Gideon's Ephod and the National Day of Prayer
This morning's OT Bible passage (I'm using the M'Cheyne Bible reading plan) was Judges 8, the story of Gideon's improbable victory over the Midianites. Here's what really struck me this time around:
After winning the victory against the Midianites, the people offer Gideon the kingship, saying, "for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian." But Gideon refuses. Perhaps he understands that the credit for this victory belonged to God, not himself. The Angel of the Lord had commissioned him for a particular assignment; his call was not to hereditary kingship. So this seems an appropriate and commendable response on Gideon's part. But then he says, "Instead of the kingship, all I ask is a share of the Midianite plunder. A gold earring from each man." Gideon then takes his portion of the gold, melts it down, and creates a beautiful ephod, which is a priestly "breastplate." So Gideon eschews political power but claims priestly or spiritual authority. And what do you know: the ephod quickly becomes an idol. Verse 27 says, "And all Israel played the harlot [KJV: "went to whoring"] with it there. It became a snare to Gideon and his house."
Yesterday was the National Day of Prayer here in America. At noon in my own workplace, then in the evening at my church, I attended prayer meetings where we lifted our nation before the Lord. It seems to me that America is in much the same situation in which ancient Israel often found itself. Incredibly blessed by God, we nevertheless prostitute ourselves to idols of various kinds. It is interesting to note that Gideon's son, Abimelech, would soon be declaring himself king in Shechem, and perpetrating unthinkable horrors in order to consolidate this claim to power. Idol worship leads ever downward, it seems. I can't help but think this morning that there is a lesson here for America, but I wonder if we will ever learn it.