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Based on Malachi 3:16-18 I believe the Lord will harken to us as we consider his word together.
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We were speaking in chapter four about Gideon and the Midianites and we were saying that the history of the Midianites represents the history of the world interfering with the things of God among His people. May I repeat that it was Midian, with Moab, who hired Balaam to curse Israel and thereby brought them under a state of bondage, defeat, paralysis, weakness and dishonour. This was not carried out in a direct way, but it succeeded eventually in an indirect way inasmuch as Balaam was compelled to bless rather than curse, but obtained the same thing by teaching Israel to commit spiritual fornication. That is, to make alliances religiously with the nations round about. And so Balaamism is the world being allowed to come into relationship with things of God, and the people of God entering into fellowship and relationship with the world. This has perhaps more than anything else brought the people of God into spiritual weakness. It is patent to all who have eyes that the great paralysing tactic of the enemy in the case of God's people right through, has been to bring about an association between them and the world in some way or some form. Their strength is destroyed, liberty is taken away, and they find themselves in a paralysing bondage when they have come into fellowship with the world.
We have read what the Lord's own mind is about that. John has given us that mind very clearly: all that is of the world, or in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the vain glory of life, this is of the world and this is enmity with God. This is the Midianite and this is Balaamism and it was that that brought the tremendous censure upon that church of which we have read in the book of Revelation, "Thou hast there those that teach the doctrine of Balaam". In other words, more simply, it amounted to this: there are those there who introduce worldly methods, worldly means and resources, worldly policy into the realm of the things of God and among the people of God.
Every one of us is assailed far more subtly than we recognise in this very thing. It is not just a matter of introducing the grosser forms of worldliness, but it is sometimes just a little bit of worldly wisdom, for example, in making decisions, where the thing is not wholly of the Holy Spirit and we use man's standards of values and judgment; where we are sometimes tempted to take a line of less resistance in order to gain some advantage; where we come down from the high place of trusting the Lord for everything in a day of pressure, adversity or trial and do not hold on to the Lord to meet the situation. Instead we are tempted to turn to some expedient way of meeting the situation... expediency, to a little bit of human diplomacy, patronage, stirring of the flesh in order to get through. All that is the spirit of the world and it works in very subtle ways from time to time, and when it has dictated a course or governed a decision, there has come about a state of compromise where the Holy Spirit Himself has to stand back in helplessness and leave us to get on with it and we find ourselves in a state of terrible bondage and spiritual weakness. That temptation is one which is overcoming multitudes of the Lord's people today.
The situation today is just honeycombed with that sort of thing - great instrumentalities which have been raised up and used by God, which have been wholly of God, which have been faith institutions, faith instrumentalities, which had a testimony to the power of God and faith of God, by trusting wholly in God and not resorting to the flesh or world in any way whatsoever for support. These are being assailed along this very line and they are coming down from their high position, beginning to appeal, letting their needs be known in all directions, to get patronage, names.... You know the whole thing and it represents a coming in of something that will paralyse the spiritual life. There is a subtle moving of the enemy to destroy the testimony to the absolute sovereignty of God in every realm and every matter; God's sovereignty to carry on His own way.
That is what you have in Midianites and when you come to this, Midian is unveiled. And what a lot is said about Midianites; they overran the country! They were a multitude like the sand, like locusts; they ate up everything... the very food of God. And here is Gideon trying to preserve a little grain behind the wall and hide it in the winepress for fear of the Midianites. Why is there such spiritual starvation? Why is the food question so acute, that wherever you go people say, "We cannot get spiritual food; it is all husks; the locusts have eaten it up". It is the inevitable result of the world getting hold of things of God among the people of God.
The church has been captured by the world, and honeycombed by the world, and the church is depending upon the world and its resources and that is the result: that the food has gone. We have to understand the nature of the things that are around us today. People are hungry for spiritual food. It is one thing to recognise this and another thing to know why. You cannot deal with it unless you know the cause of it. It is because the Lord is not the whole portion of His people. So you have got to come back to the place where the Lord is the portion of His people absolutely and where He is the whole portion and look nowhere but to the Lord. And when the Lord is everything and has His place, you are well-fed and sustained and the Lord can look after His interests. The Midianites devour everything. They represent that subtle link of looking to the world rather than to the Lord, and drawing upon other sources than the Lord to help in the things of the Lord. The issue will be spiritual weakness. That introduces you to the whole matter of Gideon. 5tm
When you come to Gideon the Lord arrives behind that wall, as it were, and sits over under the tree and watches Gideon do his secret work trying to preserve a bit of food from the Midianites. Then He addresses Gideon in most astounding words, "The Lord is with thee thou mighty man of valour"! And he was anything but that, "I am the least of my father's house..." and when put to the test and told to destroy the idols, the images, the groves of his father, he did it by night because he was afraid to do it by day. Then he tested God three times before he would move. A mighty man of valour! I get a good deal of comfort out of this.
The Lord wants a Gideon instrument today, and the explanation of this is that the Lord called Gideon not what he was, but what He was going to make him. The Lord saw Gideon as the product of His own dealings and activity in him and He saw him as a mighty man of valour in the future, not as he was then. Peter had exactly the same thing happen to him. "Thou art Simon, thou shalt be called Peter". "Thou art Peter and upon this rock..." - Peter denied the Lord with oaths and curses after that was said to him and could not even stand up to a servant maid! Petros, a rock. It was not what Peter was; it was what the Lord saw he was going to be when He had done with him.
The Lord calls the things that are not as though they were, and He saw the possibility of the energy of the Holy Spirit in this man and so called him according to His own grace and power, and not according to what he was by nature. There is hope for all of us. "The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man" - that is not you and me by nature. It is you and me when the Lord has got His way with us. Now, when did that take place? "And the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon" - and then it started. It is not what we are, but what the Holy Spirit is. When He comes in, things happen. That is the secret of might. It is with the Lord, not with us.
Now, you notice the next thing is that Gideon raises a question. It is a beautiful question. It sounds like an argument, "If the Lord is with us, wherefore is all this befallen us?" Do you notice there is a change in one word? Why has this befallen, not "me", but "us". Do you catch the significance of that? Gideon was not living to himself or for himself; he was in close, suffering touch with his people. You will never get an instrument that is going to be of use to God that has not that close suffering touch with God's people. God is not going to take an instrument that stands apart from His people and begin to hammer them. If you are going to have Daniel's ministry you must have his burden. If Ezra's, then you must have that passion that he had. He was down on his face before God with a heart suffering touch with the condition of things. Gideon was not taking this thing for himself. He was concerned about the spiritual state of the Lord's people.
The Lord is not trying to get hold of something that He puts out there in detachment to take down the spiritual state of His people everywhere, but is trying to get something that will help them because they are suffering together. That instrument has them on his heart. Beware of occupying a pedestal because of some experience which makes you think that you are better than the rest and you must begin to "hammer" others because they are not where they ought to be. If you look through the Word of God you will find this principle continues, that whenever God raises up an instrument to meet the situation among His own people, that instrument suffers terribly. Ezekiel, "l sat where they sat" - that is it. A man in touch with the situation and overwhelmed by it, loses. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Paul had all come to that place. Paul said, "I could wish myself accursed for my brethren's sake". Not taking them down, but suffering in their suffering, and he is keenly touched with the state of things. That is the kind of instrument the Lord must have: one who is in sympathetic fellowship with things as they are.