Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 21 Apr 18:
1. Judges 9:3-5 — “…their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, ‘He is our brother.’… Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, who followed him. And he went to his father’s house at Ophrah and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone.” When greed and prejudice dominates politics, corrupt and heartless leaders are chosen who will destroy.
2. Judges 9:14, 15 — “Then all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come and reign over us.’ And the bramble said to the trees, ‘If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade’.” The first parable recorded in the Bible is about the consequence of raising up corrupt leaders, professional politicians: Abimelech (meaning: “my father is king”), an illegitimate son of Gideon’s, born of a concubine who was in Shechem, convinced the leaders of Schechem, appealing to their racism (Shechem was a Canaanite city), to make him King. With the money that he was paid, Abimelech hires “worthless and reckless fellows, who followed him,” and he eliminates his legitimate opposition, the rightful successors of Gideon – he kills “his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone. But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, for he hid himself.” At Abimelech’s inauguration ceremony as King before the people of Schechem, Jotham stands on top of a distant hill and shouts out the “Parable of the Trees.” In the parable, the trees decide to elect a king, and they ask first the Olive tree, then the fig tree, and then the grape vine, but they all refuse to be king because they are all successful, important contributors to society and have no desire to leave their industry to “hold sway over the trees.” So, finally, they go to the bramble (thorn bush), and ask the bramble to reign. The bramble who serves no productive value in society, produces nothing, but only feeds off of the labors of others gladly accepts leadership, promising to give all the other trees “refuge” in his “shade,” as if a thorn bush offers any shade. The parable accurately predicts that the bramble will “devour the cedars of Lebanon.” This story in Judges goes far beyond revealing the consequences of Gideon’s sin (an important lesson in itself), it sends an important message/warning about politicians. There is a terrible consequence of electing worthless leaders, lacking character and competence, men and women who make empty promises and rally rabble to political action in order to remain in power, who feed off of the productivity of others. These career politicians, brambles offer refuge and shade but only destroy. Our Founding Fathers had a healthy distrust of government that came from not only their own experiences but also from their knowledge of the Bible:
– “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth [you wish it was just a 10th] of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” (1 Samuel 8:11-18)
– How important is it to elect men and women of true character and competence to office? I don’t believe this can be done without a concerted effort on the part of Christians who have always served as the conscience of America. Like the olive tree, the fig tree, and the grape vine, we can get so focused on contributing to society that we miss that the thorn bushes are slowly devouring us. Christians must re-discover thier voice in the social dialogue in order to influence change.
3. Judges 9:56, 57 — “Thus God returned the evil of Abimelech, which he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers. And God also made all the evil of the men of Shechem return on their heads, and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal.” God will judge both corrupt leaders as well as those who chose them.
4. Judges 10:8 — “For eighteen years they oppressed all the people of Israel who were beyond the Jordan in the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead.” It takes a long time to change the character of a people so that they will again seek The Lord.
5. Proverbs 21:2 — “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart.” God defines right and wrong not people.
6. Proverbs 21:27 — “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; how much more when he brings it with evil intent.” God examines the motives behind what you do. You can do the right things for the wrong reasons and receive God’s disfavor.
7. Psalm 46:10, 11 — “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Relax. God is God, and He is with you and will protect you.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 21 April: Resolve not to get worried about news, politics, and the craziness of life around you. Rather, “be still,” and trust God. When others start talking about politics and politicians, talk about Jesus and the Ways of God. Proclaim the truth in love and remain calm. Remind people that only Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the only true hope for peace and unity.