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Judges: Broken People — Faithful God: When Leaders Fail

Judges: Broken People—Faithful God  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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When leaders fail.

Notes & Transcripts
Text:
Text:
Theme: When leaders fail.
Theme: When leaders fail.
Date: 07/30/17 File name: Judges_08.wpd ID Number:
Date: 07/30/17 File name: Judges_08.wpd ID Number:
J. C. Ryle, a 19th century Anglican Bishop, once said, “The best of men are men at best” — meaning, even the ones we admire the most are really only men, human beings with a propensity to commit grave sins. This is Gideon. The Bible is brutally honest about its heroes — they are cut from the fabric of reality, not fantasy action figures. The truth is, Gideon did not finish well.
J. C. Ryle, a 19th century Anglian Bishop, once said, “The best of men are men at best” — meaning, even the ones we admire the most are really only men, human beings with a propensity to commit grave sins. This is Gideon. The Bible is brutally honest about its heroes — they are cut from the fabric of reality, not fantasy action figures. The truth is, Gideon did not finish well.
In Paul exhorted, “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” Gideon had began his race by the Spirit, but ended in the flesh. Most of us are familiar with the Gideon of Judges, chapters 6-7. A young farmer, fearfully threshing wheat in the cover of a wine press, meets the Angle of the Lord, and becomes a mighty warrior who delivers Israel from the hands of the Midianites. But when we read Judges, chapter 8 it’s hard to figure out weather Gideon is a hero or a villain. Most people do not know about the final chapter in Gideon’s life. His life is a reminder of ... “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (, NIV84).
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Chapter eight records Gideon’s reactions to five confrontations.
Dealing with Ephraim’s Ego (8:1-3)
• Dealing with Succoth’s Spitefulness (8:4-7; 13-16)
Dealing with Succoth’s Spitefulness (8:4-7; 13-16)
Dealing with Penuel’s Pettiness (8:8-9; 17)
• Dealing with Penuel’s Pettiness (8:8-9; 17)
• Dealing Zebah and Zalmunna (8:10-12, 18-21)
Dealing Zebah and Zalmunna (8:10-12, 18-21)
Dealing with Israel (8:22-31)
• Dealing with Israel (8:22-31)
In four out of the five, he behaves abominably. Only in dealing with Ephraim does Gideon respond in a measured way. In every other episode we witness an ever-increasing failure in leadership.
The Bible has much to say about leadership, both in word and by example. Gideon is an example of when leaders fail. It is a cautionary tale.
“Gideon and his three hundred men, exhausted yet keeping up the pursuit, came to the Jordan and crossed it. 5 He said to the men of Succoth, “Give my troops some bread; they are worn out, and I am still pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.” 6 But the officials of Succoth said, “Do you already have the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna in your possession? Why should we give bread to your troops?” 7 Then Gideon replied, “Just for that, when the LORD has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will tear your flesh with desert thorns and briers.” 8 From there he went up to Peniel and made the same request of them, but they answered as the men of Succoth had. 9 So he said to the men of Peniel, “When I return in triumph, I will tear down this tower.” (, NIV84)
1. Gideon’s failure as a leader is marked by his desire for revenge against those who had not supported him or wronged him
not supported him or wronged him
a. two communities and two kings are going to feel the full weight of his spiteful wrath
2. Gideon and his now expanded army are in mopping up operations
a. after their great victory in chapter seven, Gideon senses an opportunity to completely route the Midianites, Amalekites, and Eastern peoples, and so he calls on several other tribes to help
completely route the Midianites, Amalekites, and Eastern peoples, and so he calls on several other tribes to help
“When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the LORD caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. The army fled to Beth Shittah toward Zererah as far as the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath. 23 Israelites from Naphtali, Asher and all Manasseh were called out, and they pursued the Midianites. 24 Gideon sent messengers throughout the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against the Midianites and seize the waters of the Jordan ahead of them as far as Beth Barah.” So all the men of Ephraim were called out and they took the waters of the Jordan as far as Beth Barah. 25 They also captured two of the Midianite leaders, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb at the winepress of Zeeb. They pursued the Midianites and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon, who was by the Jordan.” (, NIV84)
3. Gideon’s troops are hot in pursuit of the Midianites when they arrive, first at Succoth, and then at Penuel in the Israelite tribal area of Gad, and seek hospitality
and then at Penuel in the Israelite tribal area of Gad, and seek hospitality
a. Gideon doesn’t ask them to join the mission or come fight on the front lines
b. all he is asking is that these cities support the men who are risking their lives for a mission that will ultimately deliver these very cities from the constant oppression of the Midianites
mission that will ultimately deliver these very cities from the constant oppression of the Midianites
c. when Succoth refuses to aid his troops Gideon and his men move on to the city of Penuel where there is also a decided lack of hospitality
Penuel where there is also a decided lack of hospitality
1) both Succoth’s and Penuel’s response is dismissive ... "Do you already have the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna in your possession? Why should we give bread to your troops?"
hands of Zebah and Zalmunna in your possession? Why should we give bread to your troops?"
2) they deny his request on the grounds that Gideon hasn’t yet achieved total victory
victory
a) they are not impressed by Gideon — he is, after all, a young man from a small family, and a minor clan who a few days ago was farmer threshing wheat
family, and a minor clan who a few days ago was farmer threshing wheat
b) they are not impressed by Gideon’s “army” of three hundred men even though they’ve won — by the hand of the Lord — an impressive victory
they’ve won — by the hand of the Lord — an impressive victory
3) the citizens of Succoth and Penuel believe they are being prudent — waiting for the outcome before picking sides
for the outcome before picking sides
a) in reality the citizens of Succoth and Penuel are being faithless and distrusting what God had already accomplished
what God had already accomplished
d. why the hesitancy?
1) Succoth and Penuel are boarder towns
2) each year when the Midianites would emerge from their territory Succoth and Penuel were the first cities hit on their annual pillaging tour of Israel
Penuel were the first cities hit on their annual pillaging tour of Israel
3) they fear that if Gideon is not successful the revenge of the Midianites will be severe
severe
4) after all, the Midianites still number 15,000 even though they are in retreat
e. before leaving each town Gideon vows revenge
4. the story then moves on to the capture of the two Midianite Kings
“Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with a force of about fifteen thousand men, all that were left of the armies of the eastern peoples; a hundred and twenty thousand swordsmen had fallen. 11 Gideon went up by the route of the nomads east of Nobah and Jogbehah and fell upon the unsuspecting army. 12 Zebah and Zalmunna, the two kings of Midian, fled, but he pursued them and captured them, routing their entire army.” (, NIV84)
A. GIDEON’S REVENGE
ILLUS. If you’re a Trekkie fan you remember the famous Klingon proverb "Revenge is a dish best served cold" quoted by Admiral Kirk in the Wrath of Kahn. Actually it’s a quote from an 1846 French novel, Memoirs of Matilda. The proverb means that vengeance is often more satisfying if it is not exacted immediately. Gideon waits before he meets out his payback.
dish best served cold" quoted by Admiral Kirk in the Wrath of Kahn. Actually it’s a quote from an 1846 French novel, Memoirs of Matilda. The proverb means that vengeance is often more satisfying if it is not exacted immediately. Gideon waits before he meets out his payback.
1. in each case where Gideon exacts his revenge, the revenge become more severe, and he seems to relish its infliction
and he seems to relish its infliction
2. the story picks up in
a. it begins by developing an “enemies list” — “He caught a young man of Succoth and questioned him, and the young man wrote down for him the names of the seventy-seven officials of Succoth, the elders of the town.” (, NIV84)
Succoth and questioned him, and the young man wrote down for him the names of the seventy-seven officials of Succoth, the elders of the town.” (, NIV84)
ILLUS. If you saw the movie Braveheart where Mel Gibson plays the Scottish hero William Wallace, there is a series of scenes where Wallace exacts revenge on the Scottish Lords who turned their backs on him during the Battle of Falkirk against English troops. Wallace, like Gideon takes names, and systematically goes on a payback rampage.
1) Succoth and Penuel not only failed to support Gideon, but vs. 15 alludes to the fact that they openly mocked Gideon and his mission making it clear they opposed his efforts
the fact that they openly mocked Gideon and his mission making it clear they opposed his efforts
2) Gideon is personally offended and becomes consumed with brutally teaching each community a lesson
each community a lesson
b. next, he retraces his steps to Succoth where he openly humiliates the elders of the community and tortures the seventy elders with desert thorns an briers
the community and tortures the seventy elders with desert thorns an briers
1) it’s unclear exactly what he did to them, but it was obviously painful
c. after dealing with Succoth he moves on to Penuel
1) he keeps his word tearing down the city’s defensive tower, but he goes beyond his original threat and kill every man in town
beyond his original threat and kill every man in town
d. in chapter six Gideon is fearful, in chapter seven he is faithful, but in chapter eight he is frightful — he becomes a despot who tortures and massacres, not the enemy, but fellow Israelites
he is frightful — he becomes a despot who tortures and massacres, not the enemy, but fellow Israelites
3. his systematic revenge continues with the captured Midianite kings
a. he begins be asking what seems to be an irrelevant question ... What kind of men did you kill at Tabor?
did you kill at Tabor?
b. their response is, They were men like you .. each one with the bearing of a prince
c. at that point Gideon Those were my brother, the sons of my own mother, and at that point Zebah’s and Zalmunna’s eyes get big as saucers
that point Zebah’s and Zalmunna’s eyes get big as saucers
1) he continues, If you had spared their lives, I would not kill you
2) at this point it is clear that Gideon is not acting as God’s instrument, but is carrying out a personal vendetta
carrying out a personal vendetta
4. Gideon Was Determined in His Revenge: this Is Leadership Failure
“The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us out of the hand of Midian.” 23 But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you.” 24 And he said, “I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.” (It was the custom of the Ishmaelites to wear gold earrings.) 25 They answered, “We’ll be glad to give them.” So they spread out a garment, and each man threw a ring from his plunder onto it. 26 The weight of the gold rings he asked for came to seventeen hundred shekels, not counting the ornaments, the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian or the chains that were on their camels’ necks. 27 Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.” (, NIV84)
1. back in chapter seven the 300 warriors of Gideon’s army cheer “For the Lord and for Gideon”
Gideon”
a. by the time we get to chapter eight it’s Forget the Lord, hail Gideon
b. the people of Israel are ready to make Gideon king and establish his decedents as a dynasty, giving Gideon not God, the credit for the victory
a dynasty, giving Gideon not God, the credit for the victory
2. now here is were it gets interesting
a. Gideon has an “aww shucks” moment, saying "I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you."
son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you."
1) sounds amazingly humble doesn’t it?
b. the problem is that Gideon’s actions betray his declaration
c. Gideon demurs at being crowned Israel’s king, but then takes on all the trappings and behavior of one
and behavior of one
3. a cult of personality begins to quickly develop around Gideon
ILLUS. A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods to create an idealized, heroic, and at times worshipful image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise.
or other methods to create an idealized, heroic, and at times worshipful image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise.
b. 1st, he begins by amassing some significant wealth — he asks for a gold ring from each soldier’s share of the plunder, plus the ornaments, pendants and regal garments worn by the kings of Midian
each soldier’s share of the plunder, plus the ornaments, pendants and regal garments worn by the kings of Midian
1) he even takes the bling off of the enemy’s camels
c. 2nd, he creates an ephod which is basically an ornate breastplate worn by Israel’s High Priest, and it becomes an idol among the people
High Priest, and it becomes an idol among the people
1) when vs. 27 says it became a snare to Gideon and his family it means that Gideon and his family became the center of a cult of personality
Gideon and his family became the center of a cult of personality
2) Gideon began his ministry by tearing down his father’s idol only to now build his own
own
3) tells us that All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there
4) in that worship there is a constant emphasis on Gideon’s story
d. 3rd, he collects a harem, and produces a prodigious progeny — 70 sons over the next forty years! (King David only had 19!)
next forty years! (King David only had 19!)
1) this is comparable to any Ancient Near Eastern king
2) harems were a way in the ancient East of cementing political alliances, extending territorial influence, and accumulating power
territorial influence, and accumulating power
c. 4th, his life become increasingly carnal
1) many wives are not enough, he also sets up a mistress in the Canaanite city of Shechem, ignoring God’s explicit command forbidding such alliances
Shechem, ignoring God’s explicit command forbidding such alliances
d. Gideon may have rejected the title of king, but Gideon accepted the lifestyle of kingship with all its adulation
kingship with all its adulation
5. Gideon Was Dependent on His Celebrity: this Is Leadership Failure
1. narcissism is the excessive interest oneself — it goes beyond vanity to a self-obsession and a grandiose view of one’s self
obsession and a grandiose view of one’s self
2. Gideon’s narcissism is primarily exhibited in the name he gives his son by the concubine in Shechem
concubine in Shechem
a. Gideon names him Abimelech meaning, My Dad is King
ILLUS. When Psychologists are attempting to understand or diagnoses a mental disorder in a patient, they rely on what some refer to as “the psychologists/psychiatrists Bible” ... the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. (It’s current edition is 947 pages long)! If you were to look up Narcissism you would find the following character traits listed ...
disorder in a patient, they rely on what some refer to as “the psychologists/psychiatrists Bible” ... the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. (It’s current edition is 947 pages long)! If you were to look up Narcissism you would find the following character traits listed ...
A grandiose sense of self-importance;
• A preoccupation with unlimited fantasies of success, power and brilliance;
A preoccupation with unlimited fantasies of success, power and brilliance;
Believes that he is “so special;”
• Believes that he is “so special;”
Requires excessive admiration;
• Requires excessive admiration;
• Has a sense of entitlement;
Has a sense of entitlement;
Takes advantage of others to achieve his own ends;
• Takes advantage of others to achieve his own ends;
• Lacks empathy for others;
Lacks empathy for others;
Is super-sensitive to criticism.
• Is super-sensitive to criticism.
Besides any number of our own recent presidents these character traits seem to peg Gideon in chapter 8.
Gideon in chapter 8.
b. you’ve all heard the adage, Power corrupts
1) the 19th century British politician, Lord Acton, took it a step further saying “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men almost always become bad men.”
corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men almost always become bad men.”
2) Gideon goes from grain farmer to famed action figure virtually over night, and it apparently goes to his head
apparently goes to his head
3) he, in our language, begins believing his own press and becomes driven by his narcissism
narcissism
c. by the end of the chapter, even the author of Judges no longer refers to our anti-hero as Gideon, but by his Canaanite name — Jerub Baal son of Joash
hero as Gideon, but by his Canaanite name — Jerub Baal son of Joash
3. Gideon Was Driven by His Narcissism: this Is Leadership Failure
a. the sad legacy is found at the end of the chapter
“No sooner had Gideon died than the Israelites again prostituted themselves to the Baals. They set up Baal-Berith as their god and 34 did not remember the LORD their God, who had rescued them from the hands of all their enemies on every side. 35 They also failed to show kindness to the family of Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) for all the good things he had done for them.” (, NIV84)
1. when considering the biblical characteristics of leadership, Gideon is the cautionary tale
tale
a. he is an example of when leaders fail
ILLUS. Dr. Robert (“Bobby”) Clinton is the Professor of Leadership at Fuller Seminary where he has taught since 1981. In his 1989 book The Making of a Leader he studied the lives of 3,500 leaders and found that few leaders finish well.
where he has taught since 1981. In his 1989 book The Making of a Leader he studied the lives of 3,500 leaders and found that few leaders finish well.
Many drop out. (Usually due to burnout. Some have a moral failing.)
• The majority plateau. (A slow fail.)
The majority plateau. (A slow fail.)
• Only a few are disciplined, keep growing, and finish well.
Only a few are disciplined, keep growing, and finish well.
Dr. Clinton writes that even in the Bible this pattern holds true. He identified 49 Bible leaders that we have enough data on to study their life story and only 13 of them finished well. That means that for every three or four leaders only one finishes well! As a pastor, I tell you, “that’s scary.”
leaders that we have enough data on to study their life story and only 13 of them finished well. That means that for every three or four leaders only one finishes well! As a pastor, I tell you, “that’s scary.”
2. the story of Gideon begs the question: What is a Biblical Leader?
a. from a Scriptural point of view, a leader is a person ...
1) with God-given capacity and
2) God-given responsibility to influence
3) a specific group of God’s people
4) toward God’s purposes for the group. (Clinton)
3. spiritual leaders are men or women who are being formed in the image of Christ Jesus and empowered and led by the Holy Spirit — their chief characteristic is that they have a servant’s-heart
and empowered and led by the Holy Spirit — their chief characteristic is that they have
a servant’s-heart
ILLUS. That servant’s-heart is best expressed in the action Jesus took just prior to the last supper he would enjoy with his disciples.
last supper he would enjoy with his disciples.
“It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. 2 The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (, NIV84)
• “When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (, NIV84)
“When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (, NIV84)
ILLUS. Dr. Clinton concludes that biblical leaders need to do four things ...
1) Cultivate a Sovereign Mindset. Understand that Jesus is Lord, and you’re not. This means maintaining a vibrant relationship with God.
means maintaining a vibrant relationship with God.
2) Articulate and live by our God-appointed mission and values. Understand what God has called you to do and seek to consistently flesh out a biblical lifestyle — especially the “Fruit of the Spirit”
has called you to do and seek to consistently flesh out a biblical lifestyle — especially the “Fruit of the Spirit”
3) Form a close relationship with a mentor. The proverb, “Iron sharpens iron” speaks to this.
this.
4) Keep learning. Study Scripture, books and seminars on spiritual formation and leadership, conversations with friends and mentors, and personal reflection.
leadership, conversations with friends and mentors, and personal reflection.
4. if we do these things we have a much better chance of finishing well
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