The Tenth in a Series of Sermons on the Book of Judges
Gideon is yet another in the series of Israel’s unlikely judges. By nature, Gideon was a timid man. The youngest son of Joash, on whose land stood a shrine dedicated to Canaanite gods Baal and Ashtoreth, Gideon’s family was an unimportant clan from the tribe of Manasseh, living near Ophrah in the Jezreel Valley. But when the Angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and summoned him to be the next judge to rescue Israel from its current oppressor (the Midianites), Gideon is transformed from a double-minded man into a skilled leader, a man who will now guide Israel to a stunning victory over a vastly superior enemy. But once the peace is secured and Midian has been defeated, Gideon will use his power and prestige to take personal revenge on his enemies, and he will refuse to be Israel’s king. But when Gideon creates an Ephod (a priestly garment), which became an object of worship in Israel, and a snare to both Gideon and his family, his legacy is sadly tarnished. Yes, Gideon was transformed into a mighty warrior and he delivered his people while facing overwhelming odds. But Gideon is clearly a sinful man, and his time as judge reminds us that Israel needs a king, and that YHWH must send a Messiah to save his people from our sins, something no earthly judge can do.
As we resume our series on the Book of Judges, we are in the midst of that section of this book which deals with the life of Gideon. The story of Gideon has three main parts. In the first part of the story (6:1-8:3) we learn of God’s call of Gideon to be the fifth in a series of judges (deliverers). Throughout this first section, the focus is upon Gideon’s personal transformation from a timid man into a skilled warrior, as we read of YHWH’s stunning defeat of a vastly superior Midianite army. In the second part of the story (8:4-23), we will see how Gideon’s fame and power led to his own sense of self-aggrandizement, as Gideon’s legacy is greatly tarnished. Finally, we see the sad consequences of all of this in Judges 8:29-9:57 (the third part of the account of Gideon) with the account of Abimalech, Gideon’s son by a concubine. As one writer puts it, Israel’s history during the reign of Abimalech sounds more like a chapter from a Canaanite history book than the history of God’s covenant people. Like the other judges we have seen, Gideon is a mixed bag. When given God’s Spirit, he acts heroically, yet by nature he is a weak and vacillating man, who, after defeating the Midianites, leaves the nation in as poor a shape (if not worse), than it was when God called him.
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