Do you know a lot about Gideon? I have to admit, I couldn’t put my finger on the right biography for this man of God. Different scenarios and stories were coming to my mind but I wasn’t quite sure which one went with Gideon. What did cross my mind were the bibles found in hotels, “placed by the Gideons”.
Curious, I did some digging on why they are called Gideon bibles and where they come from.
Two traveling salesman, one paper and one aluminum, happen to stop at the same hotel for overnight accommodations in Boscobel, Wisconsin in 1898. It was a crowded night and the hotel manager bunked them up in the same room, commenting that they were the only two sober minded men around.
As the story goes, John Nicholson asked Samuel Hill if he minded if he kept the light on so he could read his devotion. A simple question that went on to have a profound impact. Samuel Hill asked him to read aloud for both of them. And they had a discussion about salesman needing a Christian network and support while traveling. The two cross paths again the following spring in a different town in a different hotel. It was at this second encounter that they felt God‘s leading for them to start some sort of Christian organization to support traveling salesman in their faith. They didn’t know how, when, where, or even what, but they knew they were supposed to join together and start something. The original group was called the Gideon’s Commercial Travelers Association of America, in recognition of the faith of Gideon. One hundred and twenty years later, this group has evolved into Gideon’s International, with the mission of supporting both believers and non-believers by making the gospel available. The first bible was placed in a hotel in 1908, and since then, they have distributed over two billion bibles worldwide! It’s crazy to think about and wonder how many lives have been impacted by the scriptures made readily available to people across the globe.
So what was it about Gideon’s faith that was so inspiring to them? He’s even called out in Hebrews 11 in the Faith Hall of Fame.
Review these three chapters and what stands out to you? Here are some things that stuck in my mind:
- The Israelites turned away (again) from God and had been under oppression for seven years from the Midianites. Then they pray and cry out to God for deliverance. Wonder what their strategy was the first seven years? Maybe one from my own play book… “I got this”…anyone else use that play too often and for too long?
- God answers their prayer through the youngest son of an idol worshipper, appearing to Gideon and instructing him and encouraging him each step of the way. God sought him when he was at his lowest, beating wheat while in hiding from the Midianites. He didn’t feel equipped or worthy for the work God planned for him. We may not always know (or believe) how God wants to use us!
- God gave Gideon multiple signs to show him he was the true God, he could be trusted to conquer the Midianites. Even in the midst of these miracles and signs, Gideon had doubts and asked for more signs. God didn’t respond to Gideon in anger, but met him where he was at and provided the comfort Gideon needed. Step by step he continued to trust and obey the Lord, even when Gideon didn’t know the plan or how the Israelites could ever defeat the Midianites. We can take our doubts, fears, and questions to God!
- God wanted the victory to be very clear – it’s wasn’t a victory due to the army size – so he stacked the deck in favor of the Midianites. Instead of Israelites 32,000 vs. Midianites 135,000, he reduced Gideon’s Israelite army to 300. God wanted his people to return to him, and he wanted this landslide victory to humble their hearts toward him. How do I get in the way of God’s power, victory, or glory shining to draw people back to him?
- Gideon and his men return to a hero’s hometown welcome and have to ward off all the royal treatment, glory, fame, and requests for Gideon to lead them as king. The gold collected from the slain Midianites he used to make a golden ephod (a garment worn under the high priest’s breast plate) which he put on display. We don’t know Gideon’s motives for the ephod, but I’d like to think he did that as a symbol of God’s victory and for the people to remember that they are a nation of priests led directly by God (as opposed to placing Gideon as king). Like many traditions and symbols that start with good intentions, this one falters over time. The Israelites eventually go back to idol worship, beginning with this ephod, and eventually turn back to worshipped Baal (40 years later after Gideon dies). What God-focused traditions are getting elevated above God today?
I love this real hero of faith that we can learn from and be inspired by. Just like God mapped out Gideon’s path, he also planned Nicholson and Price to be roommates. Can you look back at steps you felt led to take, when they didn’t make sense at the time, and now you can see how God was using it for a future plan? What a neat testimony that we can take with us into the next step of faith we need to take.
Six years ago, our small group wanted to spend a few months as a group going through a specific biblical financial study (hint: white envelopes). I was dragging my feet… coming up with every reason why we should do something else. There’s more important topics right now. We’re already pretty frugal. The couples in our group are all in really different financial places. And many other great “points” (excuses?). I lost the vote and so the small group went forward. During the study, my husband and I came away with a renewed passion for giving, oh, and one other little nugget that later proved to be miraculous for us. The majority of our emergency type savings was tied up in retirement accounts and places that weren’t easily available (penalties, time constraints, etc). We took the program’s advice and made a lot of changes to where & how much we keep separate for emergencies (never truly believing we would have that big of an emergency, but hey, follow the program). No big surprise, six months later, we hit a very unexpected season and had it not been for these changes, we would have been under a much larger amount of financial strain and stress. God went before us and led us to these changes, knowing exactly what was coming.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.