Who isn’t inspired by Gideon?? There’s something we love about a reluctant leader. A small town boy, “the least of the weakest”, who followed God’s calling and, one fleece at a time, grew into the confident fighter who liberated Israel with 300 men. Fear and doubt turned into faith and rout.
Gideon’s calling came in desperate times at around 1100 B.C. A Bible reader first meets Gideon when an angel of the Lord shows up and addresses him as “Mighty warrior”. Irony is, at the moment, this not-so-mighty warrior is threshing wheat down in a winepress out of fear of the Midianites. (Judges 6:11-13) Raiding Bedouin tribes from the east had for seven years oppressed Israel—at God’s hand—destroying their crops and laying the land to waste. Israelites were fleeing to the mountains and cowering in caves.
The Lord chooses and finally convinces Gideon that he’s His chosen instrument to free Israel (Judges 6). God’s warm-up act for Gideon was to topple the altar to Baal and an Asherah pole back in his hometown, the Ephraimite village of Ophrah. In fear, Gideon does it under the cover of darkness (6:27).
Gideon amasses an army—which the Lord culls by a factor of 100—with which he proceeds to vanquish Midianites and Amalekites as numerous as locusts. (7:12) Those same 300 men, exhausted and outnumbered 50-to-1 (8:1-21), cross the Jordan to slay another army, then chasing down and kill two Midianite kings. #whew
Israel wants to make Gideon king, which he humbly declines (Judges 8:22-23), only to hatch a different plan: Make an Ephod. An Ephod was an apron-like garment worn by priests. Among ephods, there was the Ephod. A highly ornate vestment festooned with precious stones and embroidered in blue, purple, and gold. Only one person could wear it, the high priest, who resided with the Tabernacle in Shiloh. This ephod, the ephod, was a mouthpiece for inquiring of God. That’s what Gideon makes, and he puts it in his hometown of Ophrah.
“Gideon made an ephod … and all Israel whored after it. And it became a snare to Gideon and his family.” — Judges 8:27
Gideon, the man who began his ministry in his hometown as a one-man wrecking ball against Baal, is the very one who brings idolatry back to Ophrah. Unlike the altars to Baal and shrines to the Canaanite mother-goddess Asherah, this idol was something worn by the priests of the one true God, Yahweh.
The people loved it, “whored after it”. Gideon’s was but the first of three ephods worn by wannabe priests in the book of Judges (17:15; 18:14-20,30). Such men and teachings are clouds without rain, “having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:5). In making his ephod, Gideon sought to establish in Ophrah the worship and glory to God that rightfully belonged in Shiloh. But this idol was different. It looked “holy”, new, flashy, and culturally acceptable. The kind of idol that, throughout history, God’s people are prone to welcoming into their minds, lives, and assemblies.
Today’s cultural idols not grounded in God’s Word are making their way into the worldview and teachings of Christians in areas such as sexuality, race, worship, the mission of the church, and the authority of Scripture. The blood of Christ redeemed us from the “empty way of life handed down to us” and we have spent enough time living as the world does according to its darkened understanding and futile thinking. (1 Peter 1:18; Ephesians 4:17-18)
Pagans acquiesce to culture. We’ve been cleansed, forgiven of our worldliness. What good is it if we, like Gideon and Ophrah, run full circle only to finish as better-dressed, appeasing idolaters, praying and singing in church pews? Let’s renounce living in fear, quit sowing our message in wine presses, and boldly live for God’s truth in this lost world.
— Mark Miller