“And the fig said to them, ‘Should I end my sweetness and my good fruit and shall I go to dominate the trees?’” (Judges 9:11)
And once again, the trees are rejected by the one they would make king. The fig rejects the throne on the same basis as the olive; gentleness, sweetness, and good fruit disappear when one becomes a despot. The olive understands that this kingship that is being offered to him is not some form of peaceful democratic rule; rather, it would be characterized by his “shaking” over the other trees—dominating them according to his will. I have often wondered what causes people to seek positions of such power. Perhaps it is a heartfelt belief that some good can be brought about, but surely great good can be done without holding the highest office in a land—take Billy Graham for example (and his son Franklin is quickly filling his father’s shoes). Usually I end up with the answer that it has to be a person’s ego that drives him to seek such power. And so often, oh, what a toll it takes.
Another thing that I find interesting about this parable is found in the choice of the trees chosen for the office of king. First, the olive is asked, next, the fig, then the grapevine and the bramble. None of these are large, stately trees. Why not ask the towering cedars or sturdy oaks? Perhaps it is a reflection of the good fruit that these trees bare (the bramble aside). I have another suggestion. The trees wanted a tree as king that could not “shake” over them. In other words, this committee of trees was looking for a king that they could control and use as a puppet, allowing them to keep the throne for themselves.
In the context of this story, note that it was not Abimelech that was seeking kingship; rather, his mother and the people of Shechem made him king. They could have gone to any of Abimelech’s other brothers, but Abimelech was kin, and could likely be manipulated and controlled by his hometown people through his mother. The people of Shechem were not interested in Abimelech the man, but were simply interested in using him to dominate the rest of the people of Israel.
How dangerous power is when it is in the hands of those who do not wield it with integrity. How dangerous it is when leaders are manipulated by small, special interest groups. Though we have all these things present in our own nation, our founding fathers were wise enough to establish a system of checks and balances. Yet, we still need to be careful, looking to elect leaders who have integrity and who will not easily be manipulated by others in power.
Friends, even in the living of our own lives we find this—though on a smaller level. People at work, using friendships to manipulate others, people at church doing the same. I have seen personality conflicts tear churches to shreds. Friends, do not forget that the church is to be a sanctuary from the world; it is to be a safe place where we can grow and are nourished by God’s word, enabling us to bear fruit to his glory. It is a place where no “shaking” or domination should take place. Always endeavor to keep that in front of you.