Among the judges of Israel, perhaps none can parallel the character and achievement of Gideon. He lived at a time when the Midianites were oppressing Israel. The day came for a final battle against their oppressors. The Midianites and their allies assembled a force that was like locusts in number (Joshua 7:2). There were at least 135,000 fighting men in this army (Judges 8:10). Gideon initially assembled 32,000 soldiers, puny in comparison to their opponents. But totally against all logic and seemingly suicidal, God asked him to prune it down to a mere 300 soldiers. Well, the rest is history as Yahweh delivered a great victory to Gideon’s vastly outnumbered army.
After his unlikely victory, it seemed that Gideon led Israel with wisdom as peace descended on the land. He went on to “judge” the nation for four decades until his death. As might be expected, the people wanted to make him king, but he wisely declined because “The Lord will rule over you” (Judges 8:23b).
But perhaps as a compromise, he asked the people to give him their gold earrings. Gideon inexplicably had an ephod made from this gold collection, possibly an imitation of part of the garment the high priests wore for religious rituals. This ephod led to idolatrous worship, and even Gideon and his family were snared by it (Judges 8:27). When Gideon died, the people quickly succumbed to Baal worship.
Christian leaders face many temptations to compromise their principles. Of course, there is a healthy give and take in any organization. But there is a type of compromise that sacrifices our moral principles. They lead to sin against God and our fellow human beings. For example, a ministry leader may be tempted to help a group member falsify school records. Or a Christian manager in the workplace may be coerced to go along an unfair treatment of a colleague. We must seek God’s wisdom and strength to ward off such temptations.
Despite his notable success, Gideon is also a flawed leader like the rest of us. No matter how much we accomplish, we are still dependent on the sovereign grace of God in our salvation and daily walk.
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