“Then all the trees finally turned to the thornbush and said, ‘Come, you be our king!’ And the thornbush replied, ‘If you truly want to make me your king, come and take shelter in my shade. If not, let fire come out from me and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’“ - Judges 9:14-15
A wise man once said, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But the power that corrupts has an appeal. Men still seek it, because they feel they can enjoy the freedom that power brings without suffering the corrupting bondage it imposes.
God tried to warn his people of this danger. They listened with tin ears. Israel was called to be a theocracy—they were to live under divine rule. But for a theocracy to work, the people must honor the Lord and walk in his ways. The children of Israel had no intention of living this way. They looked longingly at the surrounding monarchies and longed for a similar system. So they asked their hero, Gideon, to accept the role of king, but he declined and said, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son. The Lord will rule over you” (8:23).
When Gideon died, his son Abimelech had no such compunctions. He wanted to rule, so he set about establishing his power base. First he went to Shechem, the home of his mother, Gideon’s concubine. There he played the ethnic card, telling his relatives that, because he was their “flesh and blood,” they could expect a better deal from him than from any of his seventy half-brothers, who he implied were looking for a chance to take over. The result was that he won their support, collected their money, and hired some mercenaries. Then he murdered all his half-brothers. Nice guy! Thus he dealt with any possible opposition—or so he thought. But one brother, Jotham, escaped. Jotham courageously appeared on a rock overlooking Shechem and loudly proclaimed a parable about a useless bramble becoming king. The message was abundantly clear: Jotham’s useless half-brother was offering what he could not give, but he would stop at nothing to get power!
The desire for a degree of power over our own lives is understandable. But power over other people is often involved, because if others control us we are not in control. This is where the problems arise. In the human heart, a legitimate desire for freedom from oppression can quickly become a lust for power over others. Then anything goes. The depths to which the human soul can then plunge are unfathomable. The noble themes of the French Revolution—“liberté, égalité, fraternité”—quickly degenerated into a bloodbath. Those who were freed from oppression mercilessly oppressed the opposition. There’s only one sure way to handle the lust for power, and Gideon said it: “The Lord will rule over you!”
For Further Study: Judges 9:1-21
Excerpted from The One Year Devotions for Men, Copyright ©2000 by Stuart Briscoe. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.
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