Gideon’s story is a repeated through history. It’s a story of the individual responding to God’s call, trusting Him beyond the visible, leaning only on His might, winning a victory that blesses many, and then riding off into the sunset a hero loved by all.
No, it doesn’t usually work that way. The first part happens from time to time. Folks respond to God’s call and lean on Him more than what their own eyes or hearts tell them. But the last part is particularly tricky. And few do it well. I’m talking about finishing well; the “riding off into the sunset loved by all” part.
Let’s follow the giant steps leading to the sun collapsing on Gideon’s faith legacy.
Step 1 – He misuses a profit from the blessing. Gideon says “no” to a request from a now adoring nation to rule over them. Good boy. But then he asks for a financial cut of the new economic boon. His take is a little over a million dollars in today’s terms. Then he takes that money and creates an ephod – an instrument of the high priestly role – and it becomes a snare to Gideon, his family and the nation. He knew he was not called to rule. But he couldn’t resist playing God just a little bit. Good things never come from that.
Step 2 – He doesn’t keep it all in the family. Gideon took a concubine in addition to his many wives. This is a hard thing to work with in a time that has returned to a Genesis model of monogamy. But in that day, many wives was typical, even for men after God’s own heart like David. But like many, Gideon went a step further and had a concubine in an odd location – Shechem. Makes you wonder if while he was away on business (God’s work chasing the remnants of the armies of the east) he engaged is something on the side that wasn’t God’s idea that had serious consequences – a son. His name was Abimelech (meaning: father of a king, or king is my father). This side stepping of family faithfulness never goes well. It’s a problem as old as Sarah and Hagar. And it would bite Gideon big time.
Step 3 – He is victim to a fickle market. People did then what they do now – forget the latest blessing as soon as its normal or boring. While God blessed the nation with peace for forty years, the nation was busy prostituting themselves to a false god, forgetting the true God, and failing to show kindness to Gideon’s family. So typical. So shortsighted. National dementia – it’s at epidemic proportions in our day too.
Step 4 – His own son rebels. Abimelech, whom we introduced above, weasels his personal agenda into the political ears of his community and is funded to raise a small army of common thugs with a $1,000 from the temple of the false God. Compare the $1,000 he got from temple funding through a false god with the $1,000,000 Gideon got from unofficial funding resulting from simple obedience. His own son would rise and murder all of his other sons save one, and install himself as king.
From deliverer to sucker in less than a generation. From Baal Fighter to Father of the Butchered in a few short verses. And though this cycle repeated itself in the time of the Judges (and does throughout history), there seem to be some lessons worth learning…
- First, obey God but don’t even think about taking his glory; not even a priestly garment’s worth
- Second, unfaithfulness to your spouse, though glamorized and often served up buffet style, always hurts your legacy, even while doing God’s work
- Third, remembering what’s important, requires the same rigorous discipline as most memorization
- Fourth, one child, untended, undisciplined and unloved, can bring a nation to its knees
Most likely, you are somewhere in this cycle today. If you’ve just finished something great, a major victory, review your next steps carefully. Let Gideon’s story serve as a map so you can avoid his final ride rather than repeat it.
Sunsets can be glorious.