Preacher Solomon spoke of one of life’s most frustrating conundrums when he said in Ecclesiastes 10:5-7 – “There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, as an error which proceedeth from the ruler: 6 Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place. 7 I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.” One of the greatest follies in life it seems, is the tragedy of giving dignity to the foolish.
Without much imagination, we are all familiar with a popular man who rose to power, and ruined his people. From the very beginning, everything within a right minded heart would nearly burst with overwhelming incredulity at the peoples choice of such a man
– Questions surround the nativity of his birth, and whether or not he was naturally qualified for office.
– He campaigned on the promise of fundamentally Changing the government
– He had no prior experience
– His faith was ambiguous at best
– He was for strong central government
– After he took office, he attempted to expand his power
– Within three years of reigning, the good will between he and his people had grown thin –
Now of course everyone knows that I am talking about Abimelech, the evil ruler in Israel who was elected as usurper in chief over the men of Shechem. Abimelech was not only a lying politician, he was murdering tyrant who killed thousands of people. He was a man you wouldn’t put in charge of parking cars on a deserted island; yet he was elected to an office that was no office, and chosen by a people married to no real principles.
It is truly a tragic story. Gideon the Judge had died and Abimelech his son, convinced the men of Shechem to make him king. (An office that didn’t exist at the time.) Upon the murdering of his family, election as king and inauguration into office, his sole remaining half-brother Jotham, delivered one of the most piercing parables of politics, of all time; it is affectionately known as the “parable of the trees.”
8 The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us.
9 But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?
10 And the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and reign over us.
11 But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees?
12 Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us.
13 And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?
14 Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us.
15 And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon. Judges 9:8-15
While it is not my intention here to give analysis of every part of the parable, (which is rich with wonderful application) It is my intention to look rather at the entire scenario, and ask how does this happen? What is it that causes a people to elect bramble to be their rulers?
There are three things from the background of this story that stand out as sinister ingredients that formulate a derelict decision.
Disconnect From Spiritual History Judges 8:33-34 – “And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and made Baalberith their god. And the children of Israel remembered not the LORD their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side:” In context these events occurred in the course of Israel’s repeated cycle of rebellion and repentance; which constitutes the recurring theme in the book of Judges. Here is some insight; the first step in any collapse of a people is to disconnect from their spiritual history. The Psalmist asked in Psalm 11:3 – “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” It follows as Spring follows Winter, that when any people separate from the Spiritual foundation, all that is left is a religious house that has no standing. With nothing to stand on, there is nothing to stand for. The foundation of a house determines the duration of a house, and a people’s Biblical spiritual history serves as the guardrails for spiritual destiny.
What does our faith stand on? The Word of God. What was the first thing that Lucifer sought to undermine in the Garden? The Word of God. The question had been asked of Gideon if he would be King and he flatly turned it down standing firmly on the Word of God. God had made him a judge, not a king, and he would not differ from what the Lord had done. In fact Gideon delivered a clear message that not only would he not be king, but neither would his sons, but that God would be their ruler. There was a sure foundation for the people to stand on when Gideon was their leader. However, the first step in Abimelech’s rise, and Shechem’s fall as a people; they denied the exclusivity of the God of the Bible, turned from their spiritual history, and embraced the apostasy of Baal.
Discontent With Sacred Honor – When you lose your spiritual footing you have no regard for sacred honor. The next thing you see when you study the recipe for a derelict decision is the fact that the people had no regard for the honor and wisdom of their historic leader. Though Gideon had his faults and made his mistakes there were two character traits that were disregarded by the people.
1.) The Nobility of Gideon 8:22-23 – He would not rule as King. “Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you.” As previously stated Gideon was clear on one thing; God had made him a judge, not a king. Gideon had honor enough, to recognize the rule of God and the role of man. Concerning the issue of political power and public popularity he was more concerned with his obedience to God, than the praise of the people. (I’m reminded of the fact that our nation’s first president, George Washington, was pleaded with by some, to set himself up as king. – To which The Good George refused.) Such honor and nobility was lost on the people. Rather than applauding the nobility of a man, and learning such a lesson, they yielded themselves to “what’s better for you” politics.
2.) The Humility of Gideon – Take note of how the parable depicts Gideon and his sons; Olive trees, fig trees, and the vine. The very best of best among the land of Israel. These were the three most precious fruit producing trees in Israel. However, Gideon and his (other) sons had the humility to never seek what the Lord didn’t offer. They would not trade their God given purpose for man’s praise, for anything. Now you would think such Honor and such virtue would be admired. But the fact is that Unscrupulous people have no time for such “sentimental hogwash.”
Desire For Social Happiness – Now social happiness is not wrong in and of itself, but it’s what’s behind it that makes it bad. When you separate from Spiritual history, have no regard for sacred honor, and then you throw in a desire for social happiness, you have a people prepared to elect the bramble as their leader. In the first part of chapter 9 when Abimelech was campaigning, his appeal to the men of Shechem was the modern day version of “are you better off than you were four years ago.” He said in verse 2 “Whether is better for you . . .” This is the politicians appeal to situational and circumstantial prosperity. The question of the day is always the same among the political world, “What is better for you?” When any people lose sight of the fact that the issues are never about “better or worse,” or “what works and what doesn’t work” but about what is right and what is wrong; they will choose with material eyesight, rather than spiritual insight. There is a right and wrong behind every economic decision, but sometimes the right decision costs money, and sometimes the wrong decision makes money. Abimelech’s campaign was a campaign of social promise, and political salesmanship. To get ahead of that kind of thinking,one has to learn to look through the issues, to the principles behind the issues, to discern the true welfare of society. There is far more to the welfare of a society than the wealth of a society, and Biblical minded people know that.
Now here is the proof that’s in the pudding. When they disconnected themselves from their Spiritual heritage, disregarded all sacred honor, and welcomed the promise of secular happiness, the Bible says in verse 3 that “their hearts were inclined to follow Abimelech.”
When any society that once knew the Lord willfully separates itself from the standards of the Lord, it is certain that man will do strange and sinister things. He will make choices no spiritual mind would make, and will even yield himself to be subject to the bramble. Recognizing the cause and effect of derelict decisions in the society that we live in would be a more than welcomed change worth making. Pray for the voters of our nation.