What Can We Learn From Gideon?
Written by Rebekah Leyden
Gideon is one of the heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11. What can we learn from the life and example of Gideon?
The book of Judges is sometimes called “The Book of Failures,” and you don’t have to read too far into the book to figure out why. Throughout the book, we read about bad decision after bad decision—separated by merciful moments of God-given peace. God continually delivered His people throughout the book, even though they failed so often.
One of Israel’s 12 judges was a man named Gideon.
Prior to Gideon’s introduction in Judges 6, the Midianites had been oppressing Israel for seven years. It was at this time that God called Gideon to act on behalf of the people.
God clearly understood Gideon’s character flaws and need to grow in faith. It would take a series of miraculous events for Gideon to overcome the negative views he had of himself and his family and to rely on God for might and power (verse 15).
God encouraged Gideon by having him lead a mere 300 men against the Midianite camp. God gave Gideon and the 300 the victory by confusing the Midianites and causing them to turn their swords on each other (Judges 7:22). The glory of the victory was God’s (verse 2).
Before the victory, God allowed Gideon to overhear a man in the Midianite camp telling a dream—and the man’s companion interpreting it to mean that God would deliver Midian into Gideon’s hand (verse 14). This was just the encouragement Gideon needed to assemble the men and carry out the mission. But first he worshipped God (verse 15).
When Gideon put God first and sought to carry out His instructions wholeheartedly, God provided blessings and success for Israel.
A costly mistake
But Gideon was still human.
After the incredible victory over the Midianites, Gideon did something that actually turned the people toward idolatry. Gideon asked the people to donate gold earrings they had plundered, along with other gold items, with which he made a golden ephod (a garment God’s priests would wear) that he then set up in the city of Ophrah.
It is not clear why Gideon made the ephod right after turning down the chance to rule by saying, “The LORD shall rule over you” (Judges 8:23). Perhaps he didn’t realize what that would lead to.
Sadly, the people began to worship the ephod, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family as well (verse 27). This led to more bad decisions by his sons, particularly Abimelech.
Still, Gideon had successfully stopped Midian from oppressing Israel, and his actions led to peace for 40 years. Gideon is listed among the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11:32.
But how should we understand Gideon as a hero of faith, when he made some terrible mistakes?
The crux of the matter
It all comes back to this: Ultimately only God saw Gideon’s heart and motives. If Gideon bitterly repented for the ephod incident, God knows. We don’t.
Moreover, we also know God chooses to work with the weak of this world (1 Corinthians 1:27). He does this so that “no flesh should glory in His presence” (verse 29).
Like Gideon, we all have to wrestle against our own personal challenges and weaknesses—and sometimes we stumble and fail. Even the apostle Paul had to fight his own internal battles with sin (Romans 7:15-25).
Thankfully, we have a merciful God and High Priest who understands our weaknesses because He came as flesh and blood on our behalf. This doesn’t give us permission to be weak and sin, but it does mean that we have a High Priest who understands and will advocate for us. We can be forgiven our sins through His sacrifice.
Gideon was not a perfect man, though he did great things because of his faith in God. None of us is perfect, but if we repent of sin when we see it, we can grow and do great things through faith in God!