Gideon is often referred to as the greatest of the Judges of Israel during ancient times. While he ruled for his 40 years, the nation prospered and feared God. But it wasn’t Gideon who ruled. The role of a “Judge” in Israel was to act as a mediator between God and man. Gideon, as a Judge, would merely speak on the Lord’s behalf. This position enabled God to rule over the children of Israel.
But Gideon’s rise to power was not through his own strength; God made sure of this. There are two important lessons we can learn from Gideon.
The story of Gideon starts in Judges chapter 6 and ends in chapter 8. Verse one opens as all great stories of the judges do:
1 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian for seven years.
This short intro tells readers a lot. The children of Israel, the divinely appointed heirs of Abraham, who were commanded to follow the Lord all the days of their lives, were disobedient in this calling. See verse 10:
10 And I [the Lord] said unto you, “I am the Lord your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell; but you have not obeyed My voice.”
In verse 11, the Angel of the Lord sits under an oak tree, which was in Ophrah, that belonged to Joash, who was the father of Gideon. The Angel met Gideon as he was threshing wheat by a winepress so that he could hide it from the Midianites, who were oppressing the children of Israel.
Verse 12 resonates with me, as these are words I want to hear from the Angel of the Lord:
12 And the Angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor.”
Gideon questioned the Angel, asking, that if the Lord is with them, why do the Midianites oppress them? Gideon wonders about the miracles their fathers tell them that the Lord did on their behalf, and asks, where are those miracles now? Again, Gideon questions the Angel, saying, is not the same God who delivered us from Egypt the same God now? “But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites” (13).
In verse 14, the Angel tells Gideon that he shall save the children of Israel from the hands of the Midianites; “Have I not sent you?” However, in verse 15, Gideon says, “How shall I save Israel? Behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” Verse 16, again, the Angel reminds Gideon:
16 And the Lord said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall slay the Midianites, as if they are one man.”
War for Freedom
Gideon then, as he was commanded by the angel, built an alter before the Lord, called it Jehovahshalom, “The Lord is Peace,” and then destroyed the alter for Baal and cut down the carved images. But he did these things by night, knowing that if he did them during the day, he would be killed.
Gideon became the appointed warlord and brought 10,000 men ready to face the Midianites (Judges chapter 7). But the Lord ensured He alone would be held responsible for delivering the children of Israel from the hands of the Midianites. So the Lord instructed Gideon to decrease his numbers, and through the signs of the Lord, Gideon’s army was only 300 men. The same day that the Lord decreased their numbers, he called them into battle.
But the battle against the Midianites was not like the rest.
Gideon and his men were armed with mere pitchers, which they would break, trumpets, and lamps of fire. While the opposing armies were sleeping, Gideon and his men surrounded them, because they were camping in a valley. Next, Gideon commanded his troops to do as he does.
When Gideon blew the trumpet, he told the others, after they blew their trumpets, to shout, “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon” (18). Gideon then blew his trumpet.
20 And the three companies (the 300 men) blew the trumpets, and broke the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hand. Then they cried, “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon!”
What happened next was the work of God. The enemy armies turned against one another in the confusion and slayed each other with their own swords. Gideon then sent out messengers, telling the men of his country that the Midianites were fleeing, and to act swiftly that they might kill them before they could escape. They captured the kings and the princes and brought their heads before Gideon. Gideon then cleansed his land of the evils of men.
After their victory, the men of Israel came before Gideon, and asked that he would rule over them as their king. Gideon responds in chapter 8, verse 23:
23 “I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you.”
28 Thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel, so that they lifted up their heads no more. And the country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon.
Gideon’s story ends by telling us that he died of old age, with 70 of his sons from his flesh, because he had many wives. Though, after Gideon died, the children of Israel turned their face again from the sight of the Lord:
33 And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and went whoring after Baalim, and made Baalberith their god. 34 And the children of Israel remembered not the Lord their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of their enemies on every side, 35 nor did they show kindness to the house of Gideon according to all the goodness he showed Israel.
In chapter 9, the son of Gideon through a concubine, named Abimelech, went and killed his brothers, the sons of Gideon, and reigned over the people, enforcing the false gods and strayed further away from the Lord.
After reading the story of Gideon, I quickly jotted down this thought:
If a mighty man is not soon replaced, those, who were under him with fall under the spell of evil.
What does the story of Gideon mean for the modern man? For the Christian man, we must surrender our accomplishments to the Lord and give Him His due credit. Because Gideon, the mighty man of valor, found favor in the sight of the Lord and gave the Lord credit for saving the children of Israel, Israel prospered in peace for forty years.
But as soon as Gideon died, Israel fell.
What lesson is there here for every man? Quickly looking at Abimelech, we see that the son of Gideon took advantage of his heritage, and killed all of his brothers so that he could be the sole ruler. There is little to go off of to judge Gideon as a father over his sons, but the fact that one of his sons went and killed all his brothers, this tells that at the very least Gideon was neglectful of Abimelech.
So, fathers: While your household may be at peace, what happens when you die? What will your sons do? How will they lead and treat others? Will they prosper and give glory to both your name and the Lord’s, or will they defile your legacy and honor? The lifeline of your name and family runs through your sons.
The way you parent them now until you die will be a strong indicator of their character and how they will rule over their household. While you may have many sons, remember: the one out of seventy was corrupt and slew the others. It is your job to be the father of many sons. Your influence even goes beyond the sons of your own blood. Many young men may look up to you. Your example exceeds even your own understanding.
While there is much you cannot control, while you are alive, remember that all you will leave behind on this earth is the legacy that passes down through your sons. They will either bring peace to your descendants, or shame and death.
Remember, Gideon, who was the least in his father’s house, rose above, and did great things. He overcame even the sinful idol-worshipping legacy of his father but failed to pass down to his own to his sons, which gave the glory of victory to the Lord, one that found peace in the Lord’s presence.
While Gideon is an excellent example of a man, he is also a strong reminder that men should also be excellent fathers. Your role as a father is the most important role you could ever have and will ever have. Do not forsake even one son. He, just like you, can do great things, or destroy your namesake.
Your sons pass down your name, but it is your job to ensure it is a name worth passing down.
Written by David F.A.
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