Bowing to a Bramble (Judges 9)

Judges 9:56-57


56 Thus God returned the evil of Abimelech, which he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers. 57 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.


In Judges 6-8, we see the story of Gideon. Many look at him as a hero, but we see in chapter 8 and in the life of his son that Gideon lacked character. In naming his son Abimelech, Gideon chose the name of a godless leader, just as Gideon himself became a godless leader after the victory over the Midianites.


Judges 9 shows us the rise of Abimelech to power. He violently destroys his brothers and uses evil men and deceptive and nasty tactics to become ruler.


Interestingly, the following parable is recorded in this chapter about the rise of Abimelech to power:


Judges 9:8-15


8 The trees once went out to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us.’ 9 But the olive tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my abundance, by which gods and men are honored, and go hold sway over the trees?’ 10 And the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 11 But the fig tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit and go hold sway over the trees?’ 12 And the trees said to the vine, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 13 But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I leave my wine that cheers God and men and go hold sway over the trees?’ 14 Then all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 15 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, but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’


The parable uses different kinds of trees as images for a ruler. The people could not get any sort of good and godly ruler to lead them. So, the people turn to a bramble, a harsh, nasty, and untrustworthy character, and they ask him to lead instead. This, of course is Abimelech.


A look at the rest of the chapter shows the consequences of the people following a man as leader who is nasty, immoral, and dangerous. Battles happen and people die.


Then, in the end of the chapter listed above, we find out that this all happened as a result of the judgment of God.

God judged the people for choosing a man without character to lead them. God also judged Abimelech, even though it appeared, for a time, that he was successful.


In observing this passage, we should first grasp that God is sovereign over all. God used Gideon and even Abimelech to accomplish his will. God was not surprised by the rise to power of these men, nor was he surprised by their lack of personal character, but he did use them to judge those who had already turned against him. God is mighty and able to accomplish his will in an amazing way, even if that way is one that people would never expect.


Also, of interest, is the danger that is clearly present when a people choose to follow a leader who lacks character. Such a choice by the people of a land indicates that the judgment of God is coming upon a people who are refusing to follow God’s ways. God can certainly judge such a people by giving them the kind of leader they deserve. Then, God can also judge that leader as a final display of his perfect justice.


Obviously, a look at this chapter rings in my mind because of where we are in the present election cycle in my country. The people of the USA are about to elect a leader. Is it possible that we have no strong trees left and are calling on brambles to lead us? Could it be that we are facing the judgment of God for our refusal as a people to obey his commands?


I must recall that God is in control. I must recognize that God’s judgment is a part of his sovereign will. I also know that God will always be right in how he handles the nation.


The truth is, our nation certainly deserves the judgment of God. Our morality as a people has disappeared in so many ways. Goodness, even if we were a basically moral nation, God has called all people everywhere to repent and to turn to Jesus for his mercy. We, as a nation, have been far from that for a long time.


I’ll not tell people how to vote. However, I will remind people that the character of a nation’s leaders matters. If we choose to support people without character, we are certainly bowing to the bramble and facing the judgment of God. And, if we are facing that judgment, it is right and God will be glorified through it.


Lord, I look at this season in our history, and I plead with you for mercy. We deserve your judgment. I ask that you would, instead of judging us, radically save our nation for your glory. I ask that you would turn people to Jesus and thus turn our desires away from sin and toward righteousness. Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done. I ask that, should it be your will to give our nation over to our sinful desires, that you will give your people the courage to stand in the face of persecution and be a true witness to the glory of Christ.