Day 2 Judges 6:8-40 ... Leadership Crisis

The good-news tone of Joshua sours abruptly in the next book, Judges. After an initial spurt of enthusiasm, the Israelites strayed far, very far from the way God had pointed them. Ignoring Joshua's orders to clear the land, they settled in among the pagan occupants instead. These new neighbors practiced an exotic religion that included sex orgies and child sacrifice as a regular part of worship

Just one generation later, the Israelites had lost their sense of national identity and had forgotten all about their parents' ringing vows to honor the covenant. They, too, were worshiping the idol Baal. Having violated virtually every moral standard, the nation slid toward chaos-much like modern-day Lebanon, Uganda, or Cambodia. The last verse of Judges sums up the scene: "Everyone did as he saw fit."

The Israelites were suffering from a leadership crisis of huge dimensions. For eighty years they had followed Moses and Joshua, two outstanding leaders who proved impossible to replace. When the twelve tribes splintered apart and retreated into separate territories, God turned to more regional leaders called judges. The term may be misleading; these were people renowned not for court cases, but for their military campaigns against foreign invaders. (Today they might be called guerrillas or freedom fighters.)

Some judges, such as the hero of this chapter, emerged as models of courage and faith. And yet a close look at the life of Gideon shows the material God had to work with. His family and village worshiped Baal, not the Lord. In the face of God's clear direction, Gideon sputtered, demanded repeated proofs, used delaying tactics, and worshiped at night to avoid detection. He was subject to paralyzing fears, even on the eve of battle. But God, knowing Gideon's potential, step by step brought him to the point of courage.

Point to Ponder: Gideon is often used as an example of God's guidance. But, in light of what you read in this chapter, do you think he's a negative or positive example? Or both?