We saw last week that God used Gideon’s action in the face of fear to overcome incredible odds. God whittled Gideon’s army down to 300 men. The men made a lot of noise around the invaders’ camp, and the invaders fought each other in fear. Now, in Judges 8, Gideon and his men have defeated the leaders of the Midianites. Israel has reconvened to divide the spoils. Here, we find what will distract the Israelites from God again in the story of Gideon and the stumbling block.
The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us – you, your son and your grandson – because you have saved us from the hand of Midian.”
But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you.” And he said, “I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.” (It was the custom of the Ishmaelites to wear gold earrings.)
They answered, “We’ll be glad to give them.” So they spread out a garment, and each of them threw a ring from his plunder onto it. The weight of the gold rings he asked for came to seventeen hundred shekels, not counting the ornaments, the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian or the chains that were on their camels’ necks. Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.Judges 8:22-27 NIV
Gideon and the Stumbling Block
What is an ephod, and how did it become a stumbling block? This website shows many commentaries’ research and opinions on what Judges 8:27 means. In Exodus 28, we read God’s instructions for the priests’ clothing. The ephod made up part of the High Priest’s garments, and they carried the stones used for divination. Thus, the main ephod was a sacred religious piece designed to worship God. It seems that when Gideon created the ephod from the Midianites’ gold, Israel started worshiping that ephod. In other words, they focused on the Israelites’ victory instead of worshiping God Who gave the victory to them.
Beware Your Stumbling Block
Reading the story of Gideon and the stumbling block reminds me of one of my very dear friends going up. He was so shy that on our first day of Kindergarten, he hid under a table. In seventh grade, my friend started seeing a counselor after school. He trotted into our computer class, dropped his backpack, and told his friends, “What’s the worst they can do to me?” It was his new mantra. Rather than fearing getting in trouble, he said, “What’s the worst they can do to me?” If kids told mean jokes, he said, “What’s the worst they can do to me?” It seemed to me that he went from fearing everything to no longer fearing anything.
Gideon shows us the value of bravery. He also shows us the dangers of taking our new mentality too far. Like my friend whose new mantra overrode even reasonable fear, Gideon’s newfound strength in the Lord caused him to make a religious emblem that distracted Israel from God. When we depend on our own strength and healing, we forget that God gives us the elements we need to heal. As a Christian, I believe that without God, our healing won’t stick. We need His holy power to overcome our struggles, and we need His humility to remember that we don’t repel bullets.