Today’s Old Testament reading was one that caught me by surprise. I suppose it was one of those stories that stands out some years, some readings, more than others. After a major victory in Judges 8, this happens to Gideon:
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.”
Which should raise lots of red flags . . . for us, and for Gideon. I guess I was surprised at how blatant-yet-predictable their request was. This is particularly potent for its place in the biblical narrative, between Moses and David. Gideon’s response is brilliant:
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.”
You really want to cheer for the guy, let him know that he answered wisely. If only that moment lasted a little longer. Because this happened next:
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.
Argh! It’s like a scene out of a Tolkien story: the right kind of victory followed by the subtlest and saddest of defeats! How easy it can be to win a great victory and then get tripped up in a snare of our own making!
(Scripture from the English Standard Version)