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The Snare

Sermon passage: (Judges 8:22-35) Spoken on: March 23, 2009
More sermons from this speaker 更多该讲员的讲道: Elder Lui Yook Cing
For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Judges

Tags: Judges

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About Elder Lui Yook Cing: Elder Lui was a pastor in Jubilee Church and served in a mission organisation. She is a church elder now who continues to serve in Jubilee Church in various ministries.

Sermon on Judges 8:22-35

In the closing paragraphs of Gideon, the writer reveals the impact Gideon has made to the life of the whole community. The past weeks we’ve come to know this interesting man. His double personality. He is Gideon-Jerub-Baal: on one hand he desires God’s will and the welfare of his people. On the other hand, like all humanity he lusts after the gods of the world. We witness both his insecurity and courage. He tested God’s patience when he kept demanding tangible signs as confirmation of God’s promise. Once he discovered his God-given powers, he stopped at nothing for victory, revealing the dark side of him.

Gideon started of as a nobody, a farmer with little ambition. 时事造英雄. Amid national chaos and turmoil, God issued him a divine call: go save your people and lead them. Gideon seized the opportunity. With God, he successfully pulled off an awesome miracle, leading 300 men to defeat 135,000. The nobody has become a national hero. Life presents us with many opportunities, twists and turns. When ushered into instant stardom, how you live out that success is the true test of your character and integrity. The consequent lifelong response distinguishes a called life from an opportunistic one. This is our reflection for this morning.

To rule or not to rule

After the miraculous victory, the Israelites came to Gideon and requested, “Please! Rule over us.” Why did they make this request? They attributed their success to Gideon. v22 “Because you have saved us from our enemies.” Gideon could have said, “Look guys you’re wrong. I merely acted on God’s command and power. It was God who gave us victory.” Instead, by keeping silent Gideon subtly accepted honor that was due to God. Surrounded by unabashed admiration, he was beginning to believe perhaps there really was no divine intervention after all. Maybe defeating 135,000 men with 300 was all about human brilliance and war tactics.

Rule msl denotes kingship – sovereignty. It demands complete servitude and undivided allegiance of subjects. Gideon replied, “I will not rule over you, nor will my sons and grandsons. God himself will be your ruler.” This is very noble and righteous response. For the people of God, there is only one true ruler – Yahweh is King. However, while Gideon wasn’t called to msl, but he was called into leadership. During these chaotic times of ancient Judges era, when God called the likes of Othniel, Deborah and Barak, it wasn’t just to fight and win battles. The call involves providing good leadership for God’s people who badly needed governance. The crux of the issue was not: to lead or not to lead. People need human leaders and God provides. Gideon was called to lead. The issue was: what type of leadership?

Godly leadership

People called to leadership in God’s Kingdom face daily temptations. The more impressive your spiritual gifts and achievements for God, the greater the temptation to usurp credit that rightfully belongs to God. We subtly replace the divine agenda with our own. In time we delude ourselves and others that we are god! When God calls leaders, it is for leadership that differs from the world. Moses was the archetype. He also started off timid, insecure and with poor understanding of God’s ways. He too made mistakes. But humbly and patiently, Moses learned how to relate to God and trust even without tangible signs. Like Gideon, Moses pulled off awesome miracles to deliver God’s people. But he never let success go over his head. He committed himself to be God’s servant and the people’s servant-leader. He governed, judged and established religious practices for the people. But he always acted on behalf of God, executing God’s orders. The primacy of Moses’ leadership was to turn people to God. Never to himself, but toward a right understanding, worship and service of God as true Creator, Savior and King.

Who’s your king?

What about Gideon’s governance? Despite Gideon’s initial protest to rule, he did otherwise. He went on to behave just like any other ancient tribal kings. vv 29-31. “Jerub-Baal son of Joash went back home to live. He acquired many wives and had seventy sons.” Abundant women and offspring are signs that accompany kingship during those times. King Solomon of Israel was one example. Likewise the notorious king Ahab of Samaria, who was also described as having “seventy sons”. Moreover, Gideon had the audacity to name one of his son Abimelech. Melek – king; abi – father. “My Daddy is the king!”

So what have we here? A hypocrite. Gideon stoutly declares he won’t be king. But in actuality lived like one. Don’t we often see such inconsistencies? People say one thing but do the opposite. Religious leaders whose lifestyle don’t match what they preach. Charity organizations that urge you to “give generously to needy patients!” and then the CEO pockets a substantial amount. I’m dismayed. More so when I realize I am not very consistent myself! How often we behave like Gideon? At the onset we sincerely intend and desire God to rule over our lives. But we are half-hearted, we don’t persist; we never go all the way. We make no effort to get to know God, discover His will, and truly live it out daily. We pay lip service that “God is my king” but in reality “I am my own king”.

Gideon’s Rule

What did Gideon accomplish in 40 years?
1. Politically, as the people’s king he dealt decisively with threats of neighboring enemies.
2. Nationally, his people enjoyed peace and security
3. Materially, everyone prospered. Years of security allowed them to grow possessions.
4. Religiously, Gideon established a system of that replaces Baal-worship and claims to be true worship of Yahweh.

What’s wrong with this? It was solid governance by any human standard. Except for the community’s worship. This is what truly matters by God’s standard. If you recall, Gideon had a big spiritual problem: his theology is full of crap. He always demanded signs for confirmation. This method apparently gave him his first success but he never matured beyond it. For the rest of his life, he never devoted himself to learning Scripture. If he had, he would have discovered anew how to relate to God using God’s ways. Instead, he remained obsessively dependent on using tangible means to get God to respond to him.

Gideon asked each man to contribute a gold ear-ring from their plunder. The sum total weight of gold collected amounted to 19.5kg. Gideon then used this to make an ephod and set it up where the idol of Baal once stood. Ingeniously, Gideon has now replaced the previous idol with another; one that the whole community together has a hand in making. It’s bad enough that Gideon suffers personally from bad theology. He now exports his teachings wholesale to his flock, including genuine seekers and pious worshippers. Again, I am dismayed with organizations that preaches prosperity gospel in the name of Christ. They conduct dazzling religious events, so-called sow-a-miracle services. The implicit theology being that your money contributions can somehow influence God to act for you.

Everyone has invested equally in the construction of Gideon’s ephod. So the preconceived notion is they have a right to expect something out from it. Whenever they come before the ephod-god, they bring along their predetermined agendas. Instead of approaching to hear God with the intention to repent and obey, people come with demands expecting this god to comply. They come, not seeking God’s will for their lives, but seeking to fulfill their own willful desires. This is misplaced devotion and piety because people are not worshipping the invisible awesome God for who He is, but worshipping what their minds have construed.

Gideon has succeeded again! This time in turning the whole nation away from worshipping and serving God. True worship is a way of living unto God. What the whole community engages in is idolatrous and superstitious practices. It is tragic. Upon his death, Israel simply replaces the golden ephod with Baal and reverted back to Baal-worship. “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” v34. What does this tell us? Outward forms that appear godly may actually be subtle forms of idolatry. True seekers of God must stay vigilant. That involves painstaking efforts to draw close to God. To continually acquire “good theology” i.e. knowledge about God. By diligent questioning and humble seeking.

A leaf from Church History

History has no lack of similar dubious heroes. Leaders who are a mixture of blessing and curse. God alone is ultimate judge whether they did more good than harm, vice versa. The Roman emperor Constantine the Great is well known for turning Christianity to state religion and Sunday into public holiday for worship.

During the crucial decisive battle of Milvian Bridge, Constantine cried out in desperation to the God of Christians for help. Miraculously, he saw a flaming cross in the sky. Henceforth the cross became Constantine’s emblem, embroidered in army garments and flag. He went on to a brilliant victory and became emperor of the Roman empire. This was the turning point in Church history. Before, Christians were the persecuted minority. Theirs was faith that stood the test hardships. Now, becoming Christians come with privileges. People flocked to Christianity not because their hearts were convicted and they sincerely desired to follow Jesus’ life. Emperor Constantine became patron of the Christian faith. He generously granted land to bishops and churches, but demanded no less than their total allegiance. The greatest threat came when Constantine felt that he himself should rule the Church. He would call meetings of bishops and presided these meetings in his name. But Jesus Christ alone is King of His Church! No earthly authorities should usurp Christ’s rightful place.

Gideon’s snare – what’s yours?

Gideon’s golden ephod became the snare for himself and his family v27. Snares are trapping devices made of strands of cable. Simple and inconspicuous. But effective in capturing animals. Once the animal enters the loop, the snare tightens down on itself. The animal gets entangled by the neck or body like a dog on a leash. Once caught you can’t free yourself. The only way is to stay vigilant and avoid getting entrapped. Gideon was a ferocious warrior. But he was caught in the snare he ingeniously invented. How easily snared we all. In recent news, a growing number of young ladies enticed by handsome African males to be drug-traffickers. Some do it for love, others for money.

There are all kinds of snares. Even what’s intentionally good – an object, person, practice or worthy motives – can turn into snares. Let me share some relevant and real ones.

The Bible-praying Gentleman: Last week, we visited a sincere seeker. He tells us that he likes to pray to Jesus because he always experiences peace after doing that. We ask, how do you pray? Every morning, without fail, for years, he stands in front of the Bible reverently. Bows before it, then prays blessings for himself and family. Has he ever read the Bible? Not a page. Do you know this Jesus that you pray daily to, who he is and what he has done? Nope, but I sure hope to know. Elder Wu told him, “Look brother, you can know Jesus by reading your bible.” What’s the point of praying to a god that you don’t even know? After another hour of conversation, the dear man became excited and promised to read a chapter of Luke everyday instead of just worshipping the bible. Let’s pray for this delightful man. He will surely find God in the Bible.

Exam Devotions: I also know of youngsters who frantically do their “devotions” on the eve of exams or important tournaments. As if this is antidote formula to sure victory. It is more important for them to learn through the hard way that honoring God and doing God’s will – pass or fail, win or lose – is what truly matters.

The Savior-Pastor: Pastors face the snare of savior-mentality. People come to me with their issues. I pray for them and wonderfully there is a favorable outcome. The person then strongly identifies me – the tangible pastor – as the miracle-worker. Last week someone just told me I’m his personal savior. I’m horrified and devastated. If I were not careful, after more ‘successes’ and admiration, I really would imagine I have unique powers. An unscrupulous pastor could grow such dependency. But the right thing to do is redirect and help people cultivate genuine trust and dependence on God. It is God who saves, not Gideon, not the priest or pastor.

Snare of Gifts: Parishioners often treat their pastors with exceeding generosity. But if mishandled, such goodwill can become a snare for both givers and recipients. For instance, when gifts become carry implicit expectations of the receiver. Like the way Constantine granted favors to bishops in return for their support and allegiance. What happens when there are conflicting interests or situations that threaten integrity? I’m particularly wary when gifts get too personal. I appreciate that people want to bless God’s servants. It is believers’ rightful obligation to contribute toward God’s Kingdom work, including supporting God’s workers. But in doing so, both givers and receivers must get their agendas right. Gifts must never become means for the receiver to be personally indebted and obligated to the giver. The obligation of God’s servants is to God alone.

Brothers and sisters, what may be your ephods? What draws you away from honoring God wholeheartedly? Remember, we are called persons, not opportunists. May God grant us the wisdom of discernment, and determined integrity to rise above all our snares.

Response Time:

Let us take some time for the Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts individually. In particular, this morning I invite three groups of people to come forward for a time of confession, deliverance, intercession and dedication.

1. People who are caught in snares. You, or someone you care about, are currently entangled in a morally compromising situation. The person needs help to extricate from the snare before it eventually destroys him, family and those around him. Bring your situation before the Lord. Come and ask for divine intervention and deliverance.

2. People who are half-hearted in whatever you do. You just never seem to have enough drive and passion to go all the way, even for things that are worthy, that mean a lot to you. Including the desire to live the kind of lifestyle that Jesus calls us. That is a lifelong process of obedience that demands determination and perseverance. Come to the Lord this morning to draw that kind of strength and sustenance only He can provide. Only trees that are planted and rooted by living waters will persist in growth.

3. Leaders. You are in some roles of authority. Whether at home, work, ministry, school or play. Maybe you’re a boss / supervisor / parent. A mentor that someone watches and imitates. I can’t imagine the influence and guidance you exert over others’ lives – positively or negatively. May you be a blessing and not a snare to them. Come forward and let us pray for you. Especially those that provide some kind of spiritual leadership and guidance e.g. pastors.