Judges 8:22-9:57

Today’s devotional is specifically targeted at leaders in the church and fathers. The truth of these words is for everyone, but the cross-hairs are on these two types of people for the moment.

If you grew up in the church you probably heard the story of Gideon. He was generally portrayed as a great hero and a man of faith. Rightly so. He did obey some strange directions from God that went against conventional wisdom and brought deliverance for the people. So, he was a hero and did do great things. Yet, look how he ended his journey.

Here is a principle to soak on: “Let us not evaluate a person by the way they begin the race, but by the way they end the race.” Many people start strong. They talk about all the great things that they are going to do for the Lord. They are bristling with excitement and vigor. Many of the talkers even become very successful in the ministries they talk about and there is great “fruit” that results. Gideon was like that. He had a great run for a long time. He was so successful that the people wanted to make him king. They gave Gideon all the credit for the great things and the great deliverance that they had experienced. They were practically worshipping him.

How would you feel in that moment? How would you feel if you had just experienced great success in ministry and the people were surrounding you and applauding you and saying, “you are amazing! Look at what you have done?” Would you puff up in pride and say, “why yes, you must be right. I am an awesome guy?” or would you cower in false humility and say, “oh no, I’m really nothing. It was all God, I didn’t do a thing.”

Look what Gideon did in that moment. He did one thing right, then he made one fatal mistake. Correctly, he said to the people, “I will not rule over you, the Lord will rule over you.” Bravo, Gideon, that was a good answer. But then he turns right around and asks the people to give him gold so that he can make an ephod. What’s going on here? Because of our modernistic perspective and Christian heritage this key point may slip past us. The ephod was an instrument that God had given to Aaron, the first high priest, designed to be a means of communication between God and the high priest. It was like a divinely inspired 8 ball (do remember those little toys from the 70’s where you shake the eight ball and a message appears in the window?) It was a piece of clothing, a breast piece, that had two stones embedded in it called the Urim and Thummim. One meant yes and one meant no. Apparently, when the high priest went before the Lord in the tent of meeting, God would cause these stones to glow in accordance with His answer to the priest’s inquiry. So, Gideon made himself a beautiful, golden ephod. What’s the big deal? Didn’t God ordain the use of the ephod? Yes, God did ordain its use. The question is, to whom did he ordain it? According to God’s plan there was to be only one ephod in Israel, and only one man who could use it; the high priest.

Essentially this is what Gideon was saying (please allow me a little artistic license here), “Wow, God really did use me. I must be pretty tight with God. I know you guys want me to be your King, but I know that I can’t do that. However, I can build my own ephod and have direct access to God. That’s spiritual, right? You can come to me to get to God. He’s your ruler, but I’ve got the Ephod.” Gideon took something that appeared spiritual, and, in the right context was a correct form of interacting with God, and distorted it. He went outside of God’s boundaries for its use and made a good thing into a form of idolatry. In his final moments, probably because he started believing his own press releases, Gideon planted the seeds of corruption in the hearts of his children and those that followed him.

The consequences of this distortion of God’s truth were devastating. Gideon’s illegitimate son, Abimelech (we could write a whole devotional on the distortion of Gideon’s man/woman relationships as being a huge part of his downfall as well), murdered his 70 brothers and took over the rule of the city. Judges chapter 9 is a depressing story of corruption, deception, vengeance, vindictiveness, and bloodshed. These were the fruit of Gideon’s seed.

Now, to the leaders and fathers. There is one word for today…beware. In every moment of your life you are sowing seeds into the fields of the generation that follows you. The measure by which you will be evaluated in the eternal scales of the Kingdom of God have nothing to do with the external results that your ministry produced. It doesn’t matter how big your church gets. It doesn’t matter how many “giants” you have slain. It doesn’t matter what results you get in the polls, or how many accolades you get from people who are observing the external indicators of your physical ministry. The value of your ministry will be measured by the level to which the next generation authentically knows God, loves Him, and authentically follows Him in the paths He has directed for them. This is a matter of the heart. This is a matter of integrity in the deepest recesses of your inner self. How do you behave when you don’t think anyone is looking? How do you deal with your children when the eyes of the church are not on you? Are you as kind and nice with them in private as you are when those you are trying to impress are watching?

As we lead our church and as we lead our children, let’s remember this lesson from Gideon. Don’t listen to the accolades of the crowd. Don’t start believing the hype that follows after God does a great and miraculous work. Remember that you perform for an audience of one. The crowds will come and go, and will evaluate you on your external “results.” God cares only about your heart and the “results” belong to Him.

Also, remember that God has established only one High Priest, Jesus Christ. The ephod belongs to Him. May we never try to mimic the ephod by believing that what we have to offer is anything special or wonderful, any more than anyone else. May we lead people to follow Jesus Christ in all His ways, to love God with all their heart, so that they see through our ministry and get a clear view into the heart of God. May we start well on this path, and more importantly, may we finish strong on this path and pass it on to our children.

All for Him.

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