A Father’s Example

 “Take your father’s bull and a second bull seven years old, and pull down the
altar of Baal which belongs to your father… and build an altar to the LORD your God on the top
of this stronghold in an orderly manner…” Judges 6:25-26

Before the people of Israel crossed into the Promised Land, God left them many commands to
observe there. An often-cited few of them is:

“ Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD
your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which
I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons
and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you
lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as
frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your
gates.” Deut. 6:4-9

From such a beautiful passage of scripture the Jews learned deep theology and how to love God,
both in their spirit and in the home. What God commanded Israel, He expected them to practice
and to model intentionally for their kids. That first generation of God’s people whom Moses led
throughout the desert saw the power of God in the parting of the Red Sea, in the provision of
water and of manna, and in their very survival of those long, forty years. It was their
responsibility to teach about the LORD and model worship and dependence on
Him. But what happens when one generation fails to pass on what God has taught them? What
happens when one generation devotes itself to another rather than God and has some
another name “written on the doorposts of your house and on your gates”?

Within a couple generations of the Israel’s entrance into the Promised Land, the people already
chose to disobey the Lord. They turned away from Him again and again and worshiped the gods
of the people whom they failed to kick out of Canaan as the Lord had commanded them. At a
national level, this habit of disobedience led to Israel’s frequent oppression and suffering at the
hands of enemy nations—a major part of the narrative in the book of Judges. At a local level,
there was a similar effect. When one generation of a family chose to disobey the Lord and
worship other gods, be they a wooden image, or something immaterial like money or success,
suffering often resulted, not only for that generation but also for their children. This was just
what happened to Joash and his son Gideon. Joash built an altar to Baal in his backyard. He was
a Hebrew, the very people to whom Moses’ words were directed in Deuteronomy 6. He was
commanded to love the Lord with all his heart, soul, and might, and, among other things, to write
the words of the Lord on the doorposts of his house and on his gates. Joash chose rather obey
Baal. This altar in Joash’s backyard was a monument of disobedience. As Gideon grew up, he
saw his dad, a man of the Chosen People of the Lord, worship another god.

What effect must Joash’s bad example had on Gideon? First off we see that his view of God
was distorted. When the angel of the Lord appeared to him and told him the LORD was with
him, Gideon said “O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And
where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
(Judges 6:13) Gideon thought that the Lord had abandoned them and had given them into the
hand of Midian. The Lord did not abandon His people. When they turned away from the
LORD, He gave them into their enemies’ hand so they might return to Him. In the
book of Judges, there was never an enemy of the people of God from whom He did not deliver
them. The oppression and suffering of the people might last for years, but God always put an
end to it when His people called out to Him in repentance. What if the altar in Joash’s backyard
tempted Gideon to think that the same God who he himself says delivered the Hebrews from
Egypt really did abandon them? If his dad changed gods, then it must be true. Just as young
people’s politics often align with their parents’, so too do their religious views. Gideon may have
followed his father in abandoning the Lord who will never abandon them.

Secondly, he was a coward. The Lord commanded Gideon to tear down the altar to Baal that his
father has and to build one for the Lord. Judges 6:27, says that he took ten men with him to do it,
and he did it at night because he was too fearful to do it in the day. What weight did that altar to
Baal have in Gideon’s mind? Had he started to worship Baal in his heart because he is fearful of
what his father might do? Did that altar represent the family values with which Gideon had been
raised? Whatever it was, Gideon feared his father’s reaction. The Lord has commanded him to go
against his father. What a terrible thing, to have to choose between the religion of your father and the religion of the Most High God.

God did not let Gideon’s story end with the bad example of his father. God stepped in and
blessed Gideon and all the nation of Israel through Gideon. Despite Joash’s disobedience to the
Lord, and the ungodly example he set for his son Gideon, God showed grace. His first words to
Gideon were, “The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior. (Judges 6:12)” Despite all the
disobedience that he had seen, Gideon trusted God enough to obey Him. The Lord bestowed
even more favor on Gideon by sovereignly working to have Gideon’s father defend his tearing
down of the altar (cf. Judges 6:31). But one has to wonder—what would Gideon’s life have been
like if Joash taught the words of the Lord diligently to Gideon and talked them when he sat in his
house and when he walked by the way and when he lay down and when he rose up? If he bound
them as a sign on his hand and they were as frontals on his forehead? If he wrote them on the
doorposts of his house and on his gates? Gideon would not have to fear his father’s household,
nor would there be an altar to tear down. Gideon would not have to choose between his father
and his God—he would have seen the Heavenly Father in his father.

What altar do we have in our backyard? Do we have an altar to money or success?
Do we have a MAGA altar? A 2nd Amendment altar? Do we have an altar to our self-image or the
respectability of our family? Whatever the altar be, if it’s not the one on which we present our
bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God in Christ, then we are setting up our
children for heartache and suffering. We may distort their view of God, or cause them to have to
choose between our backyard altar and our Father in heaven. Let us honor the Lord in our house and provide a godly example for the coming generation of Christians so that they might be “children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation…” (Phil

Matthew lives in Northern Virginia. He is a teacher by trade and loves to study the Scriptures and the history of the church. His wife Marina and he fellowship at Nokesville Bible Chapel.