by James Jacob Prasch
normally we teach this in
2 Corinthians 4:6-18 For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. [Now, notice verse 7 particularly:] But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you. But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, "I believed, therefore I spoke," we also believe, therefore also we speak; knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
We read here about the idea of continual death. We have died with Christ, we were born again, but we are called to pick up our cross and continue to die with Him. The more of our old selves that dies with Christ daily, the more the life of Christ lives in us. The key to life is death; he who gains his life shall loose it, that is what Paul is saying. It is again a basic tenant of Christian walk, of Christians conduit of discipleship. Death to the world, to sin and ultimately to self will or fallen self will to bring our will into conformity with the will of the Father. This death will produce life, but this life will not only be for ourselves, even though we do it for Jesus, it will enable us to bring life to other people, again, very basic Christian teaching. But it begins with this idea of the old creation or the old man, the old woman dying. We have these biological bodies that are dying but at the same time these things are dying, there is a new creation that is being raised up. With unsaved people, the older they get, the less they have to live for. With unsaved people, the older they get, the less they have to live for, the less purpose they have to live. For believers, the older they get the more they have to life for. Remember, with unsaved people their endgame is the grave; where it ends for them, is where it begins for us. Our troubles end where their trouble begins. Our troubles end where their trouble begins, and of course, in 1st Corinthians Paul writes of this quoting from Hebrew prophets identifying death as an enemy. Death is itself, biological death, is an enemy, but God mocks his enemies and the last enemy that God mocks is actually death itself. “Oh death where is thy sting, oh grave where is thy victory.” God mocks his enemies and death is mocked as an enemy of God and of man.
Nonetheless, because we live in a fallen world and have an old nature, this death becomes a necessary evil that by this old man, this old woman, this old creation dying, this new one, empowered by Christ, comes to life. That out of this darkness comes this light, but again, let us focus on verse 7.
“We have this treasure in earthen vessels that the surpassing greatness of power may be of God and not from ourselves.” The treasure is in an earthen vessel. The previous verse tells us that the light will shine out of it. There has to be a death to the earthen vessel that life and light may come out of it. Now one other feature I point out is verse 13: The world and the devil will always have a counterfeit of a biblical truth. In verse 13 we see: “I believed, therefore I spoke.” Existentialism, the basic existential confession of belief is “I think I am, therefore I am.” Notice the world’s philosophy will always have an imitation or a counterfeit of a biblical truth. God alone can say “I am, I think I am, therefore I am.” It’s not this deification of man. However, something else happens. “I believe, therefore I spoke.” Well, if we are made in His image and likeness and we die with Christ, because we believe, therefore, we can also speak God’s word. We can also speak God’s word because we believe, we can speak it. Existentialists can say “I think I am, therefore I am.” They can think all they want, they are not the “I am.” In other words, this death to self, although it is a diminution of self, it does not decrease our power, it increases our power.
For instance, just to make an
analogy, we are all products of what historians call the Post-war era. I suppose people now, being born in the last
ten years will be called products of the Post-Cold War era, but everyone in
this room, with the possible exception of this young lady at the very end is a
product of the post-war era. In the
post-war era everything changed in the world.
Now there is nothing of a particular interest in the Greek text linguistically that would be of any doctrinal or theological importance, of any major significance, but there is something in the underlying Hebrew thought of which Paul is writing and I will explain it:
If you have been with us to
With this in view, turn with
me please now, if you will, back to the story of Gideon in the book of
Judges. It meant a leader who would
judge situations based on the Torah. It
meant a leader who would judge situations and make decisions on what to do based on the commandments or the principles of the
Torah. In the period of Judges, it is
the period that precedes the kings. You
had the conquest under Joshua, then the period of Judges, followed by the
period of kings and prophets. The period
of Judges was the form of government and organization that God originally
Of course, growing up in New
York, or in Pennsylvania, we all know about slavery and all that stuff, and secession
was unconstitutional and what they did to the soul brothers was terrible in the
American South and all that stuff. They
went away from God’s law. Something
Remember, the Founding
Fathers of America were in part, not totally, but in part, governed by biblical
principles in their thinking. The
Puritans who establish parliamentary government in
When the people deviated from
the Torah, they inevitably went into idolatry.
When you go away from the Word of God, certain things are going to
become incipient, immorality and compromise.
Not that everybody goes into immorality and idolatry at once, but once
you begin to compromise with it, once it gets its foot in the door, once the
devil gets a toe in the door, he will get the foot in and once he gets the foot
in, he is getting in. There is no
stopping him. There is no stopping
it! That is all it takes. The people began turning to idolatry, to
other gods. Now, whenever you have
idolatry, sexual immorality will always follow.
We have to understand the nature of this in biblical thought. When
So he gets rid of the Baal, he gets rid of the Asherah, and low and behold, because somebody finally has the guts, although he did not have the guts but God gave him the guts to blow the trumpet, to take a stand, to demolish the Asherah and the alter of Baal, other people begin joining themselves to him, do you see that? There are some very bad churches today but there are some good people in them. There are some very bad Bible colleges and seminaries today but there are some decent people in them. There are some very bad denominations today but there are some good people in them. They are waiting for somebody to blow a trumpet, to take a stand, to do what needs to be done. But remember, the first opponent will be the backsliders and compromisers in our own midst, just like the story of the Maccabees with Menelaus. They are waiting for somebody to blow the trumpet, to draw the line, to say “This is what needs to be done.” But, we all have an old nature and Gideon was no exception. “What do I do now, I’ve gone this far, there is no turning back. Oh, Lord, I hope you are with me.” He puts out a fleece! He is always looking for another confirmation. Well, how much like us was he and how much are we like him? You get yourself up to your neck, up to your eyeballs and you want the Lord to keep confirming he is with you. We all have doubts, questions, insecurities, when everybody is saying you are wrong, you want to make sure you are right. “Why do I think I am right; is it because I am right or is it just spiritual pride? Is it just religious pride? Are all these guys really, really wrong and I am the one who is right? Maybe I have a pride problem. Maybe I am suppressing the Holy Spirit. Is there something I am not seeing?” These things naturally go through your head. Now, ultimately you stand on the Word of God and the Holy Spirit shows us but maybe it is good to ask ourselves those questions. Maybe it is good to have these things challenged because we will be acting in our own strength. There is a bit of wimp in all of us, not just in Gideon with his fleece. I think that reflects something that is found, to some degree, in every one of us, at least those who are willing to take a stand. You want to be sure you are right. You want to be sure God is with you. You are going against everything and you are going into a big fight. We are outnumbered. Let us look.
Now, once he does this, his name is changed to Jerubbaal
Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him, rose early
and camped beside the spring of Harod; and the camp of Midian was on the north
side of them by the hill of Moreh in the valley. [This is towards the eastern access of the
LORD said to Gideon, "The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, lest
the numbers game. The whole mega-church
concept is based on a numbers game.
Understand why sociologically.
The last time there was a real revival in
LORD said to Gideon, "The people are still too many.” [Now, do you understand, they are
outnumbered, massively outnumbered by the Midianites and Amorites, just across
the founders of
“The people are still too many. Bring them down to the water and I will test them for you there.” [Bring the 10,000 down.] Therefore it shall be that one of whom I say to you, 'This one shall go with you,' he shall go with you; but everyone of whom I say to you, 'This one shall not go with you,' he shall not go." So he brought the people down to the water. And the LORD said to Gideon, "You shall separate everyone who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, as well as everyone who kneels to drink." Now the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, [notice, it was not an animal imitation, it was just that they lay prostrate; they were desperate to get the water. They used their hand as a cup. “Putting their hand to their mouth was 300 men; but all the rest of the people kneeled to drink water.”
again, this kind of water is what we call in
LORD said to Gideon, "I will deliver you with the 300 men who lapped and
will give the Midianites into your hands; so let all the other people go, each man to his home." So the 300 men took the people's provisions
and their trumpets into their hands. And Gideon sent all the other men of
Just like in the story of David and Goliath; the victory is always in the valley, not on the mountain. These guys want to have a Praise-A-Thon and bang on tambourines and sing victory songs up on the mountain while the mosques are going up all over the place, while the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witness are growing all over the place, while homosexuality is taking everything over, these guys want to have a Praise-A-Thon, they do not want to go into the valley. It is much easier to watch TBN, bang on a tambourine and act like a clown than go to war. No, first defeat Midian, then they can bang on the tambourine, then we will have something to celebrate.
Now the same night it came about that the LORD said to him, "Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hands.
fascinating book that I read once when I was in
"But if you are afraid to go down, go with Purah your servant down to the camp, and you will hear what they say; and afterward your hands will be strengthened that you may go down against the camp." So he went with Purah his servant down to the outposts of the army that was in the camp.
Notice again with Gideon, there is some aspect of his old nature that is always there. Yeah, he is the strong guy; he is the tough guy, he is the leader but there is always some aspect of his old nature that is always there. If you are afraid—he has got to show guts and bravery in front of everyone. People are not going to follow a leader when they think he is afraid, but God knows what we are really like. Send some spies into the camp. Again, Sun Tzu, “One spy is worth a thousand soldiers.” No, no, that is Gideon. Sun Tzu was not the first one to say that.
to visit American Civil War battle parks; they are interesting and there is a
lot to be learned from secular history.
I went to Antietam and if the Union General, McClellan, had not had bad
intelligence from Alan Pinkerton, the detective who was in charge of his
Intelligence, like the Pinkerton Agency, same, he founded it—if he did not have
such bad intelligence, he would have continued the attack at Antietam and the
Civil War would have been over at Antietam.
There would have been no Second Battle of Bull Run, there would have
So, he sends some spies down into the camp and what happens? He sends them into the camp.
"But if you are afraid to go down, go with Purah your servant down to the camp, and you will hear what they say; and afterward your hands will be strengthened that you may go down against the camp." So he went with Purah his servant down to the outposts of the army that was in the camp. [Now what is says in Hebrew is the extremity of the battle array; he did not actually go into the heart of the camp. He went to the periphery of the battle line. And it continues.]
Now the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the sons of the east were lying in the valley as numerous as locusts; [again, Joel 2, Revelation 9 begins with the story of Gideon] and their camels were without number, as numerous as the sand on the seashore. [Just like the decendents of Abraham. Now using that phrase would have shocked a Jew because God promised Abraham his descendents would be the same, as numerous as the sands on the seashore. It was a Hebrew idiom for absolutely massive.]
Gideon came, behold, a man was relating a dream to his friend. And he said,
"Behold, I had a dream; a loaf of barley bread was tumbling into the camp
of Midian, and it came to the tent and struck it so that it fell, and turned it
upside down so that the tent lay flat." And his friend answered and said,
"This is nothing less than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of
If the battle is the Lord’s, the victory is assured. Now God can even give unsaved people dreams and interpretations, when it is his purpose. Let us look:
divided the 300 men into three companies, [100 each, obviously] and he put
trumpets and empty pitchers into the hands of all of them, with torches inside
the pitchers. [Notice, you had
earthenware vessels with lights in them.
The peed was inside the earthenware vessel] And
he said to them, "Look at me, and do likewise. And behold, when I come to
the outskirts of the camp, do as I do.
"When I and all who are with me blow the trumpet, then you also
blow the trumpets all around the camp, and say, 'For the LORD and for
Gideon.'" [Notice, for the Lord
first, then for Gideon.] So Gideon and
the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the
beginning of the middle watch, when they had just posted the watch; and they
blew the trumpets and smashed the pitchers that were in their hands. When the three companies blew the trumpets
and broke the pitchers, they held the torches in their left hands and the
trumpets in their right hands for blowing, and cried, "A sword for the
LORD and for Gideon!" And each
stood in his place around the camp; and all the army ran, crying out as they
fled. And when they blew 300 trumpets,
the LORD set the sword of one against another even throughout the whole army;
and the army fled as far as Beth-shittah [which is a kibbutz today] toward
Zererah, as far as the edge of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath. [If you come with us
Notice what it says “A loaf of bread crushes the tent of Midian.” A loaf of bread? A loaf of bread bulldozes the mosque. A loaf of bread bulldozes the Roman Catholic Church. A loaf of bread bulldozes Freemasonry. A loaf of bread bulldozes a Mormon temple. But you have to have a light inside an earthenware vessel that you are willing to smash to make it happen. Their swords turn against each other.
Again, we are no longer led by Godly men. Just look at it! Sunni Moslems hate Christians, Shiite Moslems hate Christians. Sunni Moslems hate Jews, Shiite Moslems hate Jews. Now if you understood this biblically, if Sunni Moslems and Shiite Moslems want to exterminate each other in Iraq, the logical thing to do is to pass out the popcorn and enjoy the show, instead of putting American lives on the line to stop your enemies from killing each other, but this is what happens when your leaders are no longer Godly men guided by Godly principles. These principles are God’s principles. They work, they are true. They are as true today as they were in biblical times. Let them kill each other. That is not a political statement; it is simply a principle of scripture. One of the ways God works is he turns the enemy’s swords against each other. The fundamentalist Mormons hate the mainstream Mormons, let them fight. Let them damage each other’s credibility in the public specter. The conservatives, so-called conservatives in the Catholic Church are fighting the liberal ones. Let them fight. Let them do it! It is supposed to be that way; that is God’s judgment on our enemies. Why should he risk the lives of his own troops when he can let the enemies kill each other? Let them kill each other, then we go in and mop up, that is the Biblical strategy. Get them to kill each other, and then we mop up.
Black September 1970, the Jordanians exterminated between 12,000 and 15,000 of Arafat’s people in 18 days. Let them kill each other, and then we mop up. That is the biblical strategy but unfortunately, we no longer have leaders who understand biblical strategy. They do not care about the Bible anymore. They care about the price of a barrel of oil or some other such thing but they do not care about the things God says we should care about. Let us look. Confusion comes to the enemy. Then when the 300 rout the enemy the men from Naphtali, Asher and Manasseh come and pursue Midian.
Gideon sent messengers throughout all the hill country of Ephraim, saying,
"Come down against Midian and take the waters before them, as far as
Beth-barah and the
Now, look at Chapter 8:1. I love this:
Judges 8:1-10 Then the men of Ephraim said to him, "What is this thing you have done to us, not calling us when you went to fight against Midian?" And they contended with him vigorously.
they will argue vigorously but they will not fight the enemy vigorously. They all want to jump on the bandwagon! They all want a piece of the action. They all want to share in the glory. When God really moves, everybody will try to
get into the revival. Well, what if it
is not a real revival? They were all
trying to jump onto
said to them, "What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the
gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim
better than the vintage of Abiezer?
"God has given the leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb
into your hands; and what was I able to do in comparison with you?" Then
their anger toward him subsided when he said that. Then Gideon and the 300 men who were with him
came to the
Can you imagine? They did not even want to dig into their own pockets and help those who were fighting for them. “First, finish them off and then we will pay you.” What kind of an attitude is this? Keep your money, we don’t need it! You will be dealt with later. It would be the same today.
And he went up from there to Penuel, and spoke similarly to them; and the men of Penuel answered him just as the men of Succoth had answered. So he spoke also to the men of Penuel, saying, "When I return safely, I will tear down this tower." Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their armies with them, about 15,000 men, all who were left of the entire army of the sons of the east; for the fallen were 120,000 swordsmen.
And Gideon finishes them off and so forth.
8:16 And he took
the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and he
disciplined the men of Succoth with them. And he tore down the
on like this, a big mess. Notice, the
battle begins, not with Midian or the Amorites, the battle begins with the
backslidden, phony brother and the battle ends, not with the Amorites or with
Midian. The battle ends with the loser,
backslidden brethren. Islam would not be
making these kinds of gains in
They put the torches inside the earthenware vessels. Their lights were in the earthenware vessels and for the lights to shine, the earthenware vessels had to be smashed, for God said light shall shine out of the darkness.
“We have the treasure in earthen vessels that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God, not from ourselves. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed. We are perplexed!”
I am perplexed. How can Christians go along with this junk! How can Pat Robertson have a Mormon addressing his seminary graduation? How can a so-called Christian president put a Koran in the White House and put out a postage stamp celebrating Ramadan, a demonic, pagan festival? How can they put graven images in Evangelical churches and light incense before them and bow down to them, how?
We are afflicted in every way, crushed? No, just afflicted. Despairing? No, just perplexed. Persecuted, but not forsaken. Struck down, but not destroyed. Always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. We are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our mortal flesh. We have this treasure in earthen vessels. We have the light in the vase, it has to be smashed that the light will shine. The enemy will be defeated. Life comes from death, death to self. The victory comes by the few, not by the great. That is the way it was for Gideon and that is the way it is for us today, this day, right here.