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Gideon Week 3 Study Guide: With Great Power

Community Group Study Guide — With Great Power
Judges 7:24-8:35

Main Idea:
God accomplished his victory through Gideon and the people of Israel but we are left wondering what just happened as Gideon does what is right in his own eyes and takes all the credit for victory. He goes from weakness to strength and struggles to do what is right which shows us the dangers of using power for one’s own gain rather than to love, serve and bless others as you lead.

Study Information:
So far in our study on Gideon we have seen God call him out of hiding in a winepress away from the danger of the Midianites to commanding a scaled down army of 300 into battle against them. Along the way Gideon has tested God, struggled with faith and been stretched by the Lord. God in response has provided for his needs and graciously revealed his word to Gideon. Our last study guide examined Gideon going down into the Midianite camp with his 300 troops where they basically caused a ruckus with a lot of noise (trumpets and smashing glass jars) and the Midianite army was so worked up in fear they turned on one another in battle having expected a large army. God designed this to happen so that the Israelites could not claim victory or think their own hand had saved them. But, what we see in our story is that this did not stop them from trying. 

Doing What Was Right In His Own Eyes
Judges 7:24-8:21
The theme of the book of judges is to show us the capacity for humanity to do what is right in their own eyes and Gideon is no exception. He goes quickly from responding to the Lord in worship (Judges 7:15) to taking matters in his own hands. We learn from Judges 8:15 that 120,000 soldiers died among the Midianites during the evening battle and the remaining 15,000 soldiers went on a 100 mile journey to escape Gideon and his army. You could look at this as being the means of victory the Lord provided but we see Gideon took matters into his own hands. As you read through this section you’ll notice Gideon use some brilliant military strategy, the only problem is that none of it is what the Lord commanded him to do. Gideon will call the army that was dismissed in chapter 7 and have them join the battle (Judges 7:23). Messengers are sent to the neighboring tribe of Ephraim to block the escape of Midian to which they’re successful and they capture and kill two of their commanders, Oreb and Zeeb (Judges 7:24-8:3). Gideon’s army follows the escaping Midianites on their 100 mile journey and when they’re denied help by the Israelite cities of Succoth and Penuel Gideon responded with threats of violence against them. He captured Zalmunna and Zebah, two Midianite chiefs/kings and returned through the land and followed through on his threats of violence by whipping the 77 elders of succoth and destroying parts of the city of Penuel as well as killing the men of the city. Finally, he wants his own teenage/young adult son to execute Zalmunna and Zebah but his son is afraid and unable because he had never killed a person before (Judges 8:18-21). The idea is that he likely wanted Zalmunna and Zebah to be humiliated in their death without thinking of the consequences on his own son. We read all of this and should be shocked at what’s happening. Gideon wanted victory his way and we get a hint of what’s going on in the response that follows in Judges 8:22 when Gideon takes credit for the victory… humanity doing what is right in their own eyes. 

To be sure, the Midianites did some atrocious things and Zebah and Zalmunna had committed acts we’d consider to be war crimes (Judges 8:18-19), however the text wants us to understand that Gideon is falling into the pattern of the problem of the book of Judges.   

Reading a text like this should stir up in us a desire for a true and better savior, one who follows the word of God and the character of God in how they use their power. This text should create a hunger in us for Christ who does not succumb to the ways and means of the world but rather uses his power to love, serve and bless others. 

A King By Another Name
Judges 8:22-35
The people respond to all this by wanting to make Gideon their king and Gideon gave them a superficial spiritual answer in his reply “you have no king but God.” Which at first glance seemed like a great answer, but it was not honest and we know this by how Gideon later acts. Gideon took all the spoils of war and melted it down into an idol, specifically the image of a golden Ephod which was a clothing item for a high priest, someone who was a go between God and the people. Gideon is functionally saying that God is king, but you go through me to get to God. The people worshipped this object instead of God and Gideon ends up going home, marrying multiple wives and having a lot of kids and then dies. Judges 8:34-35 should be telling for us because the people forget God and even forget Gideon. Gideon falls into the trap of wanting the privileges of power but not the responsibility of power. He desired comfort over responsibility and ends up being forgotten because of it. 

Like the other people you meet in the book of Judges, Gideon is a conundrum because he is listed as a person who acted by faith in Hebrews 11:32, but does things that do not seem right and holy. What are we to make of Gideon? It appears that he was a person who responded to God by faith but he was not equipped to handle his strength or power given in a way that honored God and did what was right in God’s eyes. 

How should followers of Jesus think about power?

Great Power
Luke 22:24-27
Most of us have heard the phrase “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” and from evidence around us this seems to be true. Unchecked power often leads to abuse in families, businesses, school, churches and pretty much every area of life. But, does that mean Christians should avoid power? In Luke 22:24-27 Jesus hears his disciples arguing about how is the greatest and what’s interesting is that the does not tell them greatness itself is bad but rather what the world does with greatness in using it to lord over others is what’s evil. Instead power is a gift to be used to serve and love one another. Power and authority are gifts from God and we will be held accountable for how we use that gift and we can either use it for selfish endeavors or to help others around us flourish. It is why the Bible emphasizes character and sanctification so much, so that we are the right kinds of people to use the power given to us in order to do what is right in God’s eyes. We get passages like Galatians 5:22-24, the fruit of the Spirit, that emphasize the kind of character that God is producing in his people. We get lists of virtues like 2 Peter 1:5-11 to emphasize how we are to be as God’s holy people. All of this is important for us so that we can do what is right and use the power and authority God has given to love and serve rather than to be served. 

We ultimately see this best expressed in Jesus who used his authority and power for our good even though we did not deserve it. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and yet he used his power and authority to lay down his life. It was for the joy set before him so that we could be redeemed and reconciled, but notice how Jesus uses his power to serve and to bless. As we follow Christ and grow in maturity we will be growing in doing similar things with the power we’ve been given.

What areas in your life has God given you power and authority? We all have it somewhere whether it is in a church ministry, family, friend group, work place or relationships. God has gifted his image bearers with power and authority so they can steward it well to serve others through love and blessing. When we take our eyes off of doing what is right in God’s sight we will end up using power for selfish and destructive purposes. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:
Read through Judges 7:24-8:35

Describe how Gideon fell into the trap of doing what is right in his own eyes. 

What clues does the text give us that this is not how things ought to have been?

How should someone like Gideon have responded to the request of the people in Judges 8:22?

Does power itself corrupt? If so, how do followers of Jesus put themselves in a place where they can use power for the good of others?

How does Jesus show us the proper use of power?