Monday, April 23, 2007
Everyone who is at all familiar with the Bible knows something about a man named Gideon, whose story is told in Judges chapters six through eight. He lived in the time when there was no king in Israel and the nation repeatedly turned away from God. The period of the judges is characterized by wholesale rebellion. Every man did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25). A cycle of apostasy, judgment, repentance, and Divine deliverance is the pattern throughout the book. The major lesson we learn from this time in Israel’s history was described in simple terms by Charles Spurgeon, who wrote, “The Lord does not permit His children to sin successfully.” Though His judgment may tarry it will surely come in vindication of His righteous character.
In one such time of departure from God’s laws, the Lord delivered the children of Israel into the hands of the Midianites, who raided their crops and fled swiftly on camels, to the extent that Israel was severely impoverished (6:1-6). This is when Gideon comes into the picture. He followed Deborah as the fifth judge in Israel and is one of the few judges listed among the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11. He was deserving of this particular honor. Following Gideon’s plea for God to give him a sign of assurance that He would deliver Israel by his hand (6:36-40), Gideon never again faltered in his courage. With only 300 men, he destroyed the Midianite army and their allies, who were spread out “like a swarm of desert locusts” in the valley of Jezreel (7:12). God had proven Himself strong on Gideon’s behalf, and as a result, the people wanted to make Gideon ruler in Israel and to establish a family dynasty (8:22). Wisely, Gideon rejected any right to a throne, knowing that Jehovah God was the rightful ruler of Israel. In his own words, he declared, “I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you” (8:23).
With a victory over his enemies in hand and a statement of fidelity to God, Gideon was standing strong in the faith. But such times of triumph must also be times of great caution! The Scripture warns us in this way: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). As wise as he was in turning down the plea of the people to be ruler, Gideon acted foolishly. He took some of the spoils of the battle - earrings and ornaments- and fashioned them into an ephod, “and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house” (8:27). G. Campbell Morgan’s comments are insightful: “Elsewhere in the Old Testament “ephod” denotes the priest’s special breast piece (cf. Exodus 28:15-30). In Judges 17:5; 18:14-20 the same word refers to the priestly vestments of Micah … Gideon may have been well- intended; perhaps he wanted to consult the Lord's will or to give the people something tangible to remind them of the Lord's intervention. However, the idol-prone Israelites made the ephod into an object of worship. Gideon, who had boldly broken up his father's altar to Baal, was now setting a trap for his own family.” Oddly enough, Gideon’s household became the caretakers of an idol. It is not surprising that as soon as Gideon was dead, “the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and made Baal-berith their god” (verse 33).
As I thought about this incident in Gideon’s life, I could not help but make an application to the church in our day. Whenever anything visible in our devotion toward God detracts from the glory of the invisible God, we have made an ephod. Whenever a form of worship, such as music, takes precedence over the true object of worship (God), we have made an ephod. Whenever we allow into the church anything which God’s Word does not allow, we have made an ephod. But ephods are not confined to church. Dear brethren, whenever we insist on having what God does not will for us to have, we too have made an ephod that will surely become a snare. We enjoy many blessings in a day of grace and Christian liberty. Like Gideon, we have seen God’s mighty power to deliver us from strong enemies. Therefore, we must be all the more vigilant. Our hearts are prone to wander, and Satan knows what to set before us in order to lead us astray. He never rests in his efforts to sow seeds of spiritual destruction. Watch your every step, and “put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:11-13).
God's blessings to you through Jesus our Lord,
Posted by Tom Chesko at 3:47 PM