By Alex Florez
Gideon exists in my mind as one of those permanently enshrined heroes of the Bible. He’s lionized in Sunday school curricula, people still name their kids after him, and, of course, his name is commemorated in hotel rooms across the world with the Gideon’s Bible. In our collective Judeo-Christian consciousness, Gideon is one of the greats.
And it makes sense, right? His military record alone warrants recognition among God’s most remarkable shows of power. We also know that Israel experienced forty years of peace as a direct result of Gideon’s leadership. This man—this God-trusting paragon of courage in the face of terrible odds—deserves our attention and our respect.
But please allow me to be honest about what goes through my head when I read passages like the one in Judges 8. One of our timeless “heroes” of the faith seems to operate in a way that feels contrary to what I would expect from a God-fearing Bible superstar. Gideon seems to have some pretty thin skin, and he resorts too quickly to violence when he doesn’t get his way. Maybe it’s just me, but I have a hard time getting behind anyone who would ask his son to commit double regicide.
Admittedly, I have been a poor judge of character in the past—not just in my own life but also when reading the Bible. So before I close the case on Gideon just because parts of his story make me uncomfortable, I want to acknowledge a few things.
First, if something in Scripture strikes a nerve, I must avoid the temptation to run away from it or discredit it. I think of it as an invitation from the Holy Spirit to let the text dwell richly in me. I should read it again tomorrow; I should look for extra-biblical resources regarding Judges 8. I should revisit the text and trust that God is working on my heart every time I open it up.
Second, I must remember that God is committed to strengthening, saving, and restoring His people. (Zechariah 10:6) And, quite often, God employs messy, imperfect people as agents of His compassionate response to their need for redemption.
Third, I must be prepared to honor God’s authority. I must submit to Him; He does not submit to me. He doesn’t need my blessing when it comes to the ones He chooses to lead His people.
When I consider Gideon in light of these three points, I feel lovingly redirected by the Lord. I came into the reading with the attitude of an arrogant know-it-all. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” writes the apostle (James 4:10), and I certainly feel humbled. Who knows? Maybe God could even use someone as arrogant and self-righteous as me to bless His people. He used Gideon, after all.