Summary: Think about what really matters in life. It's not who you are, it's who you have become. It's not what you say, it's what you do. It's not how you start, it's how you finish. Be wary of misplaced passions.
In 2001, Jim Collins wrote the now-famous book GOOD TO GREAT. He and his team researched hundreds of businesses and came up with a list of characteristics that distinguish great companies from mediocre ones.
Interestingly, two companies Collins commended that moved from “good to great” are Fannie Mae and Circuit City, in USA. Both companies are now gone.
Just because a company succeeds doesn’t mean they will stay successful. Just because we did it right at the beginning, does not automatically mean we will always do right.
This applies to our walk with God too. It is by the grace of God that we have come to where we are today. And it will be our continual trust in God that will keep us that way. We grow stronger only because we are leaning on Him.
Gideon started off as a timid and fearful man. God came to him and helped him overcome his fear and disappointment.
• God was prepared to use him as the “mighty warrior” that would deliver Israel.
• He was moved from mediocre to greatness, by the grace and strength of God.
• He did finally conquered the Midianites and saved Israel.
If the story ends here, Gideon would have been remembered as a man of greatness and a hero of faith.
• Unfortunately, that was not to be the case. Greatness is never guaranteed.
• Gideon was eventually driven by UNHOLY PASSIONS. Judges 8 tells us this and ends with his demise and the loss of his legacy.
[Let’s read Judges 8:4-17]
We see Gideon here being driven, not by a passion for God and His glory (which looks that way at the beginning), but by his own passions and desires.
• God did a miracle for him when he fought the enemies with 300 men. [See Map]
• 15,000 of them fled with their kings Zebah and Zalmunna (South-East, towards Karkor) and he pursued them.
• He stopped at 2 different towns – Succoth and Peneul - to ask for bread for his men but they refused to help.
• Both towns give him the same reason - Gideon has not captured the kings yet. Jud 8:6 “Do you already have the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna in your possession?”
They were afraid that if the Midianites survived, they would be become targets of retaliation.
• Both Succoth and Peneul are towns on the Eastern side of the Jordan, closest to Midianite camp. (Jud 6:3 describes them as “the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples…”)
• Coming from the East, Succoth and Peneul would be the first cities in their path. They were terrified of being dragged into this war.
Gideon was angry at their unwillingness to help. We would think that Gideon, having experience God’s patience for himself, would be patient with them and understand their fears.
• But he said to the men of Succoth – Jud 8:7 “Just for that, when the LORD has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will tear your flesh with desert thorns and briers.”
• And to the men of Peniel – Jud 8:9 “When I return in triumph, I will tear down this tower.”
Indeed on his return from routing the enemies, Gideon executed his own form of judgement against these people.
• Jud 8:16 “He took the elders of the town and taught the men of Succoth a lesson by punishing them with desert thorns and briers.” He tortured them to death.
• Jud 8:17 “He also pulled down the tower of Peniel and killed the men of the town.”
• Imagine, Gideon settles score with them even before he dwelt with the captured kings. He chose to take revenge against his own people first.
Gideon was driven by vengeance. It was vengeance against his own people. Both towns belong to the tribe of Gad.
• This was the first time we read of Israelites-against-Israelites in their history.
• Gideon was consumed by anger and bitterness. He killed these people over bread! This is really uncalled for.
What is missing here? God is missing. God has been actively involved in chapter 6 and 7 but completely absent in chapter 8.
• Gideon has taken things into his own hands. That is what happens when we are driven by vengeance, intolerance, and bitterness.
• We don’t consult God. We don’t consult anybody. We want to do our own will.
It’s not who you ARE, it’s who you have BECOME
This is very unlike God, whom we have seen in chapter 6 and 7.
• God is patient, God is kind. He is gracious and slow to anger.
Be Christlike in the way we deal with others.
• Eph 4:31-32 “31Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”