Gideon came from a family with a threshing floor, and servants. His father was a social leader, and an idol worshipper. He had a great idol outside the house that formed a rallying point for the whole community. He lived and led from the city of Ophrah.
Gideon originally lacked self confidence and courage. He considered himself as being lowly in the society. That lack of confidence was however progressively eradicated as God proved that He was with Gideon. From an initial exhibition of total cowardice and timidity, he displayed a mixture of timidity and courage when he destroyed his father’s idols at night to prevent reprisals while he was carrying out God’s instructions. Then he moved into total courage and implacability once his winning streak became assured.
He was a religious man who responded to spirituality. His first response to realizing that he had seen a spirit being was to run for an offering. He knew that a human could not see God and live, so he panicked at the thought of having seen God.
His faith however seemed to be anchored on the physical expression of victories in war. As he won more and more battles, he got bolder and stronger. And displayed his faith in an erroneous way – by building an ephod to be worshipped.
He was a deeply confused man. He did not seem to know the scriptures the same way he knew the practices used to worship God. By creating the colourful ephod for worship, he acted like someone who did not know of the horrors of the golden calf that Aaron led Israel to build and which led to God’s wrath and destruction of those who participated in it.
VALUES & SKILLS OF LEADERSHIP
Gideon became a courageous and assertive leader when God assured him that His supernatural presence was with him. He exhibited focus and determination. Indeed, his displays of courage reflected cruelty when he designed a hurtful punishment for those who did not assist him in the military campaigns.
That cruelty was masked by great communication skills. Gideon was able to stop the ire of whole communities by how he presented his case.
He used communication skills to great effect by mobilising in his leadership bid. In his first call, thirty thousand men offered themselves to fight for Israel. He consistently mobilized whole communities to give, act, or refrain from acting
Gideon was a great follower of God’s strategic instructions. This was a leader who understood the importance of a winning strategy and planning of battles. He was happy to engage with strategies, no matter how bizarre. That engagement with unusual strategies brought him high successes.
Gideon reflected a life lived without a central anchor for integrity. Very early, he showed the strong blend of spirituality and human skills that is exhibited by those who walked with God. He heard directions from God on how to sift the army he had mobilized, and how to fight the Midianites and Amalekites. He obeyed those strange instructions to his benefit. That capacity to hear and obey God’s instructions was the secret of success that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joseph, David, Esther, Daniel and all the giants had.
The difference between him and those with lasting success is that his spirituality ended when he won over the enemy he had been trying to escape his whole life. Like a person who no longer needed the power that had helped him in one great goal, he failed to remain a worshipper of God. He was content to set up an image that represented God without bothering with a true worship of God. That posture sent him deeper and deeper into idolatry, and by the time he died, his household and communities were consumed with strife, confusion and incoherence
PERSONAL ORDER AND DISCIPLINE
Gideon clearly had a weak family life with many but insignificant wives and seventy unnamed sons. The only sons of his that were named were Abimelech, the son of his concubine who was so ambitious and cruel that he killed all his step-siblings and caused destruction in order to succeed his father; and his last son Jotham who escaped the great slaughter. The end of Gideon’s tenure as Judge was noticeable in the total chaos that accompanied it. Even the people he led did not seem to care about him. We never read of any particular discipline that Gideon had (such as the prayer routines of David and Daniel, the refusal to touch God’s anointed that David adhered to, the refusal to touch food offered to idols that Daniel adhered to, and the meditations of Nehemiah as he processed the tasks ahead of him).
Apart from routing the Midianites and Amalekites, there is no record of any achievement that Gideon added to his people and personal life. He just married many women and had children. He started his peace-time leadership career with the building of an idol from the jewelry taken from the spoils of war. And followed it by leading all Israel into strange worship.
Gideon was another classic study in the phenomenon of confused identity and failure of integrity. Just as Deborah reflected the beauty of a life integrated around faith in God, reverence for God, courage grounded in faith, and respect for others, Gideon reflected the temporary success and eventual chaos of a life that lacked a central anchor of faith and values to sustain the trajectory that started his success. After winning military campaigns, he did not use his leadership skills positively to build an effective home and society.
Gideon teaches the distinction between spirituality and godliness. No matter how strongly God reveals Himself to you, it is important to resolve incoherencies in faith by studying the scriptures and be guided by the historical experiences and getting to know God than to take for granted the ability to trust in God to the end. Gideon teaches us that it is possible to experience God intimately by hearing from God, having your prayers answered, see miraculous victories through the directions of God, and still be more influenced by the spiritual culture you grew up in, than faith in the God. Godliness is a journey for the long haul, not a short hop.
LEADERSHIP SKILLS VS GOOD LEADERSHIP
Gideon was the epitome of ‘leadership skills without necessary values’. He had strong leadership skills, but lacked the moral compass to sustain acting only for the good of society. We learn from Gideon’s life that power does not equate eventual success, because bad personal characteristics will build chaos around you, no matter the social and career achievements obtained. He teaches us that godly leadership comes from actual closeness to God, not just interacting with God and being chosen by God to do a work for humanity.
Without a proper succession plan centred around mentoring the generation behind you, leadership has no hope of bringing value beyond your immediate presence. Gideon’s entire generation of sons were wiped out by acrimony from his discordant household.