The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 53: The Earlier Judges
After the settlement in Canaan the tribes made no vigorous
effort to complete the conquest of the land. Satisfied with
the territory already gained, their zeal soon flagged, and the war
was discontinued. "When Israel was strong, . . . they put the
Canaanites to tribute, and did not utterly drive them out."
The Lord had faithfully fulfilled, on His part, the promises
made to Israel; Joshua had broken the power of the Canaanites,
and had distributed the land to the tribes. It only remained for
them, trusting in the assurance of divine aid, to complete the
work of dispossessing the inhabitants of the land. But this they
failed to do. By entering into league with the Canaanites they
directly transgressed the command of God, and thus failed to
fulfill the condition on which He had promised to place them in
possession of Canaan.
From the very first communication of God with them at
Sinai, they had been warned against idolatry. Immediately after
the proclamation of the law the message was sent them by Moses
concerning the nations of Canaan: "Thou shalt not bow down
to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou
shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images.
And ye shall serve the Lord your God, and He shall bless thy
bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the
midst of thee." Exodus 23:24, 25. The assurance was given that
so long as they remained obedient, God would subdue their enemies
before them: "I will send My fear before thee, and will destroy
all the people to whom thou shalt come; and I will make
all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee. And I will send
hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite,
and the Hittite, from before thee. I will not drive them
out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate,
and the beast of the field multiply against thee. By little and little [p. 544] I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased,
and inherit the land. . . . I will deliver the inhabitants of the
land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee.
Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods.
They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make the sin against
Me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto
thee." Exodus 23:27-33. These directions were reiterated in the
most solemn manner by Moses before his death, and they were
repeated by Joshua.
God had placed His people in Canaan as a mighty breastwork
to stay the tide of moral evil, that it might not flood the world.
If faithful to Him, God intended that Israel should go on conquering
and to conquer. He would give into their hands nations
greater and more powerful than the Canaanites. The promise
was: "If ye shall diligently keep all these commandments which
I command you, . . . then will the Lord drive out all these
nations from before you, and ye shall possess greater nations and
mightier than yourselves. Every place whereon the soles of your
feet shall tread shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon,
from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the uttermost sea
shall your coast be. There shall no man be able to stand before
you: for the Lord your God shall lay the fear of you and the
dread of you upon all the land that ye shall tread upon, as He
hath said unto you." Deuteronomy 11:22-25.
But regardless of their high destiny, they chose the course of
ease and self-indulgence; they let slip their opportunities for
completing the conquest of the land; and for many generations
they were afflicted by the remnant of these idolatrous peoples,
that were, as the prophet had foretold, as "pricks" in their eyes,
and as "thorns" in their sides. Numbers 33:55.
The Israelites were "mingled among the heathen, and learned
their works." Psalm 106:35. They intermarried with the Canaanites,
and idolatry spread like a plague throughout the land. "They
served their idols: which were a snare unto them. Yea, they
sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils: . . . and the
land was polluted with blood. . . . Therefore was the wrath of
the Lord kindled against His people, insomuch that He abhorred
His own inheritance." Psalm 106:36-40.
Until the generation that had received instruction from Joshua
became extinct, idolatry made little headway; but the parents [p. 545] had prepared the way for the apostasy of their children. The
disregard of the Lord's restrictions on the part of those who came
in possession of Canaan sowed seed of evil that continued to
bring forth bitter fruit for many generations. The simple habits
of the Hebrews had secured them physical health; but association
with the heathen led to the indulgence of appetite and passion,
which gradually lessened physical strength and enfeebled the
mental and moral powers. By their sins the Israelites were separated
from God; His strength was removed from them, and they
could no longer prevail against their enemies. Thus they were
brought into subjection to the very nations that through God
they might have subdued.
"They forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought
them out of the land of Egypt," "and guided them in the wilderness
like a flock." "They provoked Him to anger with their high
places, and moved Him to jealousy with their graven images."
Therefore the Lord "forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent
which He placed among them; and delivered His strength into
captivity, and His glory into the enemy's hand." Judges 2:12;
Psalm 78:52, 58, 60, 61. Yet He did not utterly forsake His people.
There was ever a remnant who were true to Jehovah; and from
time to time the Lord raised up faithful and valiant men to put
down idolatry and to deliver the Israelites from their enemies.
But when the deliverer was dead, and the people were released
from his authority, they would gradually return to their idols.
And thus the story of backsliding and chastisement, of confession
and deliverance, was repeated again and again.
The king of Mesopotamia, the king of Moab, and after them
the Philistines, and the Canaanites of Hazor, led by Sisera, in
turn became the oppressors of Israel. Othniel, Shamgar, and
Ehud, Deborah and Barak, were raised up as deliverers of their
people. But again "the children of Israel did evil in the sight of
the Lord; and the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian."
Heretofore the hand of the oppressor had fallen but lightly on
the tribes dwelling east of the Jordan, but in the present calamities
they were the first sufferers.
The Amalekites on the south of Canaan, as well as the Midianites
on its eastern border, and in the deserts beyond, were
still the unrelenting enemies of Israel. The latter nation had
been nearly destroyed by the Israelites in the days of Moses, but [p. 546] they had since increased greatly, and had become numerous and
powerful. They had thirsted for revenge; and now that the
protecting hand of God was withdrawn from Israel, the opportunity
had come. Not alone the tribes east of Jordan, but the whole
land suffered from their ravages. The wild, fierce inhabitants of
the desert, "as locusts for multitude" (Judges 6:5, R.V.), came
swarming into the land, with their flocks and herds. Like a
devouring plague they spread over the country, from the river
Jordan to the Philistine plain. They came as soon as the harvests
began to ripen, and remained until the last fruits of the earth
had been gathered. They stripped the fields of their increase and
robbed and maltreated the inhabitants and then returned to the
deserts. Thus the Israelites dwelling in the open country were
forced to abandon their homes, and to congregate in walled
towns, to seek refuge in fortresses, or even to find shelter in caves
and rocky fastnesses among the mountains. For seven years this
oppression continued, and then, as the people in their distress
gave heed to the Lord's reproof, and confessed their sins, God
again raised up a helper for them.
Gideon was the son of Joash, of the tribe of Manasseh. The
division to which this family belonged held no leading position,
but the household of Joash was distinguished for courage and
integrity. Of his brave sons it is said, "Each one resembled the
children of a king." All but one had fallen in the struggles
against the Midianites, and he had caused his name to be feared
by the invaders. To Gideon came the divine call to deliver his
people. He was engaged at the time in threshing wheat. A
small quantity of grain had been concealed, and not daring to
beat it out on the ordinary threshing floor, he had resorted to a
spot near the winepress; for the season of ripe grapes being still
far off, little notice was now taken of the vineyards. As Gideon
labored in secrecy and silence, he sadly pondered upon the
condition of Israel and considered how the oppressor's yoke might
be broken from off his people.
Suddenly the "Angel of the Lord" appeared and addressed
him with the words, "Jehovah is with thee, thou mighty man
"O my Lord," was his answer, "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 [p. 547] Egypt? but now the Lord hath forsaken us, and delivered us
into the hands of the Midianites."
The Messenger of heaven replied, "Go in this thy might, and
thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not
I sent thee?"
Gideon desired some token that the one now addressing him
was the Covenant Angel, who in time past had wrought for
Israel. Angels of God, who communed with Abraham, had once
tarried to share his hospitality; and Gideon now entreated the
divine Messenger to remain as his guest. Hastening to his tent,
he prepared from his scanty store a kid and unleavened cakes,
which he brought forth and set before Him. But the Angel bade
him, "Take the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and lay them
upon this rock, and pour out the broth." Gideon did so, and then
the sign which he had desired was given: with the staff in His
hand, the Angel touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes,
and a flame bursting from the rock consumed the sacrifice. Then
the Angel vanished from his sight.
Gideon's father, Joash, who shared in the apostasy of his
countrymen, had erected at Ophrah, where he dwelt, a large
altar to Baal, at which the people of the town worshiped. Gideon
was commanded to destroy this altar and to erect an altar to
Jehovah over the rock on which the offering had been consumed,
and there to present a sacrifice to the Lord. The offering of sacrifice
to God had been committed to the priests, and had been
restricted to the altar at Shiloh; but He who had established
the ritual service, and to whom all its offerings pointed, had
power to change its requirements. The deliverance of Israel was
to be preceded by a solemn protest against the worship of Baal.
Gideon must declare war upon idolatry before going out to
battle with the enemies of his people.
The divine direction was faithfully carried out. Knowing that
he would be opposed if it were attempted openly, Gideon
performed the work in secret; with the aid of his servants,
accomplishing the whole in one night. Great was the rage of the men
of Ophrah when they came next morning to pay their devotions
to Baal. They would have taken Gideon's life had not Joash—who
had been told of the Angel's visit—stood in defense of his
son. "Will ye plead for Baal?" said Joash. "Will ye save him? he
that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet [p. 548] morning: if he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one
hath cast down his altar." If Baal could not defend his own altar,
how could he be trusted to protect his worshipers?
All thoughts of violence toward Gideon were dismissed; and
when he sounded the trumpet of war, the men of Ophrah were
among the first to gather to his standard. Heralds were dispatched
to his own tribe of Manasseh, and also to Asher, Zebulum, and
Naphthali, and all answered to the call.
Gideon dared not place himself at the head of the army without
still further evidence that God had called him to his work,
and that He would be with him. He prayed, "If Thou wilt save
Israel by mine hand, as Thou hast said, behold, I will put a
fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only,
and it be dry upon all the earth besides, then shall I know that
Thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as Thou hast said." In
the morning the fleece was wet, while the ground was dry. But
now a doubt arose, since wool naturally absorbs moisture when
there is any in the air; the test might not be decisive. Hence he
asked that the sign be reversed, pleading that his extreme caution
might not displease the Lord. His request was granted.
Thus encouraged, Gideon led out his forces to give battle to
the invaders. "All the Midianites and the Amalekites and the
children of the east were gathered together, and went over, and
pitched in the valley of Jezreel." The entire force under Gideon's
command numbered only thirty-two thousand men; but
with the vast host of the enemy spread out before him, the word
of the Lord came to him: "The people that are with thee are too
many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel
vaunt themselves against Me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved
me. Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people,
saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and
depart early from Mount Gilead." Those who were unwilling
to face danger and hardships, or whose worldly interests would
draw their hearts from the work of God, would add no strength
to the armies of Israel. Their presence would prove only a cause
It had been made a law in Israel that before they went to
battle the following proclamation should be made throughout
the army: "What man is there that hath built a new house, and
hath not dedicated it? let him go and return to his house, lest he
die in the battle, and another man dedicate it. And what man [p. 549] is he that hath planted a vineyard, and hath not yet eaten of it?
let him also go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle,
and another man eat of it. And what man is there that hath
betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her? let him go and return
unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man take
her." And the officers were to speak further to the people, saying,
"What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let
him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren's heart faint
as well as his heart." Deuteronomy 20:5-8.
Because his numbers were so few compared with those of the
enemy, Gideon had refrained from making the usual proclamation.
He was filled with astonishment at the declaration that
his army was too large. But the Lord saw the pride and unbelief
existing in the hearts of His people. Aroused by the stirring
appeals of Gideon, they had readily enlisted; but many were filled
with fear when they saw the multitudes of the Midianites. Yet,
had Israel triumphed, those very ones would have taken the glory
to themselves instead of ascribing the victory to God.
Gideon obeyed the Lord's direction, and with a heavy heart
he saw twenty-two thousand, or more than two thirds of his
entire force, depart for their homes. Again the word of the Lord
came to him: "The people are yet too many; bring them down
unto the water, and I will try them for thee there: and it shall
be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with thee, the
same shall go with thee; and of whomsoever I say unto thee, This
shall not go with thee, the same shall not go." The people were
led down to the waterside, expecting to make an immediate
advance upon the enemy. A few hastily took a little water in the
hand and sucked it up as they went on; but nearly all bowed
upon their knees, and leisurely drank from the surface of the
stream. Those who took of the water in their hands were but
three hundred out of ten thousand; yet these were selected; all
the rest were permitted to return to their homes.
By the simplest means character is often tested. Those who
in time of peril were intent upon supplying their own wants
were not the men to be trusted in an emergency. The Lord has
no place in His work for the indolent and self-indulgent. The
men of His choice were the few who would not permit their
own wants to delay them in the discharge of duty. The three
hundred chosen men not only possessed courage and [p. 550] self-control, but they were men of faith. They had not defiled
themselves with idolatry. God could direct them, and through them
He could work deliverance for Israel. Success does not depend
upon numbers. God can deliver by few as well as by many. He
is honored not so much by the great numbers as by the character
of those who serve Him.
The Israelites were stationed on the brow of a hill overlooking
the valley where the hosts of the invaders lay encamped.
"And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of
the east lay along in the valley like locusts for multitude; and
their camels were without number, as the sand which is upon the
seashore for multitude." Judges 7:12, R.V. Gideon trembled as
he thought of the conflict of the morrow. But the Lord spoke to
him in the night season and bade him, with Phurah his attendant,
go down to the camp of the Midianites, intimating that he
would there hear something for his encouragement. He went,
and, waiting in the darkness and silence, he heard a soldier
relating a dream to his companion: "Lo, a cake of barley bread
tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and
smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along."
The other answered in words that stirred the heart of that
unseen listener, "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." Gideon recognized the voice of
God speaking to him through those Midianitish strangers. Returning
to the few men under his command, he said, "Arise; for
the Lord hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian."
By divine direction a plan of attack was suggested to him,
which he immediately set out to execute. The three hundred
men were divided into three companies. To every man were
given a trumpet, and a torch concealed in an earthen pitcher.
The men were stationed in such a manner as to approach the
Midianite camp from different directions. In the dead of night,
at a signal from Gideon's war horn, the three companies sounded
their trumpets; then, breaking their pitchers and displaying the
blazing torches, they rushed upon the enemy with the terrible
war cry, "The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon!"
The sleeping army was suddenly aroused. Upon every side
was seen the light of the flaming torches. In every direction was
heard the sound of trumpets, with the cry of the assailants. [p. 553] Believing themselves at the mercy of an overwhelming force, the
Midianites were panic-stricken. With wild cries of alarm they
fled for life, and, mistaking their own companions for enemies,
they slew one another. As news of the victory spread, thousands
of the men of Israel who had been dismissed to their homes
returned and joined in pursuit of their fleeing enemies. The Midianites
were making their way toward the Jordan, hoping to reach
their own territory, beyond the river. Gideon sent messengers
to the tribe of Ephraim, rousing them to intercept the fugitives
at the southern fords. Meanwhile, with his three hundred, "faint,
yet pursuing," Gideon crossed the stream hard after those who
had already gained the farther side. The two princes, Zebah
and Zalmunna, who had been over the entire host, and who had
escaped with an army of fifteen thousand men, were overtaken
by Gideon, their force completely scattered, and the leaders
captured and slain.
In this signal defeat not less than one hundred and twenty
thousand of the invaders perished. The power of the Midianites
was broken, so that they were never again able to make war
upon Israel. The tidings spread swiftly far and wide, that Israel's
God had again fought for His people. No words can describe
the terror of the surrounding nations when they learned what
simple means had prevailed against the power of a bold, warlike
The leader whom God chose to overthrow the Midianites
occupied no prominent position in Israel. He was not a ruler, a
priest, or a Levite. He thought himself the least in his father's
house. But God saw in him a man of courage and integrity. He
was distrustful of himself and willing to follow the guidance of
the Lord. God does not always choose for His work men of the
greatest talents, but He selects those whom He can best use.
"Before honor is humility." Proverbs 15:33. The Lord can work
most effectually through those who are most sensible of their
own insufficiency, and who will rely upon Him as their leader
and source of strength. He will make them strong by uniting
their weakness to His might, and wise by connecting their
ignorance with His wisdom.
If they would cherish true humility, the Lord could do much
more for His people; but there are few who can be trusted with
any large measure of responsibility or success without becoming [p. 554] self-confident and forgetful of their dependence upon God. This
is why, in choosing the instruments for His work, the Lord passes
by those whom the world honors as great, talented, and brilliant.
They are too often proud and self-sufficient. They feel competent
to act without counsel from God.
The simple act of blowing a blast upon the trumpet by the
army of Joshua around Jericho, and by Gideon's little band
about the hosts of Midian, was made effectual, through the power
of God, to overthrow the might of His enemies. The most complete
system that men have ever devised, apart from the power
and wisdom of God, will prove a failure, while the most unpromising
methods will succeed when divinely appointed and entered
upon with humility and faith. Trust in God and obedience to
His will are as essential to the Christian in the spiritual warfare
as to Gideon and Joshua in their battles with the Canaanites.
By the repeated manifestations of His power in behalf of Israel,
God would lead them to have faith in Him—with confidence
to seek His help in every emergency. He is just as willing to
work with the efforts of His people now and to accomplish
great things through weak instrumentalities. All heaven awaits
our demand upon its wisdom and strength. God is "able to
do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think."
Gideon returned from pursuing the enemies of the nation,
to meet censure and accusation from his own countrymen. When
at his call the men of Israel had rallied against the Midianites,
the tribe of Ephraim had remained behind. They looked upon
the effort as a perilous undertaking; and as Gideon sent them
no special summons, they availed themselves of this excuse not
to join their brethren. But when the news of Israel's triumph
reached them, the Ephraimites were envious because they had not
shared it. After the rout of the Midianites, the men of Ephraim
had, by Gideon's direction, seized the fords of the Jordan, thus
preventing the escape of the fugitives. By this means a large
number of the enemy were slain, among whom were two princes,
Oreb and Zeeb. Thus the men of Ephraim followed up the battle,
and helped complete the victory. Nevertheless, they were jealous
and angry, as though Gideon had been led by his own will and
judgment. They did not discern God's hand in the triumph of
Israel, they did not appreciate His power and mercy in their [p. 555] deliverance; and this very fact showed them unworthy to be
chosen as His special instruments.
Returning with the trophies of victory, they angrily reproached
Gideon: "Why hast thou served us thus, that thou calledst us
not, when thou wentest to fight with the Midianites?"
"What have I done now, in comparison of you?" said Gideon.
"Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than
the vintage of Abiezer? God hath delivered into your hands the
princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb: and what was I able to do in
comparison of you?"
The spirit of jealousy might easily have been fanned into a
quarrel that would have caused strife and bloodshed; but
Gideon's modest answer soothed the anger of the men of Ephraim,
and they returned in peace to their homes. Firm and uncompromising
where principle was concerned, and in war a "mighty
man of valor," Gideon displayed also a spirit of courtesy that is
The people of Israel, in their gratitude at deliverance from
the Midianites, proposed to Gideon that he should become
their king, and that the throne should be confirmed to his
descendants. This proposition was in direct violation of the
principles of the theocracy. God was the king of Israel, and for them
to place a man upon the throne would be a rejection of their
Divine Sovereign. Gideon recognized this fact; his answer shows
how true and noble were his motives. "I will not rule over you,"
he declared; "neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall
rule over you."
But Gideon was betrayed into another error, which brought
disaster upon his house and upon all Israel. The season of
inactivity that succeeds a great struggle is often fraught with greater
danger than is the period of conflict. To this danger Gideon was
now exposed. A spirit of unrest was upon him. Hitherto he had
been content to fulfill the directions given him from God; but
now, instead of waiting for divine guidance, he began to plan for
himself. When the armies of the Lord have gained a signal
victory, Satan will redouble his efforts to overthrow the work of
God. Thus thoughts and plans were suggested to the mind of
Gideon, by which the people of Israel were led astray.
Because he had been commanded to offer sacrifice upon the
rock where the Angel appeared to him, Gideon concluded that [p. 556] he had been appointed to officiate as a priest. Without waiting
for the divine sanction, he determined to provide a suitable place,
and to institute a system of worship similar to that carried on
at the tabernacle. With the strong popular feeling in his favor
he found no difficulty in carrying out his plan. At his request all
the earrings of gold taken from the Midianites were given him
as his share of the spoil. The people also collected many other
costly materials, together with the richly adorned garments of
the princes of Midian. From the material thus furnished, Gideon
constructed an ephod and a breastplate, in imitation of those
worn by the high priest. His course proved a snare to himself
and his family, as well as to Israel. The unauthorized worship
led many of the people finally to forsake the Lord altogether,
to serve idols. After Gideon's death great numbers, among whom
were his own family, joined in this apostasy. The people were
led away from God by the very man who had once overthrown
There are few who realize how far-reaching is the influence
of their words and acts. How often the errors of parents produce
the most disastrous effects upon their children and children's
children, long after the actors themselves have been laid in the
grave. Everyone is exerting an influence upon others, and will
be held accountable for the result of that influence. Words and
actions have a telling power, and the long hereafter will show
the effect of our life here. The impression made by our words
and deeds will surely react upon ourselves in blessing or in cursing.
This thought gives an awful solemnity to life, and should
draw us to God in humble prayer that He will guide us by His
Those who stand in the highest positions may lead astray.
The wisest err; the strongest may falter and stumble. There is
need that light from above should be constantly shed upon our
pathway. Our only safety lies in trusting our way implicitly to
Him who has said, "Follow Me."
After the death of Gideon "the children of Israel remembered
not the Lord their God, who had delivered them out of the
hands of all their enemies on every side: neither showed they
kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according
to all the goodness which he had showed unto Israel." Forgetful
of all that they owed to Gideon, their judge and deliverer, the
people of Israel accepted his baseborn son Abimelech as their [p. 557] king, who, to sustain his power, murdered all but one of
Gideon's lawful children. When men cast off the fear of God they
are not long in departing from honor and integrity. An appreciation
of the Lord's mercy will lead to an appreciation of those
who, like Gideon, have been employed as instruments to bless
His people. The cruel course of Israel toward the house of
Gideon was what might be expected from a people who
manifested so great ingratitude to God.
After the death of Abimelech the rule of judges who feared
the Lord served for a time to put a check upon idolatry, but erelong
the people returned to the practices of the heathen communities
around them. Among the northern tribes the gods of
Syria and Sidon had many worshipers. On the southwest the
idols of the Philistines, and on the east those of Moab and
Ammon, had turned the hearts of Israel from the God of their
fathers. But apostasy speedily brought its punishment. The
Ammonites subdued the eastern tribes and, crossing the Jordan,
invaded the territory of Judah and Ephraim. On the west the
Philistines came up from their plain beside the sea, burning and
pillaging far and near. Again Israel seemed to be abandoned to
the power of relentless foes.
Again the people sought help from Him whom they had so
forsaken and insulted. "The children of Israel cried unto the
Lord, saying, We have sinned against Thee, both because we
have forsaken our God, and also served Baalim." But sorrow
had not worked true repentance. The people mourned because
their sins had brought suffering upon themselves, but not because
they had dishonored God by transgression of His holy law. True
repentance is more than sorrow for sin. It is a resolute turning
away from evil.
The Lord answered them through one of His prophets: "Did
I not deliver you from the Egyptians, and from the Amorites,
from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines? The
Zidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites, did
oppress you; and ye cried to Me, and I delivered you out of
their hand. Yet ye have forsaken Me, and served other gods:
wherefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry unto the gods
which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your
These solemn and fearful words carry the mind forward to
another scene—the great day of final judgment—when the [p. 558] rejecters of God's mercy and the despisers of His grace shall be
brought face to face with His justice. At that tribunal must they
render an account who have devoted their God-given talents of
time, of means, or of intellect, to serving the gods of this world.
They have forsaken their true and loving Friend, to follow the
path of convenience and worldly pleasure. They intended at
some time to return to God; but the world with its follies and
deceptions absorbed the attention. Frivolous amusements, pride
of dress, indulgence of appetite, hardened the heart and benumbed
the conscience, so that the voice of truth was not heard. Duty
was despised. Things of infinite value were lightly esteemed,
until the heart lost all desire to sacrifice for Him who has given
so much for man. But in the reaping time they will gather that
which they have sown.
Saith the Lord: "I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched
out My hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought
all My counsel, and would none of My reproof: . . . when your
fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a
whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then
shall they call upon Me, but I will not answer; they shall seek
Me early, but they shall not find Me: for that they hated knowledge,
and did not choose the fear of the Lord: they would none
of My counsel: they despised all My reproof. Therefore shall
they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their
own devices." "But whoso hearkeneth unto Me shall dwell safely,
and shall be quiet from fear of evil." Proverbs 1:24-31, 33.
The Israelites now humbled themselves before the Lord.
"And they put away the strange gods from among them, and
served Jehovah." And the Lord's heart of love was grieved—
"was grieved for the misery of Israel." Oh, the long-suffering
mercy of our God! When His people put away the sins that had
shut out His presence, He heard their prayers and at once began
to work for them.
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A deliverer was raised up in the person of Jephthah, a
Gileadite, who made war upon the Ammonites and effectually destroyed
their power. For eighteen years at this time Israel had suffered
under the oppression of her foes, yet again the lesson taught by
suffering was forgotten.
As His people returned to their evil ways, the Lord permitted
them to be still oppressed by their powerful enemies, the Philistines. [p. 559] For many years they were constantly harassed, and at times
completely subjugated, by this cruel and warlike nation. They
had mingled with these idolaters, uniting with them in pleasure
and in worship, until they seemed to be one with them in spirit
and interest. Then these professed friends of Israel became their
bitterest enemies and sought by every means to accomplish their
Like Israel, Christians too often yield to the influence of the
world and conform to its principles and customs, in order to
secure the friendship of the ungodly; but in the end it will be
found that these professed friends are the most dangerous of
foes. The Bible plainly teaches that there can be no harmony
between the people of God and the world. "Marvel not, my
brethren, if the world hate you." 1 John 3:13. Our Saviour says,
"Ye know that it hated Me before it hated you." John 15:18.
Satan works through the ungodly, under cover of a pretended
friendship, to allure God's people into sin, that he may separate
them from Him; and when their defense is removed, then he
will lead his agents to turn against them and seek to accomplish
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