory is there, perhaps, more complete than in any other portion. This victory of Deborah and Barak over Jabin is celebrated in a song of triumph, and yet, as I say, it is the celebration of weakness simply, a weakness that exalts Christ, as the apostle puts it. You have here that beautiful song of praise and triumph that Deborah and Barak sing after the work is over, the only song of praise that you get in the whole book of Judges. There would have been more songs had there been more weakness leaning upon almighty strength. There would have been greater triumphs and more lasting, had there been more like Deborah, whose name hides her from view, and simply presents Christ, as He is revealed to us in the word of God. Ah, beloved, to be covered, as it were, by that which speaks simply of Christ, and God's word, so that people cannot think of us, cannot think of the instrument that God would use, but simply of Christ Himself, and of the truth of God as presented through Christ.

The cold intellectualism of Sardisthe Protestant; period of the Church's history would answer to the bond age to Jabin, and the similar one under Ammon; while in the victors we see something at least of the spirit of Philadelphia.

After that you get Gideon, and the lessons of his life are very familiar to us. You have the power of Midian coming in. The Midianites were those who carried Joseph down into Egypt, and they represent in that way that which carries the people of God into the world. They signify the strife, as the name Midian means, the strife that comes in through your lusts, and members which are in the world, as the apostle James puts it. This Midianite invasion is the invasion of the world into the professing Church. And what an awful invasion that is, dear brethren. We can see it about us today. It is not of Christ surely. You never find that the world represented Christ. The world does not make you think of Christ except in contrast. It is the very opposite of Christ. And wherever the world takes a place in the heart, it displaces that much of Christ.

The reason is a very suggestive one. You remember the apostle John says that whatever is not of the Father is of the world. You notice, in the Gospel of John, the Lord has one word on His lips always, and that is the Father. It was His joy to confess the Father; it is the world's to displace the Father. And so that is the element that is not of Christ, the exact opposite of Christ. It is the world, whether it comes into your heart individually, or whether it oppresses the whole Church of God collectively.

Now Gideon is the deliverer from the power of Midian, and here again, as you will remember, and as we have already seen this lesson in Deborah and in Jael, you have weakness emphasized. Only now it is a weakness that has to be produced, and that has got to be complete. They have to learn, Gideon has to learn his weakness. We, of course, cannot trace out his history. We have done that in some measure already; but the thought throughout is stripping off one thing after another, robbing him of one prop after another, until he is left, and the little band that is associated with him, in the presence of that mighty host that covers the whole face of the earth. He is left with the 300, and not even a sword in their hands, only a sword on their lips. They have the trumpets and the torches, and that cry, The sword of the Lord and of Gideon. It is the sword that is spoken, the spoken sword, rather than a sword in their hands.

They are shorn of all strength, shorn so completely that they are likened to a cake of barley bread, tumbling into the midst of the camp and knocking down a tent. They are almost literally that, objects of the enemy's utter contempt; and yet, with all their weakness and puny helplessness, they have the sword upon their lips; it is the sword of the Lord. If the sword of the Lord is on their side, what do they want with any human sword? And if the trumpet which they blow proclaim His power and His leadership, and if the light which they hold up is holding forth the word of life in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, amongst whom ye shine as lights in the world, what need have they of other help? Thus Gideon and his little company speak to us of the power of Christ resting upon weakness. As the apostle says, Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in mine infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

The power of the world we see, with much else, in Pergamos, Sardis, and Laodicea, while in Gideon we see the overcomer in the churches, and in Philadelphia.

Next you pass to Jephthah. The next enemy is Ammon. You know Ammon was the brother of Moab, and represents profession as we have seen in Moab, only now it is not the sensuous side of profession, the worldly side, but, as you might say, the intellectual side, closely connected with Jabin. He suggests the spirit of rationalism which comes into the Church and settles down, putting its icy hand upon its life. The children of Ammon claim their title to the inheritance which Israel has long occupied. What I have said as to Jabin would apply here. You take the matter of the word of God. If people are going to treat it in a mere intellectual way, as the rationalists do, as that which can be criticised and sifted, full of mistakes, and a little bit left that you can accept perhaps; if that spirit is allowed, you have the very opposite of the spirit of Christ. He magnified the word of God. He always quoted Scripture as settling every question. It was the end of the matter when He quoted Scripture. What a lesson! The Son of God ended every discussion by simply quoting the word of God. Rationalism would rob us of that element in the character of Christ, loyalty to the word of God. The children of Ammon would tell us that we can be Christians in name, we can be professors, and yet deny the word of God, which is our title to Christianity. Oh how much of the Ammonite rule we see about us today, where human intellect traffics in the word of God, and man, instead of being judged by Scripture, sits in judgment upon the Scriptures.

What an awful oppression that is. And the deliverance from it is through Jephthah, which means He openeth. He is the one who opens, and it is just as Christ has opened for us the precious word of God, as, you remember, He opened His disciples' understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures, that we are freed from rationalism. He has opened heaven for us, that we may know our place before God. He is the Opener, the Revealer, the One who makes the word of God luminous to us. And it is as Christ Himself is thus the Opener for us, that we find a blessed and precious deliverance from all the reasonings of the flesh, from all the power of an intellectual supremacy, which, after all, means utter bondage. Who is more miserable than the man who thinks, as you might say, for himself? Who more wretched than the man who glories in his own bondage to his own poor, feeble reasoning?

I do not dwell upon the sequel to the life of Gideon, nor even to that of Jephthah, and there are many other thoughts there which we have not even time to mention. I am trying simply to show how it is Christ all the way through who is the remedy for these evils, and, therefore, I do not dwell upon the details of the failure as you have it in the history of Abimelech, nor of Jephthah's subsequent failure, things that are dark enough surely.

We can sum it all up in a few words. Gideon craved the priesthood, which was robbing Christ of that place; Abimelech grasped after kingly power, which was taking the place which Christ alone can occupy, while in Jephthah's harshness, you see the absence of that meekness and gentleness of Christ, which rules no less effectually because it is done in love and grace.

Then, lastly, after Jephthah, you have the Philistine invasion, or rather supremacy, and God's deliverance, or rather His designed deliverance, through Samson the Nazarite. The Philistines represent profession in a more intense way, though they are associated originally with Moab. You remember that Shamgar wrought a deliverance from the Philistines just at the close of Ehud's victory over the Moabites. The Philistines represent profession, and more than that. They represent an active profession, which declares that it is everything, that it has the right to give the name, as it were, to the whole inheritance of the people of God, and to assume entire control of everything connected with it.

That you get in Rome in all her claims to be the Church, to be the repository of all the revelation of God. She claims to be the director of the people of God, and to declare what is, and what is not, the will of God. All authority is centred in the pope, and administered through human priests, and celebrated by human ritual. The whole spirit and system of Rome is the Philistine power which controlled at one time the entire professing Church, and which in its spirit even now lays its hands upon the fairest portions of God's heritage. Is it like Christ? Does it not rob us of Christ? How surely it does. It is the woman Jezebel and Thyatira, as we saw in considering Shamgar.

Rome, which is always elevating the crucifix, robs us of the cross. Rome, which exalts the Son of God, as it were, robs us practically of Him by putting her whom she calls the mother of God over Christ. Rome in that way by imputation robs us of the reality; and so, wherever in spirit Rome is allowedand there is much of Rome that has not the name of it, there is much in Protestantism that savours of itwherever you have this system of things, it makes use of the world, of the flesh, yea, of the devil himself, to further her unholy designs to get possession of the people of God. It is not Christ surely.

What is the remedy, what is the deliverance from the awful sway of the scarlet woman? Surely Christ alone. But Christ as He is presented to us in the very opposite of what Rome claims. Rome claims to sit a queen and to be no widow and to see no sorrow, and Christ we have presented as the Nazarite, the separate One, the One who has nothing here, who is separate from sinners, separate from the world, separate from the spirit that is in the world. Christ is the true Nazarite, of whom Samson, so far from being the type, was, alas, a contrast. It is the spirit of true Nazariteship, as we see it in Christ and as linked with Christ, which would deliver us from all the power of Philistinism, from that which deals in saint-worship and profession and superstition, and everything that would degrade the saints of God.

Thus you have Christ all the way through. If you will go over the history at your leisure, and take each of these deliverances and seek to put it in the place of the deliverer the apprehension of Christ, Christ Himself, the blessed power, the only power of true deliverance from all this, you will have surely, not the partial and incomplete deliverances that you have in Judges, but a real, true and lasting victory through Christ. Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Then we come to the last part of the book, the third part. I have already gone over it, and only speak of it in connection with our main theme here. You know that the idolatry, the introduction of idolatry, as we saw, was the failure of the people to accept Christ as the Image of the Invisible God, and seeking to make some other image out of their own minds, some partial conception, it might be, of God; but not God as He is revealed to us in the Person of our Lord. Then when God is corrupted, when idolatry is set up, how quickly man is corrupted too. And we saw in that awful corruption at Gibeah, and the subsequent dealing with it, how when God is forsaken, when man has set Christ aside as the Image and Representative of God, how he sets aside his fellow man, how he despises and treats him with all the wretched abominations with which the people of Sodom treated one another.

What an awful picture you have of the human heart; and when Israel comes in righteousnessmight I not add in self-righteousness too?to deal with this awful wickedness that has been allowed by the tribe of Benjamin, in which it had been committed, how we find the helplessness of human vengeance to effect the righteousness of God. We find discipline now going completely to the extreme, almost, of annihilating a whole tribe. You see how utterly ineffectual is the arm of flesh, and God has to humble them, to break them down, and teach them over again and still again, this lesson, that is emphasized throughout the book, the lesson of human weakness.

All is summed up in that one word that closes the history, In those days there was no king in Israel. How the yearning that appeals throughout the whole book comes to one point, and shows that the desire of the heart of God's people, the desire that is put there by the Spirit of God, is the only remedy for all evil amongst us, and that is the coming of Christ Himself.

But here at the close of our studies, I would press upon us all the enormous weight of responsibility that rests upon those whose eyes have been opened to the realities upon which we have been dwelling. Where are Gideon, Jephthah, Barak now? Where are the apostles, martyrs, and confessors of the Church? They have gone. No longer can they stand in the breach, or uphold the standard of Christ. They rest from their labours, waiting to be rewarded for their faithful service.

But the enemy is still here, as we have been abundantly seeing; and the Church of Christ is still here with the testimony to the truth of God to be preserved in the face of abounding evil. Yea, alas, the spiritual bondages are a present factbut who and where are the deliverers ?

Do you look about, near or far off? Do you think of some one across the sea, or in distant land, whose name and work you have heard? Ah, beloved, look nearer home. Do you sigh and cry over the desolations? Do you hunger for the word of God? Are you absolutely broken and helpless? Then why not you ? Why may not God use you, in complete weakness, as an instrument for help and deliverance for His people?

Oh, the honour, the dignity, the joy of being permitted to stand for Christ, for His Church and His truth in a day of rebuke and ruin! To stand, to confess, yea to die if need be, for Him. Have the mass succumbed? Have principles been abandoned, or has godly care relaxed? Then in Christ's name, if there be but one to stand to the truth, let him stand. One mightier than the mightiest stands with him.

Thus, dear brethren, you will find that you can begin with the beginning, and as you go through the entire book, you find the one great lack isChrist is absent, Christ is not here, the Blessed Son of God is not paramount; His rule, His control, His power, is lacking, is wanting throughout. Only a glimpse of Him is all that you havesimply a flash, as it were, a glimpse of Christ that passes into blacker night, because Christ Himself is not there.

There is no reformation for the Church of Christ, there is no improvement for the people of God, there is no such thing as getting right, or being right, there is no such thing as obedience to the word of God, that does not have one controlling Person before the soul. Beloved brethren, you can be coldly exact, theologically accurate, you may be ecclesiastically correct, you may point out wrong in this and in that system, the inconsistencies of professing Christians, you may get to be quite Pharisees in your conduct, but you are nothing unless you have this one commanding fact throughoutChrist in His blessed Person, Christ in His all-sufficiency, the Lord Jesus in the fulness of His love and the attractiveness of His Person, is the only One who can control and lead and deliver His people, the One whom we long to see.

There is a joy in conflict, there is a joy in getting the truth of God; a joy in meeting the enemy even, if we meet him in faith; a joy in getting down and learning our own weakness; but ah, all these joys after all are only but foretastes of that one great joy for which our hearts are waiting, waiting with Him, and that is to behold Him. And when we behold Him, and His Church beholds Him, when we are caught up to be with Him, we will then, and not till then, be conformed to His image. If we are to represent Him here, the measure in which He Himself controls thought, motive, desire, everything in our lives, so that we can say with Paul, To me, to live is Christ, beloved, in that measure we will have practical likeness to Him, and be a practical testimony for Him.

How blessedly simple, how blessedly satisfying. In the midst of all the confusion in which we live, in the midst of all the desolation which man's pride and selfishness has brought in, in the midst of Satan's malignity and the world's allurements, to be able to say:

I have heard the voice of Jesus,

Tell me not of aught beside,

I have seen the face of Jesus,

All my soul is satisfied.

Are we satisfied with Him, beloved? Does He fill the soul? Does He take possession of us, do we walk in fellowship with Him? If we do, in spite of all the ruin that is about us, and in the face of all the heavy load of our responsibility, we will have a power that will enable us to meet them every oneChrist and Christ alone. Not one thing but Christ Jesus; not one thing but Himself; Himself, His word, His will, His headship, His authority, His honour; everything centring in Him, radiating from Him, and the link between Him and every one of His blood-bought people recognized, and we ourselves seeking to be simply the reflection of Christ. Christ reflected out of a broken life, a broken self. Do you crave the honour of representing Christ, of being filled with Christ?

To me, to live is Christ.

Amen, even so come, Lord Jesus.