Lessons from Gideon #4

Our summer Bible study on Gideon by Priscilla Shirer ended last week. I’ve previously written some of the “Lessons from Gideon” that I’ve taken away from this study here:

As we conclude, I wanted to gather some final thoughts.

Gideon became the valiant warrior God called him to be. We see early in the study in Judges 6 and 7 how he and the 300 men chosen by God routed the enemy in God’s strength alone. We see how Gideon was in conversation with God, in communion with Him during this time, even if it was just receiving assurance or confirmation of the plan. God was patient with Gideon, and Gideon obeyed God and believed Him.

Yet as the story nears the end, we don’t see Gideon talking with the LORD anymore. I suppose it could mean that it just wasn’t recorded, but we also see in his actions that he may have started to do what the Israelites were so famous for doing — what was right in their own eyes, but evil in the sight of the Lord (Judges 2:11, 3:7, 3:12, 4:1, 6:1).

It’s not conclusively clear, but we see things such as:

A.  When the Israelites asked Gideon to rule over them because he had delivered them from the hand of Midian (Judges 8:22), though Gideon refused to rule over them (Judges 8:23), he did not give the credit to the LORD for defeating the Midianites.

Though this may seem subtle, it’s important. The very reason the LORD had reduced the number of men who would do battle to only 300 (from 32,000) was so that Israel might not become boastful, saying their own power had delivered them (Judges 7:2-3).

B.  Following that exchange, Gideon asked the Israelites to each give him an earring from the spoil (Judges 8:24). With this collection, Gideon made an ephod and “placed it in his city, Ophrah, and all Israel played the harlot with it there, so that it became a snare to Gideon and his household” (Judges 8:25-27).

An ephod was a specially designed garment for the priests to wear, intended to give them God’s guidance and instruction. Shiloh (35 miles from Ophrah) was the designated religious center for the people. So Gideon had set up in his city something intended for the priest at Shiloh. Perhaps this was for convenience, something he thought might be good, but it led to devastating consequences as it became a snare to the people.

Though Gideon previously, at the LORD’s instruction, had taken down the altar of Baal that belonged to his father, and the Asherah beside it, and built an altar to the LORD (Judges 6:25-28), it’s as though he has forgotten that they were not to worship other gods or make for themselves something that would be an idol. Could the story of Aaron making the golden calf (Exodus 32), collecting gold and earrings to make a “god” to worship, have been so far removed from his mind? It’s as though history repeats itself, and it is perhaps a picture of generational sin that will continue time and again unless we are in relationship with God, following Him, and allowing Him to break strongholds.

C.  In Judges 8:30-31, we see Gideon had many wives and 70 sons. He named his son, born to him by his concubine, Abimelech, which means “my Father, a king,” perhaps indicating how Gideon saw himself, even if he had refused to be ruler.

Priscilla outlines other things in the week previous to this last one where we first see Gideon perhaps begin to move away from God: taking vengeance on the men at Succoth, anger and violence at Penuel, and disgracing the Midianite kings (Judges 8:15-21). Though we can’t conclusively say this wasn’t what God wanted Gideon to do, we do see that Gideon doesn’t seem to be communicating with God as before and seems to be led by his passion and desire for vengeance. Priscilla describes these things as a domino effect, and it ultimately then seems to lead to taking credit for what God had done, the building of the ephod, many wives, and more.

In the end, as soon as Gideon died, “the sons of Israel again played the harlot with the Baals, and made Baal-berith their god. Thus the sons of Israel did not remember the LORD their God, who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side; nor did they show kindness to the household of Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon), in accord with all the good that he had done to Israel” (Judges 8:33-35).

It’s a sad ending.

We thought about what our idols might be, how we might be on a slippery slope headed in a way that doesn’t please God, sometimes without even realizing it. It’s so vital that we stay in God’s Word and in prayer, asking Him to reveal these things to us.

Even as I type this morning, I do so on a new computer that arrived yesterday evening. I prayed about whether we should make this purchase, concerned that what starts out good could become a snare to us. I prayed this morning to ask God to make this of use for His glory and to be of good. But I do see how easily these things can become other than what they were originally intended. So we must remain watchful, prayerful, seeking the Lord, reading His Word, following His Spirit’s leading, hearing His voice, obeying Him.

I’ve loved this summer study. I’ve loved the focus it’s given me on my home as my first calling before I move out to other things. I’m thankful for a slow summer with time off work to be able to build on some of these things God has revealed. I’m thankful for the cautions God puts before us as we see how Gideon’s life ended. I’m thankful that we have a God who is strong and who gives us His strength in our weakness. And I pray that we who studied together will continue to walk in God’s way, knowing Him more, and doing what pleases Him.

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