I started a blog series a couple of months ago titled “Heroes” which looks at Bible characters who we regard as “heroes of the faith”. As I looked deeper into these “heroes” lives though, it became apparent that they were not as admirable as I initially thought. I looked last time at Abraham and how his life points us to the real hero Jesus Christ. This week were going to look at Gideon.
Gideon comes on the scene in the Bible in the book of Judges where the Midianite people are oppressing and impoverishing the Israelites. God picks Gideon as his next judge, or leader, to lead the people to victory and freedom against Midian. The problem is Gideon is struggling with self-confidence and belief that God has really chosen the right guy. God calls Gideon to lead the people into battle, but rather than trusting God with the outcome, Gideon asks God not once, but twice, for a miraculous sign so Gideon can know God is really behind this campaign.
Gideon then does show tremendous faith in God as the Lord dwindles his troops down from 32,000 to 300. Most military leaders would have bailed at this point, but Gideon remains faithful and continues on. God winds up throwing the Midianite army into confusion and they turn on each other in battle. As God promised, he provided Gideon the victory.
After the battle is over though, the two kings of Midian survive and high tail it out to find a city to hide in. Gideon chases them to a town called Succoth where he asks for some food from the people, but they refuse. He curses them for this and says he will punish them upon his return. He then goes on to another town called Peniel and asks the same thing and is rejected again. This time he says when he returns he will tear down a tower in their city. After Gideon does capture the two kings, he brings them to Succoth and shows them. He then takes the 77 leaders and punishes them with thorns and briers. He also goes back to Peniel and not only tears down their tower, but winds up killing the men of the town.
What’s interesting, is that at the end of this pursuit, we discover the two kings of Midian had actually killed Gideon’s brothers earlier on in life. It is very likely then that Gideon’s pursuit and execution of these kings was less fueled by God’s commands and justice than on getting revenge.
Once Gideon has returned to Israel after the victory, he asks each person to give him a gold earring from the share of the plunder. From this, he amasses between 45-70 lbs. of gold. Gideon winds up taking the gold and making it into an ephod, which is a religious garment used by the high priest. A golden ephod would have been restricted only for the high priest or other religious leaders to wear. The Bible says that by doing this, Gideon led the whole country of Israel into sin. The story of Gideon ends by noting he had 70 sons of his own from a myriad of wives and additional children from multiple concubines.
So although you see the transformation in Gideon’s life of a man who went from cowardice to courage and doubt to faith, he is also led by his appetites and winds up leading an entire nation into sin. What do we make of this? Is Gideon a hero? I would have a tough time saying so. Which brings me to the second point regarding heroes of the Bible. The truth is that Gideon, as much as we may not want to admit it, is just like us. If we’re honest, were full of paradoxes. We courageously follow God on one hand, but then shrink in fear when something difficult comes up. We sacrificially give ourselves to other people, but then get angry when we’re not respected or treated fairly. We valiantly stand up for the truth in public only to compromise it privately. In other words, were just like Gideon. When we look at these “heroes” it’s like looking in a mirror. The time period and culture are different, but their choices, actions and heart motives are just like ours. We are humbly reminded of how weak and broken we are and of our great need for the real hero Jesus Christ. He is the one who should get all the credit for our story.
Join me next month as we look at Moses and how he, as well as all the other heroes, continue to point us to Christ!