“And the olive tree said to them, ‘Should I leave my fatness, which in me God and men are honored and shall I go to dominate the trees?’” (Judges 9:9)
Here we see that Jotham, who is telling the story, understands what is going on. The rightful tree rejects the offer of kingship, just as Gideon, his father, had done. Why is that? Because Gideon understood that it is God, not man, who should call and anoint a king. God had called Gideon to judge for a time, not to create a dynasty to his name. We see this in the response of the olive tree.
Literally, the olive tree asks if he should leave his abundance to go and “shake” over the other trees. The word e1On (nua) refers to a violent shaking, usually over something or someone else. There is an implication that through this shaking, fear is generated in the hearts of others. When God does not ordain a king, that king assumes power by subjecting others to his own authority. We can see what happened with Abimelech. The first act he did in seeking to be king is to have all of his brothers executed. The olive tree recognized that were he to accept the kingship, it would be a violent rule.
And why would the olive tree be leaving its abundance? Olive trees are neither the largest nor the most hardy of trees. The “shaking” of itself over the other trees would likely destroy him just as violent windstorms do great damage to olive orchards. The tree recognized that rulership by the terms of the world not only requires the domination of others, but it is self-destructive as well.
There are two things that I think we should learn from this. The first is just simply a reflection on the values of the world. Ruling by the world’s terms takes a huge toll on the person. One of the things that I find quite interesting is to watch the hair color of presidents change from the time they are a candidate to the time they close out their term in office. If you do not believe that stress brings on gray hair, I challenge you to start digging up before and after pictures of some of our recent presidents. One of the most dramatic changes could be seen in Bill Clinton. As a candidate, his hair had color; by the time he left office, it was snowy white. This is admittedly an extreme example, but the principle remains: worldly leadership will take a huge toll on you.
The second thing that we should take from the response of the olive tree is an understanding of calling. Each of us is called to a different occupation in life to serve the Lord. Some are called to be preachers, others are called to be farmers, and still others are called to be accountants and teachers and lawyers, etc… All believers have a calling and not one is higher than the other. If, when we understand our calling to be x,y, or z, we do something else, that is sin. God has given us skills and gifts to serve him in a particular way, and even if the opportunity is given to us to serve otherwise—though it may satisfy our egos to do so—we should not deviate from that which God has given for us to do. The olive tree understood that his calling was to bless people with its good fruit, not to destroy itself, domineering over the other trees. Wisely, it stayed with its calling.
Friends, I lay the example of the olive tree before you. Bear fruit in the calling that God has given to you—whatever that calling may be, glorify God in what you are doing. This is the only way you will find satisfaction in life and the only way you will bless God and men with your fruit.