This morning in my quiet time I was reading Judges 8 and to be honest I found it quite unsettling, but let me explain.
Most of us know the story of how God used Gideon and three hundred men to destroy the Midianites, but what we don’t generally know is what happened afterwards which is told in Judges 8.
In this chapter Gideon suddenly becomes the main character and God is moved to the background. It explains how Gideon chased down and destroyed the last couple of thousand Midianites and their kings that fled from the Lord’s miraculous confusion that He caused between them. And it is here that the discomfort started, because rather than worshipping the Lord for their victory Israel’s men asked Gideon to rule over them as king. And their reasoning? “for you have saved us from the hand of Midian” (Judges 8:22). How can these people turn to an ordinary man after God has so miraculously caused Midian’s defeat?
Luckily Gideon is still in awe of what God has done and tells Israel that he and his son will not rule over them because: “The LORD will rule over you.” (Judges 8:23). One verse later and the respect I have for Gideon flies out of the window. It suddenly seems as if Gideon totally lost his bearings hereafter and took the whole of Israel with him.
- Rather than ruling over Israel, he requested golden earrings as his reward and then continues to make an ephod to put in the city he lives (An ephod was an apron-like vest that the priest wore over his chest. This garment was considered holy and was used in the tabernacle when certain inquiries were made from God). I could be wrong on this but, it would seem that even though Gideon may not have had any immediate appetite for the kingship he did hunger for some priestly responsibilities.
- This seemingly innoscent action not only entrapped Gideon and his family but also the whole of Israel. They made the ephod an idol and worshipped it, rather than the LORD.
- Gideon had many wives and children, but he also had a concubine who gave him a son, which he named ‘Abimelech’. Names were very important in Ancient times, because it was generally connected to some circumstance of that person’s birth. In this instance it is worth noting that the meaning of Abimelech’s name is ‘my father is king’. Do you still think Gideon was allowing God to rule Israel with a name such as this in his family?
I think if I have to be totally honest with myself, the reason that this chapter proves to be so unsettling is that it shows me a couple of obstacles that I know is very easy to fall over, even though I try and walk the path of Christ. The lessons I think we must keep very close to our heart is:
- Even if God does miracles in one’s life it will not help me to grow up into spiritual maturity. Israel forgot immediately of God’s hand in their victory and preferred to put their hopes in Gideon. So also, we tend to forget easily when God intervenes on our behalf, but when we struggle through difficult times and experience God’s closeness, we built our faith slowly and steadily which cause us to grow in Him.
- Many of our decisions may stem from good motives but can turn into negative results, affecting not just ourselves but also others. Gideon’s ephod brought himself, his family and the whole of Israel down. It is good to continuously ask ourselves the reasons for some of our decisions and to verify that when we think it is to glorify God that God would in actual fact approve of it.
- Even if we grow spiritually we can still easily fall back into sin if we do not consistently follow God’s way.
I pray that God will keep us honest and true with ourselves, and that the Holy Spirit will show us when we risk causing our own downfall.