He took the elders of the town
and taught the men of Succoth
a lesson by punishing them with
the desert thorns and briers.
Sadly, as I continued the journey of this passage, I found in verse 16 that Gideon is truly a man of his word. He promised the defeat the kings, and to return to the men and punish them for their lack of belief in him. He captures the kings, and then makes a bee-line for Succoth!
Gideon took the elders he gathered and set them before them men of Succoth. The men of Succoth were about to learn a valuable lesson, both from Gideon, and from the Elders of their community.
Leadership has a cost
Yes, leadership has a cost! The Elders of Succoth would make a decision for the town, not to supply bread to Gideon’s troop, knowing full well they could suffer from their decision. Though the passage does not give us their counsel notes or dictation of their discussion, one can be sure that they carefully weighed the weight of their decision, and were willing to stand by it and suffer for the greater good of their community. They could not allow the threat of Gideon to influence their decision. The leaders had to consider the impact on the people, and look past the possible pain they could endure for being wrong. They believed Gideon could possibly win, but decided that past history and the size of the troop of the Kings had a higher possibility of winning.
Sometimes you have to bear thorns and briers!
I am sure they heard the cascading message of the battle, and braced themselves for the encounter with Gideon. While they hoped the moment would pass, they were ready to face it, and prepared to embrace it. And true to form, a leader will always have to answer for his decisions. Many of us have been chosen to bear the scars that come along with leadership. Leaders make decision knowing that they receive the full showering of the victory, and the terrible lashing that come along with defeat. Yet, we lead.
Potential Pain must not influence the Decision!
Leaders must stay balanced, accepting the good with the bad, focused on the people, not on the potential pain. And while they might learn and choose differently in the future, they remain at peace with their decision, because it took into account the information of yesterday, not the data of today. The reality is, everyone is correct after the fact! Leaders know this, and don’t waiver with criticism or failings.
Respect is often Earned
Gideons goal was to teach the men of Succoth to respect him by inflicting pain upon those that they admired and respected. And truly they did. They watched as their leaders were punished for the decision they made with them in mind. And while some of them feared Gideon, I am willing to bet some gained more respect for the ones that bore stripes from the thorns and briers.
Gideon on a rampage is determined to earn the respect he believes he deserves. Maybe the desertion of the original soldiers has left him feeling the need to assert himself among the onlookers? Maybe some past failings has led him to want to prove himself? We don’t know! But we do know that the taunting words of the men of Succoth have vexed him so, that he was determined to come back and make them respect him.
Yes, he made them put some respect on his name. Where they might have spoken his name causally, he wanted to insure that it was spoken from this point on with reverence, fear and trembling.
Before we put Gideon on full trial, I guess this would be the right moment to disqualify ourselves as good character witnesses! While Gideon is clearly wrong, it is safe to conclude that his shoes have been worn by us all at some point in life. We have all allowed the words of someone to serve as the driving force and reason for our actions.
And yes, again, this is wrong; but God allowed it. Maybe God allowed it to further motivate Gideon? God allowed this to be a part of his story, and was so kind enough to document it so that we could also identify with his journey. Sadly, there are some stories like this in my past. And while they have not been marked into the paper, they have been etched into the tree! God has died for the sins both you and I have committed. His blood covers the penalty and helps us deal with the shame. His love covers us, and allows us to start each day new, knowing that the only respect due is to God, and the only opinion and approval that matters comes from Him.