(Click here for a video of John reading this Catch.)
It happens frequently when someone is used of God in a mighty way that it can go to their head and make them start to think they are special and somehow above the law. They are particularly vulnerable to the sins of pride and self-righteousness. It was why God reduced the Israelite army to 300 lest they boast “that they saved themselves by their own strength” (Judges 7:2).
But even with that, it didn’t take long for them to forget how God had gotten them this victory.
And when the warriors returned victorious in freeing the children of Israel from the Midianiates, they called for Gideon and his sons to rule over them. “But Gideon replied, ‘I will not rule over you, nor will my son. The Lord will rule over you!’” Now that was smart. “‘However, I do have one request — that each of you give me an earring from the plunder you collected from your fallen enemies.’ (The enemies, being Ishmaelites, all wore gold earrings.) And, of course, that was dumb.
“‘Gladly!’ they replied. They spread out a cloak, and each one threw in a gold earring he had gathered from the plunder. The weight of the gold earrings was forty-three pounds, not including the royal ornaments and pendants, the purple clothing worn by the kings of Midian, or the chains around the necks of their camels.”
And this was really dumb… “Gideon made a sacred ephod from the gold and put it in Ophrah, his hometown. But soon all the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshiping it, and it became a trap for Gideon and his family.” (Judges 8:23-27)
The ephod was part of a priestly garment and signaled a priestly authority which they didn’t have at that time. Gideon might have thought he was helping God out here but he took things into his own hands and it turned out very bad for the nation. Not only that, it appears that he did not give the people any spiritual leadership. God gave them 40 years of peace after the victory but as soon as Gideon was dead, they went back to worshiping Baal.
When God empowers you, don’t let it go to your head. Stay humble. Work hard. Be grateful for what you have. Continue to give God the praise for everything and lead others in that praise.
Gideon did well in the beginning, but unfortunately he didn’t finish well. We need to guard against the same thing happening to us after a victory.