When Victory is god
In Judges 6-8 we read the amazing story of Gideon. Gideon was a young man whom God chose to be one of the great warriors who would deliver God’s people from the harsh rule of the surrounding Midianites. The ironic thing is that Judges 6:15 explains that Gideon came from the smallest tribe of Israel (Manasseh) and was the youngest in his father’s house. In other words, he didn’t fit the description of what a great warrior looked like, and Gideon knew it.
But in spite of who he was, the Lord chose Gideon to be the warrior/leader of an army of 22,000 … no wait … make that 300 (Sounds like a movie). And with an army of 300, Gideon defeated the Midianite and Amalekite army, an army “as numerous as the sand on the seashore” (7:12). It’s a really amazing story, and one that I recommend you go back and read for yourself. But the one thing from this story that I want to focus on comes later, after the victory.
Check out the conversation that followed the victory:
22Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” 23Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the LORD will rule over you.” 24And Gideon said to them, “Let me make a request of you: every one of you give me the earrings from his spoil.” (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) 25And they answered, “We will willingly give them.” And they spread a cloak, and every man threw in it the earrings of his spoil. 26And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was 1,700 shekels of gold, besides the crescent ornaments and the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian, and besides the collars that were around the necks of their camels. 27And Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his city, in Ophrah. And all Israel whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family.
Did you catch what happened? The people wanted Gideon to rule over them. Gideon then makes a statement about how God is their only ruler. Then, out of nowhere, Gideon asks for a gold earring from each person and creates an idol. Sounds eerily familiar to Araon and the golden calf episode doesn’t it? What is going on here? We aren’t given every detail of the story, but it becomes blatantly obvious that something in Gideon’s heart is not right. And there’s an important principle here that we all need to hear. Here it is:
Whenever we experience a great victory in our Christian life, the temptation is to take some of the blessing of God and turn it into an object of worship. The victory itself, then, becomes our god.
The gold that the Israelites had gathered was part of the blessing of victory that God had given them. And yet, they took it and turned it into an object of worship. They were so pumped up from the victory, the victory itself became their god.
I can see this tendency in my own life. For example, when I come off the high of a great weekend worship experience, it becomes really easy, as the reality of it sets in, to begin to make the band, or the music, or the experience itself an object of my worship. I begin recalling the events of the weekend and begin basking in the victory of it, rather than in the God of the victory. The blessing or victory itself then becomes an idol—a snare. And I don’t think that I’m alone in this battle. I think that in some sense we are all bent this way. Perhaps it’s when we close that big business deal that we’ve been working on. Perhaps it’s when we get that promotion. Perhaps it’s when we baptize a dozen people on a weekend. Perhaps it’s when we see dozens saved on a weekend. Perhaps it’s when we see new converts plugging in small groups. Whatever it might be, our bent, our tendency is to make these good things objects of worship, rather than directing that worship back to the God of these victories.
Let’s be careful not to make the same mistake that Gideon made, but to give God the glory that alone is due Him. And when the victory comes, may He continue to rightly be the object of our worship.