Judges 8: The Addiction Nation

There’s a lot to be said about Judges 8. We could talk of Gideon’s violent revenge on those who refused him and his army food. We could talk about how he tried to make his oldest son, who was still a child, slaughter two grown men.

But I would rather talk about Israel’s propensity towards idolatry.

Addiction might be a better word. 

Gideon and the 300 just defeated an army of 120,000. For those of you keeping score at home, that is 400o Midianite soldiers for every one of Gideon’s men.

I don’t know about you, but if my nation had a history of being overrun by foreigners, I would want a man like Gideon in charge. And that is exactly what Israel tries to do with Gideon.

“Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also; for you have delivered us out of the hand of Midian.”

Be our king! Please! We need a leader like you!

But Gideon will have nothing of it.

“I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the LORD will rule over you.”

Gideon is on to something. He knows his people’s history. And he knows that God has, from the beginning, wanted Israel to know that He is their king. They don’t need a human one.

At this point in the story, we are feeling pretty good about the whole situation. Midian is finished and Gideon has pointed people back to God.

But no sooner has he done this than he makes a giant ephod out of the earrings of the Midianites. The ephod is set up in his town and quickly becomes an idol. Israel “prostituted themselves to it.”

How did that happen?

Weren’t things going great up until that point? Gideon just turned them all toward God and in the next breath made a golden idol. This isn’t the first time this kind of thing has happened.

A strong leader is not enough to keep the people free from idols. 

And when Gideon dies, Israel barely waits for him to be put in the ground before they make Ba’al-berith their god. They forget the Lord. They forget what he did through Moses, Joshua, and Gideon.

Being leaderless is not enough to keep the people free from idols. 

So when Israel has a leader, they find a way to become idolatrous. When they don’t have a leader, they find a way to be idolatrous. You can’t create an environment where they don’t turn to idols.

 Israel is a nation of Addicts. Shoot, the NRSV even says they “relapsed.”
There are two things I want to say about this:
  1. In your own struggles and addictions, take comfort in the fact that this is the people God chose to bless the world. Your problems do not disqualify you.
  2. On the flip side, the road to recovery is long and difficult. God might just drag you through hell to break your addictions. Just like he did with his own people.

What part of Gideon’s story connects with you? Can you relate at all with Gideon and Israel?

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One response

  1. I honestly can’t even begin to share how it hits home… too long a tale 😉
    But basically, I can totally relate to the humanness and mess that is Gideon and the Israelites here… despite myself I often forget what the Lord has JUST done in front of me/for me/even through me!
    Bugs me!!! Thank God for Jesus and Grace and new Mercies!!

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