First Bring the Hands of Zebah and Zalmunna
Beaver Dam, Kentucky
Among the more intriguing narratives of the Old Testament is that of Gideon's judgeship or deliverance of Israel from the oppression of the Midianites (Judges 6 8). God suffered the nations to oppress His people when they forgot His word and lapsed into sin and idolatry (Deut. 31:16-17; Judges 6:10). So greatly had the Midianites afflicted God's people, the record informs us they had come in "as grasshoppers for multitude," and had "greatly impoverished" the Israelites. It was because of this that cries ascended unto the Lord from this distressed generation (Jud. 6:7). From the call of Gideon as he threshed wheat to hide from the Midianites to the time of his death and Israel's return again into sin, fine and illustrative lessons may be gleaned from this servant of God whose faith and obedience were worthy of mention in the catalogue of the faithful (Heb. 11:32). May we, by way of analogy, draw a lesson from some who receive mention in the story of Gideon's conquests?
The small army of three hundred men under Gideon's leadership had, shortly after ten p.m. (Jud. 7:19) , so startled the sleeping and unsuspecting Midianites that as "the host ran, and cried, and fled" (Ver. 21), "there fell an hundred and twenty thousand men that drew sword" (8:10). Gideon then engaged in hot pursuit of Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian, and their "fifteen thousand" men to so subdue Midian before the children of Israel that "they might lift up their heads no more" (8:28).
One would naturally surmise that as Gideon's army had successfully routed the oppressors, those along the line of chase would be more than pleased to support the deliverers. Gideon had himself expected such beneficence. But coming unto Succoth, his men being faint, and asking bread, he is refused as the excuse is offered, "Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thine army?" (8:6). At Penuel he received a similar reply to his petition (8:8). But without the support of these fellow Israelites of the tribe of Gad, the Midianite kings were taken and the host discomfited. A promise of retribution upon the people of Succoth was fulfilled as Gideon tore their flesh with thorns and briers (8:7,16), and upon Penuel as the tower was broken down and the men slain (8:9,17).
Why were these two cities so dispassionate toward the needs of those who had already rendered and were intent upon rendering further deeds to the welfare of all? We can only assume. Perhaps it was because of a fear that Gideon would be defeated and the Midianite kings would turn again upon them. But how could this be when, with the loss of none, this small army had already, with God's help, destroyed far more than a majority? Perhaps it was because they desired to see the work completely finished before making an investment, even though it was an investment in the peace and safety of many souls. Ah, but the investment (support) was needed by those who were attempting to gain that peace and security-and it was needed before the task was completed. Perhaps it was simply due to a false trust in their own strong towers and accomplishments. Or maybe it was the simple dislike by the presentation of a need. In any case, the "loaves of bread" (8:5) were not given.
Frequently, you and I see brethren who are bent upon going into fields where the gospel of Christ has never in pureness been proclaimed, men who desire to go that many souls may learn of the way by which freedom and safety from the bondage of sin is secured, men who expect (and they have a right to expect it-1 Cor. 9:14) their brethren to give unto them the "loaves of bread" necessary to do the job. As these willing men knock at the doors of such congregations as "Succoth and Penuel" presenting their plans and their pleas, they often receive replies that compare with, "First bring the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna." Such attitudes force those who would go to spend many months and travel thousands of miles begging brethren to make in investment in the welfare of souls.
Why do many of us close our ears and harden our hearts to the requests of those who would "go"? Perhaps it is due to a lack of ability. Undoubtedly, in some instances this is the reason; but surely such instances are in the minority. Is it possibly because we do not like to be disturbed in our "ease in Zion" by the presentation of a need in a certain field? Only God can be the judge as to the number so motivated. Could it be that we have begun to place so much emphasis upon our strong towers (edifices) and great numbers at home that we have forgotten our indebtedness to all men (Rom. 1:14)? May God help us to never become content with our superficial progress! But how many refuse to make an investment until they have seen the work in a field well established, several souls already converted to the Cause there? Then when they begin to support it, they can boast of aiding a work where great strides are made. How much this is like unto, "Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thine army?"! Not only must the men be supported after the work is well established, but also while the march is being made. Someone must break the ground. Some plant, others water, but all must be aided whether planters or waterers and that while the planting and watering is being done.
Will the day ever dawn that when a faithful man announces his willingness and desire to go, faithful churches will be ready to give him the "loaves of bread" needed for the work? May it be so.
Truth Magazine V:6, pp. 9-10