Week Four: Act In Faith But Beware Of Pride
Light for Living
The Lord is with you, courageous warrior!
The angel of God to Gideon in Judges 6:12b
As a girl, I greatly feared balconies. One of the movie theaters in our town had a steep balcony. I had a recurring nightmare that I lost my balance on its stairs and rolled down and over the railing into the crowd below. Because of those dreams, I preferred sitting downstairs, even if my seat was on the front row, rather than walk into the balcony. My fear drove my actions. Our military leader this week was afraid, but God moved him from fear to faith.
Just as the cycles of sin increasingly worsen throughout the Judges’ Era, so do the judges themselves. It’s slowly downhill after Deborah. Notice as we continue our study how the character and leadership of each subsequent judge worsens. Too often we think biblical heroes are worthy in every way. To see clearly through the darkness we must assess the judges by taking seriously both the good and the bad in context of the entire Word of God.
This week God’s story in Judges focuses on Gideon (also named Jerubbaal, meaning “let Baal contend”1) and his son Abimelech. Despite his weaknesses, Gideon was greatly used by God. Sadly, however, his story ends poorly, leaving us with both encouragement and challenge. Where did he go wrong?
Part One Study
Read Judges 6:1-7:23, and journal your responses to these questions:
*** Compare the conversation surrounding God’s call of Gideon in 6:11-24 with that of Moses in Exodus 3:1-4:17.
- How did God’s response to Israel’s idolatry this time differ from the previous cycles (6:6-10)? Considering all of today’s verses why do you think God acted as he did?
- How did God take Gideon from fear to increased faith? What do you learn about God from their interactions? (FYI: Signs are an indication of unbelief, not faith (Matthew 12:38-39; 1 Corinthians 1:22-24). Note that Gideon wasn’t trying to discover God’s will, although this passage is often taught as a method of doing that. God’s will was clear. What does it seem that Gideon was trying to learn then?)
- There is a lot going on in this story. What most stands out to you?
- Consider what this story tells us about God. What is God saying to you about your abilities, willingness and availability to follow and serve him?
Part Two Study
When God’s Spirit “clothed” him, Gideon sent for the men of Israel to fight with him (Judges 6:34-35), but the text doesn’t say that God told him to call an army. When God’s Spirit empowered a person in the Old Testament, it wasn’t necessarily a sign of spirituality, as the filling of the Spirit is in the New Testament. It only indicated that the Spirit provided the individual with power for a specific task, not that everything he did was of the Spirit any more than all that we as believers do is of the Spirit.
Read and comment on Judges 7:24-8:32 in light of these questions:
- Write your thoughts about Gideon’s mixture of wise and poor decisions in this story.
- It appears that Gideon’s victory gave him a sense of pride. How do you see that pride affect his decision-making and actions? How would you describe his legacy as a leader?
- Ask God to reveal your own areas of pride. Considering Gideon’s examples, what prideful actions do you see in your own life? (Read James 4 if you have time.) Confess them to God and to anyone else who has been affected. (BTW, pride is self-focus which involves thinking either too highly of self or too lowly of self. Both aspects of pride take our eyes off of God.)
*** Judges 8:27 says that all Israel prostituted themselves or whored after Gideon’s golden ephod. (See the starred section on p.15 to understand that terminology if you didn’t read it or remember it from Week One, Part 2.) What’s an ephod? Study in your Bible notes or online resources and write down your insights. Dr. Younger suggests that Gideon may have used it to receive divine guidance as the High Priest did. “In this way the ephod becomes Gideon’s permanent fleece.”2
Part Three Study
We see the fallout from Gideon’s choices as we read the story of his son Abimelech, whose name means “my father is king.”3 Keep his name in mind as you read and answer questions.
Read Judges 8:29-9:57. Comment on these questions:
- What consequences of Gideon’s pride and foolishness stand out to you?
- What do you learn about leadership from Abimelech’s story and the parable of Jotham which was intended as a picture of him and his leadership?
- Judges 9:56-57 says that God brought justice to both Abimelech and the men of Shechem. Describe how events brought justice.
“When believers forget the Lord and live according to the world’s dictates, this only intensifies the power of the wicked. When believers choose this path, becoming functional unbelievers, they may find that God allows them to get what they deserve, just as the Israelites experienced in the Abimelech story.”4
- What is God saying to you about ways in which your words, actions and leadership reflect the world more than the love of Christ?
The saga of Gideon and his family is a sad one for the people of Israel. As Robert B. Chisholm comments, “The seeds planted by Gideon had taken root. Israel (cf. v. 22) now had as its king a murderer who was financed from the treasure of a pagan god and was supported by a gang of thugs.”5
The people turned from devotion to Yahweh and embraced the idols and spiritual darkness of the culture around them. Sadly, Gideon’s victory as judge was eventually overshadowed by his pride.
*** Referring to Judges 9:23, Chisholm provides insight: “The expression ‘evil spirit’ need not mean that the spirit was itself demonic or evil. The Hebrew term can refer to moral evil, but it can also refer to disaster, harm, or calamity in a non-moral sense. If the word is given the latter sense here, the expression may simply mean that the spirit was sent to bring harm and calamity upon the objects of God’s anger.”6 Other verses where it it used similarly are 1 Samuel 16:23; 18:10; 19:9. How does this affect your understanding of God’s work?
In light of recent disturbing reports about the personal life of another Christian leader who accomplished great good in his lifetime, a friend expressed her heartfelt desire for godly pastors. Of course there are many of them, but overall our present-day church leadership appears to be spiraling downward morally, as we see in the lives of the judges. There’s something within us that yearns for morally consistent leaders. Although we may prefer just not thinking about it—maybe even giving up studying Judges because it feels depressing—let’s take that yearning for a godly shepherd as God’s reminder to turn our eyes on Jesus, the only leader who will never disappoint us.
Only God could take a young woman who feared spiritual leadership of any kind and build her faith in him until she stepped out in obedience as God opened opportunities.
That’s my story, which is much like Gideon’s. Gideon was afraid of a physical enemy and the wrath of his own people if he rocked the boat. What was I so afraid of? Not living up to the expectations of others. Failure. Being in front rather than behind. Being put on a pedestal. Lack of qualifications in character and experience. The possibility of disappointing God.
Despite my many attempts to avoid leadership roles, I watched God work in several situations so that I had to lead even without the role or title. He navigated around my no’s to use me despite my attempts to avoid his will. In time he showed me that my problem was lack of faith in him. Instead of looking at his abilities and power, I was too busy looking at me and my failures and short-comings.
As I look back over more than thirty years of leadership in all sorts of roles, it’s clear that it’s always been about God, not me. It’s been his guidance, power, strength, wisdom, and plans—not mine. Whatever has been achieved for the sake of God’s kingdom is because he has been at work.
The same God who used Gideon and works through me can use anyone paralyzed by fear who turns her focus on God and trusts him by walking in obedience.
1 Note on Judges 6:32, ESV Study Bible, 450.
2 Younger, 206.
3 Robert B. Chisholm Jr., Kregel Exegetical Library: A Commentary on Judges and Ruth (Grand Rapids, MI; Kregel Academic, 2013), 311.
4 Younger, Jr., 234.
5 Chisholm Jr., 312.
6 Chisholm Jr., 316-317.
Related Topics: Faith