In Judges 7, Gideon calls out his battle cry, “For the Lord and for Gideon.”
Judges 8 opens with him backtracking a little in humility. The Ephramites are upset they weren’t called out to battle. Gideon praises them that they have done more than he has. It assuages their anger.
When the battles are over, the people want Gideon to rule and to create a legacy of his children and grandchildren ruling over Israel. Gideon says that he will not, but that the Lord will rule over Israel.
This, of course, is the right answer. But, God still uses people in His leading. He led the people through Moses and Joshua. He had led through judges. Gideon was going to lead for God, with God as the true ruler of the people.
Maybe some of that trepidation kicks in. God had spoken to him to call him to battle. He knew God has spoken to him. He knew he had successfully led the troops with God in command. But maybe he started thinking instead of trusting. Ever do that?
He asks the people for gold from the spoils and makes an ephod. In Exodus we read about the ephod as a priestly garment that they wore to be in God’s presence. Later we’ll read about David calling for the ephod to be brought to him when he wanted to ask God something.
Suddenly, it seems, Gideon felt he needed something more for God to be able to use him, to speak to him. Instead of trusting the God who already showed Himself able and willing to speak to him, Gideon relies on what God had done with other people.
The ephod was a Biblical thing. It was a tool of the priests. It was God’s idea. That’s not the point. The point is God didn’t tell them to do it. The God who cared for Gideon through the defeat of the Midianites was now relegated to a physical tool to get the answers people wanted.
The Bible uses strong language, saying they whored after it. Instead of trusting in God, they trusted in this thing made by man. We do the same any time we copy and imitate how God works through and uses others. We’re to live in relationship with God, not use the methods of others as an imitation of following God.