“Spoils” are the reward of having won a victory, as in the “spoils of war.” For in our study today, we’ll see how Gideon’s victory, his success, actually revealed a problem that he had, indeed that we all are apt to have, namely–– we often let success go to our heads. It’s one thing to trust God when we are in a season of lack or trouble. But what about when we’re going through a season of plenty, of prosperity?
In Judges 8-9, the Lord gave victory to Gideon and the Israelites over their Median oppressors, but they let the spoils of war spoil their relationship with God and with one another. They didn’t know how to handle God’s blessings. They let success spoil their hearts. What are the warning signs that success is spoiling our hearts?
Below is an automated transcript of this messageGood morning, church! It’s good to be back. We give you thanks for allowing myself, and my wife Robin, to go and visit our partners in Istanbul Turkey last week. We had a whirlwind week spending time with both of those partners and encouraging them and receiving encouragement from them.
Go ahead and pop up the image of the map of Turkey. (map is shown on screen) According to the Joshua project, there are about 85 million people that live in Turkey. 96% of them identify as followers of Islam. Only 0.03% identify as Evangelical Christians. It’s one of the largest groups of people in the world that do not have access to the gospel. It’s for that reason, that we have two families that we partner with from our church. It was just time for them to receive a pastoral visit, to show them love and encouragement and also receive the same from them.
The first family (and I won’t be naming the families. You can talk to me in the lobby later, but for obvious reasons, we’re not naming them publicly) has four kids. Be praying for them; they’re in their second year in Istanbul. Their job right now is to learn the language. We’ve been told that Turkish is one of the more difficult languages to learn, so they’re in that season of language acquisition right now, learning the culture and learning the language. The two little girls decided that we were their “substitute” grandparents. In fact, they actually made a little certificate, with a crayon, saying that we were “adopted.” The first night we were there, the littlest one turned to her mom and said, “Do you think he would mind if I call him Pop Pop?” I told her, “I don’t mind at all. I’m your Pop Pop; you can absolutely call me Pop Pop.” We miss them already. We were so thankful to visit, love on them and be their “substitute family.” Although, we are real family in Jesus, aren’t we? You see, in the background, we’re standing in front of the Blue Mosque. The Blue Mosque was built in the 1600’s, after the Turks had overthrown the Christians when it had been called Constantinople. Today it is called Istanbul.
Here is a picture of our other family that we work with. They are standing in front of the Galata Tower. It’s what it’s called today. It was originally called the Christ Tower. Almost everything in Turkey that belongs to the Christian age has been renamed and repurposed. The Galata Tower was built in the 1300’s. My favorite evening was when we had a meal with international students. Sitting around that table were students from Cameroon, from Zimbabwe, from Russia, from Romania and from Haiti. That’s my “world” right there. I can get in a group like that and start talking to some college students from around the world about Jesus. I’m telling you, that’s better than cheesecake. To me, it’s better than sleeping and eating. I love being with people that I can talk to about Jesus.
Speaking of which, the second family has several church services. They actually lead a church called Nation’s Church. Here is a picture of one of the services I spoke at. I spoke through interpreters at the Russian service. Later that afternoon, a Haitian service was held. At this international service (pic), I asked them if I could take their photo. Finally, you’ll see Robin and I in front of the Hagia Sophia, which is one of the oldest churches in the world, built originally in the 300’s It burned down and was rebuilt in 537. It’s an amazing building. The Muslims took over this area; they repurposed it as a mosque.
We had a “whirlwind” week, but now, I want us to join in prayer for a moment and pray for these two partnering families in Istanbul. Can we pray for them right now? “Lord Jesus, we lift up both of these sweet families that we love so dearly. We pray for the first family, for their learning of language and culture. We pray for their little kids that are being schooled there. We pray for their effectiveness and their encouragement. For the second family, we pray for the challenge of leading a multilingual church in Istanbul. We pray for their encouragement and their help as well. Now Lord, we pray for our own ears and our own hearts, that we would have hearing ears, to hear God’s word and repentant hearts to repent where God’s word calls us to change. We pray now in Jesus’ name.” All of God’s people said, Amen.
Today, we’re back to the book of Judges. We took a little break for Easter and a little break for me to make this trip. We’re back with the story of Gideon. We’re going to be covering a lot today, so, I hope your attention spans are ready. We’re gonna be covering chapters eight and nine, which is really the end of the story of Gideon. You’ll be privileged to hear me read ninety-two verses today. I’ve already read for one service; I think I have one more service left in me. Y’all pray for my voice; the jet lag and the activity I’ve been called to has put a little strain on my voice. I pray that I’ll be up to the task in Jesus’ name, Amen!
The title of this sermon is ”When Spoils Spoil Us.” Now, when I speak of “spoils,” I’m talking about the spoils of war because in this section, Gideon wins the victory through the power of the Lord and then, he accrues to himself the spoils of his victims, the people that they have gained victory over. It reveals something about Gideon’s heart and the people of Israel’s heart. When they get those spoils, it reveals their spoiled hearts. It reveals something about them.
We have the same tendency; we let success go to our heads. We let prosperity become our focus and we forget the Lord. This is what happens in the story today. You know, when you go through a season of lack, when you go through a season of poverty, you’ll call on the Lord. You’ll say, ‘Help me Lord,’ but then, when you go through a season of success and prosperity, the human nature is to be tempted to depend on your prosperity rather than calling on the Lord, to depend on the blessings rather than depending on the One who gives the blessing.
It says in Proverbs 30:8-9 (NLT) “Give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.” Both are challenges. Some of you might be saying, ‘Well, if I have to take a test, I’d rather take the prosperity test.’ Most of us would agree. In fact, many of you here might be saying, ‘I already took the poverty test. Can I take the prosperity test to see if I can do better?’ The truth of the matter is, theprosperity test is more difficult on our faith than the poverty test.
This is why Jesus warns, in Mark 10:25 (ESV) “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” It’s because we tend to depend on our riches, our car, our house, our property or our job rather than having our dependence on the Lord.
You sang beautifully. I could hear your voices singing “Jireh.” “Jireh” is a Hebrew word which means “provider, Jehovah Jireh, the Lord, our provision, the Lord, our provider,” but we have a tendency to look for the Lord’s hand rather than His face. We have a tendency to look for the blessing rather than the blesser – the One who would bless us.
This is what we see with Gideon. His story began well enough back in chapter six and seven , but it doesn’t finish well. He began weak, fearful and dependent on the Lord, but now he ends up not so well, depending more on the spoils of war.
In Judges chapter eight and nine, the Lord gave victory to Gideon and the Israelites over their Midianite oppressors. They let the spoils of war spoil their relationship with God and with one another; they let success go to their heads. I believe, as we look at the text today, we’ll see the warning signs for ourselves. We live in a nation, compared to the rest of the world, that is one of the wealthiest nations on planet earth. In the history of humanity, if you go to any place in the third world, they would count the poorest among us as wealthy. So, how are we handling our prosperity?
I want to give you, today, three warning signs, from the story of Gideon, that success is spoiling your heart. May God bless the reading of His word. I’ve got a lot to read. The decision we have made, as leaders of your church, is that we’re going to give you the word of God whole. Today, you’re going to get a whole lot of the word of God. We want you to hear it and then we want to comment on it. I’ll break it into three “pieces” today. It’s a lot to read and I pray that you would be obedient and ready hearers of the word today. There are three warning signs about success spoiling your heart.
WARNING SIGNS THAT SUCCESS IS SPOILING YOUR HEART:
Judges 8:1-21 (ESV) 1 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. 2 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? 3 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.
Pastor Gary’s comments will be in parentheses.
(You can see that the tribe of Ephram was jealous of Gideon’s victory and that he hadn’t called on them sooner. He’s having this conversation, trying to placate the people of Ephram.)
4 And Gideon came to the Jordan and crossed over, he and the 300 men who were with him, exhausted yet pursuing. (Remember, long before the 300 Spartans, there were the 300 men of Gideon that God has reduced the size of their army down to 300. They’ve taken on 135,000 Midianites. This is in chapter seven. If we were watching a TV show right now, this would be the “recap” section. This is the 300 and they’re still in pursuit. There’s about 15,000 Midianites left and they’re still chasing them. They are exhausted.) 5 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.” 6 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?” 7 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.” 8 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. 9 And he said to the men of Penuel, “When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower.”
(Now, be reminded that these two cities are Israelite cities. These are Israelite towns on the eastern shore of the Jordan, in the tribal allotment, to the tribe of Gad. He’s not talking to enemies here. He’s talking to his own people.)
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. 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.
(This is how Gideon is now treating his fellow Israelites. This is not the Gideon of chapter six and seven. This is a different revelation that we see in him.)
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 Zeba and Zalmunnasaid, “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. This is God’s word.
1. Seeking success over seeking the Lord.
Do you see the difference in Gideon? We first found him in the wine press hiding; he’s threshing wheat. He says to the angel of the Lord, who calls him to be a judge in Israel, ‘You’re calling the wrong guy. I’m the least in my father’s house. My father is the least in our tribe. You have the wrong guy.’ He thinks of himself as small. He’s humble and he’s always calling on the Lord. In chapters six and seven, we see the name of the Lord over and over again, almost too many times to number.
When we hit chapter eight, we only see the Lord mentioned twice. Notice this. Notice that the name of the Lord is absent and one of the two times, it’s almost as if he’s using the Lord’s name as a swearing word. Verse 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.” I would have let you live if you hadn’t killed my brothers. It’s almost like he’s using it like a swear. Something has changed in Gideon. Success has gone to his head. We see something about his character being revealed here, he has gone from being the least to thinking of himself as someone great, even to the point where he killed his own people at Penuel because they were afraid. They had been the people of the East, mostly under the thumb of the Midianites. Do you remember how Gideon was afraid? He’s forgotten how he started out. He started out afraid. Now, he’s punishing those; he’s acting out in vengeance.
One of the things that I’ve noticed with bullies is that they are often the most fearful people. The fact that they are bullies reveals something about their fear. They have fearful hearts; they are cowards. If they come into any strength or power, it will often become cruel.
We see this in Gideon; it is being revealed here. Let me pop up a map because we’ve been naming a lot of places. (Map is shown) The Bible names real places that really exist. You can go and visit these places today. The battle began back in chapter seven between Gideon and his 300 men versus the 135,000 men of Midian. He’s defeated them here and all along the way, he’s pursuing them and killing them and then they get all the way down here. (Points to map) They’re trying to get across the Jordan to get back home and then they run into the tribe of Ephram, who wipes out two of their princes. Now, there’s only 15,000 Midianites left and they fled his way, so Gideon is headed that way.
First of all, he encounters the tribe of Ephram; they’re ticked because he didn’t tell them about the fight. Instead of telling them that the Lord had told him to do it that way, he placates them by saying, ‘Well, you guys actually killed some people. You did better; we’re just little, y’all.’ He was afraid of Ephram because Ephram is powerful. That’s the tribe of Joshual; he’s careful with them.
When he comes to these two little towns, Succoth and Penuel, he says, ‘I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to come back through here and torture your people with briars.’ He gets seventy-seven elder’s names and does that very thing when he comes back. He actually told them, ‘I’m going to come back through here and tear down your tower,’ and he killed all the men in the town. Now, he’s killing Israelites . He’s torturing Israelites. This is something that you’ll see. It’s a seed that Gideon is sowing, that you’ll see him reap, or his son’s reap later, this violence against their own brethren. You’ll see it reaped in chapter nine.
So, this is the story and these are the places. These are real people and real places. Gideon has let this go to his head; he no longer calls on the Lord. This is the man who put his fleece out twice to hear from the Lord to make sure he really heard from the Lord. This is the man who wouldn’t move until the Lord told him what to do. Now, you don’t even hear him praying. You don’t even see him calling on the Lord. You just see him in action and he’s moving without counsel from the Lord or from anyone else.
What you see here is our tendency when God blesses us. The human heart’s tendency is to now depend on the blessing rather than the blesser. To depend on what He’s given us.
When we were little, my wife and I got married. We had this great idea, at the end of her sophomore year and the end of my junior year in college, to get married. I remember her mom giving us some advice, “If you make your bed hard, you’ll have to lay in it.” Well, that was great advice, wasn’t it? I mean, that wasn’t really advice; it was more like a prophecy because we spent the next couple of years living in a little 12 by 55 mobile home in a little mobile home park called Rustic Village. We used to call it “Rusty Village;” it was hard being married and still going to college, but the Lord blessed us. We started out little and He blessed us. It was hard at times, but God was faithful; I still remember those years. When you remember those kinds of things, it helps you to remember that when blessings do come your way, you know where they came from.
Gideon seems to have forgotten. He has forgotten that it’s the Lord who gave him this victory. Now, he’s beating his own chest and he’s vengeful towards these people. He no longer seeks the Lord’s face. He only depends on the Lord’s hand, what the Lord has given him.
Jesus says this in Matthew 6:33 (ESV) “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Rather than seeking success, seek the Lord. He is your great success. The Lord himself is your great reward. He is Jehovah Jireh, the great provider. Seek Him and all these things will be added unto you. When Gideon was small and weak, he depended on God. When he grew strong, he forgot the Lord.
Let’s notice some of the signs that success might be spoiling you. A first sign is infrequent prayer. How’s your prayer life? We tend to pray like crazy when we’re in a foxhole. When we’re under attack, oh man, we pray, we read, we study, we get other people praying with us. But then, when things ease up, we become infrequent in talking to our Lord. That’s what we see with Gideon. Another sign is not seeking counsel. We think, I got it now. God got me out of the worst of it. I got this. The minute you think that, know this in advance– “you don’t got this.” That’s where you’ll make life’s greatest errors when you fail to get wise counsel. Notice this, thirdly, he’s angry and he wants results. He’s willing to run them down to the last man. In fact, we never see the Midianites raised back into power again . He annihilates that enemy. He’s angry. He’s vengeful. Lastly, when you get a controlling spirit and you start seeking success, running over other people in order to get the win and you forget that people are what really matters to God more than the program, the process or the prosperity. People matter to God. Are any of these signs spoiling your heart? Where are you at on this today?
Let’s keep reading. We’re in verse 22, now, of chapter eight. Judges 8:22-35 (ESV) 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.”
Pastor Gary gives commentary in parentheses.
(Now, let’s just pause there for just a second. This is not a two dimensional story. This is a true story and, as a result, Gideon has good traits and bad traits. He’s not all good or all bad. He’s just like all of us. There’s a mixture; here, he’s saying good stuff. They want to make him king, but he tells them that the Lord’s your king. He’s doing good right here, I think. Well, let’s see, because he says he doesn’t want to be king.)
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.)
(So, they had these big hoop golden earrings in their ears. It was kind of the sign of these warriors that they had defeated.)
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 the golden earrings that he requested was 1,700 shekels of gold,
(Now, the shekel, if you convert that into pounds, that’s about 70 to £75. If you look that up, £75 of gold is worth about $1.8 million in today’s market. So, here’s Gideon; just give me the earrings. I don’t need to be king. Instantly, he’s a millionaire.)
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. 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.
(This is great storytelling. We’re just getting a little introduction about Abimelech. We’re going to hear a lot more about this son of Gideon’s concubine in chapter nine. He’s just giving us a little tease right here about him and Gideon.)
32 And Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old old age and was buried in the tomb of Joash his father, at Ophrah of the Abiezrites. 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.
2. Loving worldly wealth over loving God.
This leads us to this second warning about how success can spoil our hearts. It’s loving worldly wealth over loving God. Did you see that “steadfast love” part? Instead of loving God and loving God’s man, Gideon, they hoarded after, they became idolaters again. They continue to fall into this.
I have a couple of observations about Gideon. HeHe did well to decline the kingship, but then, he turned around and behaved like a king anyway. That’s what he did. He really didn’t want the responsibility of being a king, but he wanted the wealth and the bonuses of getting all of those wives. He starts living like a king without the responsibility of being the king. He becomes someone that’s after worldly wealth. He has many, many wives. He has a harem, so he has seventy sons. He even takes on servants.
His concubine has another son, Abimelech, which we’ll hear more about later. Abimelech, in Hebrew, is short for, “Abba,” which Jesus teaches us how to pray to Abba, which means daddy or father. For example, Abrahim was the father of nations. Here, Abimelech means king. Basically, his name means, “my father is king.” So , we see this – even though he said he didn’t want to be king, he’s behaving like a king. He seeks worldly wealth over loving God. It was just a little thing. I won’t take the big thing of being a king. I won’t do that. Just give me those earrings.
Often, what causes us to stumble in our faith is those little decisions. For Gideon it was asking for those earrings. Well, those earrings added up and he made an evod. Now, why did he do that? Why did he make a priestly garment? Maybe, it was because he didn’t want the people going to Shiloh, where the Tabernacle was and where the sons of Aaron, the Levites, would wear the priestly ephod, the priestly robes. Maybe, he wanted to make something that said, ‘I’m part of God’s people. You can come and worship here,’ but what he did was he caused the people to fall further into idolatry and it became a snare, the scripture says, even to himself and to his family. This wealth, this prosperity, has actually become a curse on his family.
May I say to you, that the wealth of America, America, the beautiful, the land that has been blessed by God, we take for granted and we forget to give God the glory for it. Be warned. God wants His glory for what He has given us. He wants credit for having blessed us. He wants us to worship the blesser, not the blessing. He wants us to worship the Creator, not the creation. This is what we see going awry here with Gideon and the Israelites.
In 1 Timothy, we are warned that those who desire to be rich fall into temptation into a snare. 1 Timothy 6:9-11 (ESV) 9 “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
Notice that it doesn’t say ‘money is the root of all evil.’ It says that the love of money is a root of kinds of evils. The Bible teaches us to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength. But if we love money, if we love the blessing rather than the blesser, then we will find our hearts spoiled by the blessing.
In Matthew 6:24 (ESV), Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Who will you serve? Who will you love with priority? J D Greer says this, “Christians most often pass the test of adversity; it is the test of prosperity we fail.” That’s true. We tend to cry out to God when we’re in trouble, but we forget the Lord very quickly when things are going well . This is what’s going on with Gideon. It was a big temptation to be king and he seems to have survived that, but he didn’t survive the apparently smaller one. Often, it’s the love of money that will ensnare us.
What’s the antidote to this kind of greed? It is generosity. Generosity is the antidote to greed. If you trust the Lord as your provider, as your Jehovah Jireh, then you can give freely, knowing that He will always give to the one who is generous. You can recognize that and it will help you.
Now, we’ve got one more chapter and we’re looking for one more warning. This chapter is no small thing and I hope you’ll stay with me through these fifty-seven verses as we read about the legacy of Gideon and as we read about his son, Abimelech.
There are twelve recognized judges in the book of Judges. One of them is not recognized normally as a judge, but he really is a judge. He’s more like an “anti-judge,”an anti-hero. This is the son of Abimelech, son of Gideon.
Judges 9:1-57 (ESV) 1 Now Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to his mother’s relatives and said to them and to the whole clan of his mother’s family, 2 “Say in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you, that all seventy of the sons of Jerubbaal rule over you, or that one rule over you?’ Remember also that I am your bone and your flesh.” 3 And his mother’s relatives spoke all these words on his behalf in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem, and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, “He is our brother.” 4 And they gave him seventy pieces of silver out of the house of Baal-berith with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, who followed him. 5 And he went to his father’s house at Ophrah and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone.
Pastor Gary gives commentary in parentheses.
(Doyou see how violence reaps violence? Do you see how this is in the heart of Abimelech? Notice a couple of things here; Abimelech is self appointed. God has not raised him up. Notice, he’s funded by the temple of Baal-berith. He’s funded by the devil and the devil’s funds. He’s given 70 pieces of silver; he hires his own army and kills his 70 brothers on one stone. Hang on to that idea of the one stone; that might come back as we think through this chapter. Next, we see that there was one of the 70 sons that actually escaped.)
But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, for he hid himself. 6 And all the leaders of Shechem came together, and all Beth-millo, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak of the pillar at Shechem.
(My goodness. This city is so important in the Bible. In the book of Genesis, it’s the first place that Abraham builds an altar because God appeared to him and said, “I’m going give you this land. It was a holy place. The oak is even mentioned in the book of Genesis. When we get to the book of Joshua, it’s the first place they worshiped at. This is a holy place and for this to happen, for them to call this ungodly man to be their king, it would be like going to Washington DC and turning it over to Soviet Russia. It would just be like the worst possible thing you could do in a holy place.)
7 When it was told to Jotham, he went and stood on top of Mount Gerizim and cried aloud and said to them, “Listen to me, you leaders of Shechem, that God may listen to you. 8 The trees once went out to anoint a king over them, and they said to the the olive tree, ‘Reign over us.’ 9 But the olive tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my abundance, by which gods and men are honored, and go hold sway over the trees?’ 10 And the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 11 But the fig tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit and go hold sway over the trees?’ 12 And the trees said to the vine, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 13 But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I leave my wine that cheers God and men and go hold sway over the trees?’ 14 Then all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 15 And the bramble said to the trees, ‘If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade, but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’
(Now, remember that this is the youngest son of Gideon. He’s giving them this parable. He’s shouting down from Mount Gerizim. He’s, basically, referring to his older brothers, who were much more qualified to be king, but they would rather stay home. They would rather stay home and enjoy their life of comfort. Abimelech agrees to this job.)
16 “Now therefore, if you acted in good faith and integrity when you made Abimelech king, and if you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house and have done to him as his deeds deserved— 17 for my father fought for you and risked his life and delivered you from the hand of Midian, 18 and you have risen up against my father’s house this day and have killed his sons, seventy men on one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his female servant, king over the leaders of Shechem, because he is your relative— 19 if you then have acted in good faith and integrity with Jerubbaal and with his house this this day, then rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you. 20 But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech and devour the leaders of Shechem and Beth-millo; and let fire come out from the leaders of Shechem and from Beth-millo and devour Abimelech.” 21 And Jotham ran away and fled and went to Beer and lived there, because of Abimelech his brother. 22 Abimelech ruled over Israel three years. 23 And God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech, 24 that the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood be laid on Abimelech their brother, who killed them, and on the men of Shechem, who strengthened his hands to kill his brothers. 25 And the leaders of Shechem put men in ambush against him on the mountaintops, and they robbed all who passed passed by them along that way. And it was told to Abimelech. 26 And Gaal the son of Ebed moved into Shechem with his relatives, and the leaders of Shechem put confidence in him.
(This is what people do. They put confidence in political leaders. If they don’t like the way one is leading, they switch to another one. People are fickle; they’re always looking for some short term fix. Here, they’ve rebelled and want Abimelech to be their leader.)
27 And they went out into the field and gathered the grapes from their vineyards and trod them and held a festival; and they went into the house of their god and ate and drank and reviled Abimelech. 28 And Gaal the son of Ebed said, “Who is Abimelech, and who are we of Shechem, that we should serve him? Is he not the son of Jerubbaal, and is not Zebul his officer? Serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem; but why should we serve him? 29 Would that this people were under my hand. Then I would remove Abimelech. I would say to Abimelech, ‘Increase your army, and come out.’” 30 When Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger was kindled. 31 And he sent messengers to Abimelech secretly, saying, “Behold, Gaal the son of Ebed and his relatives have come to Shechem, and they are stirring up the city against you. 32 Now therefore, go by night, you and the people who are with you, and set an ambush in the field. 33 Then in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, rise early and rush upon the city. And when he and the people who are with him come out against you, you may do to them as your hand finds to do.” 34 So Abimelech and all the men who were with him rose up by night and set an ambush against Shechem in four companies. 35 And Gaal the son of Ebed went out and stood in the entrance of the gate of the city, and Abimelech and the people who were with him rose from the ambush. 36 And when Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, “Look, people are coming down from the mountaintops!” And Zebul said to him, “You mistake the shadow of the mountains for men.” 37 Gaal spoke again and said, “Look, people are coming down from the center of the land, and one company is coming from the direction of the Diviners’ Oak.” 38 Then Zebul said to him, “Where is your mouth now, you who said, ‘Who is Abimelech, that we should serve him?’ Are not these the people whom you despised? Go out now and fight with them.” 39 And Gaal went out at the head of the leaders of Shechem and fought with Abimelech. 40 And Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him. And many fell wounded, up to the entrance of the gate. 41 And Abimelech lived at Arumah, and and Zebul drove out Gaal and his relatives, so that they could not dwell at Shechem. 42 On the following day, the people went out into the field, and Abimelech was told. 43 He took his people and divided them into three companies and set an ambush in the fields. And he looked and saw the people coming out of the city. So he rose against them and killed them. 44 Abimelech and the company that was with him rushed forward and stood at the entrance of the gate of the city, while the two companies rushed upon all who were in the field and killed them. 45 And Abimelech fought against the city all that day. He captured the city and killed the people who were in it, and he razed the city and sowed it with salt.
(The proverb curse is coming true. He even salted the land so that they couldn’t raise crops in the future.) future.)
46 When all the leaders of the Tower of Shechem heard of it, they entered the stronghold of the house of El-berith. 47 Abimelech was told that all the leaders of the Tower of Shechem were gathered together. 48 And Abimelech went up to Mount Zalmon, he and all the people who were with him. And Abimelech took an axe in his hand and cut down a bundle of brushwood and took it up and laid it on his shoulder. And he said to the men who were with him, “What you have seen me do, hurry and do as I have done.” 49 So every one of the people cut down his bundle and following Abimelech put it against the stronghold, and they set the stronghold on fire over them, so that all the people of the Tower of Shechem also died, about 1,000 men and women. 50 Then Abimelech went to Thebez and encamped against Thebez and captured it. 51 But there was a strong tower within the city, and all the men and women and all the leaders of the city fled to it and shut themselves in, and they went up to the
(Now, earlier, there was one stone that he killed 70 of his brothers on. Now, there’s one stone that drops from the top of a tower and cracks his “noggin” and you can see that sometimes you have to wait for God’s justice, but know this, God’s justice always comes around. Be patient.)
54 Then he called quickly to the young man his armor-bearer and said to him, “Draw your sword and kill me, lest they say of me, ‘A woman killed him.’” And his young man thrust him through, and he died. 55 And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, everyone departed to his home. 56 Thus God returned the evil of Abimelech, which he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers. 57 And God also made all the evil evil of the men of Shechem return on their heads, and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal.
3. Living a life of ease over leaving a godly legacy.
We are now at the third warning: Living a life of ease over leaving a Godly legacy. Our temptation is when we have wealth, when we have success, is to just live a life of ease. Just be comfortable, take vacations, travel and do things that are fun. Eat good, rich food. Just enjoy life and let your kids grow up in that environment so that they never learn service. They never learn generosity. They never learn hard work.
This is the legacy that Gideon leaves to his children. He didn’t want to be king. He just wants be wealthy and comfortable. He just wants his own hero. He lives like a king without the responsibility of the king.
We see the kind of sons he raises in the parable . We heard his youngest son talk to three different trees– the olive tree, the fig tree and the grapevine. All of them declined being king because they were too busy being comfortable. They were too busy living a life of ease. The one who said he’d be king was Abimelech. You gotta give it to him; he had a lot of drive. He was a self starter. If God would have been on him, if Gideon would have raised that boy the way he should have, who knows what kind of a great leader he would have been, but instead, we see this ungodly legacy that Gideon leaves behind.
Here’s what will happen: We make the wrong things the focus of how we raise our families. We care more about how much prosperity we can give them, how much great education we can give them, how many sports, violin lessons and musical instruments, but we seem to care less about whether or not they learn how to pray from us or whether they learn how to read the Bible and study the Bible or whether they learn how to serve at a church. We seem less inclined about leaving a Godly legacy with their children than we do teaching them how to live a life of ease. This is a temporary life that we live. This is only a fraction of the eternity that God has called us to. We fail to think about our Godly legacy.
Now, I’m not just speaking to families, but I’m also speaking to singles, because when you lead somebody to the Lord, they become part of God’s family. You can leave a Godly legacy as a single woman or a single man. You can serve in our children’s ministry. You can serve as an usher or on the greeter team. You can serve in your workplace and tell people about Jesus. Instead of just focusing on the success, on the prosperity, you can focus on leaving a Godly legacy.
Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, would often say that his life’s mission was to die and go to heaven and take as many people as he could with him. That’s a pretty good goal. I’m headed for heaven. I’m headed for glory and I want to take as many people as I can with me. That’s a good goal, I think, for us to leave a Godly legacy.
Malachi 2:15 (NLT) “Didn’t the Lord make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth.” God wants us to raise up the next generation, whether they’re our kids or somebody else’s kids, to be Godly and to follow Jesus. How can we do this?
I remember praying when we had kids, “Lord, don’t let me mess them up.” I’m glad God was merciful because I’m an imperfect person and so are you. If you ever find a perfect church, don’t join it; you’ll mess it up. We’re all imperfect, we’re all fallen, except for Jesus.
That’s why we should pray like this psalm: Psalm 127:1 (ESV) “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” Ask for God’s help with your house, with your children and with your marriage. If you’re a single person, ask God to use you to leave a Godly legacy instead of being focused on being comfortable in a life of ease. Seek God’s purpose for your life and leave a Godly legacy.
Like the Israelites, we come to God thinking, If you’ll just get me out of this mess. If you will heal this disease. If you help me with my poverty. If you’ll give me a home. If you’ll give me this car. If you’ll give me this job… We do need these things, and maybe, God will help us with these things, but that’s not our real problem. Our real problem is our heart.
We need a better savior than a Gideon. We need a better savior. We need a savior who doesn’t die and if he does die, that he lives again. We have one; His name is Jesus. He’s a better Savior. He’s the best of all. If we come to Jesus, we admit that the real curse is not being wealthy or impoverished. The real curse is in our hearts. It’s the curse of sin. Wherever we go, there we are. We need help from the Lord. We can come to Jesus and we can say to Him, ‘Will You save me? Will You set me free from myself so that I can follow You?’
What we really see in Gideon is that his heart was always like that; the wealth just revealed what his heart was really like. That’s what happens to us when we worship the success rather than worshiping the Savior.
I hope that you’ll give your life to the Lord today. Seek the Lord; He is your great reward. He is your success. I hope you’ll think about how the Lord is the one who calls us to love Him rather than love the things of the world. Depend on Him to leave a godly legacy.
Let’s pray, Lord, thank You for Your word. Thank you for the story of Gideon. It’s a real story that really happened and we learn a lot about ourselves and about how You’re warning us about how the love of the world and the love of success can spoil our hearts and can spoil our relationship with You and with other people. It can spoil our children and our children’s children. Lord, help us to pass the test of prosperity. Help us to recognize that You’re the blesser instead of looking for the blessing. Lord, I pray especially right now for the person that would say, ‘I’ve never given my life to Jesus, but today I want to do that.’ Is that you, my friend? You can do it, right in your seat today. You can pray like this, ‘Dear Lord Jesus, I’m a sinner and I repent of my sin. Today, I confess my sin to You. I believe You died on the cross for my sins, that You were raised from the grave and that You live today. Come and live in me and make me a child of God. Adopt me into Your family. I want You as my Lord and Savior.’ If you’re praying, that prayer or faith, believing, He will save you. Others are here today and you know the Lord as your Savior, but you must admit that when it comes to these tests, prosperity and success is spoiling your heart. Your prayers are infrequent. You are hyper about controlling, about getting easily angered. You might be saying, ‘Lord, that’s me today. Would You forgive me and restore to me the joy of my salvation.’ We pray all these things now in Jesus’ name. Amen.