Ruled (Judges 8:23)

But Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you.”

Judges 8:23

Gideon is one of the best known of the judges of Israel. It’s not that the stories of the others are not told, it’s just that much of the book of Judges is dedicated to Gideon and to Samson. Gideon is not a brave man when he is first introduced and he would seem to be a peacemaker based on his actions toward the men of Ephraim. On the other hand, Gideon is an able strategist and commander when God sends him into battle and is bold to discipline the people of both Succoth and Penuel.

In the verse immediately before this one, Israel had asked Gideon to be their king. The people making the request are those who stood beside him in battle. What they have seen is the capable leader in war, the peacemaker with those who do their duty (Ephraim did come out to fight and help in the war against Midian), and the disciplinarian with those who refuse to aid the ones delivering them (as did Succoth and Penuel). They saw all the makings of a strong king. What they had not seen was Gideon threshing grain in a wine press so that he would not be caught. They had not seen Gideon asking God to confirm that Gideon was the right man for the job — twice. They had not heard God tell Gideon that he (Gideon) should go down to the enemy camp and eavesdrop if he was afraid — and Gideon went right on down. God raised Gideon up for a purpose and Gideon got that. Gideon had been raised up to deliver Israel, not to rule them. So Gideon gives the answer that’s in this morning’s verse.

There’s something important in Gideon’s response to Israel. He tells them that he will not rule over them. He is the guy they think they know. He tells them that his son will not rule over them. His son is a guy they don’t know. It’s not that he is unfamiliar to them. The passage before this indicates that Gideon’s son was there on the battlefield to be ordered to kill the enemy kings. It also says that Gideon’s son would not kill them because he was just a youth. So it is entirely likely, I think, that Gideon’s son was not battle-tested. This would mean that the people were taking it for granted that Gideon’s son would be as good a man, leader, and potential ruler as they think Gideon. Gideon tells them that God will rule over them. The important premise that I see in today’s verse? God rules over me.

I know that there are folks who would “No duh.” my thought about God being my ruler. And they might be right. But I see three principles happening in this verse. First, I should not be ruled by people I think I know. Israel thought they knew Gideon and wanted to make him their king based on that limited knowledge. We are prone to look for people to lead us and guide our conduct. Some teacher comes along that we think we know and can trust and we find out that we knew very little indeed. Recently, I saw something on social media about a “Christian” music artist who fessed up to not being believers. I’m reasonably certain that some of their songs have been sung at the church where I fellowship and I just shrug. I’ve seen and heard too many wacky things from allegedly “Christian” people that do not jive with The Bible to be all that surprised. Second, I should not be ruled by people whose authority is vouched for by others. Israel wanted Gideon’s son to be king after Gideon and this was the son getting credit based on the merits of the father. I’ve run across plenty of teachers that friends or family will tell me are great. Then I read what those folks are saying and it does not, as far as I can understand, jive with The Bible. Third and finally, I should be ruled by God and His Word: The Bible. If The Bible says it, then I can trust it. If God tells me to do it, then it will agree with The Bible. Which brings up something else about Gideon. The Law (the first five books of The Bible) includes mention of what a king will be like when Israel decides that they no longer want direct rule by God but want a king instead. God knew the day was coming when Israel would ask for a king so they could be like every other country and He made provision for that. It’s not the best He could give them, but it is what they would ask for. So Gideon’s refusal is not, I think, based on a lack of scripture to support to the idea of Israel having a king. His refusal is, I think, based on his awareness of his calling. God did not call Gideon to rule Israel, but to deliver them (Judges 6:14). Gideon’s calling was explicit and did not include being the king of Israel. That is being ruled by God. Gideon did what God called him to do and stopped when what God had called him to was accomplished.

To sum up: (1) I should not be ruled by people I think I know unless their guidance agrees with God’s; (2) I should not be ruled by people others recommend unless their guidance agrees with God’s; (3) I should be ruled by God and His Word, The Bible, and should not do what God has not called me to. If I am called to encourage then I should encourage others as often and as well as I can. That’s it. If God calls me to more then I should do more. If not, then I should remain in the place to which God has called me.

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