Judges 8:22-35 (Part 1) – Success Can Be A Cruel Seductress That Leads Us Astray

Posted: August 30, 2017 in 07-Judges

Judges 8:22-35 (Part 1 of 3)
Gideon’s Sacred Ephod

You see it all the time. Pastors who become enamored with the influence that they have. Pastors of large churches that they founded that are independent of denomination or any sort of accountability structures. Big mansions are the first sign of slippage. Security details are another sign of becoming enamored with self. Speaking engagements around the country. Authoring books. Rapidly expanding churches. It can all be overwhelming. There are many that started out as humble men of God with a passion to reach people for Christ. God shows them favor and everything they touch seems to turn to gold. Their churches explode. Their churches become magnets for other preachers who want to learn how they did it. Next comes the conferences for other preachers to teach them how you did it. God is given praise through it all. Books come next on leadership in God’s church. Next comes further explosion of the church and more campuses. Then, the books on your thoughts about living the Christian life. Next thing you know, you’ve got a big house in an exclusive neighborhood. You spend more time traveling to speaking engagements than you do with your family or the church you founded. You become the darling of Christian media as guy who is doing it right and being blessed. Your church is the cool church. New buildings with the latest church style that promotes “fellowship and community” and has the latest in seating design and sound systems and lighting. Your worship music ministry begins to draw great talent from around the region of the country in which your church is located. You get the best musicians. They are awesome. They are so good that they record albums and they are of course big hits with millions of downloads and lots of airtime on Christian radio. They get on the radio to promote their tours and all the while they give you credit as well as the Lord above. Your church employment structure grows and grows and you get the best talent for your staff.

It all seems to be working well. Then, the pastor becomes enamored with self and with pride and the next thing you know they are promoting more of a prosperity or self-help Jesus that the Jesus of the Bible. The next thing you know they begin to believe there is justification for everything they do. Everybody loves me they say so there seems to be no pushback for decisions that begin to stray from God’s Word and His design for your ministry. Next thing you know, there are the private moral lapses known only to the staff. Next thing you know there is a public scandal that everyone knows about. And, then, there is the fall from grace. You are no longer the trusted man of God and no longer the head of this wow, now, pow growing by leaps and bounds church movement.

The battlefield with Satan is filled with men of God who started with good intentions, with God intentions. They started out with a passion for Jesus Christ. They loved Him like nobody’s business and it showed and it led them to aggressively seek after Him and to seek after the lost. And, they did, did, did love seeing people coming to Christ. They truly were men of God. But with being a successful man of God comes the target on the back of such men. When we have success it is easy to listen to pride through Satan and becomes harder and harder to open your eyes to your own shortcomings and weak spots. Satan will attack there. We’ve seen it before. Great men leading great church movements. Mark Driscoll, Tullian Tchividjian, Darrin Patrick, Bob Coy, and most recently, Perry Noble come to mind. Flasback to the 1980’s when the non-traditional church movement began with the failures of Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker. It is a danger when things start creeping in that start becoming more important to them than the churches they founded. The attention, the money, the glamour, the riches, the ego massaging, the success itself. Success is a cruel and unrelenting seductress that has led many a man to moral failure. But similar to the fact that most commercial airliners don’t crash, when they do it is spectacularly horrendous. It is the same with large or megachurch pastors. Most are god fearing men who steer their ships well, but when one does fall it is spectacularly horrendous. When an executive in the business world has an affair, it might be news but it might not. When a megachurch pastor has a moral failure, it is always news. Why is that these men who were passionately following God at the beginning, and even in the middle of their ramp up to megachurch status always seem to end up having some moral failure.

That is why I pray for megachurch pastors that have not yet fallen that they would take notice of the moral failures of other such pastors. Right now, I pray that Steven Furtick, founder of the wildly growing network of Elevation Church in the Charlotte, NC area. He is the next rising star. He is a hot commodity. Passionate preacher. Wonderful organization. New campuses in the ever expanding Charlotte metro area every couple of months it seems. Each campus is vibrant and active. Steven is demand for speaking engagements and he wows crowds with his speeches and sermons. He has written books. His worship music team is wildly popular nationally among Christian contemporary music fans. It’s all been an amazing thing to watch from this North Greenville University alum who had a passion and a burden for Charlotte and started in a storefront. He is the next great megachurch pastor. He is also the next one who is line for a big fall. I am not saying that he will and pray that he doesn’t. His church is reaching a segment of Charlotte’s population that would otherwise not be churched had he not started Elevation. But he already has built a big fine mansion. I fear that more of the same indicators of the falls of previous megachurch pastors are to come. As a North Greenville alum and a fan of Steve’s preaching and his church, I pray wholeheartedly that he stays grounded. That he remembers that if it doesn’t align with Scripture, don’t do it. I pray that he has men around him that will hold him accountable and tell him the truth when it needs telling. He needs men to tell him that poop is poop and not roses.

The fall of many megachurch pastors is what I thought of when I read this passage about Gideon. He was a man from humble beginnings and really didn’t want the mantle of being Israel’s savior from the Midianites. However, he took on the battles and even says here at the beginning of this passage that he wants to follow God. However, he was not aware of his weak spot and it shows right away when he becomes a leader. He was susceptible to the need for wealth and displays of wealth. His pride was going to get in the way, we see right from the beginning. He always needed validation externally. Remember the fleece episode. Now he is seeking validation through wealth, even though feigning that Israel should put God first. Let’s read, Judges 8:22-35 now, with special attention to vv. 22-25:

22 The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us from the hand of Midian.”

23 But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.” 24 And he said, “I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.” (It was the custom of the Ishmaelites to wear gold earrings.)

25 They answered, “We’ll be glad to give them.” So they spread out a garment, and each of them threw a ring from his plunder onto it. 26 The weight of the gold rings he asked for came to seventeen hundred shekels,[a] not counting the ornaments, the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian or the chains that were on their camels’ necks. 27 Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.
Gideon’s Death

28 Thus Midian was subdued before the Israelites and did not raise its head again. During Gideon’s lifetime, the land had peace forty years.

29 Jerub-Baal son of Joash went back home to live. 30 He had seventy sons of his own, for he had many wives. 31 His concubine, who lived in Shechem, also bore him a son, whom he named Abimelek. 32 Gideon son of Joash died at a good old age and was buried in the tomb of his father Joash in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

33 No sooner had Gideon died than the Israelites again prostituted themselves to the Baals. They set up Baal-Berith as their god 34 and did not remember the Lord their God, who had rescued them from the hands of all their enemies on every side. 35 They also failed to show any loyalty to the family of Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) in spite of all the good things he had done for them.

In this passage, in vv. 22-25, we see that the people of Israel wanted to make Gideon their king, but Gideon stressed that the Lord was to rule over them. Despite his inconsistencies, Gideon recognized here the importance of putting God first, for both a nation and an individual. Is God first in your life? If he is, he must affect every dimension of your life, not just what you do in church or other public settings where you can seen as godly. Here, we see an indication that Gideon struggles with prideful behavior. This type of behavior can bring down many a leader. As was the custom in these days, those who were wealthly put ornaments on their camels as a way of displaying their riches. Women wore vast amounts of jewelry as a display of their husband’s wealth. Gideon’s desire here shows that he seems to have been enamored with displays of wealth.

When we start letting things get in the way of our relationship with the Lord, we will fail. When we let having things and trinkets get in the way, we will fail. When we let lusts of the heart (for women, for money, for power, for attention, for approval, for an addiction) get in the way of putting God first in our lives, we will fail and we will fall. We need to put God first in our actions as much as in our words. We must put His Word as the governing priority in our lives. We must compare what we think, do, and feel to what Scripture says. We must love God more than we love anything else. We must love him with a passion. We must have people in our lives to tell us that our poop is poop and not tell us what we want to hear. We need to realize that we are here on earth only because God willed it to be and we are here to serve Him. He is God and we are not. We must remember to make him the passion of our lives. We must make him the all to end all. Not things. Not people. Not acclaim. Not approval. Not wealth. Not anything on this side of eternity. All here is temporary and fading. Nothing lasts. Think on eternal things and of pleasing the Eternal One. He will never fail us or forsake us. Pleasing Him is what we are here for.

Amen and Amen.

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