One of the things I sometimes struggle with is whether or not to go ahead with an important action that seems right in my mind. When I say I struggle, I struggle because it isn’t something that I’ve earnestly prayed over. If it’s important, I should pray over it, right? That’s one of those simple, “Of course!” type of questions. But the reality is that a lot of us make important decisions all the time and we don’t take adequate time to ask God what it is we should do. We rely on our own intuition and understanding and we proceed with whatever it is we want to do. This can have dire consequences.
Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, both you and your son, also your son’s son, for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian.”
But Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you.”
Yet Gideon said to them, “I would request of you, that each of you give me an earring from his spoil.” (For they had gold earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.)
They said, “We will surely give them.” So they spread out a garment, and every one of them threw an earring there from his spoil. The weight of the gold earrings that he requested was 1,700 shekels of gold, besides the crescent ornaments and the pendants and the purple robes which were on the kings of Midian, and besides the neck bands that were on their camels’ necks. Gideon made it into an ephod, and placed it in his city, Ophrah, and all Israel played the harlot with it there, so that it became a snare to Gideon and his household.
– Judges 8:22-27, NASB
Here Gideon makes a wise decision not to rule over the Israelites. That wasn’t up to Gideon. That was up to God. In its place he asks for a seemingly innocent request, and that’s for a share of the spoils. That was something the grateful Israelites were pleased to honor and with some of that wealth Gideon made an ephod. The question that first came to mind is, “Why?” Israel already had an ephod, or should have had one, for the high priest. It served to help tell God’s will. In Gideon’s case, why was one needed? Maybe it has to do with the fleeces that Gideon used to confirm God’s instruction. Maybe Gideon thought he needed something to hear from God, even though God spoke directly to him. The Bible doesn’t tell us why. But it does tell us what happened next. The ephod served as a major idol for the Israelites. The NASB said Israel played the harlot. The NIV says Israel prostituted itself by worshipping the ephod. Wait. What was that? Yes, indeed, the garment made out of the spoils of a battle won by God was being used to worship something other than God. Not only was Israel doing it, but so was Gideon and his family. Though Gideon had heard directly from God, though God confirmed His calling, and though God clearly won the battle against the Midianites with Gideon as a witness, Gideon still fell prey to the ephod.
We can’t see the ending of anything we do at the time we do it. We cannot know how it will turn out or the repercussions it will cause. But the God we serve and love can. We may think something is just fine but it turns out not to be. We can’t see that. Only God can. And if we don’t check in with Him, we may not find out something we want to do with the best of intentions is actually a pretty rotten idea in the first place before we’ve gone ahead and done it. This is a big problem for those of us who have grown up to be self-reliant and whose place in culture or our jobs or what have you places a premium on self-reliance. I know that’s true of me. And because we’re so self-reliant in other areas, we tend to be self-reliant on major decisions, too. This is bad. So very bad. Gideon has shown us clearly why. Therefore, we need to take the time to ask God for help. Even if we think we don’t have time, we do. Our lack of time is a faulty perception on our part. God can and will answer as we need Him to. I said need and not want. There is a big difference there. We must not grow impatient waiting on God. He will tell us the answer when He know it is best for us to know it. So we need to ask and patiently listen. Otherwise, we could find ourselves entrapped by our decision, a decision we thought was a good idea in the first place.