Daily Thought for: 20th March

ABIMELECH

Judges 9. 1-57

The history of Abimelech stands as a solemn warning to all those who, without a divine call, would usurp leadership over the people of God. Gideon, mighty man though he was, left a sad heritage: an ephod that became a snare to the nation, Judg. 8. 27, and a son, born of a concubine in Shechem, who would bring disaster upon his people. That a man of Gideon’s stature who had refused kingship and human succession, Judg. 8. 23, should give his son the name Abimelech (a Philistine name meaning ‘whose father is king’) is startling. Encouraged in an unholy ambition by his name, embittered by the despised status of his mother and animated by jealousy of his seventy half-brothers Abimelech intrigues, bribes and murders to become king. Leadership amongst the people of God in any age is conferred by the Holy Spirit. Paul put this clearly to the elders from the Ephesian church, ‘Take heed . . . unto yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers’, Acts 20. 28. 

The appeal of Abimelech to the men of Shechem on the grounds of natural ties and self-interest found a ready response. The unusual word used for ‘men’ is the word ‘baalim’ meaning ‘lords’. They took character from their master ‘Baal-berith’ (lord of the covenant). This idol with its cult centre in Shechem had displaced Jehovah in the affections of His people so they accepted this false leader; one who would bring disaster upon them. God allowed them Abimelech, not as a deliverer but as a punitive measure, richly merited! 

The story of the Judges is a record of God taking up weak things to deliver His repentant people from invaders. The weakness of the agent shows the power of God as He takes up a left-handed man, an ox-goad, a tent peg or a jaw-bone of an ass. Abimelech’s story stands in total contrast—he effects no deliverance. In fact God had to deliver His people from this murderous usurper by the use of a common household item—a millstone. The lesson is underlined in the final verses; ‘Thus . . . the wickedness of Abimelech and all the evil of the men of Shechem did God render upon their heads’. His leadership was a divine judgment upon a rebellious people. 

 

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