Gideon starts off strong, demonstrating wisdom in de-escalating the complaints of the Ephraimites, but ends in foolishness, leading Israel into idolatry by creating an ephod for them to worship from the spoils of war.
Isn’t this a common pattern? We start off humbly, aware of how little we have to offer. The Lord blesses and uses us in ways that are so far beyond our abilities. At first, we remain humble – acutely aware of where every victory comes from. But over time, as the victories are more familiar, we become more comfortable with plenty than with lack, more at ease with victory and less conscious of our desperate need because of God’s generosity. We may not plunder pagan symbols of worship for our own, but we might forget to give all the honor and praise to God when someone points to our success. We might simply smile and say, “Thank you,” as if their praise of us were merited, instead of pointing their eyes toward the only One worthy of our praise. The One who enables us to write, to sing and dance, to teach, to lead, to score a winning touchdown, or to achieve an academic award.
And so, our slide down the slippery slope into foolishness and idolatry begins with the simple phrase, “thank you.” For Gideon, it began with the Israelites asking him to rule over them. He answers well, “The Lord will rule over you.” But then he makes a request, “Everyone give me an earring from his plunder.” It seems like such a little thing. It always starts with a little thing.
But it reveals a big issue in his heart. He didn’t ask them to make an offering to the Lord. He didn’t lead them in a sacrifice or feast to God for the victory God had given them. Instead, he asked for and accepted a token from them as if he were the one they were indebted to. As if he had won the victory, rather than God winning the victory through Gideon.
What are we tempted to take credit for? What compliments do we accept without acknowledging that God alone has given us that talent, ability, or victory?