Lessons From Gideon, part 6
If you missed the previous Lessons From Gideon, scroll down to the bottom of this post. You’ll find them there!
God has taken Gideon through a slow process of personal transformation. He has gone from wimp to warrior, securing a miraculous victory over hordes of enemy Midianites.
The battle is over– but conflicts continue. We pick up the story in Judges chapter 8: “Now the Ephraimites asked Gideon, “Why have you treated us like this? Why didn’t you call us when you went to fight against Midian?” And they challenged him vigorously” (Judges 8:1).
The first conflict Gideon encounters is offense. The Ephraimites think they have been ignored and mistreated, and they are offended.
Yes, Gideon has defeated the Midianites. But he, like us, has another enemy: Satan. And offense is one of Satan’s favorite tactics. He uses it against believers and unbelievers alike.
For example, someone is offended by something a Christian has said or done, intentionally or otherwise, and they vow, “Ill never be a Christian!” Their heart becomes closed to the gospel, which was Satan’s intent. Or a Christian is offended by someone in their church. They leave in a huff, determining that they will never again place themselves in a position where they can be hurt like that. They turn their backs on the Church– again, just as Satan planned.
See how offense works? The old adage “There’s safety in numbers” is true. But offense separates and isolates people from God and others. A solitary target then becomes easy prey for the enemy.
How does Gideon deal with this perceived offense? “But he answered them, “What have I accomplished compared to you? Aren’t the gleanings of Ephraim’s grapes better than the full grape harvest of Abiezer? God gave Oreb and Zeeb, the Midianite leaders, into your hands. What was I able to do compared to you?” At this, their resentment against him subsided.” (Judges 8:2-3) Gideon does not confront or correct the Ephraimites. He does not reply in self-defense or anger. Instead, he offers calm words of reassurance. He gently speaks the truth and soothes their hurt, avoiding separation and division. Thus a crisis is averted. He does not allow offense to divide and divert.
It’s important to remember that Satan is constantly trying to undermine us. If one strategy doesn’t work, he just moves on to another. So it shouldn’t surprise us when Gideon almost immediately encounters another conflict.
The second conflict Gideon faces is rejection. “Gideon and his three hundred men, exhausted yet keeping up the pursuit, came to the Jordan and crossed it. He said to the men of Sukkoth, “Give my troops some bread; they are worn out, and I am still pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.” But the officials of Sukkoth said, “Do you already have the hands of Zeba and Zalmunna in your possession? Why should we give bread to your troops?” (Judges 8:4-6) Note that Gideon mentions that he and his men are exhausted and worn out. This is when Satan is most likely to attack, when we are vulnerable. This is when we most need support from our brothers and sisters in Christ.
But Gideon doesn’t get the support he requests. Instead, he is cruelly rejected. One of our greatest needs is the assurance of being accepted by others. Rejection strikes at our self-esteem, making us feel different and defective. I was bullied and rejected by other boys throughout my childhood and adolescence, and was left with deep wounds and emotional scarring. I came to believe the liest that the enemy planted in my mind about my identity and worth. Thankfully I have received healing from Jesus, but it was a long and difficult process, as I learned my true identity in Christ. God’s truth replaced the lies.
In other words, rejection must itself be rejected, and that is what Gideon does. He does not receive the insults hurled at him; in fact, he strikes back: “Then Gideon replied, “Just for that, when the Lord has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will tear your flesh with desert thorns and briers.” (Judges 8:7) Later on, in Judges 8:15-16, Gideon keeps his word. Gideon encounters this same rejection at Peniel, and responds in the same manner (Judges8:8-9, 17). Gideon refused to let the rejection of others affect his identity and calling, and we need to do the same.
A Sad Conclusion
Eventually Gideon does capture and kill the Midianite leaders, ending the threat to Israel. He has indeed become the “mighty warrior” that God had foreseen, and returns in triumph. The Israelites acknowledge his victory: “The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us– you, your son and your grandson– because you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.” (Judges 8:22-23) Becoming king would bring great wealth and power, but Gideon rejects the offer because he knows that God had always planned Israel to be a theocracy (a nation ruled by the Lord), setting it apart from other nations.
Israel was free from their enemy, the Midianites. But they were not free from the sin in their hearts that brought them into bondage in the first place. Although the land had peace during Gideon’s lifetime, the nation slid back into idol worship. In fact, they even began worshipping an ephod that Gideon had made (Judges 8:24-26). The very object Gideon made as a remembrance of his victory became an idol: “All Israel prostituted themselves by worshipping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family” (Judges 8:27). This must have saddened Gideon greatly.
In the end, Gideon returned home and had many wives and children, as was the custom in those days. He lived a long life, but he failed to receive the honor he deserved. Even worse, he never saw his beloved nation return to worshipping the one true God: “Gideon son of Joash died at a good old age and was buried in the tomb of his father Joash in Oprah of the Abiezrites. No sooner had Gideon died than the Israelites again prostituted themselves to the Baals. They set up Baal-Berith as their god and did not remember the Lord their God, who had rescued them from the hands of all their enemies on every side. They also failed to show any loyalty to the family of Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) in spite of all the good things he had done for them” (Judges 8:32-35).
God had a plan for Gideon, just as He has for us. When we discover that, our life will be filled with purpose and blessings. But just like Gideon, we will also have our share of trials, and like him, our true reward will be found in heaven. God transformed Gideon’s life, and He can do the same for you.
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Who Are You Listening To? Lessons From Gideon, part 1
Transformation: Wimp to Warrior Lessons From Gideon, part 2
Tearing Down, Building Up Lessons From Gideon, part 3
Can God Handle Your Doubts? Lessons From Gideon, part 4
When God Doesn’t Make Sense Lessons From Gideon, part 5