Now when they told Jotham, he went and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim, and lifted his voice and called out. Thus he said to them, "Listen to me, O men of Shechem, that God may listen to you.Judges 9:7(NASB)
We are familiar with the many parables Jesus told in the New Testament, but Judges chapter 9 contains one of the few parables found in the Old Testament. It was told to the people of Israel by Jotham, the youngest son of Gideon who is remembered as the judge who laid out a fleece before God - as a reassurance from God that His promise of Israel's victory over the Midianites and His pledge to be with them was true.
Before being called by the Lord to lead Israel against their enemies, Gideon was named 'Jerubbaal' after a pagan god. But Gideon was faithful to the Lord and during his 40-year long leadership, Israel enjoyed peace and safety. However, as soon as he died, the people returned to worshipping the baals and other false gods.
Israel forgot that the Lord had delivered them from all their foes under the steadfast leadership of Gideon. They forgot his kindness towards them and even turned against Gideon's family. This resulted in Abimelech, a power-hungry usurper - one of 'Jerubbaal's' many sons, taking the law into his own hands to maintain dominion over Israel as their new leader.
Abimelech, which means 'Molech is my father' was not appointed as judge by God to succeed his father, nevertheless this wicked man persuaded the citizens of Shechem to establish him as their next leader, by having about seventy of his own brothers murdered by worthless and reckless men.
Jotham, the youngest son of Gideon, escaped alive and climbed to the top of Mount Gerizim in an attempt to expose this terrible crime and to challenge the citizens of Shechem to examine their motives in collaborating with Abimelech's power-grab and permitting this terrible crime to take place. He called them to examine their consciences to see if endorsing Abimelech's evil was God's will and way.
Crying out to the weak-willed inhabitants of Shechem, the brave young Jotham shouted, "Listen to me, lords of Shechem, and may God listen to you." Jotham courageously challenged the leaders of Shechem to examine their actions and motives in supporting Abimelech's grab for power by telling them 'a parable of the trees'. All the trees of the forest set out to anoint a king over them. Different trees like the Olive tree, the Fig tree, and the Grapevine, were asked to become 'king of the Trees' - but these worthy trees declined the request.
Finally, the trees asked the thorny Bramble bush to reign over them. "If you really are anointing me as king over you," the Bramble bush said, "come and find refuge in my shade. But if not, may fire come out from the bramble and consume the cedars of Lebanon." Just as a scrubby bramble bush provides no shelter for tall cedar trees, so Abimelech was no protection for the citizens of Shechem, but they crowned him king, nonetheless.
Jotham finished his parable by saying that IF they had acted honestly and done righteously in going along with Abimelech's plan to make him their king, and rewarded him appropriately - then their actions would have honoured his father Gideon, and they would have been able to rejoice and it would be well for them. However, IF that were not the case and their actions were dishonourable - then they would be cut down and destroy one another in a civil war.
When Jotham escaped the massacre and stood on the mountain and shouted, "Listen to me, O men of Shechem, that God may listen to you," he was calling them to account before the Lord for their actions. They had condoned the evil slaughter of seventy sons of his father Gideon, by accepting Abimelech who was nothing more than a cruel power-hungry murderer, as their leader.
It was not long before Jotham's rebuke was fulfilled. Division and destruction came to the city of Shechem and the evil Abimelech met his end. When evil is sown and embraced, the fruit of evil is reaped. The people of Shechem chose to exclude the Lord from the lives, following the death of God's servant Gideon - with disastrous results.
May we choose the good, eschew what is evil, and never compromise our position in Christ, for God is not mocked and what a man sows in life is what he will reap.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word and the lessons I can learn from people like Gideon, who was a faithful servant, and the speed with which pride entered the heart of his son, Abimelech. I see how quickly wickedness and apostasy can infiltrate a church or community when the rule of law is discarded and righteous judgement is removed from an individual, a family, a church, or a nation. Examine my heart, I pray, and if there are any seeds of evil within - cleanse me of them. Purify my heart, and may I grow in grace and in a knowledge of the Lord Jesus, day by day. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.