Ask the Vine!
“And the trees said to the vine, ‘Come, you reign over us.’” (Judges 9:12)
So, once again, it is back to the drawing board for the trees. They want a king to shake over them and to dominate them, yet they are also seeking out a small tree that is incapable of doing so. In other words, they like the idea of a king — shucks, everyone else has one — but they want a king they can control. Of course, as the old saying goes, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.
Thus the trees go to the next person in line, which is the vine. The term that is used here, גֶּפֶן (gephen), is a generic term that can be used to describe any kind of climbing plant, yet in the context of the next verse, it is most likely a grapevine to which they are appealing. Like the fig tree, the grapevine is a symbol of God’s blessing here in this life and in the next (Deuteronomy 8:8, Zechariah 8:12). And, as with the other plants mentioned beforehand, to step up to this task would cost the vine his fruit, hence the rejection to come.
It also raises the question, if your king requires something to climb on to give it strength, upon what will it climb? And how will it have to domineer the other trees to genuinely lead. Without a fence or support on which it may climb, the grapevine is unproductive and prone to all sorts of frailties and diseases.
Again, people are seeking a king because these candidates are suited to their own ends. Instead, they ought to be seeking a leader who is godly and who will point people toward ends that glorify God and provide faithful government to God’s people. The vine cannot do this and frankly, the trees do not want this…which will become all too apparent in their next candidate. And while we could rail against the political process in our nation, what about the process of choosing leaders in our churches? To what do church nominating committee’s appeal first? Are they looking for warm bodies to fill offices? Are they looking for people who are good businessmen who can make frugal decisions for the church body? Or are they looking first at the godly character of the individual? The first two are of value, but godly character must always be the driving question, lest you end up with a bramble in office.