The Snare

Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.” And Gideon said to them, “Let me make a request of you: every one of you give me the earrings from his spoil.” (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) And they answered, “We will willingly give them.” And they spread a cloak, and every man threw in it the earrings of his spoil. And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was 1,700 shekels of gold, besides the crescent ornaments and the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian, and besides the collars that were around the necks of their camels. And Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his city, in Ophrah. And all Israel whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family. So Midian was subdued before the people of Israel, and they raised their heads no more. And the land had rest forty years in the days of Gideon. Judges 8:22-28.

After Gideon’s victory, he resisted the call of the people to rule over them. He insisted that God was their king. Gideon got this, but the people did not. They instead worshiped the ephod that Gideon had requested as a trophy.

Gideon had broken down the altar to Baal, and had cut down the Ashera poles and burned them, but he didn’t realize that he was creating another idol. To him, an idol was a specific thing, but he didn’t recognize the principle of idolotry.

Many Christians scoff at statues of saints and call them idols, but fail to see that they obey their pastor or their denominations rather than God. Or they set aside seeking the kingdom of God for the seeking of money or prestige. We must all live not by bread alone, but by every word from the mouth of God, not the bullet points of our pastor’s sermon.

It Must Be By God’s Power

The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained.

And the Lord said to Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.” So he brought the people down to the water. And the Lord said to Gideon, “Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink.” And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water. And the Lord said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.” So the people took provisions in their hands, and their trumpets. And he sent all the rest of Israel every man to his tent, but retained the 300 men. And the camp of Midian was below him in the valley. Judges 7:2-8.

God wants to give His people victory, but He wants them to know that it was He who gave it. This has not changed. Here in America we have wealth and freedom like the early church never dreamed of. But it is the poor countries of Africa and South America that are seeing tremendous revival.

About 800 years ago, Pope Innocent II showed Thomas Aquinas a display of great wealth and said, “I guess the church cannot say, ‘Silver and gold I have none.'” Aquinas responded, “Neither can she tell the lame to take up his bed and walk.”

Having plenty is a test few of us pass. We forget our need for God until we are again destitute and suffering.

You Pay to Play

The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years. And the hand of Midian overpowered Israel, and because of Midian the people of Israel made for themselves the dens that are in the mountains and the caves and the strongholds. For whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them. They would encamp against them and devour the produce of the land, as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel and no sheep or ox or donkey. For they would come up with their livestock and their tents; they would come like locusts in number—both they and their camels could not be counted—so that they laid waste the land as they came in. And Israel was brought very low because of Midian. And the people of Israel cried out for help to the Lord.

When the people of Israel cried out to the Lord on account of the Midianites, the Lord sent a prophet to the people of Israel. And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I led you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of slavery. And I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you and gave you their land. And I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.’ But you have not obeyed my voice.” Judges 6:1-10.

This chapter is where we find the story of Gideon and how God called him. But that story is preceded by this visit from an unnamed prophet. He comes to rebuke the people and tell them why the Lord has left them at the mercy of the Midianites.

Gideon will make the case to the angel of the Lord that he is a nobody, and that his low status disqualifies him. But this mysterious prophet has primed the people. They know they have done wrong, and they are ready to be lead to take action.

The prophet God sends is not necessarily the leader who will win the battle. But he may be softening your heart for repentance.

Let’s Sing About It!

Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day:

“That the leaders took the lead in Israel,
that the people offered themselves willingly,
bless the Lord!

“Hear, O kings; give ear, O princes; to the Lord I will sing;

I will make melody to the Lord, the God of Israel.

Lord, when you went out from Seir, when you marched from the region of Edom,

the earth trembled
and the heavens dropped,
yes, the clouds dropped water.

The mountains quaked before theLord,
even Sinai before the Lord, the God of Israel.
“In the days of Shamgar, son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were abandoned, and travelers kept to the byways.

The villagers ceased in Israel;
they ceased to be until I arose;
I, Deborah, arose as a mother in Israel.

When new gods were chosen,
then war was in the gates.
Was shield or spear to be seen
among forty thousand in Israel?

My heart goes out to the commanders of Israel
who offered themselves willingly among the people.
Bless the Lord.” Judges 5:1-9.

When it’s been awhile since you’ve had a victory, and then you have a big one, it’s time to write a song about it. Shamgar gets referenced, and he was their last victorious leader from eighty years ago.

But the real hero is the God who went before them and gave them victory. This is the kind of language used by Moses and Joshua.

Let us never forget to give God the glory for everything He has done for us. Failure to do so is the first step toward going our own way again.