The People's Call to Gideon
Gideon was the fifth judge of Israel. He played a small but important role in the history of God's people. Gideon lived during a time when Israel had forsaken God and had worshipped idols. The nation had abandoned its true source of national strength and the source of its blessings much like our own nation has done today. God had withdrawn his blessings and protection, and the nation had suffered. As voices began to call upon God for deliverance, God used Gideon to answer the need. Gideon was a reluctant leader who was finally convinced of the power of God. He ultimately led the children of Israel in victory over their enemies, the Midianites. We find the account of this part of Israel's history in Judges chapters 6-8.
The Man Who Would Not Be King
After the military victory against the Midianites, the people of Israel had an idea. God was with Gideon, and had given victory despite the overwhelming odds against it. The people decided that it was time that they had a king to rule over them and they wanted Gideon to be that king. "Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, "Rule over us, both you and your son, also your son's son, for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian." But Gideon said to them, "I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you." (Judges 8:22-23).
Gideon took up a collection of gold in order to make an ephod. An "ephod" was a garment with shoulder straps and often worn by priests performing their rituals. Later, the people "played the harlot" with the ephod, becoming a snare to Gideon and his house (Judges 8:27). The phrase "played the harlot" in this context refers to idolatry. It appears that after Gideon's death, the people took the ephod that Gideon had made to commemorate the victory that God had given them and used it to worship Baal.
Gideon died at a "good old age." Not long after he died. the children of Israel "played the harlot" with the Baals (Judges 8:32-35). They soon forgot the service that Gideon's household had rendered. One of Gideon's own sons, Abimelech, decided that he ought to be king. This time, it was not "like father, like son". Abimelech's mother was a concubine from Shechem, and so Abimelech went to his mothers city and raised gold from her people. With it, hired mercenaries, and captured and executed all of Gideon's other sons except for one.
Abimelech was made king in Shechem and that lasted for about three years. There was much treachery and betrayal among his allies, and ultimately this all leads to the destruction of Shechem and those who had helped him, as well as his own death.
"Thus God repaid the wickedness of Abimelech, which he had done to his father in killing his seventy brothers. Also God returned all the wickedness of the men of Shechem on their heads, and the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal came upon them." (Judges 9:56-57).
Who Shall Be Your King?
When the people asked Gideon to be their king, he refused. He said, "The LORD shall rule over you." Good answer!
Later, in the not too distant future, the people of Israel would again ask for a king. They would approach the prophet Samuel with their request, and Israel would finally get for themselves what Gideon had refused to become. The Lord would tell Samuel to appoint a king for them but also to warn them of what it would lead to. The Lord told Samuel, "Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them." I1 Samuel 8:7).
Today, we can have it both ways: We can have the Lord God as King of our lives as well as the Man, Jesus. God reigns in our hearts through His Son Jesus, Deity who had taken upon Himself manhood to become our Redeemer. We are citizens of His kingdom (Colossians 1:13) but His kingdom is spiritual and not of this realm (John 18:36). We can please both our God and our King because they are one and the same. Our King is our leader and friend. He has all authority over His people, the church (Matthew 28:18-20; Ephesians 1:22,23). He provides for us what no other can; eternal life. The day will come when He comes to gather His kingdom together and take us all home to God (1 Corinthians 15:24). How blessed we are that our Creator, Savior and Redeemer is also our friend and king!
Men have a tendency to worship "religious objects" (Acts 17:22-24). Just as the "ephod" Gideon had made later became a stumbling block to his household, likewise it has been so with other images and artifacts through the ages.
Whether it be the Shroud of Turin, an image of Mary or the alleged remains of Peter, to attach a kind of "magical holiness" to an item is a dangerous superstition. The apostle Paul once said, "But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Galatians 6:14). While it is true that we "boast" in the cross. We need to understand that "the cross" is a metaphor for the love and suffering of Christ by which He secured our redemption, as well as our own willingness to deny ourselves and follow Him thereby "taking up" our own cross (Mark 8:34). That is much more spiritually significant than to wear a cross of gold on a chain around one's neck.
Things Do Not Always Go Well When Things Go Well
Finally, we note that people often forget God when things are going well (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). It happened repeatedly in old Israel. Perhaps we see it in our own nation today. It is sad that so many of us have forgotten the firm dependence on Divine providence that our forefathers and founders of this great nation once had. We read of it in their documents and even see it chiseled in stone on the buildings they built. Just as in Gideon's day, many are attacking the true source of our national strength, the "Judeo-Christians" ethics which gave the foundation to the nation our ancestors built. Israel suffered because of her neglect. Shall we suffer likewise?
It was God's grace and power that defeated the Midianites. It was not Gideon and the 300. And yet, it was necessary that Gideon obey God, for without obedience there would have been no victory. When we obey God today, can we say that we have saved ourselves? Not at all. In our obedience to the gospel, it is not that we are trusting in our power to save, but in God's power (Hebrews 5:9). Praise God for His salvation!
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 14.11; November 2007