Today’s reading: Judges 8-9.
Every one of us can influence others for good or bad, and that is especially true for our national leaders. Now imagine if that leader is also a hero who delivered his nation from great calamity. Gideon held just that kind of powerful influence. In fact, the people were so inspired that they wanted to make him king. George Washington held a similar position after his victory in the American Revolution. To the credit of both men, they turned down the opportunity to become king. Washington used his influence to help the young United States establish its democracy. Gideon, on the other hand, wasted all his moral and spiritual potential.
The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us–you, your son and your grandson–because you have saved us out of 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.” And he said, “I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.” (It was the custom of the Ishmaelites to wear gold earrings.) They answered, “We’ll be glad to give them.” Judges 8:22-25
Warren Wiersbe said that Gideon gave up the chance to become king, but then went ahead and lived like one. He amassed great wealth. The donated ear rings added up to forty pounds or more of gold. Gideon took the gold and turned it into a golden priestly garment that became an object of idolatrous worship. Personally, Gideon took many wives and fathered a child by a female slave.
His words didn’t match his action. He spoke of honoring the LORD, but his way of life ignored God. He lacked integrity.
His wealth became an idol. Gideon revealed his heart’s desire by what he coveted. He wasn’t interested in politics, but riches put a fire in his eyes. His love for gold turned it into a literal idol.
His witness was wasted. After he defeated the Midianites, Gideon could have led the Israelites to spiritual victory by challenging them to obey God’s commands. Instead he pursued a life focused on personal pleasure. Once he won the battle, Gideon seems to have forgotten the LORD.
It’s not surprising to see the sad days that followed Gideon’s death. The son of the slave grew up and killed the seventy sons of Gideon’s many wives. The people forgot about Gideon and God and followed the leadership of the murderous son for a time. In the end they fell to fighting each other with disastrous results. Gideon’s hard-fought victory on the battlefield was lost on the home front as the people fell victim to new oppressors.
We don’t have to repeat Gideon’s mistakes. Instead of wasting our influence, we can put it to use to grow God’s kingdom:
- by living lives of integrity, making our actions match our professed belief in Jesus
- by making obedience to God’s will the priority of our lives, rather than making money or pursuing our own personal pleasure
- by doing the hard work of investing our time in other people’s lives instead of kicking back and doing our own thing
If we do these things, we won’t regret a missed opportunity. Instead, our investment will pay us dividends for eternity.
“Footfalls echo in the memory, down the passage we did not take, towards the door we never opened, into the rose garden.”
― T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
“Don’t fear death, fear the un-lived life”
― Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting
Image by Elsie esq. on Flickr, CC by 2.0