So far, we’ve viewed the judges as almost entirely positive. We’ve taken the interpretive lens from Hebrews 11:32, viewing these men as exemplars of faith. Othniel, Ehud, Barak, and Gideon were all called to lead the Israelites in military conquest against their oppressors. And God gave them success.
Unfortunately, when we come to the end of Gideon’s life, there is no excusing much of what he did. Yes God clothed him with the Spirit and used him to deliver Israel from the hands of Midian, but at some point along the way, Gideon stumbled.
Those whom God has accepted, effectually called, and sanctified “can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace” (WCF 17.1).
But, how do faithful saints of God still fall into grievous sins?
Never underestimate the power of temptation, our remaining corruption, and the means of our preservation (WCF 17.3).
Read Judges 7:24-8:35
Defeating the Enemy (7:24-8:21)
- Ephraim defeats the princes of Midian
Ephraim controls the watercourses and puts to death the princes of Midian.
Ephraim complains about the late notice (power trip), but Gideon calms them with a kind word.
What are we to think of Ephraim’s conflict with Gideon?
DRD Sometimes the people of God are a great disappointment. (If you don’t know that, you may not survive the church.) Don’t allow God’s people to disillusion you; at least be prepared for it.
We disappoint one another all the time!Gideon’s soft answer turned away the wrath of Ephraim’s complaint (Prov. 15:1).
- Gideon defeats the kings of Midian
Succoth and Penuel deny support to Gideon’s army.
As any good commander in chief would do, Gideon tweeted his outrage in all caps!
Gideon captures Zebah and Zalmunna, with his 300 troops (no effort to integrate reserves).
Gideon settles scores (forshadowing Abimelech’s actions):
- He tortures, likely killing, the leaders of Succoth.
- He kills the men of Penuel.
- He gets vengeance on Zebah and Zalmunna for killing his brothers.
We can give God the praise for the capture and slaughter of Israel’s enemies (Ps. 83:11). On the other hand, Gideon’s treatment of Succoth and Penuel is troublesome.
Remember how the Angel of the Lord called Gideon (6:14)? He was sent to save Israel, instead Gideon tortured Israelites! What went wrong? Yes, Succoth and Penuel were selfish and inhospitable, but they weren’t the enemies.
Had the Spirit of the Lord left him? There hasn’t been any dialogue with God and no activity of the Spirit for quite some time (6:23, 25, 34, 36, 39; 7:2, 4, 7, 9).
It seems Gideon is beginning to neglect the means of God’s preservation. Instead of seeking the Lord’s guidance, he’s now acting on his own. He’s become presumptuous of the Lord’s favor rather than continually leaning upon Him.
Ultimately, we need a better judge, one who would endure suffering rather than inflict it.
Gideon’s retirement serves as a failed picture of…
Leaving A Legacy (8:22-35)
Gideon’s Good Intentions:
- Gideon rejects the request to be Israel’s king. Is Gideon noble or showing false humility? He lived in a house, not a king’s palace (29). Yet, his influence was significant. The ephod led the entire nation into idolatry (27).
- Gideon takes 43 pounds of gold earrings from the plunder and creates an ephod for display in Ophrah (Exod. 28:28-30; 1 Sam. 23:6-12; 30:7-8). However, rather than inquire of the Lord, the people worshipped the ephod, ensnaring Gideon too! (It’s reminiscent of Aaron in Exod. 32.) This idolatrous worship led them back to Baal worship immediately following Gideon’s death (33).
Gideon has come full circle:
- Began: Destroyed idolatry in Ophrah.
- End: Established idolatry in Ophrah.
Gideon was an inconsistent leader. He had a public persona that-in the end-didn’t match his private practice.
How does a secular king act (Deut. 17:14-17)?
- Ruthless toward Israelites (5-9, 13-17)
- Personal vendetta
- Justifies actions as royal assassinations
- Ridiculous demands (20)
- Establishes a creative approach to worship, outside his calling (27)
- Establishes a harem (30)
- Naming his son Abimelech (“my father is king” 31, non-Israelite)
- Expecting Abimelech to succeed him (9:2)
This is the beginning of a growing desire among the Israelites that will come to fruition in 1 Sam. 8.
Gideon’s Unfitting End serves as a warning to leaders. Oftentimes, our greatest weakness is pride. We exchange the Lord’s leading with our own agenda. History has often proved that the external temptation of power combined with the internal corruption of pride makes for a deadly combination.
Gideon’s public statement is commendable, but it’s impossible to believe when we read what followed. What good is a theology that has no impact upon our practice? Yet, all of us have experienced Gideon’s struggle to some degree.
Gideon’s example exhorts us to lay aside our sinful pride, and to persevere by looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:1-2)!
- Gideon’s Defeat of the Enemy is mixed up with a disturbing scene of torturing his fellow Israelites. Evidence of Gideon’s neglect of the means of God’s preservation.
- Fresh into retirement, Gideon’s public statements fly in the face of his actions. Gideon’s Legacy will gain another exhibit in the narrative of his son, Abimelech.
As believers who have been accepted, called, and sanctified by God, we can never underestimate the power of temptation, our remaining corruption, and the means of our preservation (WCF 17.3).
We can appreciate Gideon’s faith, and learn from his flaws, but we must look to Jesus to find rest.