Defeat in the Midst of Victory
Dr. Joe Temple


Turn with me, please to Judges, chapter 7, and refresh your minds as a starting point concerning that amazing victory in Judges, chapter 7, verses 19-23:

Judges 7

19So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came unto the outside of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch; and they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers that were in their hands.
20And the three companies [that is, the three companies of a hundred each] blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal: and they cried, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon.
21And they stood every man in his place round about the camp; and all the host ran, and cried, and fled.
22And the three hundred blew the trumpets, and the LORD set every man's sword against his fellow, even throughout all the host: and the host fled to Bethshittah in Zererath, and to the border of Abelmeholah, unto Tabbath.
23And the men of Israel gathered themselves together out of Naphtali, and out of Asher, and out of all Manasseh, and pursued after the Midianites.

After a brief interval in the latter part of chapter 7 and the first part of chapter 8, you have a continuation of the battle and the climax of the battle in verse 28 of chapter 8, where you read:

Judges 8

28Thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel, so that they lifted up their heads no more. And the country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon.

God took one man and 300 lesser men and three feeble instruments of warfare–instruments that sane men would not have considered instruments of warfare at all–and won a tremendous victory, subduing all the Midianites so that the land could have quietness forty years.

If we could stop our study of this part of the book of Judges right here, we could praise God for the fact that little is much if God is in it. We know that to be true, don't we? It is amazing the little things and the little people God can take and with them do great and marvelous things. I say, if we could stop our discussion of Gideon's ministry here, it would be a wonderful thing; but God would have all of us–His children–learn other lessons. And He would have us learn, I believe, a lesson from this portion of the Word of God that I would just as soon not have to share with you because somehow it mars and blemishes this victory that we have been talking about. In fairness to the Word of God and in recognition of our need, remembering that the Apostle Paul said that all of these Old Testament passages are written for our admonition, I must remind you of what we find in the intervening verses I have not read. I have summed them all up in one simple phrase, “defeat in the midst of victory.”

The Pride of the Ephraimites

That sounds almost contradictory, doesn't it? Defeat in the midst of victory? That is what we are going to find here in the Word of God. Do you remember what is recorded in the book of Proverbs, chapter 16, verse 18? Probably you have committed this portion of the Word to memory at some time or other:

Proverbs 16

18Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

In the first epistle of John, chapter 2, verse 16, when the Spirit of God is describing what is included in the world, he mentions three things: the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. As I have studied these verses of Scripture here in Judges, chapters 6-8, noticing defeat in the midst of victory, the first thing that I would like to call to your attention as being responsible for marring the victory to which we refer is related to the verses that I have just given you. I have summed that suggestion up in the phrase, “the pride of the Ephraimites.”

I would like for you to notice with me the description as it is presented here in Judges, chapter 7, beginning with verse 24 and going through chapter 8, verse 4. We read:

Judges 7

24And Gideon sent messengers throughout all mount Ephraim, saying, come down against the Midianites, and take before them the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan. Then all the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and took the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan.
25And they took two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb; and they slew Oreb upon the rock Oreb, and Zeeb they slew at the winepress of Zeeb, and pursued Midian, and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side Jordan.

Judges 8

1And the men of Ephraim said unto him, Why hast thou served us thus, that thou calledst us not, when thou wentest to fight with the Midianites? And they did chide with him sharply.
2And he said unto them, What have I done now in comparison of you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?
3God hath delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb: and what was I able to do in comparison of you? Then their anger was abated toward him, when he had said that.

I hope that you will get the picture. When Gideon went out to battle against the Midianites, not all the tribes of Israel came to do battle with him. Some of them hung back. As a matter of fact, you will notice in verse 23 of chapter 7, the tribes that did go out to battle.

Judges 7

23And the men of Israel gathered themselves together out of Naphtali, and out of Asher, and out of all Manasseh, and pursued after the Midianites.

Naphtali, Asher, and Manasseh–those were the only ones who really went to battle. When Gideon put to rout the enemy in the manner that we read in our earlier discussion, they fled down through the country of the Ephraimites, and Gideon sent word to the Ephraimites, saying in verse 24 of chapter 7:

Judges 7

24And Gideon sent messengers throughout all mount Ephraim, saying, come down against the Midianites, and take before them the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan. Then all the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and took the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan.

When he said, “take the waters,” that probably doesn't mean anything to you; but what he was saying was, “Guard the fiords.” There were certain places in the Jordan that they could cross over with ease; and he said, “You get down there, you Ephraimites, and guard those places, and don't let the enemy get away. When the enemy tries to get away, you take care of the situation.” A portion of the enemy was led by two important princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb. And so the Ephraimites did exactly what Gideon had asked them to do. They took the fiords, and they slew these two princes, and they brought their heads to Gideon as proof of the victory they won. Then they got angry. They said to Gideon, “How come you didn't call us when you went to battle the first time? What's the idea of not inviting us? What's the idea of leaving us out of the picture?”

There could have been any number of reasons they said that. One thing was that Joshua was of the tribe of Ephraim, and they could probably have thought that they were important to the welfare of Israel. “What's the idea of slighting somebody so important as us?” And they might have said, too, “What's the idea of asking us to do the dirty work after you had all the victory?”

We could go on and rationalize, I suppose, and try to find any number of reasons they took the attitude they took, but we know one reason–their pride. The pride of the Ephraimites was such that they didn't want to be left out of anything. They thought they ought to have been considered.

Gideon's Response to Complaints

We have a lot of people in the Body of Christ who get terribly disturbed if they are not considered. If somebody starts something without asking them and then needs their help, they have a tendency to say, “Why didn't you ask me before you started it all?” And even though they go ahead and serve, they serve with grumbling. What is your reaction to people like this? There are two lessons here. One is the sadness of the pride of the Ephriamites and the other is the response that Gideon gave. Did you notice what Gideon said in response to the complaint that the Ephriamites gave? Look down in the second verse. Did he say, “You fellows quit griping. You're all full of pride. You're always mad about something, and you're not worth anything anyway.”? No, that's not what he said. That's probably what I would have said. But you will notice in verses 2 and 3, he said:

Judges 8

2And he said unto them, What have I done now in comparison of you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?
3God hath delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb: and what was I able to do in comparison of you? Then their anger was abated toward him, when he had said that.

They weren't angry anymore. What did he say? He said, “I really don't understand you fellows. What did I do that could even begin to compare with what you've done?” And then he spoke in language that needs a little bit of translation. He said, for example, in verse 2, “Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?” Gideon was of the family or clan of Abiezer, and he said, “It may look like I've had a great big crop, but think about it, men. The gleaning, the two kings that you have slain, represents a much greater feat than anything that I have done. Is not the gleaning better than the vintage?” He said, “Why think of it, men. God has delivered into your hands the two kings of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb, but don't act like you have been ignored. God has singly honored you.”

Beloved, learn a lesson from that, and remind yourselves of the truth of God's Word, that a soft answer turneth away wrath. Remember the wise man said that in Proverbs, chapter 15, verse 1, and most of us don't take time to see whether it is true or not. But can't you imagine the division that would have occurred in Israel if Gideon had said to the Ephraimites something like I might have said to them because of their foolishness and their pride? A soft answer turneth away wrath.

Consider the Interest of Others

Something more important still is that Gideon had caught the spirit of what God would teach us in Philippians, chapter 2. I believe if this passage of Scripture were taken literally, it would solve all of the dissension that arises in families. It would solve all the dissension that arises in any kind of relationship that you might have. Certainly it would resolve all the dissensions that arise in the Body of Christ. Notice:

Philippians 2

1If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,
2Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
3[Notice very carefully this verse] Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory;…

You see, Gideon had caught the message, hadn't he? Oh, when these Ephraimites came to him and said, “Why did you just let us in on the tail end of the battle?”, what they were doing, they were doing for strife and vainglory. Gideon could have said, “It's all you deserve. You ought to have come when the battle call first sounded.” Oh no, not Gideon. He would not draw attention to himself; rather, you will notice in verse 3:

Philippians 2

3…but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

“Ah,” said Gideon, “what you have done is much more important than anything that I have done or could ever do.”

Notice verse 4:

Philippians 2

4Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

Look out for the interest of others and not yourselves. And of course, it is all summed up very beautifully in verse 5:

Philippians 2

5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Further on in the epistle, you will remember the Apostle makes an appeal that everybody be of the same mind. He isn't saying to them, “Resolve all of your disagreements and reach some point of conciliation,” when he says for everybody to be of the same mind. He is saying, “Let everybody have the mind of Christ.” Gideon had the mind of Christ. He knew how to give a soft answer that could turn away wrath. He didn't really care who got the credit for what went on, and so he could speak to the Ephraimites as he did and remind them of what God had done.

Now, back to the book of Judges, as I remind you that the kings that the Ephraimites slaughtered are of interest to us from a typical standpoint. We have tried to point out to you at various times the typical lessons that might be found within these Old Testament studies because a lesson from types always adds a bit of interest and lets us know a few extra things.

The Place of Victory

One of these Kings is named “Oreb.” “Oreb” means “raven,” and the place where the raven was slain was at the rock. Those are the facts. What are the types? Let me suggest to you that a raven is an unclean bird. It always speaks of that which corrupts. It speaks of that which is related to sin and darkness and wrong-doing. Where was the victory won over the raven? At the rock. Remember, the rock is a type of Christ. The Apostle Paul said, “the Rock that followed them was Christ.”

You remember when Noah sent two birds out of the ark, one of them was a raven and the other was a dove. The raven stayed out. He probably found some dead carcass upon which he could rest, but the dove came back because the land was not yet cleansed and the dove had no place upon which it might be able to light. Corruption is everywhere about us. Ravens are always ready to take up their residence close by. We would remind you today, typically speaking, that the victory over the raven will be found at the Rock. The victory over corruption, the victory over sin, will be found in Christ.

The other king was named “Zeeb.” “Zeeb” means “the wolf,” and where was the wolf slain? At the winepress. The winepress, typically speaking, is always representative of the victorious Christ. You remember in Isaiah, chapter 63, it is recorded that the Lord Jesus Christ came from Edom, His garments dyed red like blood. The voice of the prophet said, “Where have you come from?” And He said, “I have come from trodding the winepress alone.” The Cross is the place of victory. The wolf is the thing that will destroy the flock. Sometimes preachers, we are told in the Word of God, come in wolves' clothing and destroy the flock of God. The wolf is always ready to destroy the sheep, and we might remind you today that the sheep is never a match for the wolf, but there is a place where there can be safety and a place where the wolf might be slain, and that place is at the Cross.

I trust that you learn, literally speaking, to plead the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ against the enemy. Someone said to me one day, when I made a statement like that, “What do you mean, 'plead the blood of Christ'?” Well, very literally you could say, “I plead the blood,” and God would know what you mean. But what I mean is that you recognize that Satan has been defeated by the work of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the Cross. When the Lord Jesus Christ went to Calvary, He said, “Now is the prince of this world judged; now is the prince of this world cast out.”

We need, when the Devil comes like the raven or the wolf to bring about our defeat, to be bold to plead the blood and remind God and remind the Devil that the Lord Jesus Christ has won the victory and the Devil has no dominion over us. We are prone to forget that sometimes, and we live in constant fear of Satan; and I'm afraid we all too often live in complete subjection to Satan, doing whatever he bids us do, because we feel we are too weak to do otherwise. Remember, the raven was slain at the rock, and the wolf was slain at the winepress.

Doubt That Mars Victory

We are talking about the things that marred this marvelous victory–defeat in the presence of victory. We said one of the blemishes was the pride of the Ephraimites. But as we pursue our reading, we are going to find something else that ruined the victory, something else that marred the victory. I have called it “the doubt of the men of Succoth and Penuel.” This kind of doubt produces men who wait instead of work. This kind of doubt produces men who refuse to work for victory, and yet are always ready to enjoy the spoils of victory. When their help is enlisted, the answer they give for not doing what they are asked to do is, “I just don't believe it will work; I just can't see how it is going to work.” Let's read the history of it here in Judges, chapter 8, beginning in verse 4:

Judges 8

4And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men that were with him, faint, yet pursuing them.

My, I like that. You see, the enemy, the Midianite host, was running fast to get home. They knew they were defeated, and the three hundred men, you will notice, were faint yet pursuing. Do you get faint and tired? Oh, how often we do; and how often we decide, “Oh well, we have fought the battle long enough; we just won't fight anymore; we will just sit down and rest.” And someone will ask, “Why?”, and our answer is, “I'm so tired; I'm so faint.” Well, these folk were faint, but they were still pursuing. I admire them. That's the reason the year verse, Isaiah, chapter 40, verse 31, which God has so graciously given means so much:

Isaiah 40

31But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Fainting, but not fainting. Pursuing, still fighting the battle with a supernatural strength. These folk were faint, but still pursuing. Now look at verse 5:

Judges 8

5And he said unto the men of Succoth, Give, I pray you, loaves of bread unto the people that follow me; for they be faint, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian.

You see, this was quite a coalition that was formed against them.

Judges 8

6And the princes of Succoth said, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thine army?

“Well, maybe you are pursuing them, but you haven't overtaken them. Maybe you think you're going to win, but you haven't won. After you have won the victory, then come back and talk to us about something to eat. We're not going to get mixed up in a losing battle. How do we even know that you will win the victory?”

Look at verse 7:

Judges 8

7And Gideon said, [this is so important] Therefore when the LORD hath delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into mine hand, then I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.

Did you notice what he said? He didn't say, “You may be right. We are outnumbered, and I'm not sure I'm going to overtake them, but I'm sure going to try, and I think you ought to help me.” He didn't say that. He said, “Let me tell you something, Buddy; when I do overtake them and clean them up, I'm coming back to deal with you.” There wasn't any doubt in his mind that he was going to get the victory. He said, “When I've got the victory, I'll be back to take care of you.”

You know, in God's work, there are always those who stand along the roadside, saying, “I don't think it's going to work, and I don't think we had better try it. I don't think it will work,” and if the Gideons among God's people listened to the folk of Succoth, they would never get anything done.

He went a little bit farther on, in verse 8:

Judges 8

8And he went up thence to Penuel, and spake unto them likewise: and the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered him.

They said, “We haven't seen you victorious yet. Don't ask us for any help. How do we know that these fellows you're pursuing–Zebah and Zalmunna–won't come around here and do something to us because we helped you?”

Look at verse 9:

Judges 8

9And he spake also unto the men of Penuel, saying, When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower.

You see, he didn't say, “If I win;” he said, “I'll win, and I'll be back, and when I do, I'm going to tear down the tower in the center part of the city because this is what you're so proud of. I'm going to show you that you don't know nearly as much as you think you do.”

An Illustration of Jacob's Doubt

Isn't it a shame that in the midst of this tremendous victory, which God was winning with such a little group of people, there would be men who would doubt? Isn't it unusual? Well, I don't know that it is too unusual, because these two places, Succoth and Penuel, we have met before. Perhaps you don't remember it, but Penuel, sometimes is called “Peniel,” which means “the face of God.” It was the place where Jacob wrestled with his doubts. If you look at the story in Genesis, chapter 32, you will find that the Angel of the Lord was wrestling with him, but it was really his doubts with which He was wrestling. When the last doubt was dismissed and God touched him in his thigh, he said, “I will call this place 'Peniel' because here I have seen the face of God.”

Do you know when he was at Peniel? When he was running in doubt. You remember the experience. He was coming back home when Esau was coming out to meet him. He had left Esau in very unfavorable circumstances, so when the word came that Esau was coming, his first thought was that he was coming to kill him. And God said, “No, he isn't. Esau can't lay a finger on you. You're mine, and Esau or anyone else can't bother you.” When you read the story, you find that Jacob was full of doubts. He said, “God, You may say that, but I don't know.” And then remember after he had met Esau, Esau said, “Why don't you let me give you a bodyguard to escort you through the country?” This was God working through Esau. Jacob, still full of doubts, said, “Oh, I'd rather not, thank you. I think we are going to stay here for a while.”

He was lying. He intended to go on, but he stopped at Succoth. “Succoth” means “booths,” and he built booths for his cattle. He built them out of branches from trees, and that's how the place got its name. It is related to doubt. He doubted God because he would not go on to claim the victory that God had given him. He had to waste some time living in a house made out of bushes when he could have been living in what amounted to a palace made out of the skins of animals.

It is tragic how many of the victories God gives that are marred by our doubt. Sometimes God wants you to take a step of faith, and you don't want to do it. Oh, you do, but you're not really sure how it will turn out; and so you tell God, in so many words, “God, if You prove to me before I take this step of faith that everything is going to turn out all right, then I'll be glad to do it.” God says, “No, you take that step of faith now,” and you don't want to do it. You are like the men of Penuel; you're like the men of Succoth.

A Reason for Trials

I don't believe we ought to leave this paragraph without reminding you of what is said in verse 7 of chapter 8:

Judges 8

7And Gideon said, Therefore when the LORD hath delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into mine hand, then I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.

We will not take the time to read the rest of the chapter. It tells exactly how he did it. He asked some folk who the elders of the city of Succoth were, and when he was told who they were, he took whips made of briers and thorns and whipped the elders soundly. They learned their lesson. Never again would they say “if;” They would know.

What spiritual lesson is there for us in that? Let me suggest to you that one of the reasons trials come into our lives, one of the reasons the briers and the thorns come–notice what I am saying–is that we doubt God, and God has to bring us to the place where we are willing to trust Him. Sometimes the briers and the thorns are used for that purpose.

What about the men of Penuel? What did he say he was going to do? He said that he was going to tear down the tower which they had built, which was the symbol of their pride. Oh, how proud they were. That tower, actually built with the help of the Midianites with whom they were in secret alliance, was the thing that kept them from taking a step of faith. That tower had to come down.

I want you to make a few personal applications in your own life because we don't have time to make them. Could it be that there is a tower in your life that has to be torn down before you are ready to take the step of faith that God wants you to take? Is there a tower in your life that keeps you constantly doubting in the midst of what could be apparent victory? You're afraid to take that step of faith; you are afraid to make that decision which will put you on the side of faith without anything to lean on but faith.

Before the men of Penuel were ready to believe Gideon, the tower had to come down, and I would like to suggest to you that this is true of many of us. Before we are ready to rest completely in faith, the tower has to come down. I don't know what your tower is, but I do know in my own life before I learned to trust God completely, the tower had to come down. My tower was built of self.

A Personal Illustration

I've mentioned this to you before, but I will mention it to you again for an illustration. My mother was an unusual person. She was not a Christian when I was growing up, but she was an unusual person, and she drilled into me particularly–I was the youngest, and I was very close to my mother–what she thought was self-reliance by saying this to me: “Son, you will never meet anybody who is any better than you are, and you will meet very few people who are as good as you are.” Let that sink in for a moment. “You will never meet anybody who is any better than you are, and you will meet very few people who are as good as you are.” She drilled that into me, and I believed it. Some people may think that I am obnoxious, but they ought to have known me before God tore down the tower. I'm sure I was obnoxious. I remember my last year in the university. The president of the college who took an unusual interest in the young people who were in the school called me into his office one day and told me he wanted to talk with me, because it wouldn't be long until I would be going out into the world, and there were some things he needed to tell me. One of them was this: “You are the most conceited person that I have ever met in all my life.”

They had, at this school, what they called a “preacher boy's contest.” I don't know whether it was right or wrong, but they had one, and juniors and seniors could enter. He said to me, “You know, in your junior year, you won the ‘preacher boy's' contest.” I said, “I know.” He said, “I wouldn't let them tell you, because you were so conceited that I didn't see how we could live with you another year.” He talked on in no uncertain terms like that until the tower was pretty well knocked down, and that was God's beginning. This man was an unusual man. He had a way of grinding you into the dirt and then lifting you up again. When he had me down to nothing, he put his arm around me and with tears in his eyes he said, “Joe, I love you, boy. What other people think is conceit, I know is self–confidence, but watch it. It could ruin your ministry.” Then God let me pass through some disappointing experiences that all culminated in one of the verses that is hanging in the narthax of this church:

Jeremiah 45

5And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not:…

When God dealt with me in that experience, the tower was down. There's not even a stone left on the foundation, and I have nothing to lean on but God, and that's the reason I don't find it so hard to lean on Him. There is just nobody else to lean on. The tower is down.

I want to suggest to you that if there is some tower in your life, you tear it down before God has to, because when God tears the tower down, it isn't too pleasant.

The Shortsightedness of Men

I do want to finish what we are talking about. I have time to merely mention some of these other blemishes on this marvelous victory that God gave. Another blemish I have summed up with the words, “the shortsightedness of the men of Israel.” This marvelous victory was marred because of the shortsightedness of these men. Let's read about it in chapter 8 of the book of Judges, noticing verse 22. The victory had been won now. Everything was settled:

Judges 8

22Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian.

Therein lay their shortsightedness. They said, “Gideon, you have delivered us from the hand of Midian, and we want you and your sons to rule over us as kings forever.” This was the very thing that God had been guarding against. Remember when they first went out to battle, there were 28,000 men; and God said, “I'm not going to let Judah go out to battle with this many men, because if I do, you will say that you have won the victory. I want you to know that the victory which will be won will be won by My hand, not by yours.” And when these 300 men were running after the Midianites, they knew that God gave the victory, but they were so shortsighted and the glory that they should have given to God was short-lived upon their lips. Instead of giving God the glory, they gave it to Gideon. Thank God, for the moment, Gideon was on a spiritual plain where he could reply, in verse 23:

Judges 8

23And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you.

Have you ever been guilty of shortsightedness? I've seen it over and over again. I've seen people pray when somebody has been sick and ask God to heal, and as soon as the victory has been won, God gets very little of the credit. Sometimes somebody will call and say, “I hear you had quite a siege of sickness, and I wonder how did you get over it?” What is the first thing that somebody says? “Well, I'll tell you one thing, Dr. So-and-so is the best man for this kind of thing there is. He recommended a medicine, the like of which I've never seen in all my life. I was up just like that.” Now it is true, Dr. So-and-So was good, and it is true the medicine was good, but do you remember when you prayed about it? You said, “Lord, heal me. Lord, restore me to my health.” Then you went to the doctor, which was all right; and you took the medicine, which was all right, but you said, “My hope is not in men; my hope is in God.”

But after you were well and a little time had passed, you were saying that man is the one who has accomplished what has been accomplished. Isn't it strange that we have to learn that lesson over and over again, that God will not give His glory to another? You know that God is jealous of one thing, and that is His glory. He said, “My glory I will not give to another.” When we are put in places where we ought to be giving God the glory and we don't, then God may put us in another place where we will. He has to have it, for His glory He will not give to another.

The Presumption of Gideon

I should stop right here, for then I would not have to say anything unlovely about Gideon. My, my, hasn't Gideon been an unusual person? Just think about everything that happened here. This defeat in the midst of victory wouldn't be complete as a discussion if I did not make reference to what I am going to call, for want of a better way to express it, “the presumption of Gideon.” Very few of us can stand success. Very few of us can stand the blessing of God for any length of time. Very few of us can be used of God in a marvelous way and still remain the same. It's difficult.

Look with me now at chapter 8, verse 24. Gideon said he would not rule over them. God is the ruler. But look, beginning with verse 24:

Judges 8

24And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey (for they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites [that is, the Midianites whom they slew, all had golden earrings, so they had a number of them there] )
25And they answered, We will willingly give them. And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey.
26And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold; beside ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that were about their camels' necks [their camels all wore golden chains with a medallion. That was a sign of their clan or tribe. All these things that were taken were gold] .
27And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah:

An ephod was a vest, something like aprons that you ladies wear, which fasten at the shoulders and the sides and are open the rest of the way. The ephod that the priest had was made out of gold and had precious stones in it. The ones that the king and the prophets wore were made out of linen, but it was a garment that was meant to be worn, and yet Gideon made one of gold that nobody could possibly wear and moved it into his own city.

Some Bible scholars are sympathetic toward Gideon, and they just don't believe that Gideon would do anything wrong, so they say that the reason he did this was that he wanted to remind them that there was one God, that it wasn't Gideon, it was God. You might call that a good intention, and if these folk are right, then you have an illustration of how (listen carefully) good intentions, not based upon the Word of God, can become a source of evil. Will you let that sink in? Good intentions, not based upon the Word of God, can become a source of evil.

Notice verse 27:

Judges 8

27And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house.

When the Bible says that Israel went a-whoring, in a typical fashion, it means they made an idol out of something. Instead of going to the central place of worship at Shiloh, where God had told them that they should all come, they went off to Ophrah and bowed down at this golden ephod. If our friends who want to defend Gideon can say that he meant well, if they are right, then this is a sign where good intentions, not based upon the Word of God, are a snare. Learn a lesson from that, Friend. No matter how good your intentions are, if they are not rooted in the Word of God, they will ensnare you and will cause you to fall.

I'm not quite so kind as some of these other folk. I believe that Gideon was presumptuous. I believe that he presumed upon his right as priest. He was saying, in so many words, “I won't be king, but I will be your priest.” Why would he say a thing like that? You will remember back in chapter 6, when he was told to tear down the altar that was built to Baal, he was told to build another one and offer a sacrifice on it. Gideon could have presumed that what God wanted him to do once, on a special occasion, God wanted him to do always, and this showed an ignorance of the Word of God, because God always treated without mercy anybody who tried to usurp the position of priesthood. When Korah and his folk tried to take the place of Aaron, the ground opened up and swallowed them. You see, they were saying, “We don't need a mediator.” When Uziah attempted to usurp the priesthood, he was stricken with leprosy. When King Saul attempted to usurp the priesthood, he was removed from office.

Why is this so serious? Because it's a principle. The moment you decide you can contact God without a mediator, you are doing away with Jesus Christ. The moment you do away with Jesus Christ, you do away with the basis of all that we believe and live, and that's why it is so serious.

Now you say, “What happened to Gideon? God didn't strike him down. God didn't let him contact leprosy. What happened to him when he became guilty of this presumptuous sin?” Well, look again with me at verses 27 and 28 and notice that this ephod became a snare unto Gideon and to his house. Let us recognize today that when God deals with us, He does not always deal in dramatic fashion; He does not always deal in cataclysmic judgment. Sometimes, as the Psalmist says, He sends leanness into our souls, and this is the last thing that marred the victory that I want to talk about with you today.

Gideon's Lapse Into the Flesh

I have called it “Gideon's lapse into the flesh.” You see, sometimes God strikes people dead; sometimes He strikes them with serious disease; sometimes He sends leanness into their soul, and this is what He did here. Notice in verse 29:

Judges 8

29And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house.
30And Gideon had threescore and ten sons [seventy sons] of his body begotten: for he had many wives.
31And his concubine that was in Shechem, she also bare him a son, whose name he called Abimelech.

Here is the description of his lapse into the flesh–a plurality of wives. This man had departed so from God's original intentions that he married many women. In addition to many wives, he had a concubine–a mistress–in Shechem, which was a place of shame for all Israel. Out of the union with the concubine in Shechem, there was born a boy who had the name “Abimelech,” which means “whose father was king.” In the next chapter, you are going to read the sad story of Abimelech and all that occurred because of Gideon's lapse into the flesh. Gideon didn't pay the price to start with; he paid it in his son, and that happens quite often.

Home Bible Studies Books King James
Abilene Bible Church
Dr. Daiqing Yuan Tim Temple Dr. Joe Temple
Some icons on this site used courtesy FatCow Web Hosting