Gideon has lived up to the "mighty man of valor" name ascribed to him in our last reading. Today's reading chronicles his victories, and says Israel lived in peace for thirty years.
At the end of his conquest, Gideon asked the Israelites each to give him one earring from their plunder. With this, he made a golden ephod. The word "ephod" generally refers the to the vestment worn by the priest, but the word can also mean "image."
Whether Gideon created the vestment or another image, the golden object became the focus of worship, not the God who had delivered their enemies into the Israelites' hands.
Perhaps Gideon meant the golden object to be a memorial, a remembrance of God's deliverance. But the people began worshiping the thing, not the God it was to represent.
We do this. We have wonderful, charismatic preachers who teach us about the Lord. But somehow the focus begins to shift, and we start following the preacher, not the Lord.
Then the preacher begins believing his own press and sets himself above God. The first thing you know, there's a scandal, and the name of the Lord is disgraced again. The church (the body of Christ - not the denomination) is divided between judgment and leniency. The argument escalates, and there's another church schism.
And it all started with something, originally intended for good, that got just a little off track.
Keep our eyes and hearts riveted on You. Help us not to be distracted by circumstances, and deliver us from getting puffed up and believing our own press.
In Jesus' most precious name.