“as soon as Gideon was dead,…the sons of Israel again played the harlot with the Baals” – Judges 8:33
I recall years ago meeting a woman who introduced herself as being a former member of the Lord’s church. I asked the local congregation about this woman and was told that she was a faithful member of the church until her elderly husband passed away. After his death she quit attending. Perhaps she unrighteously blamed God or perhaps she was never that dedicated to the Lord.
I was reading the Judges and was struck by the remarkable leadership of Gideon, also called Jerubbaal. Through him, God delivered God’s people and the nation enjoyed peace for forty years. We learn from Gideon and the other Judges how one person can be a powerful influence for good.
However, Gideon was imperfect and he committed a particular sin that would be a snare to him and his sons by making a golden ephod which Israel worshiped. What he did was troubling and is a reminder to us not to make up things to worship and ways to worship – just follow the Scriptures. The closing narrative on Gideon includes the following bit of information that “as soon as Gideon was dead,…the sons of Israel again played the harlot with the Baals” (Judges 8:33). The power of Gideon’s influence was able to keep Israel from worshiping the Baals, but it wasn’t in their heart. Gideon seemed to know the right path and for the most part, externally at least, followed it. And his example of leadership was great enough to keep Israel, at least externally, on the right path. But if any people do not love God with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength, they will likely fall if there is no strong leadership.
Early on, Gideon tried to get the people to draw near to God and not trust in men. They had asked him to rule over them. Gideon refused, saying, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you” (Judges 8:23). There’s a lot of love about Gideon for saying this. If only the people had taken these words to heart. But they did not and the moment Gideon was dead, they turned to the Baals.
How is your faith? Is it genuine to stand through trials and difficulties? Will you stand firm to the end regardless of setbacks or disappointments? The influence and power of godly people around us to keep us faithful only goes so far. Christian encouragement is vital to the Christian walk – we ought to be dedicated to fellowship (Acts 2:42) – but sooner or later it comes down to how closely we are walking with God. So stand firm so that you may be the strength for another who is still weak.