Tearing Down, Building Up

Lessons from Gideon, part 3

In parts 1 and 2 of this series Lessons From Gideon, we saw how God began transforming Gideon’s false self image and poor self esteem.  If you missed those posts, you can read them here: 



Now it is time for Gideon to take some action in his recovery.  We pick up the story in Judges 6:25-26:  “That same night the Lord said to him, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old.  Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.  Then build a proper kind of altar to the Lord your God on the top of this height.  Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering.”

Transformation Begins With A New Foundation

It’s easy to skim over this, but there are many important precepts to uncover in these two little verses.  First, some background information.

The story is set in Canaan, which had been conquered and settled by the Israelites.  The land of Canaan had a harsh, arid climate.  Getting enough water for crops was an ongoing concern.  The Canaanites worshiped a god called Baal, who was a god of fertility with power over the weather.  Asherah was a fertility goddess commonly associated with Baal.  Baal worship included temple prostitutes and activities that God had expressly forbidden.  But gradually the Israelites had turned from the worship of the one true God and had taken up these pagan practices.  Gideon’s own father, Joash, was a Baal worshipper.

God instructed Gideon to destroy his father’s idols and altar.  Such opposition to Baal would be countercultural.  God wanted Gideon to cut off all ties to what was false.  His transformation could not be built on the old foundation.  Lies had to be torn down and replaced with the truth.

Tear Down The Lies, Rebuild With The Truth

Anyone recovering from past abuse or addiction has to do the same.  We have had lies spoken into our lives, and we’ve heard them so long we believe them:  “You’ll never amount to anything.  You’ll always be a mess.  You’re nothing but a (fill in the blank).”  Freedom begins with getting released from the stranglehold these lies have on us, and building our lives on a new identity in Christ.

Notice that God didn’t destroy the altar.  He told Gideon to do it.  God will direct us in the steps we need to take, but we must take an active part in our own recovery.  This involves stepping away from the helpless victim mentality and taking action.  God told Gideon to “build a proper altar to the Lord your God.”  A new life, a new identity, a new foundation.  That’s where we start.

Verse 27 says, “So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord told him.  But because he was afraid of his family and the townspeople, he did it at night rather than in the daytime.”  Gideon was afraid.  Change is always scary.  But he didn’t let his fear paralyze him, and neither should we.  If you have to, do it afraid– but do it!  You gotta work the program. 

Also, Gideon didn’t go alone.  He brought along ten of his servants; he got the help he needed.  No one goes through recovery alone; we all need help sometimes.  And that’s okay!  God will send you the support you need.

Expect The Unexpected

But the story doesn’t end there.  Turmoil lies ahead in Judges 6:28-30:  “In the morning when the people of the town got up, there was Baal’s altar, demolished, with the Asherah pole beside it cut down and the second bull sacrificed on the newly built altar!  They asked each other, “Who did this?”  When they carefully investigated, they were told, “Gideon son of Joash did it.”  The people of the town demanded of Joash, “Bring out your son.  He must die, because he has broken down Baal’s altar and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.”

When you begin your recovery, when you seek the help you need, when you begin your new life in Christ, not everyone will understand or be supportive.  Some of those closest to you may give you a hard time.  You may feel betrayed and rejected by your old buddies.  The only people who knew what Gideon had done were the ten servants who were with him; it had to be one of them who spilled the beans.  The townspeople, those whom Gideon had grown up with, now wanted to kill him for what he had done.

Recovery is not a smooth, straight road.  There will be ups and downs, twists and turns, slip-ups and setbacks.  We must not let that discourage us.  We must continue pressing forward.  Even two steps forward, one step back, produces progress.  Jesus promises to be with us every step.

Keep On Keeping On

And sometimes there are surprises along the way!  Just when everything seemed darkest for Gideon, something amazing happened.  Look at Judges 6:31-32:  “But Joash replied to the hostile crowd around him, “Are you going to plead Baal’s cause?  Are you trying to save him?  Whoever fights for him shall be put to death by morning!  If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar.”  So because Gideon broke down Baal’s altar, they gave him the name Jerub-Baal that day, saying, “Let Baal contend for him.”

What an unexpected turn of events!  Apparently Gideon’s actions gave his father a wake-up call.  “Wait a minute…if Baal really is a god, why didn’t he stop my son?  Maybe he’s not as powerful as I thought.  Could be I’ve been worshipping at the wrong altar…”  Rather than turn his son over to the hostile crowd, Joash defends him in such a way that they begin to have doubts as well!  What’s more, they give Gideon a new nickname.  No longer do they see him as wimpy Gideon.  He’s got a strong reputation now– and that would serve him well in the next step of his transformation.  Stay tuned!


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