Life-Study of Joshua, Judges & Ruthby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
After considering 6:1—8:32 before the Lord, I believe that the way to present the intrinsic significance of this portion of Judges is to present, first, the secret of Gideon’s success and then the secret of his failure.
Gideon, a marvelous judge who was called by Jehovah in a very particular way, was successful because of four things. First, he listened carefully to the word of God, something that was rare among the children of Israel at that time. Second, Gideon obeyed God’s word and acted on it. Third, he tore down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah (6:25-28). This touched God’s heart. In the degradation of Israel, God hated the idols to the uttermost. God as the genuine Husband regarded all the idols as men with whom His wife Israel had committed harlotry. Fourth, by tearing down the altar of Baal and cutting down the Asherah that belonged to his father, Gideon sacrificed his relationship with his father and his enjoyment of society. Because of what he had done, the men of the city of Ophrah contended with him and even wanted to kill him (vv. 28-30). For Gideon to do such a thing for God required that he sacrifice his own interests, and his sacrifice was a strong factor of his success.
The selection of the three hundred in 7:2-7 also stresses the sacrifice of our personal interests and enjoyment for God’s purpose. When Gideon blew the trumpet to call the people to fight against the Midianites, thirty-two thousand responded. God said that those who were with Gideon were too many for God to deliver Midian into their hand, for Israel might have vaunted himself against God, saying, “My own hand has saved me” (v. 2). By telling Gideon that he had too many people, God was indicating that He would fight for them. First, twenty-two thousand went home because they were afraid (v. 3). Then Jehovah tested the remaining ten thousand by bringing them to the water to drink. Those who bowed down on their knees and lapped as a dog laps were sent home (v. 5). Only the three hundred who lapped the water into their mouths with their hands were chosen by God for the battle against Midian (v. 6). Jehovah told Gideon that through the three hundred men who lapped in that way, He would save them from Midian. Like Gideon, these three hundred were willing to sacrifice in order to be used by God.
As a result of these four factors, Gideon received a reward: the economical Spirit came upon him (6:34). Hence, he became powerful and with only three hundred men defeated two princes and two kings (7:25; 8:10-12). With Gideon we have a picture of a man in union with God, a God-man, to fulfill God’s word and to carry out God’s economy.
After his great success—the greatest success in all the cycles of Israel’s history recorded in Judges—Gideon had a terrible failure. The secret of his failure comprises three factors. First, Gideon was not kind. He killed those countrymen who did not support him (vv. 16-17), breaking the sixth commandment of God (Exo. 20:13). Second, he indulged in the lust of the flesh, not exercising any restriction over his fleshly lust. This is indicated by Judges 8:30, which tells us that Gideon had seventy sons, “for he had many wives.” In addition, his concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son (v. 31). By this Gideon broke the seventh commandment (Exo. 20:14). Third, although he did a good thing in refusing to rule over the people (Judg. 8:22-23), he coveted the spoil of his people, and they surrendered it to him (v. 24).
Gideon’s indulgence in sex and his greediness for gold led to idolatry. Greediness is idolatry (Col. 3:5), and both fornication and greediness are linked to idol worship (Eph. 5:5). Even King Solomon, who began as a God-fearing and God-loving person, eventually became an idol worshipper through his many foreign wives (1 Kings 11:4). Gideon made an ephod with the gold he had taken from the people, and this ephod became an idol to the children of Israel (Judg. 8:27). As a result, Gideon’s family and the entire society of Israel were corrupted. Gideon began by tearing down the altar of Baal and its idol, but after his success he built something idolatrous. This failure canceled all his success.
Judges is a book concerning the enjoyment of the good land, which is a type of Christ. Gideon’s success indicates the gaining of an excellent opportunity to enjoy Christ, but his failure indicates the losing of the opportunity to enjoy Christ. His failure shows us that we need to exercise strict control in dealing with the matters of sex and wealth. Otherwise, we will suffer the loss of the enjoyment of Christ. Any indulgence in these things will cause our enjoyment of Christ to be annulled.
Let us now go on to consider the many details of the fourth cycle of Israel’s miserable history recorded in 6:1—8:32.
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