Bible Readings for July 25th
Judges 8 | Acts 12 | Jeremiah 21 | Mark 7
In Judges 6–7, we might have developed high hopes for Gideon’s potential. Here was a man who began his service to Yahweh in extreme humility, insisting that he was the least man in the weakest clan in all Israel (Judg. 6:15). Still, Yahweh gave him signs to confirm his call at every step of the way. If there was anyone who should have understood his own frailty and Yahweh’s power, it was Gideon. But here in Judges 8, we read two stories about how Gideon’s life tragically did not end in the way that it began.
The first story is actually a continuation of Israel’s battle against Midian from Judges 7. In Judges 8, we find Gideon and his 300 men continuing to pursue Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian, all the way to Succoth. There, Gideon asks for bread to sustain the strength of his men, but the officials of the city refuse to provide them with food for fear of supporting a losing army (Judg. 8:4–6). This rejection infuriates Gideon, and when he eventually does capture the two Midianite kings, he returns to flail the flesh of the officials of Succoth with thorns and briers (Judg. 8:13–16)—but then he overreacts to such a degree as to kill the rest of the men in the city (Judg. 8:17).
And sadly, the second story is even worse. In Judges 8:22–28, the people of Israel plead with Gideon to rule over them—him and his sons after him. To his credit, Gideon refuses to become the king (Judg. 8:23), but then the story takes a terrible turn. In a scene highly reminiscent of the golden calf story from Exodus 32, Gideon asks the people for their golden earrings, which he melts down into an ephod—probably a gold-laden cloak with clear religious significance, perhaps built to resemble the ephod reserved for the priests of Israel to wear (Ex. 28:6–14, 39:2–5).1
We aren’t given many details about this ephod, except that it became a snare for Israel, and even for Gideon and Gideon’s family, leading them to whore after the ephod—that is, to use it as a part of worshiping false gods (Judg. 8:27). It is worth noting that in the later chapters of Judges, an ephod is created again explicitly for idol worship (Judg. 17:5, 18:14–20).
The mere fact that we begin our race well does not necessarily mean that we will end it well. As we grow, we must remain vigilant not to let our love for the Lord grow cold, nor to begin to nurse bitterness from self-righteousness, pride, and arrogance toward those around us, even when others hurt us.
Learn from Gideon’s story and pray that God would give you the grace necessary to persevere and complete the course set before you.
1 C. J. Goslinga, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, trans. Ray Togtman (Grand Rapids: Regency Reference Library, 1986), 351–52.
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Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.