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in pursuit of Sisera. Jael advanced to meet him. "Come,” said she, "and I will show thee the man whom thou seekest.” He entered the tent, and how great was his astonishment to witness what her heroism had achieved, and the fulfillment, too, of the prediction of Deborah ; " The journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honor; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.”
Thus, so great was the mercy and goodness of God towards them, the Israelites once more triumphed over their oppressors, and enjoyed the blessings of peace and their accustomed prosperity, during a period of forty years.* And why, alas! would they not learn wisdom from experience? Why did not the repeated and severe chastisements which they endured, bring them to a sense of duty, and to a permanent state of obedience to God? Strange perverseness of the human heart ! Blind infatuation of sin and folly! Again they yielded to temptation ; fell into the practice of idolatry ; and did evil, in various other ways, in the sight of the Lord. His judgments returned with increased severity.
* The reader ought not to pass over, in this part of the narrative, the triumphal song of Deborah and Barak, as re. corded in the fifth chapter of the Book of Judges; one of the most sublime and highly poetical compositions extant.
New oppressors appeared. New and tremendous sufferings ensued. Another bondage of seven years was the doom of the offending Israelites.
The Midianites invaded their land, a numerous people dwelling on the eastern borders of the Red Sea, together with the Amalekites of the south, and hordes of the mixed tribes of Arabians, Ishmaelites, Moabites, and Ammonites, inhabiting the regions east and south-east of Ca
Resistance was in vain. Fleeing before their persecutors, the Israelites were often obli, ged to take refuge in the dens and caves of the mountains; and if, at certain seasons of the year when their enemies withdrew for a short season, they ventured to come forth and cultivate the land, harvest-time was sure to witness the return of the spoilers, who carried off the fruits of their labor, leaving no sustenance for man nor beast. Many of these invaders prolonged their stay, sweeping over the whole breadth of the land, from the east, where they entered, quite to the possessions of the Philistines, who occupied the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea.se They came up with their cattle and their tents,”—their families and flocks ;—"and they came up as grasshoppers for multitude ; for both they and their camels were without number : and they entered into the land to destroy it."
Poverty, famine and universal wretchedness
prevailed among the victims of their oppression and plunder. At length, while enduring such afflictions, the Israelites saw the hand of an offended God in them, and once more cried unto him for deliverance. He did not turn a deaf car to their supplications. He was again merciful. But he first reproved them for their iniquities by a prophet whom he sent, to remind them of all that he had done for their nation; of the relation in which he stood to them as their covenantLord; of the assurances that he had given them of protection if they continued obedient; and of their great and aggravated guilt in sinning against him. This message was doubtless intended to deepen their repentance; to lead them to feel that what they had endured was but the just punishment of their offences; and to prepare them the more fully to appreciate, and be grateful for the deliverance which was soon to follow.
About this time, there came an angel of the Lord,-probably the Son of God himself, the divine Word, who afterwards appeared in our world in the person of Jesus Christ,—and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah. This was a city in the tribe of Manasseh, a little west of the river Jordan, and about sixteen miles north of Jericho. It was the inheritance of Joash, one of the descendants of Abiezer.
When this heavenly messenger took his seat Joshua & Judges.
beneath the oak, GIDEON, the son of Joash, was not far distant, threshing wheat in, or near a wine-press. He was doing it in a small quantity, and in an unusual place, to elude if possible the notice of the Midianites, but in case they should approach, to gather it up quickly, and flee with it to some place of safety. He was filled with astonishment as the glorious vision met his eye, and the angel thus addressed him: "The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor.”
The salutation was one of deep import, implying the favor of God in no common degree, and for some great purpose. It was an assurance of Gideon's possessing, in a peculiar manner, the divine presence, protection, and blessing. He replied, "O my Lord, if the Lord be with us,”-if I and my people enjoy this distinguished privilege,-"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 ?" Cannot the same power which did those wonderful things for our nation then, do as much for us now? " But now the Lord hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.”
There was too much despondency, and a weakness of faith in this reply. But the Lord bore with it. Shining forth in the visible manifestation of his glory, he benignantly said, "Go in this thy
might,”—the might of Jehovah, who is, and will be with thee,-"and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?"
"O my Lord,” answered the still distrustful Gideon," wherewith shall I save Israel ? Behold my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house."
"Surely I will be with thee," was the voice of encouragement which again met his ear, "and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man easily as if thou hadst but one man to contend with. We may
wonder why Gideon did not at once feel an unwavering confidence in the declarations of the Almighty, and in the promise of the divine strength which would be afforded him. But he had been crushed by the oppressor. He had felt, with his countrymen around him, as if any struggle to recover their freedom and security was in vain. The numbers and the might of their enemies filled him with fear and hopelessness. He could hardly believe it possible that God, who had so long abandoned them, would interpose for their rescue, and that, too, through his feeble instrumentality.
But no circumstances however discouraging, no means however humble, which may be employed by the Almighty for the accomplishment of his purposes, should lead us to distrust his de