In Hebrews chapter 11 we have a list of people commended for living by faith. Included in this list is someone called Gideon (Judges 6-8), a 'nobody' who at one time was a leader of Israel. Missing from that list is the first King of Israel, Saul (1 Samuel 9-31). Why? What is the difference between these two that God, by including in that list of people who lived by faith, commended one and not the other?

Of Gideon, in church, we only hear of the events which catapulted him to fame and public attention (Judges 6). I don't recall anything being mentioned about the ephod (monument) which he setup later and which became a snare to him and his family (Judges 8:8-27). He started well, but ... I don't want to leave a legacy like that!

Of Saul his calling to be King was spectacular (1 Samuel 9-10) at a time when international trouble of brewing (1 Samuel 12:12), like Gideon his first military adventure was a success (1 Samuel 11).

Like Gideon Saul also built a monument, but that monument was in his own honour (1 Samuel 15:12). Gideon's monument was an ephod, an object of worship, presumably an idol supposed to represent Jahweh - something forbidden. The people had wanted Gideon and his family to rule over them, but he declined, maybe his ephod was a misguided attempt to divert attention from himself to Jahweh, the saviour and ruler of Israel (Judges 8:23).

Both Gideon and Saul faced the issue of army deserters - people who were afraid of the enemy and running away. Gideon trusted Jahweh, the God of Israel, and gave them free passes out of the battle field (Judges 7:2-3). Saul saw his men scattering and got all religious in order to seek Jahweh's favour, without waiting for the prophet Samuel to arrive (as instructed) - and it cost him the kingdom (1 Samuel 13:7-15). Presumably Saul knew about Gideon and the situation he faced. Maybe Samuel and Saul had talked about Gideon beforehand, when Saul was anointed as King (1 Samuel 24:25).

So two men.
Gideon heard the word of Jahweh and obeyed. Despite a disappointing end he was commended for his faith.
Saul got all religious (1 Samuel 10:9-11, 1 Samuel 13:9, 1 Samuel 14:24), and it cost him the kingdom (1 Samuel 13:13-14).

1 Samuel 15:22-23

Does the Lord (Jahweh) delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you.

Jesus said something similar in Matthew 7:21-23

Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord", will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?" Then I will tell them plainly, "I never knew you, Away from me, you workers of iniquity!".

Jesus spoke elsewhere about those who put on a good religious show (Luke 18:11). Here in Matthew 7 he highlights the need to know him, about hearing his words and putting them into practice (i.e. obeying the Lord).

In Matthew 7:21 Jesus refers to the will of Father God. The will of Father God is good news for the poor, freedom for prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, freedom for the oppressed - prophesying, driving out demons. Performing miracles are part of the package, they are normal Christianity (Hebrews 2:4, Mark 16:20, Acts 4:30). But, do you know Him?