By Ashley Hooker, Crosswalk.com
Gideon is a man of the Old Testament that is often underestimated. He led a profound life coming to the aid of his people and serving as a judge to the Israelites. His actions give us an example to follow and lessons to learn.
In my study of Gideon, I found six lessons I want to share with you. So, without further ado, let’s jump into the life of Gideon.
Who Was Gideon?
Gideon was a young Israelite man living in Ophrah. He was the youngest son of Joash, who was of the family of Abiezer. His family line belonged to the tribe of Manasseh.
Gideon’s family was not wealthy. They lived in constant fear because neighboring groups would steal the Israelite’s grain and livestock. The Israelite people had to seek out shelter in caves to protect themselves and what little food they had.
When we meet Gideon in the Book of Judges, he is threshing wheat in a winepress. This was not the custom but had to be done to protect what grain they could get. Later in his life, Gideon becomes a judge of Israel and dies as an honored man in the history of God’s chosen people.
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6 Reminders from the Life of Gideon
The primary theme of the Book of Judges is that if you put your trust and dependence on the Lord, He will give you direction. Gideon expresses this theme and gives us these six reminders we can use in our lives today.
1. God Always Sees the Best in Us
In chapter 6 of Judges, we find Gideon going about his business of threshing wheat in a winepress. He is a young man trying to help his family get the grain they need and keep the Midianites from finding it. What the reader learns is that Gideon and his family are hiding from the Midianites and other groups that want to harm them.
Gideon has no confidence in the God of the Israelites. His family has become Baal worshippers. They are running into caves to seek safety. The faith of the Israelites has weakened and so has Gideon’s. Even so, God calls to Gideon at the winepress. He calls Gideon a “mighty warrior.”
When God speaks to Gideon, he describes him according to what he would become, not what he was. At that moment, Gideon is aware that he is just a young boy who is just going along with the ways of his family. He doesn’t see that he has anything to offer God, especially not becoming a mighty warrior.
God saw the best in Gideon. He looked past his faults and his weaknesses. The same is true for us today. God sees our hearts. He knows who we truly are. God knows that we have weaknesses. God also knows that if we trust in Him, we have everything it takes to do the work He has called us to.
Paul tells us in I Corinthians 1:26-29, that God chooses foolish things to shame the wise and the weak to shame the strong. You may think you are weak, but God knows with Him, you are strong.
2. Idol Worship Is Unacceptable
People today can often forget that we worship idols too. They don’t look the same as they did in Gideon’s time. While we don’t have golden calves in our yards, we hold wealth, status, time, and many other things as idols. Anything that separates us from God is an idol.
Gideon has been living in a family that has turned from their God. They have been worshipping Baal and most likely, so was Gideon. After Gideon has realized that it is the sovereign Lord speaking, he follows the instruction to take down his father’s altar to Baal and the Asherah pole beside it.
God still asks that we tear down the idols in our lives. He instructs us to not let anyone or anything come between Him and us. Idols were not acceptable then, and they are not acceptable today. We cannot serve two masters and we cannot carry out the work Christ has for us when we have idols in our lives.
3. We Are All Unfinished Products
The beginning of Gideon’s story paints the picture of a young man who is scared, complacent, and hiding from his enemies. Fear has infiltrated Gideon’s heart and the hearts of all Israelites. The tribe of Manasseh is weak, and Gideon doesn’t seem to have much hope of life getting any better. Some readers might even call Gideon a coward.
First, we must consider Gideon’s age. We don’t know the exact number, but we do know he is the youngest son in his family. Most likely, Gideon still has some growing and learning to do. His faith was weak, yet he sought out the Lord’s guidance.
Not once but three times in Gideon’s story, we read his requests for God to give him a sign. Clearly, Gideon was second-guessing what was happening. He wanted to be sure he was interpreting the instructions correctly. Gideon was still growing in his faith, and God was gracious in answering Gideon’s request for a sign.
What we can take away from this is that, like Gideon, we are an unfinished product. Only with the guidance of God can we grow and strengthen our faith.
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4. Let No Man Rule in Your Life
Once Gideon had fought the Midianites, the Israelites request he rule over them. They felt that Gideon had saved them from certain demise. In their persuasion, they remind Gideon that his children and grandchildren would have the spoils of royalty.
In Judges 8:23, Gideon turns down the Israelite’s request. He reminds the Israelites that they already have a king. He tells them that the Lord will rule over them.
Gideon’s response reminds us we should let no man be the ruler of our lives. He is telling us that if we have Christ in our lives, then we have all we need. If we let God rule our lives, we can enjoy the spoils of royalty as well because we will be co-heirs with Christ.
5. A Little Can Be a Lot
Gideon was just a young boy when God called Him out. He didn’t feel that he had what it would take to complete the enormous task God was giving him. What he didn’t understand was that God was not looking at Gideon’s qualifications in that moment. His call had nothing to do with the quantity of deeds Gideon had done. He was looking at the quality of Gideon’s heart.
I remember singing the hymn “Little Is Much When God Is in It” by Kittie L. Suffield in the church I was married in. The refrain says:
Little is much when God is in it!
Labor not for wealth or fame
There’s a crown, and you can win it
If you go in Jesus’ name.
These words sum up what Gideon did. He went in Jesus’ name. He trusted and followed God. Because of his obedience, God gave Gideon a crown. One that has far more value than any earthly crown. God is not looking for the best qualities and the most accolades. He is seeking those who, like Gideon, are regular people laboring for Christ in their daily lives.
Serving God faithfully is not about quantity. It is all about quality.
6. It Is Easy to Fall Away from God
Gideon accomplished a big, important task. His people were grateful to him. They wanted him to be their king. Gideon did the right thing when he turned down the offer to rule over them. In that moment, Gideon was on a righteous path. He was walking with God.
At the end of Gideon’s story, we are reminded that it is incredibly easy to fall away from God. Gideon had done all the right things, yet he built a golden ephod. In Judges 8:27, we read that once Gideon made the golden ephod, all the people of Israel began worshipping it.
After all that Gideon had accomplished with God, it would seem that the Israelites would have learned their lesson. Every battle fought and won had given the Israelites freedom to live as God desired them to. In the end, all it took was a golden ephod to turn them away from God.
How Can We Apply These Reminders to Our Lives?
Gideon’s life is quite similar to our lives today. We struggle to understand what God sees in us. Young men and women face feelings of doubt as they enter adulthood. Gideon reminds us we are capable. His life stands to show us that God sees the best in us when we don’t. Gideon was successful in his call because he allowed God to use Him. We can do the same.
I also believe that Gideon’s story reminds us that the tough times can be the times we experience the most growth. It is in these tough times that God gets our attention. They strengthen us while reminding us that God is in control.
Lastly, we must remember that it is our private faithfulness that determines our public usefulness. Gideon had to have a conversation with God. He had to get his personal relationship with the Lord right before he could be useful to anyone. We are unfinished people that easily fall away. Only when we get our personal lives in line with God, can we be the public servant He wants us to be.
Gideon’s life is a remarkable one. He answered, obeyed, trusted, and waited on God. He is an example to us that no matter who we are, where we came from, or our current situation can keep God from using us for His glory.
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