Gideon's Success Test
"All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping [the idol] there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family" (Judg. 8:27).
Israel was at war with the Midianites and the Amalekites. So God chose a humble young man, Gideon, to deliver Israel by cleansing the land of idols. After submitting a fleece to determine it was God calling him, Gideon obeyed the Lord and destroyed the pagan idols in the region. Then he summoned a large army - over 30,000 men - to fight the Midianites and Amalekites. God said the army was too large, so He first reduced Gideon's army 10,000 men, and then to a mere 300 men. When God gave Israel the victory with an army of only 300 men, all of Israel knew that it was the power of God, not the strength of his army.
If the story had ended there, all would have been well. But at the moment of Israel's triumph, Gideon stumbled. He told the people, "I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder." The Israelites took the gold from the bodies of the enemy dead and Gideon melted it and fashioned it into an idol. The Bible calls this idol an ephod, a word that refers to a ceremonial breastplate. Gideon probably depicted the Lord God as a warrior with an ephod of gold.
But God does not allow Himself to be represented by an idol. This idol was an offense against God and a trap for the people. After Gideon's death, the Israelites again worshiped the pagan god Baal. They forgot the Lord God who rescued them from their enemies.
The story of Gideon has a great beginning, but a tragic ending. This is an instructive lesson for us all. As the apostle Paul tells us, "If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" (1 Cor. 10:12).
If we fail the Success Test we must go back to God without fear. We can ask Him to help us learn the lessons of our failure and to strengthen us for another effort. The God of second chances is able to accomplish His purpose through us even if we have failed Him many times before.