Judges 08: The danger of success

Judges 8:1-35

Judges 8:22-28 – 22 Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” 23 Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.” 24 And Gideon said to them, “Let me make a request of you: every one of you give me the earrings from his spoil.” (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) 25 And they answered, “We will willingly give them.” And they spread a cloak, and every man threw in it the earrings of his spoil. 26 And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was 1,700 shekels of gold, besides the crescent ornaments and the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian, and besides the collars that were around the necks of their camels. 27 And Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his city, in Ophrah. And all Israel whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family. 28 So Midian was subdued before the people of Israel, and they raised their heads no more. And the land had rest forty years in the days of Gideon.

Starting well is easy; finishing well, that’s the challenge. It is easy to be the best spouse on your honeymoon. It is easy to look at your spouse with that look that tells them that they mean the world to you in the first few weeks of marriage. But when the last child is finally out of the house, and to still have that same look toward your spouse, that’s impressive. Starting well is easy; finishing well, that’s the challenge. There is research that has been done on how many people in the Bible finish well. There are about 3000 names in the Bible. And out of those 3000 names, there is only enough information on about 100 names to know whether they finish well or not. And out of that 100, do you know how many of them finish well? Only 30. It is very hard to end well. And on the list of names of those who did not finish well, we find some very familiar names. One of the surprising names is King Solomon. Solomon was the wisest person on the planet. He was extremely rich and powerful. He even wrote some of the books in the Old Testament. But he died worshipping other gods because of his many wives and concubines. One preacher puts it nicely. When you marry the world, you are going to have problems with your in-laws. Starting well is easy; finishing well, that’s the challenge. I am sure all of us have seen people who started well finish badly. And one of the examples of those who did not finish well is Gideon. If you grew up in Sunday school, this might surprise you because this part of Gideon’s story is hardly talked about. But we must pay attention to it because there is an important warning to all of us in this story.

So, I’ve been wanting to do this for a while now, but I hold myself from doing it. But I am going to do it now. Are you ready? Here it is. Previously, in the book of Judges. Okay, that’s all. Two weeks ago, we looked at the call of Gideon. God came to Gideon and called him to fight the Midianites. At first, Gideon was not convinced of God’s call. But God patiently assured Gideon that God was with him. And last week we looked at how God did the unthinkable. God reduced the number of Gideon’s army from 32,000 to 300. That’s a 99% reduction. So, Gideon had to fight an army of 135,000 men with 300 men. It was an impossible battle to win. But God was with Gideon and He gave victory to Gideon and his 300 men. So, in chapters 6 and 7, we saw Gideon grow into a mighty man of valour and he became a national hero. And Gideon learned a very important lesson along the way. He learned, “When I am weak, then I am strong. Because God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness.” So far so good. But here is the thing about the book of Judges. Nothing ever goes right for long in the times of Judges. As the story develops, we will see a different Gideon begin to emerge. And here is the question that we must wrestle with as we look at the text: When we are weak, then we are strong. But what happens when we think we are strong? And we will find the answer in Judges chapter 8.

I have three points for my sermon: The ominous music; The questionable scene; The tragic end.

The ominous music

Judges 8:1-3 – Then the men of Ephraim said to him, “What is this that you have done to us, not to call us when you went to fight against Midian?” And they accused him fiercely. And he said to them, “What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the grape harvest of Abiezer? God has given into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. What have I been able to do in comparison with you?” Then their anger against him subsided when he said this.

If you remember where we left off last week, Gideon asked the men of Ephraim for help, and they captured and killed two princes of Midian. It was a great success. But now the men of Ephraim are not happy with Gideon because Gideon did not call them at the beginning of the battle. But it is very unlikely that they would have been willing to march under Gideon’s command. Why? Because Ephraim is one of the strongest tribes, economically and militarily. They are the prima donna among the tribes. While Gideon is from the weakest clan in the tribe of Manasseh. So, their frustration is born not out of the desire to participate in battle but having missed out on the glory of victory. What they want is the glory that comes with winning the war. Gideon knows this and he shows diplomatic skill and wisdom in dealing with Ephraim. He says, “Look. Your tribe is far more powerful than mine. And it is you that delivers the final blow to those Midianites princes anyway. In comparison to your deeds, what is it that I have done?” And the men of Ephraim are no longer angry at Gideon. They received the praise and the glory they desire. At this point, we might want to praise Gideon for his humility and wisdom. But wait. Look at what happens next.

Judges 8:4-9 – And Gideon came to the Jordan and crossed over, he and the 300 men who were with him, exhausted yet pursuing. So he said to the men of Succoth, “Please give loaves of bread to the people who follow me, for they are exhausted, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.” And the officials of Succoth said, “Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hand, that we should give bread to your army?” So Gideon said, “Well then, when the Lord has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will flail your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.” And from there he went up to Penuel, and spoke to them in the same way, and the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered. And he said to the men of Penuel, “When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower.”

Can you see what happened? We see a totally different Gideon here. If Gideon showed patience to the men of Ephraim, he shows none of it to the men of Succoth and Penuel. There are a few things we must note. Firstly, Gideon and his 300 men cross the Jordan River pursuing the Midianites and they are exhausted. The question is, why does Gideon insist on pursuing the Midianites? The Midianites are on the run already and they already crossed the Jordan River. There is no need for Gideon to exhaust his men pursuing them. They already won. So, why is he pursuing them? What drives him? Secondly, when Gideon asks the men of Succoth and Penuel to feed his men, they refuse to help. They say, “Do you have the Midianites kings in your hands yet? If not, don’t look to us for help.” Here is why. If they help Gideon’s army, and if for whatever reason Gideon should fail to get rid of the enemies, then the Midianites will regroup and return. Any towns that helped Gideon will be destroyed. And Succoth and Penuel will be extremely vulnerable to attack because they are located on the other side of the Jordan River, away from the rest of the Israelites. These towns are directly exposed to the Midianite attack. Can you see their reasoning?

And I know what’s on your mind. You are thinking, “Even so, they should have shown more faith in God and Gideon. They are wrong for refusing to help Gideon and his men.” And I fully agree with you. Their action shows their lack of faith in God and Gideon. They are more concerned with their own safety. And if you haven’t realized it, sometimes the people of God are a great disappointment. Ellis wrote a great article in SEED May titled, “When we love Jesus but not so much the church.” Loving the people in the church is hard. If you don’t know that, and you think the people in your church are awesome, congratulation. You just joined the church last week. But just wait. Your disappointment turn is just around the corner. The people in the church will disappoint you. Be prepared for it. Can I have an amen? But even so, Gideon’s response is inexcusable. Rather than showing patience to them, Gideon essentially says to the men of Succoth and Penuel, “After I am done with the Midianites, I am coming for you. I’ll be back.” And we are like, “Wait. What? Gideon, these are your people. These are the very people you are meant to protect. What do you mean by you are coming for them?”

This tells us that Gideon’s diplomacy with Ephraim is not because he does not want to strike them, but because he can’t. Ephraim is a strong tribe and Gideon needs them. But Gideon does not need Succoth and Penuel. That’s why he threatens to destroy them. It reveals something important about Gideon. Gideon has forgotten the lesson of the 300. He forgets that the only reason he won the battle is because it is God’s battle and God’s victory. It is not something that he earned but received. But now Gideon feels that he deserves some respect and recognition for what he has accomplished. And he is extremely upset at the people of Succoth and Penuel for not giving them to him. When the men of those towns fail to trust God, Gideon should have said, “I know it is hard to believe that God is using me. I can’t even believe it myself. But He is. And God is giving us the victory. You don’t have to trust in my strength. But you can trust in God’s strength.” Instead, he says, “How dare you doubt me. Once I am done with them, I’ll teach you to respect me.” Can you see what happened? Gideon’s focus has shifted. He focuses on himself rather than God. Let’s continue with the story.

Judges 8:10-12 – 10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with their army, about 15,000 men, all who were left of all the army of the people of the East, for there had fallen 120,000 men who drew the sword. 11 And Gideon went up by the way of the tent dwellers east of Nobah and Jogbehah and attacked the army, for the army felt secure. 12 And Zebah and Zalmunna fled, and he pursued them and captured the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and he threw all the army into a panic.

So, Gideon continues his pursuit, and he succeeds. He captures two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmuna. Gideon has officially become a great military leader. He has the fighting power to attack and destroy the Midianites’ army. This time, there is no more blowing trumpets, breaking the jar, and shouting. It is purely Gideon’s military might. How do we know? Because one main character is strangely absent in this battle. There is one character that is very prominent in the first battle in Judges 7, but He is conspicuously missing in this second battle. Do you know who that is? God. There is no indication at all of God’s involvement in this battle. If God is everywhere in the first battle, He is nowhere to be found in the second battle. The battle has shifted from God’s battle to Gideon’s battle, from God’s strength to Gideon’s strength. If we are watching this scene on Netflix with captions, it would say “Ominous music playing in the background.”

So, what is the lesson for us? Here it is. We must pay attention when ominous music starts playing in the background of our lives. Because that music is a hint that something is off in our lives. A shift has happened. Our lives are no longer centred on God but on us. On the outside, it may look like we are doing God’s work. But we are not. We are simply using God’s work to pursue our own glory and honour. So, how do we know when our lives are no longer centred on God? Two signs. The first sign is prayerlessness. When Gideon knows that he is weak, he is constantly communicating with God. When he is desperate, he seeks God’s help. He relies on God’s strength. But when Gideon thinks that he is strong, he does not seek God. There is no hint of him consulting God in the second battle. He develops his own battle plan, and he puts confidence in his own strength. Prayerlessness is a sure sign that our lives are no longer centred on God. So, if we hardly pray, pay attention to that ominous music. If we are not desperate for God’s help in our daily lives, it means that we have put our hope in someone or something else but God. That’s the first sign. The second sign is resentment. When everything is about us, we resent those who are in our way. Rather than showing patience, we are harsh to those who challenge us. We take everything personally and make it all about us. That’s why we find it hard to forgive those who hurt us. That’s why we are easily annoyed by those who do not meet our expectations. And we start to categorize people, people that we need and people that we don’t need. We are kind to those we need, and we are cruel to those we don’t need. So, if we are easily offended, beware. It is a sure sign that something is off in our lives.

The questionable scene

Judges 8:13-17 – 13 Then Gideon the son of Joash returned from the battle by the ascent of Heres. 14 And he captured a young man of Succoth and questioned him. And he wrote down for him the officials and elders of Succoth, seventy-seven men. 15 And he came to the men of Succoth and said, “Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, about whom you taunted me, saying, ‘Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hand, that we should give bread to your men who are exhausted?’” 16 And he took the elders of the city, and he took thorns of the wilderness and briers and with them taught the men of Succoth a lesson. 17 And he broke down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city.

O my. Can you see how ruthless Gideon has become? After Gideon is done with his enemies, he returns to Succoth and Penuel and he is true to his word. He punishes the men of Succoth, and he kills the men of Penuel. And remember, they are not strangers. They are his own people, men of Israel. It is a disturbing scene where the judge of Israel is punishing and killing the very people he meant to protect. And look at what happens next.

Judges 8:18-21 – 18 Then he said to Zebah and Zalmunna, “Where are the men whom you killed at Tabor?” They answered, “As you are, so were they. Every one of them resembled the son of a king.” 19 And he said, “They were my brothers, the sons of my mother. As the Lord lives, if you had saved them alive, I would not kill you.” 20 So he said to Jether his firstborn, “Rise and kill them!” But the young man did not draw his sword, for he was afraid, because he was still a young man. 21 Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Rise yourself and fall upon us, for as the man is, so is his strength.” And Gideon arose and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and he took the crescent ornaments that were on the necks of their camels.

Now we know why Gideon insists on pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna. And it is not out of his obedience to God. It is not because he wants to honour God’s name. It is because of personal vengeance. The Midianite kings killed Gideon’s brothers and their deaths are what drives Gideon to pursue them. So, what drives Gideon is not God’s glory but personal vengeance, the honour of his family. That’s why Gideon asks his oldest son to kill these kings. He wants to humiliate them by having a mere boy kill them. But his son cannot do it and Gideon kills them himself. And with their death, victory is complete. The Midianites are completely defeated. But we can’t help but wonder if this victory is pleasing to God. Because we know that God says, “Vengeance is mine.” God is the only one who has the right to avenge His people. Revenge is never our right to pursue. God did not call Gideon to exercise revenge. God called Gideon to deliver God’s people.

I don’t have to tell you that revenge is wrong. We know that revenge is wrong. But we love revenge, don’t we? Let me make a confession. I recently finished watching a Korean drama that is all about revenge. The reason I watched it is that my favourite Korean actress is the main character. And I know revenge is wrong. But I found myself rooting for her to get her revenge. I wanted all those bullies to get what they deserved. Okay, I think I just lost the attention of most men in this room. So, here is one for you men. We love John Wick, don’t we? There is something about watching him fight to get revenge for Daisy that excites us. For those of you who don’t watch John Wick, let me make it clear. Daisy is not his wife; it’s his dog. So, we have John Wick 1, 2, 3, and 4, and it all began with his desire to take revenge on the people who killed his dog. If the bad people never messed with his dog, there would be no John Wick. John Wick is the ultimate dog person. We love the idea of righting the wrong. But that desire to right the wrong is supposed to lead us to the only one who has the right to take vengeance. Listen. The desire for vengeance is either already paid at the cross or will be paid in full on Judgement Day. It is never our right to exercise. But Gideon exercises a right that is not his. He achieved great success, and he is a changed man because of it.

There is a warning of a terrible spiritual danger that we must pay attention to in this passage. It is this. Beware of the danger of success. Every time we receive any blessing from God, there is lurking a spiritual danger of success. This is what happened to Gideon. Gideon is drunk over his success. And he is changed for the worse because of it. Tim Keller puts it this way. “Success can easily cause us to forget God’s grace, because our hearts are desperate to believe that we can save ourselves. God-given victory can easily be used to confirm the belief that, in fact, we have earned blessing for ourselves, and should receive the praise and glory for that success.” If we are not careful, our hearts can easily shift from, “I do not deserve this; this is all God’s grace” to “Look at what my hand has accomplished. I always know I am good enough to do it.” And this is what we oftentimes see happen in our own lives and many Christians. Isn’t it? Christians seem to do far better in the test of adversity than in the test of prosperity. It is not failure that we should be afraid of; it is a success. When Gideon is weak, he depends on God. It is when he gets strong that he forgets God and makes it all about him.

Do you know what is the worst thing that can happen to those who are driven by success? We might think it is a failure. But it is not. The worst thing that can happen to them is success. Think about it. If a person is basing their identity on his work, he will be very driven for success. He will do the long extra hours for the sake of that promotion. If he does not get that promotion, he would be devastated. But from that failure, he may learn to stop idolizing success. And he may realize that status, money, and power could never satisfy him. But imagine if he does get that promotion. Imagine if he continues to advance in his career. Success will only confirm his belief that he has what it takes to control his life. He has what it takes to do whatever he wants. And the result is he will be more of a slave to success than if he failed. He will be extremely proud and arrogant. Can you see it? This is Gideon’s problem, and this is our problem as well. We can easily forget that every good thing that we enjoy is a gift from God; they are gifts of grace. It is not because of our own success or works, but it is the gift of God so that none of us can boast. Our spouse, our children, our work, our house, our salvation, are God’s gifts for us. And we must not forget this. Listen. We need to remember that everything is a gift of grace when we fail, but we need to remember it much more when we succeed. So, beware church. Don’t make God’s blessing of success in our lives all about us. Don’t let the good gifts of God change us for the worse. But let them drive us to praise God and depend on God even more.

The tragic end

Judges 8:22-28 – 22 Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” 23 Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.” 24 And Gideon said to them, “Let me make a request of you: every one of you give me the earrings from his spoil.” (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) 25 And they answered, “We will willingly give them.” And they spread a cloak, and every man threw in it the earrings of his spoil. 26 And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was 1,700 shekels of gold, besides the crescent ornaments and the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian, and besides the collars that were around the necks of their camels. 27 And Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his city, in Ophrah. And all Israel whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family. 28 So Midian was subdued before the people of Israel, and they raised their heads no more. And the land had rest forty years in the days of Gideon.

Just as Gideon forgets who it is that gave victory, so has the rest of Israel. They forget that it is God who is at work through Gideon. So now they want to make Gideon their king, despite knowing very well that God is their king. Doesn’t this speak to the human tendency to idolize a person? When we see someone who is being used mightily by God, it is very easy for us to make that person more than he or she actually is. This is actually an effort of self-salvation. If they have a human king, they no longer need to depend on God. They don’t have to look to God to save them. A human king would do that for them. But Gideon replies to them very wisely. He says, “I will not rule over you. My son will not rule over you. You already have a King. God is your King and He will rule over you.” In other words, Gideon is saying, “You don’t need a king to obey. You need to obey the King you have.” At this point, we want to give a standing ovation to Gideon. Maybe there is still hope for him after all. But then what he does next immediately contradicts what he just said.

He just refused to be their king, and now he acts like a king. He asks the people to give him a financial reward. And the people willingly give him their golden earrings. Gideon becomes extremely rich because of it. And then he uses some of the gold to make an ephod. Note, ephod, not I-pod. What is an ephod? An ephod is a vest that the high priest wears, and it is highly decorated. On the ephod is a breastplate and the breastplate has twelve stones, representing each of the twelve tribes of Israel. On its front are the Urim and Thummim, two stones that are used to receive yes or no answers from God. The ephod designated the true place of God’s dwelling and is a way to discern God’s will in times of crisis. And the ephod is supposed to be in Shiloh. But look at what Gideon does. Judges 8:27 – And Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his city, in Ophrah. And all Israel whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family. Can you see what Gideon did? In making his own ephod and putting it in his hometown, Gideon essentially sets up his hometown as a rival place of worship. Now the people of Israel do not need to go to Shiloh for worship. They can come to Gideon. And they no longer need to ask the high priest for direction. Gideon can give them the guidance they need. So, rather than using his position to help the people worship God, Gideon uses God to consolidate his own position. And because of it, Israel prostitutes themselves before the fake ephod. They worship it.

There is a warning here for us. Oftentimes, it is not the obvious temptation that destroys us; it is the subtle temptation that is our undoing. Gideon rejected the obvious temptation of becoming a king. But he entertained the subtle temptation of desiring to be a king. Friends, we must pay attention to the subtle temptation. Here is what Dale Ralph Davis writes. “Whatever else can be said, the center of the matter seems to be that Gideon hankered after more than what God had given for declaring his will. And Israel loved it with a godless passion.” And let me be honest, I had to google what the word “hankered” means. It is a strong desire for something. So, Gideon strongly desires more than what God is giving him. He might refuse kingship, but he has a strong desire for it. He wants people to admire him and depend on him. So, he grabs the mantle of giving them the direction they seek instead of relying on what God has provided them. Gideon appoints himself as God’s spokesperson.

When I study this, my mind immediately goes to Netflix’s documentary, “In the Name of God: A holy betrayal.” This documentary is about different cults in South Korea that come out of Christianity, where the founding leaders appoint themselves as God’s holy prophets. They put themselves in the place of God. And the people worship these false prophets. To the point that many of the followers become sex slaves to the prophets. They are abused sexually, physically, and mentally. But they are afraid to expose the truth because these false prophets are seen as gods by their followers. It is very disturbing. And this is exactly what happened at the end of Gideon’s life. But let’s not talk about them. Let’s talk about us. Do you know why self-proclaimed prophets are very popular in charismatic churches like ours? Some of them even put on their websites, “prophecy with 95% accuracy.” I am not joking. I met one of them and he boasted about it to me. For the record, he prophesied over me three times and none of them were right. But many people love him. Whenever he ministered to different churches, people would line up so he could prophesy to them. Do you know why? Because we want a shortcut. We want to know what God’s will is for our future. But rather than trusting God-given methods, such as reading the Bible, being planted in a community, praying, discerning, use our gifts to serve the church, we want more. We are not content with obeying the Bible. We want a direct specific word from God about what we should do in our particular situation. And this is a warning for us. Beware of the danger of strongly desiring the extraordinary means of grace and ignoring the ordinary means of grace. So, when we meet people who say, “God said to me that you have to do this…. God said to me you have to do that… Thus saith the Lord…” we whore after them. We make them gods. Now, I am not saying that God no longer speaks through prophecy. But I am saying that we should not obsess over prophecy. We already have something much better than prophecy to guide us, the written word of God. And we must be very careful of those who appoint themselves as God’s spokesperson. Everything they say must be tested with what is written in the Bible. Let’s continue.

Judges 8:29-32 – 29 Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and lived in his own house. 30 Now Gideon had seventy sons, his own offspring, for he had many wives. 31 And his concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he called his name Abimelech. 32 And Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age and was buried in the tomb of Joash his father, at Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

Here is the irony. Gideon refuses to be a king but he lives like a king. He has seventy sons and many wives. That’s a lifestyle of a pagan king. We know that it takes a lot of money to raise one kid. Amen, parents? And Gideon has 70 sons. That means he must be very rich. And he also has a concubine. And this concubine is not an Israelite. Gideon has an illegitimate son through her, and he named him Abimelech, which means “My Father is a king.” Okay. How much more obvious can it get? Gideon is saying, “I am not going to be your king, but I am going to name my son, ‘My father is a king’.” It’s like me saying, “I am not going to be your pastor, but you can join this church, listen to my sermon every week, and call me pastor Yos.” So, what Gideon rejected in name, he lives out in reality. What we see in Gideon is a gap between what he knows in his head, and what he loves in his heart. There is a contradiction between what he says and what he does, between his words and his life. He knows that God alone is king. But his heart desires to be a king. Let me put it in a different way that is familiar to us. We know the gospel, but we do not live in a manner worthy of the gospel. We have a word for it. Do you know what it is? Hypocrite. And this is a strong reminder for people like me who are in a place of spiritual authority. It is very easy for me to use authority to serve and honour myself and not serve and honour God. But of course, like Gideon, I know the right answer. I say God is King. But I want people to look to me for guidance. I want them to rely on me. I want to be their saviour. I love to be needed. I love to have people’s affirmation that comes with giving them what they need. I make an ephod and wear it myself. I appoint myself as God’s spokesperson. Instead of pointing people to God, I become a god to them. How subtle. How dangerous. How deadly.

Let’s close with this. Judges 8:33-35 – 33 As soon as Gideon died, the people of Israel turned again and whored after the Baals and made Baal-berith their god. 34 And the people of Israel did not remember the Lord their God, who had delivered them from the hand of all their enemies on every side, 35 and they did not show steadfast love to the family of Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) in return for all the good that he had done to Israel. Once again, the cycle is repeated. The people of Israel turn from God, and they do not remember the Lord their God who has saved them from the hand of their enemies. And here is the irony. A judge is supposed to turn people from idol worship to the one true God. But Gideon leads them to idol worship. Gideon is the first judge who directly disobeys God’s commands. So, for the first time in the book of Judges, we see the people beginning to rebel against God during the reign of a judge, rather than after. Remember, Israel is on a downward spiral into a spiritual abyss. And the cycle is getting worse and worse. We see as Judges progresses that the rebellion becomes worse, the oppression heavier, the repentance less heartfelt, the judges more flawed, and the salvation they bring weaker.

This tells us that the judges are not the answer to the problem. They are simply a shadow of the true answer to the problem. The story of Gideon points us to the true Saviour of God’s people. And his name is Jesus Christ. Unlike Gideon, Jesus has every right to demand service as a King. But instead of demanding service, Jesus came to serve. Unlike Gideon, Jesus is the ultimate dwelling place of God on earth. He is the Word of God who became flesh. He is God’s ultimate spokesperson. But instead of ruling in power to serve himself, Jesus gave up his life as a ransom for many. Rather than using his position as the Son of God to enrich himself, he used his position to free us from the slavery of sin. Jesus, the true Saviour of God’s people, came to us and gave his life to pay the price of our sins. And when we put our faith in him, we are not only forgiven of our sins, but we are also freed from the need to earn glory for ourselves because Jesus has given us his glory. In Jesus, we are completely loved, accepted, and honoured by the God of the universe. We no longer need to seek the praise of others because we already have the praise of God. And unlike the fake ephod, Jesus is the One whom we rightly should come to worship. Listen. It is extremely hard to finish well. But Christians, we can have the confidence that we will finish well. Because our confidence to finish well does not lie in ourselves. Our confidence to finish well lies in Jesus Christ who will keep us strong to the end. He is the true Saviour of God’s people, and He will not fail. He alone deserves our worship. Let us worship him.

Discussion questions:

  1. What struck you the most from this sermon?
  2. Look at the two signs of the ominous music in the background of your life (prayerlessness and resentment). Can you see these signs in your life? 
  3. Why success can be very dangerous? Do you have any personal examples?
  4. Explain the danger of strongly desiring the extraordinary means of grace and ignoring the ordinary means of grace. What is the right Christian response toward both?
  5. How does the gospel give us the confidence to finish well?
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