King of the Trees
August 12, 2018 Series: Trees
Topic: Service Passage: Judges 9:1–9:21
Like the kings of Israel later in history, the judges of Israel were a mixed lot--some were good, some were evil. Gideon was a good judge; when the people wanted to make him king after the Midianites were defeated, he refused, reminding the Israelites that "the Lord will rule over you" (Judges 8:23). On the other hand, Abimelech, one of Gideon's sons, was an evil judge. He was determined to crown himself king, and he won friends and influenced people in Shechem with public relations savvy worthy of a modern-day politician. He showed his true colours, though, when he used the campaign contributions he'd recieved to hire a gang of thugs. (Note his brutal hypocrisy here; he appealed to family in order to gain support from his clan, and then proceeded to murder his own brothers in order to eliminate any rivals.)
Jotham's parable about the king of the trees was a curse on Abimelech and his followers, a curse that soon came to pass (see Judges 9:22-57). But this parable is also a lesson about what godly leadership should be like, and what it should not be like. The olive tree, the fig tree, and the grape vine all refuse to become king of the trees, because their beneficial, everyday tasks (providing oil, figs, and wine) were more important to them than being king; in other words, they were all too busy doing what God created them to do to crave power for themselves. The thornbush had no beneficial, everyday tasks, but it did crave power. (The allusion to fire is especially approriate, since the only thing thornbushes are any good for is kindling wood.)
There are plenty of "thornbushes" today, both in the world and in the church--people who talk a good line about leadership, visions, and plans for the future, but who in reality have nothing but a lust for power. Such people, when they get into a leadership position, eventually betray themselves by abusing and exploiting the people they lead. It is far better to have leaders who are like the olive tree, or the fig tree, or the grape vine. These types of people don't want to lead, and often see leadership as a hassle, because they are too busy being a blessing to others. They're too busy doing what God created them to do to crave power for themselves.
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