Gideon: From Cowardice to Courage to Compromise



On January 15, 2009 Flight 1549 was in the air just 3 minutes when both engines were disabled by a flock of geese.  Chesley Brunett “Sully” Sullenberger, III and his crew took immediate action and made a flawless landing into the Hudson River, barley clearing the George Washington Bridge on its descent.  That afternoon the US Airways Airbus left the LaGuardia airport, headed for Charlotte, North Carolina but just minutes later rested in the cold waters of the Hudson.  All 155 passengers were safe and were quickly rescued from the sinking plane. 


Sully Sullenberger became an instant hero.   He later appeared on national television, wrote a book and received numerous awards and speaking engagements.  He even had a chance to meet the President and was ranked second in Time Magazine’s “Top 100 Most Influential Heroes and Icons”.  Captain Sullenberger was never known as a hero.  In fact his friends describe him as being "shy and reticent".  He was known by many as, “Captain Cool”.  Yet in one critical moment his 19,000 hours of flight time and 42 years of experience paid off.   Speaking with news anchor Katie Couric, Sullenberger said, "One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years, I've been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience: education and training. And on January 15 the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal."


·         Do you think Captain Sully Sullenberger is a hero?  Why or why not?

·         Is it important for people to have heroes?

·         What are the advantages or disadvantages of having modern day heroes?  Why?

·         What characteristics would you say we should look for in a modern day hero?

·         What is the difference between a hero and a mentor?


Study the Word

The Bible, and especially the Old Testament, is filled with stories of great heroes.  We often consider Gideon to be among the greatest.  Read and review the story of Gideon and discuss his “heroic” qualities.


1.      Gideon’s Cowardice

·         (Judges 6:1-7) Seven years of bondage under the Midianites had brought Israel to its lowest level. Instead of “riding on the high places” (Deut. 32:13), they were hiding in the dens! The Israelites were not even allowed to harvest their grain, which explains why we find Gideon hiding in the winepress.[1]

·         (Judges 6:7-9) God sent an un-named prophet to remind the people how He delivered them from bondage and how their disobedience led them to fear.

·         (Judges 6:12, 14)  God chooses Gideon to lead the people.  He opens by calling him a mighty man of valor.

·         Gideon struggles with his calling.  The list of verses below describes how Gideon dealt with his fears and doubts.  Yet God gave an answer every time.  List Gideon’s doubts.  Then discuss how God responded.

·         Judges 6: 13—(God’s response 6:13b-14)

·         Judges 6:15—(God’s response 6:16)

·         Judges 6:17—(God’s response 6:21-22)

·         Judges 6:37-38—(God’s response 6:38)

·         Judges 6:39-40—(God’s Response 6:40)


2.     Gideon’s Courage

God patiently answered all of Gideon’s doubts and questions until he eventually became fearless.  He was a hero--an inspiration to all the people.  So much so, that they were willing to make him a king and establish a dynasty.  Review the list of Gideon’s courageous acts.

·         Judges 6:25-27 (Gideon tears down the alter of Baal)

·         Judges 6:34-35 (Gideon calls the people together for battle)

·         Judges 7:1-8 (Gideon obeys God and reduces the troops to just 300 men)


3.     Gideon’s Conquests

·         Judges 7:12 (Gideon leads the army to victory)

·         Judges 8:1-3 (Gideon courageously responds to his critics)

·         Judges 8:1-21 (Gideon’s victories)


4.     Gideon’s Compromise

After his great conquests Gideon collected 70 pounds of jewelry that once belonged to the Midianites, and which was used as part of their idol worship. (Gen. 35:1-4) Then he made his own golden idol.  Judges 8:27 says, “And Gideon made an ephod (idol) of it and put it in his city, ?in Ophrah. And all Israel ? whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family.”


5.     Gideon’s Collapse

The story of Gideon ends in tragedy.  Upon Gideon’s death the people rejected and killed Gideon’s family and quickly returned to worship Baal (Judges 8:29-35). There was no great dynasty.  There would be no proud legacy.  All, except one, of Gideon’s children died in shame and disrespect leaving a nation to its original state of secular idolatry.



What a disappointment! I thought Gideon was a great Bible hero!  Couldn’t we just stop the story with trumpets, horns and torches?   What is the point of this story anyway?  Have your class consider the following statements.  Which do you think most accurately reflect the purpose of this story.

·         Even heroes have their faults.  We should take the good and overlook the bad.

·         It’s not good to admire heroes.  They will always disappoint you.

·         Don’t try to be a hero.  You’ll probably just fail.

·         No matter how much you have obeyed God in the past, compromise always leads to defeat.

·         God sometimes uses people who are weak in order to accomplish His greater purpose.

·         People are naturally inclined to worship idols.

·         God doesn’t like us to worship idols. God is serious when he says, “You will have no other gods before me.”

·         This story is really not about a hero named Gideon.  It is a story about God’s relentless pursuit of love.  The story of Gideon is just one of many Old Testament stories which demonstrates how patient God is.  It tells of His holiness and justice as well as His mercy and grace.   


Life Application

The many articles, interviews, and even book written about Captain Sully depict a man who lived consistently disciplined and devoted to flight safety and training.  Captain Sully Sullenberger did not just wake up one morning and decide to be a hero.  His moment of heroism came as a result of a lifestyle devoted to the skill of flying.  The same is true of our Christian life. What would happen if you devoted your life to the skill of being godly?  Is it possible to rise up as a generation of true Christian heroes?  Where to do we begin?  What can we (you) do to get started? 









[1]Wiersbe, Warren W.: Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the Old Testament. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1993, S. Jdg 6:1

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