If you know the account of Gideon in the Bible you probably know that he was a man who set out a fleece in order to determine whether he could fully trust the word that he was receiving from the Lord. Although Gideon is rarely used as an example of someone who is a pillar of faith, it is not uncommon to point to reference his story when we aren’t sure what we should do. After all God provided Gideon with two clear signs that was his job to conquer Midian. Then God fulfilled His promise by giving Gideon victory after drastically reducing the number of armed men that went with him to fight (Judges 6:36-7). “Putting out a fleece” has become Christian vernacular for seeking a sign from God regarding the action someone should take.
What happens to Gideon after God uses him is often left out of the Sunday School stories. After returning from victory, Gideon used the spoils of war to create an artifact (called a ephod) which soon became an object of worship for the Israelites. The man who had been so afraid to go to battle set up a symbol of his conquest and as it says it Judges 8, “it became a snare to Gideon and his family.” The implication is that, along with the rest of the nation of Israel, Gideon and his family begin to trust in the symbol of victory rather than the One who provided it.
It is tempting to wonder how Gideon could possibly do this (after all – he clearly knew at one point that he was incapable of winning the fight), however it is a enticement that is not unique to him. We are all apt to rely on on our abilities, insights, and talents to do the work that God has set before us. We are all prone to forgetfulness about Who is accomplishing the task when we begin to receive accolades for the outcome. Like Gideon, we go from wallowing in our inadequacies to trumpeting our abilities. And like Gideon we may go from relying on God, to trusting in ourselves.
But we must fight this.
Because as the rest of Gideon’s story demonstrates, self-trust is a futile endeavor. Gideon was right – he was incapable of taking on the Midianites – but God was not. Gideon wasn’t the main actor in the story – he was the instrument that God used to accomplish His purposes. Trusting in the tool is short-sighted; it assumes the instrument has power and intentionality all on its own. But it is only when the tool is wielded by the hand of the Master that it can accomplish its purpose.
So while we may be tempted to trust in ourselves and our successes, we must remain steadfast in relying on the One who not only provides the success, but equips us with what we need to accomplish it.