“The trees surely went to anoint a king over them. And they said to the olive tree, “You must surely reign over us!”
As we see what is going on in the land of Israel at this time, and as we reflect back at the history of Israel as it moves out of the book of Judges and into the books of Samuel and Kings, we get a taste for the heart of the people. They want an earthly king over them. Why is this? Certainly, they had a king in God. He sent his prophets and judges to lead his people when necessary and he provided Levites to provide for the people’s religious needs. Why would they want a king?
As we spoke earlier, though, the Israelites had not driven the Canaanites from the land and the Israelites had adopted much of the Canaanite culture into their own. They looked at the other nations and said to themselves, we must have a king so that we can be known in the land. They were not interested in God’s protection and leadership; they were interested in their own honor and greatness. Thus we see the people longing to make Gideon their king and when he refused, they made Abimelech their king against his wishes (as he had said that no son of his should be king). So here we see the eagerness of the trees, who need no king, but want one to satisfy their own ego. And they begin by going to the olive tree.
It is absolutely appropriate that they look to the olive tree first. The Olive tree is a symbol of Israel in both the Old and the New Testaments (Jeremiah 11:16, Romans 11:17) and also is used in Messianic imagery as well (Zechariah 4:11-14). Of course, olives were a staple fruit throughout the history of Israel. Not only were they used as food but they provided oil for cooking and for lamps.
The trees have gone to the rightful leader first, God’s anointed tree, if you will. In the context of this story, they went to Gideon, the judge first. The problem that came out of this is that in their zeal to have a king, when he refused, they did not stop there. They were determined to make their own king rather than waiting for God to raise someone up to fulfill their needs.
How often do we do we behave this way in our own lives. We look at the world around us and get jealous of the things that they have and we perceive ourselves as lacking because we do not have them. We know from scripture and experience that God blesses us when it is appropriate and in his time, but we aren’t always satisfied with that. We want God to act on our own timetable and according to our own parameters. And when God says “no” to us, we go about trying to make things happen for ourselves.
What trouble we usually make for ourselves when we do this. Indeed, that is where this parable is going, and of course, that is where the history of the people of Israel takes them. Friends, as we reflect on this parable, let us reflect also on our own lives and learn from the mistakes of those who have failed before us. Let us learn to wait as the psalmist calls us to do, when he says:
“My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.” (Psalm 130:6)
Let us learn now to wait upon the Lord and not rush headlong into trouble and sin.