April 4; That First Step Is A Doozie

Judges 8-9

Israel, under Gideon’s leadership, enjoyed a decisive victory over the enemy. I get excited whenever the Cleveland Indians win a ballgame. I can only imagine emotions were running much higher there in the Israelite camp when they won their victory that day. The people wanted to make Gideon their king. But Gideon politely refused the offer.

He could have cashed in on his success, but he kept his integrity in check. He didn’t even take any of the plunder for himself, although I’m pretty sure the people would not have objected if Gideon had wanted to walk away from the battle a rich man. Who deserved it more?

What Gideon did, however, was take the first step toward sin. Maybe he did it innocently enough, the Bible doesn’t tell us his thought process. He collected one earring from each of the fighting men, added the things taken from the two defeated enemy kings, and made a gold shirt.

An ephod was a sacred garment worn by priests as they served God. This sleeveless shirt held a lot of meaning to the Jews at that time.

Now, I’m only guessing here, but I wonder if Gideon, like lovers who carve their initials in the trunk of a tree to immortalize their love, wanted to “mark the spot” where God granted them the victory. Was it an ancient equivalent of a memory bench, or an 8×10 photo intended to remind everyone who saw it about the greatness of God?

The thing that’s glaringly absent from this story is God. I don’t see anywhere that Gideon asked God what He wanted him to do. “Here, God, let me do this for you. Surprise!”

The Bible says that the gold shirt “became a snare to Gideon and his family.” People actually started worshiping the gold ephod instead of the God it was supposed to point them to. It became an idol.

Gideon’s collecting of the gold earrings seemed innocent enough, maybe even spiritual, or sacrificial. “Look at what Gideon’s doing for God.” But that first step was like stepping off a cliff. It was a doozie. And the result was devastating.

I would like to challenge us all as we serve God to take steps directed only by Him. You might get a great idea and want to run with it. But let’s learn from Gideon’s mistake and stop to ask God His take on our great idea. If He’s not in it, no matter how good an idea you think it is, it just might “become a snare” for you and for others.

Here’s something else God has impressed on my heart today: what I do influences others for the good or for the bad. If I take a step toward sin, how many people will think it’s ok for them, too? And how many of them will take the sin further than even I will?

I’m reminded of Isaiah’s words:

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (30:21)

Let’s determine to listen to that voice, and obey it; to take those steps set before us by our loving Heavenly Father. Because if we aren’t careful, we could find ourselves on the brink of disaster. And taking that first step out of God’s will is a doozie, a step that could take us and others down.

Please read your Bible every day. Pray. Be sensitive to God’s leading. Listen to His voice through His written Word. And obey Him. You will be blessed… and a blessing to others.

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