July 7th, 2010 by Kristi Stephens
On Monday we discussed one of my favorite nuggets in Judges – Gideon’s transformation from the cowardly lion to the mighty warrior! Gideon is not a faultless leader, that’s for sure, but he definitely has a couple of things straight:
Gideon knows that God, not Baal, is the God of Israel.
Remember back to chapter 6:25-32 – his first act of obedience as Israel’s appointed judge and deliverer was to tear down his father’s altar to Baal and the Asherah pole next to it. The people of the town end up naming him “Jerub-baal” – meaning “he who fights against Baal.
Gideon knows that God, not Gideon, is the King of Israel.
The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us out of the hand of Midian.” But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you.”
Well done, Gideon. God is king, no one else.
However, I mentioned in the last post that unfortunately Gideon doesn’t end on the greatest note. In the next verses, immediately after turning down the offer of becoming king, we find the crucial mistake in his tenure of leadership.
And he said, “I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.” (It was the custom of the Ishmaelites to wear gold earrings.) They answered, “We’ll be glad to give them.” So they spread out a garment, and each man threw a ring from his plunder onto it.
The weight of the gold rings he asked for came to seventeen hundred shekels, not counting the ornaments, the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian or the chains that were on their camels’ necks.
Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family. (Judges 8:24-27)
Why did he make a golden ephod? John MacArthur states,
“This was certainly a sad end to Gideon’s influence as he, perhaps in an expression of pride, sought to lift himself up in the eyes of the people. Gideon intended nothing more than to make a breastplate as David later did (I Chr. 15:27) to indicate civil rule, not priestly rule. It was never intended to set up idolatrous worship, but to be a symbol of civil power.”
Gideon verbally refused the offer of the people to make him king… but then he makes a symbol of civic rule for himself.
This is quite convicting to me. I think pride is definitely the temptation that Satan likes to lob my way most frequently, unfortunately because it’s one that trips me up often. Perhaps outwardly I make the right choice, and keep God in the place of honor He deserves. But how easy it is to somehow keep some of that glory for myself. To either mentally our outwardly set myself apart from those around me.
Even if this is not done in an overtly malicious way, it’s end will be the same as Gideon’s mistake was: idolatry. I will begin to worship and honor myself, and sadly, others can be led to do the same thing. To give a human being honor and adoration that God alone deserves. It started out small – “all I ask is…” and it ends with a nation being led further into idolatry.
As fallen humans, everything about us is tainted by sin. My ability to reason, my emotions, my will… everything is skewed. It is frighteningly easy to convince ourselves that we are living correctly and that God would be pleased with us. As I pondered this, I thought of this verse:
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
Only God can examine our hearts and see the sin that lies undetected even by our own well-intentioned introspection. The next verse in Jeremiah 17 says, “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind…” One of my favorite passages in the Psalms speaks to this also:
“Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.
Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:12-14)
Oh, Lord, search my heart! It is so easy to deceive myself, and even easier to deceive others. You, alone, know the hidden faults buried deep in my heart and mind. We are frequently handed honor and praise by those around us. Lord, teach us how to truly deflect that to You alone. How tempting to keep some of that praise for ourselves, just as Gideon asked only for one tiny token from each person. But you alone are God, and you alone are King. And you alone deserve all of the praise.
“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12