April 2 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town.
All Israel prostituted themselves by worshipping it there,
and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.” ~Judges 8:27

Gideon proves to be a great leader. When criticized by his countrymen for not inviting them into the battle, he praises them for the important role they played in capturing and killing the Midianite leaders, Oreb and Zeeb. His carefully chosen words recall the wisdom of the sage: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Prov. 25:11, ESV). In other words, the right words spoken at the right time are beautiful! However, Gideon is also ruthless when it comes to dealing with rabble-rousers and rebels. He is not afraid to teach people a lesson when they oppose the peace of the worshipping community. Gideon is courageous, kind, crafty, and capable! But he is also flawed.

Gideon has a memorial made to commemorate his heroic exploits, an honor that he no doubt deserves. One can imagine a handsome military vestment clasped over a bust or statue made in the likeness of the great hero. But Gideon’s golden ephod, fashioned from Ishmaelite swag, is turned into a shrine where the Israelites once again prostrate themselves. Ironically, the idol smasher becomes an unintentional idol maker. Gideon’s creation leads the people back into idolatry and also into years of civil war. In the next generation, brother turns on brother and neighbor upon neighbor, a scenario God allows to play out so that wickedness is wiped out of the capital city of Shechem.

It is difficult to criticize Gideon because we have all done things with good motives that brought about unintended consequences. Even great leaders are flawed and make mistakes. Gideon certainly deserved accolades and the chance to enjoy the fruits of his faithfulness; however, the praise he received, and the enjoyment he derived, should have caused him to direct every watching eye toward the God he worshipped. Given the idolatrous times in which Gideon lived, it may have been wiser to choose another form of celebration, refurbishing the place of worship, for example, or reviving the practice of God-pleasing sacrifice, or recounting God’s goodness through a national festival.

We would be wise to consider how we can avoid making Gideon’s misstep. Even when we are celebrating the blessings God has bestowed upon us, it is vitally important that we give God the praise and glory He deserves. And it is essential that we do so in the sight of others so that they know whom we praise. May God help us to learn from this flawed leader the value of giving Him praise for every success we enjoy in this life.

Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.