We typically hear the account of Gideon where he led a small army against the opposition with torches and trumpets. Seldom are we reminded of the later events of Gideon’s life. The later events of Gideon’s life are likely disturbing to us in the 21st century. Gideon is vengeful and murderous. He has a hand in the creation of an idol. He involves himself with a concubine. And, after Gideon dies, his son that comes from the relationship he has with the concubine — causes havoc, terror, and death to many people. This whole section of the Old Testament is filled with bloodshed. It is one of those passages of the Bible that makes us wonder how in the world does it has anything applicable to our daily lives. What should we take away from it?
There is one particular phrase in this section that, I think, offers us a nourishing theological nugget. Before I give you the phrase, first, let me give you some context. Throughout the life of Israel, especially the narratives given to us in the book of Judges, we see Israel going through a cycle. (1) Israel turns to God and is faithful. (2) Israel turns away from God toward false gods and idols. (3) Israel is reprimanded and punished for their disobedience. (4) Israel repents and turns back to God. And, (5) The cycle repeats itself. This same cycle shows up throughout the life of Gideon. Gideon delivers Israel. Israel is then faithful to God and is given peace for 40 years. But, then we encounter this stage of the cycle: “No sooner had Gideon died that the Israelites again prostituted themselves to the Baals (Judges 8:33-35)….” The remainder of this section of Judges records Israel’s punishment for not being faithful to God. And, toward the end, we see that God, again, works with Israel to bring them to repentance and turn back to him and remain faithful to him.
Now, you may be thinking, “What does this have to do with me today?” What I think it shows us is that, on our own, faithfulness to God is impossible. In fact, we need the power of God — actually, the Spirit of God — to make us faithful to him.
Now, you and I know, that, on our own, we tend to be unfaithful people. But, by the Spirit of Christ at work in our lives, we are empowered to be faithful — faithful to God, faithful to our spouses, families, friends, and community. But, the Spirit of God would not be at work in our lives, if weren’t for Jesus. We have the Spirit of God in our lives because Jesus was faithful.
Jesus’ faithfulness to God is a stark contrast to our’s and Israel’s unfaithfulness. Jesus never goes through the cycle of Israel. Jesus remains faithful to his heavenly father — all the way through death — and conquering it on the other side. Jesus is, in a sense, the truest Israelite. He revealed himself as the standard of who Israel was to be.
So, as much as the later part of Gideon’s life makes us question quite a bit from an ethical aspect (which are legit questions, but they require far more attention than can be given here), the more important thing to take away from this part of Gideon’s life is the unfaithfulness of Israel and how Jesus stands in stark contrast as the faithful Israelite. And, because Jesus is faithful, he has in turn made us faithful — by giving of his Spirit to those of us that believe and have committed ourselves to him. We are empowered to be faithful to God, but only because Jesus was first faithful. How wonderful it is to see that as much as Jesus’ life and death affects our future, it also impacts how we understand the past — especially this bloody account at the end of Gideon’s life.