Saturday, April 28, 2007

Success Is Hard

A biography of Amy Simple MacPherson was reviewed recently in The New Yorker, and we noted that spiritual success brings temptation that's hard to resist. (It may be even harder to deal with than financial success -- not having spectacular success in either area, I'm not sure.) Gideon son of Joash had great success: guided by the angel of the Lord, he defeated enemy armies amounting to 135,000 -- and his army had only 300. Afterwards, though, the people wanted him to rule. He declined (which was good), saying "The Lord will rule over you" -- but:
24... 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.) 25They 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.
27Gideon 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.
from Judges 8:24-27
Oops. What was that about? Did he want something visible to worship? Did he like having a lot of tourists come to his town?

I don't know what he thought about as a young man, but I'm pretty sure he never said, "Someday the Lord will lead me to spectacular military success, and afterwards I'll corrupt the whole nation and ensnare my family." He started well; how did he get off track?

The text doesn't tell us explicitly, but I noticed that Gideon talked and listened to the Lord before the battle, but the text doesn't say anything about talking to the Lord after it. Was that the problem? I'm sure it was no coincidence.

It's really hard to stay on track when everybody is saying you're great. So perhaps the secret is to do what Gideon apparently didn't -- when success comes, to increase, rather than slack off, talking and (especially) listening to God?

May God help us, at whatever stage of success we reach, to remember to listen to him!

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