Earrings and Ephods
How to really mess up a good thing…
"Then Gideon said to them, “I would like to make a request of you, that each of you would give me the earrings from his plunder….then Gideon made it into an ephod [a statue or image] and set it up in his city…. it became a snare to Gideon and to his house."
Judges 8:24, 27
Grace made Gideon a godly leader and great judge. Hebrews 11 speaks of him, and others, who “out of weakness were made strong” (Hebrews 11:34). Though he began fearful, yet he became faithful. God made him into the man he needed to be. Soldiers followed him, enemies feared him, and they all cried “the sword of the Lord and of Gideon (Judges 7:20)!” Thus the Angel of Lord prophesied truthfully when approaching Gideon hiding in the winepress and saying of him “The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor! (Judges 6:12)” So great was the esteem of Gideon in the eyes of Israel that they wanted to make him king. But Gideon would not submit, for he wanted all the glory to go to God. “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you, the Lord shall rule over you (Judges 8:23).”
But choice men sometimes make foolish choices. Gideon, being careless of the spiritual consequences, made an image of the earrings they had plundered and “set it up in his city.” These harmless adornments became the occasion of horrible decay: “it became a snare to Gideon and to his house.” The gold which was a token of God’s salvation became a temptation to Gideon’s soul.
What is the spiritual lesson here? I suspect there are many. But one thing that strikes me is this: we need just as much grace to manage our blessings from God as we do to manage our burdens from God. A special watchfulness over the heart is needed as much in triumphs as it is in trials. Satan took special note of Job’s wealth and health. While God is blessing, our enemy is planning. If the Devil cannot slay you in the battle, he may nevertheless snare you in the victory. Beware, Christian, of how you handle the success God gives you. This plunder was safe when it hung beneath the ears, but it became a snare when it was constantly set before the eyes. Boasting can quickly ruin God’s blessings. "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).” When the earrings became an ephod the focus shifted from what the Lord had done for Gideon to what Gideon had done for the Lord.
Much is written, and rightly so, on managing conflicts and trials to the glory of God. We need grace to praise and thank the Lord while under the shadow of dark Providences. We must learn to humble ourselves under the mighty Hand of afflictions and bless the God who not only “gives” but sometimes “takes away [Job 1:21].” James teaches us to cultivate that spirit that will “count it all joy” when various trials and troubles come. But Christians must learn how to manage their triumphs, as well as their troubles, to the glory of God. We must learn “how to be abased” but we must also learn “how to abound (Phil. 4:12).” Oh my soul, be very careful with the gifts of God. Think often of Paul’s question to the Corinthians “What do you have that you did not receive? (I Cor. 4:7)” and his humble assessment of his accomplishments: “by the grace of God I am what I am (I Cor. 15:10).” Remember Mary who, though greatly blessed among women, “kept all these things and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19).” Success, to an unwatchful heart, may quickly become a snare.
Oh my soul…what are the blessings you enjoy this day? Pray for grace and a humble heart to manage them well, lest they become a snare to your soul. God’s blessings are sometimes trials in disguise. The “tree of life” was a blessing, but also a trial. The “manna” in the wilderness was a blessing to Israel, but also a trial and a test, as Moses told them “that He might test you to do you good in the end (Deut. 8:16).” Wise Solomon said to his soul “Come now, I will test you with pleasure (Eccl. 2:1).” The Lord may test us as much with pleasure as He does with pain. Even the unbeliever knows some of this testing by blessing, “not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance (Romans 2:4).”
Gideon was a man of faith, but he failed to manage God’s blessing well. Reader…how are you managing the Lord’s blessings in your life? It is possible to mess up a good thing. Grace sweetens trials and sin can sour blessings. Without taking time to develop these thoughts, allow me to just share in closing several cautions and directions. They are as much for my own soul as for yours.
1) Make much of God’s grace in all your blessings
2) Stay especially close to God’s commandments in the midst of your blessings
3) Take special care how you publish God’s blessings
4) Whatever your blessings, let the cross of Christ be your only boast