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Spiriual Biography of Gideon

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SPIRITUAL BIOGRAPHY OF GIDEON

Gideon’s account within the Book of Judges chronicles in great detail his life story, with a particular focus on his role as a Judge. Gideon’s Judgeship began when the Spirit of The Lord came upon him following his encounters with the God of Israel who instructed him to “go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” (Judges 6:14 NIV) Gideon “blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him. He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, calling them to arms, and also into Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali, so that they too went up to meet” (Judges 6:34-35) the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples. Shortly after Gideon’s call to arms some lingering doubt seemingly still presented itself after his personal encounters with God. Gideon had made two appeals to God with the wool fleece on the threshing floor. First to have dew only on the fleece and the floor to be dry, and the second test was a reversal of the first. These were tests designed by Gideon in an attempt to assuage his fears and build up his faith in God, his way, by testing God to ascertain if He was still committed to fulfilling His promise.

Though God did graciously concede to answer both of Gideon’s requests for reassurance, his uncertainty that God would fulfill His promise apparently was a tenacious concern of his. These tests were a continuation from Gideon’s flurry of rebuttal questions beforehand in his interactions with God. In Judges 6:13, Gideon refuted God with, “But sir, if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.” Again, in Judges 6:15, Gideon countered God’s response with another question, “But Lord, how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” Despite God’s personal re-assurances to Gideon, he requested in Judges 6:17, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me."

These questions were symptomatic of Gideon’s apprehensive trust towards God and had led Gideon to vacillate from trusting God to then questioning Him when the moment arrived to proceed into battle. Gideon wanted to trust God, but his fear and apprehension overpowered what faith he had in God at that moment. It prompted him to seek further reassurances by entreating God to substantiate His commitment to fulfill His promise by testing God with the fleece. God had abundantly answered both of Gideon’s tests but He then responded with two tests of His own which were of a design to expose a flaw in Gideon's faith building exercises by stripping away everything that gave Gideon his confidence for victory until ultimately all that remained was complete and utter reliance in The Lord alone.

Leading up to the great battle, God knew that Gideon was still struggling with fear, undoubtedly from the fact that God’s two tests had whittled down Gideon's army from 32,000 men to 300 men, less than one tenth of its original size. God, knowing that Gideon’s radically miniaturized army weighed heavily on his mind, graciously extended more reassurance to Gideon with, "If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp" (Judges 7:10-11). Needing that additional reassurance, Gideon did as instructed and with the little bit of courage and faith he possessed, he went down to the camp, albeit not alone, but with his servant Purah. There Gideon heard the Midianite warrior's interpretation of a dream which amazingly became the most significantly convincing sign to Gideon that he was guaranteed victory. It was not the words or signs that God Himself provided for Gideon guaranteeing his success in battle, but unbelievably from a man who was his enemy.

This central and defining moment, in Gideon’s story showcasing his miraculous growth in faith, transpired just outside the enemies’ camp. After long awaited anticipation for this juncture, we finally witness the transformational conversion of Gideon. The self-described least in his family from the weakest clan in Manasseh who was plagued by persistent doubt, harassed by fear and waffling faith, emerges as the “mighty man of valour” (Judges 6:12 NKJV), overflowing with immeasurable courage, completely trusting in God’s faithfulness to His promise. It is at this pinnacle point, the centre-piece of the story, that God’s desired outcome for Gideon to be the leader that He called him to be is at long last realized. Gideon’s heart is filled with faith, absent of fear, and completely abandoned of his own will. He took God at His word and worshipped Him, willing to follow God unreservedly.

Gideon, now filled to the fullest measure of faith, launches his attack on the Midianite army. God fulfilled His promise and delivered the Midianites into Gideon's hands because "the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. The army fled to Beth Shittah toward Zererah as far as the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath" (Judges 7:22). Regretfully though, Gideon’s story did not conclude here on this high note. This pivotal moment in Gideon’s life of faith was only the highlight as the author of Judges continued to disclose Gideon’s exploits with increasingly disappointing results.

Though Gideon had won a major battle, he then proceeded to summon the help of the other tribes to pursue the fleeing enemy, in particular two Midianite kings. A question that would naturally arise in the reader’s mind would be why is Gideon requesting help when it was God who said to him that “you have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me’" (Judges 7:2). God spoke directly to Gideon, giving him instructions that had drastically reduced Gideon’s army, and God did not at that time instruct Gideon to call for help after the battle was won. The writer further makes a point of this imprudent decision by including the details of the Ephraimites’ diatribe with Gideon when they had demanded, "Why have you treated us this way? Why didn't you call us when you went to fight Midian? And they challenged him vigorously" (Judges 8:1).

After this brief verbal altercation, Gideon remained undaunted and re-established his pursuit for the two Midianite Kings who had fled from the battle. The writer of Judges continued with in Judges 8:4 that, "Gideon and his three hundred men exhausted yet keeping up the pursuit, came to the Jordan and crossed it." Gideon was not showing signs of resignation. While in pursuit he passed through the towns of Succoth and Penuel. In both towns he requested aid but both times he was declined. Gideon’s remarks to the people of Succoth and Penuel were similar that both expressed his strong conviction for success. To the people of Succoth he said, “Just for that, when the Lord has given Zebah and Zalummna into my hand, I will tear your flesh with desert thorns and briers” (Judges 8:7) and to the people of Penuel, he said to them, “When I return in triumph, I will tear down this tower” (Judges 8:9). These two remarks clearly conveyed that Gideon firmly believed that he would be successful. However, both of these statements of faith were questionably followed with threats of punishment, suspiciously indicating that there was something more hidden in the background.
As the story continued to unfold we discover an unknown fact, previously unrevealed by the author until Gideon finally captured the last two remaining Midianite kings. In Judges 8:18-19 Gideon “asked Zebah and Zalmunna, ‘What kind of men did you kill at Tabor?’ ‘Men like you,’ they answered, ‘each one with the bearing of a prince.’ Gideon replied, ‘Those were my brothers, the sons of my own mother. As surely as the LORD lives, if you had spared their lives, I would not kill you.’” We learned that these two Midianite kings were being held accountable for the death of Gideon’s two older brothers. This previously undisclosed detail revealed that vengeance for their deaths was a significant driving force that propelled and sustained Gideon during his unrelenting pursuit, more so than his declarations of faith that he professed in his promise of victory over the Midianites to the people of Succoth and Penuel.
After Gideon had slain the two Midianite kings, he returned home. His successful military campaign had overwhelmingly persuaded the men of Israel that Gideon was the ideal candidate to rule over them. “The men of Israel said to Gideon, ‘Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us from the hand of Midian. But Gideon told them, ‘I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you’” (Judges 8:22-23). Gideon's response was partially apposite, but incomplete. He failed to acknowledge before the men of Israel that it was God alone who saved the Israelites but Gideon retained the glory from the victory for himself.

Following Gideon’s fraudulently pious refusal to rule over the people, he did however request, “that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder” (Judges 8:24) which amounted “to seventeen hundred shekels, not counting the ornaments, the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian or the chains that were on their camels’ necks” (Judges 8:26). With this, “Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family” (Judges 8:27). We further learned that Gideon “had seventy sons of his own, for he had many wives” (Judges 8:30). One of whom was named Abimelek, which translated from Hebrew means, "My father is king." Though Gideon had rightly declined to be made ruler of the people of Israel, his actions supported evidence to the contrary. He did indeed live like a king but had disastrously fell well short of leading the people of Israel to faithfully serving God.

Gideon lived a long life and “the land was undisturbed for forty years in the days of Gideon” (Judges 8:28). Sadly in Gideon’s epilogue there is no mention by the author that he had any further interactions with God after the victory over Midian. No other Judge, neither before, nor after Gideon, was recorded to the have the same privilege of enjoying so many personal encounters with the Lord, leading to the conclusion that Gideon no longer shared the same relationship with God that he had briefly enjoyed.…...

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