Ellen G. White Writings

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The Signs of the Times

July 21, 1881

A Wise Reply

By Mrs. E. G. White

After the overthrow of the Midianites, 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 all the power and skill of a bold, warlike race.

Wherever the news spread, all felt that the victory must be ascribed to God alone. Thus the Lord's name was glorified, the faith of Israel strengthened, and their enemies were brought to shame and confusion.

It is not safe for God's people to adopt the maxims and customs of the ungodly. The divine principles and modes of working are widely different from those of the world. The history of nations presents no such victories as the conquest of Jericho or the overthrow of the Midianites. No general of heathen armies had ever conducted warfare as Joshua and Gideon had done. These victories teach the great lesson that the only sure ground of success is the help of God, working with human effort. Those who trust to their own wisdom and their own skill will surely be disappointed. The only safe course in all the plans and purposes of life is to preserve the simplicity of faith. Humble trust in God and faithful obedience to his will are as essential to the Christian in waging spiritual warfare as they were to Gideon and his brave associates in fighting the battles of the Lord.

God's commands must be implicitly obeyed, irrespective of the world's opinion. This lesson should not be disregarded by those who occupy positions of responsibility among their fellowmen. Such persons above all others should neglect none of the Lord's ordinances or commands. He who conforms to the customs and practices of the world separates himself from God. All should earnestly improve every religious privilege, and inquire of God daily to learn his will. The life and words of Christ must be diligently studied, and his instructions cheerfully obeyed. He who will thus gird on the armor of righteousness need not fear the enemies of God. He may be assured of the presence and protection of the Captain of the Lord's host.

It is a sad fact that the simplicity of true faith has, in a great measure, departed from the church of Christ. Many who occupy responsible positions are in constant danger of separating themselves from God by neglect of the means of grace. They do not drink daily at the fountain of wisdom and righteousness, and do not acknowledge God as the right arm of their power.

The Lord is willing to give his people a precious experience. He would lead them to confide in his wisdom, his power, and his love, instead of trusting to themselves. He would teach them to submit their judgment and their will implicitly to him. Then will they see and know that of themselves they can do nothing; that God is all and in all. His love will dwell in their hearts, and his praise will be continually upon their lips. God works for his people by agencies which the proud and worldly-wise will despise; but the grace and power of God are the only hope of sinful men.

After his glorious victory over the Midianites, Gideon was subjected to another test, differing widely from those already given, but unexpected and peculiarly severe. He must now meet unjust accusation and censure. 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 and doubtful undertaking, and as Gideon sent them no special invitation, they availed themselves of this excuse not to join their brethren. But when the news of Israel's triumph reached them, the Ephraimites were dissatisfied and envious because they had not shared it.

Gideon was not anxious to secure the honor to himself, for he knew that it belonged to the Lord alone. As soon as the Midianites were routed, Gideon had sent swift messengers, desiring the Ephraimites to seize the fords of the Jordan that the fugitives might not escape. A large number of the enemy were slain, among whom were two of the chief princes of Midian. Thus the men of Ephraim followed up the battle, and helped complete the victory. Nevertheless, they were jealous and angry, as though Gideon were governed by his own will and judgment. They did not discern God's hand in the triumph of Israel, and this very fact proved that they were indeed unworthy to be used as his instruments on that occasion. They would have taken the honor to themselves, instead of ascribing it to God. The wicked spirit manifested toward Gideon shows that they were not men who could be trusted, who would appreciate God's mercy and power in their deliverance.

The wisdom of God, as displayed in the methods and instrumentalities employed to carry forward his work, is foolishness to the boastful and self-confident, because they know not the mystery of godliness. The Lord would teach his people at the present day the lesson of simple dependence upon that mighty arm which can overthrow the strongholds of Satan. The prayer of faith, offered by God's humble, obedient, trusting people, will bring them the victory.

The most complete and perfect system which men have ever devised, apart from the power and wisdom of God, will prove a failure; while the humble means which God sanctions must succeed. 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 host of Midian, was made effectual, through the power of God, to overthrow the might of his enemies. Deep are the counsels of God, and the finite mind seeks in vain to comprehend them.

The bullock standing between the altar for sacrifice and the plow in the furrow,—ready for either,—fitly represents the position which God's people should occupy. The Lord has no place in his work for the indolent and self-indulgent. Like the men of Ephraim, there are many at the present day who are ready to work diligently to secure honor to themselves; but unless they can do this they will not work at all. And not only will they do nothing to themselves, but by their example and influence they will discourage others.

The men of Ephraim, returning from the fords of the Jordan with the trophies of victory, addressed Gideon in terms of angry reproach: “Why hast thou served us thus, that thou calledst us not when thou wentest to fight with the Midianites?”

Gideon knew that he had acted by the divine command, and though harshly censured by those who should have commended, he restrained all feelings of anger or indignation. How easily the spirit of jealousy and discontent might have been fanned into a quarrel that would have caused division, bloodshed, and ruin! By his self-control, Gideon showed himself a hero. He proved the truth of those words written so long afterward, “A soft answer turneth away wrath.” In his reply to the Ephraimites he modestly threw a veil over his own success, but spoke in the highest praise of their achievements: “What have I done now in comparison of you?” Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abi-ezer? God hath delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb; and what was I able to do in comparison of you?” He represented the victory gained by himself and his army of three hundred men as little in comparison with their taking the princes of Midian. And he further showed that the glory belonged neither to him nor to them, but to the Lord.

Gideon's modest and prudent answer appeased the anger of the men of Ephraim, and they returned in peace to their homes. How much of the trouble that exists in the world today, springs from the same evil traits that actuated the men of Ephraim, and how many evils might be avoided if all who are unjustly accused or censured would manifest the meek, self-forgetful spirit of Gideon.

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