Judges Chapter 9 Judges Sermon # 12
August 13, 2017 “The Real Judge Will Always Do Right.”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
How do feel when you see wicked people prevailing? What do you do when you see self-seeking politicians gaining more power and promoting ungodliness in our society? Proverbs 29:2b “When the wicked rule, the people groan.” Do you sometimes cry out to God, “Lord, bring justice? Give us God-fearing leaders! Have mercy on our country!”? Or perhaps you are suffering the effects of someone who usurped power over you, even years ago, and used that power to make your life miserable… and you wonder why God didn’t stop him or her. When we are the victims, we cry out to God for justice, and we want it now!
In Judges chapter 9, we read of Abimelech, a wicked, self-serving man; we read of the people of Shechem, who let Abimelech rule over them because they thought it would serve them, and we read of Jotham, Abimelech’s half-brother, who spoke the truth about Abimelech, warning and rebuking the people of Shechem… but ultimately we read of the God of all the earth, who did right – as He always does – by causing the ways of the wicked to self-destruct upon themselves.
In this chapter of Judges, Abimelech is certainly no judge, no savior, but God Himself proves to be the only Judge here. As Gen. 18:25 reminds us, the Judge of all the earth will always do right. That is our confidence. That is our hope, when everything is falling apart. I want us to look in faith at the Judge who always does what is right… and be encouraged by this!
Now there’s a lot going on in these 57 verses of Judges 9, but allow me to focus on 3 points:
First, Abimelech’s grabs for power (vv. 1-6), is the counter-point to Christ’s self-surrender (Phil. 2:5-11).
In chapter nine the familiar four-fold pattern of sin/ oppression/ crying out to God, and rescue by a judge is absent. Instead we have this blood-thirsty tyrant, Abimelech.
Abimelech is the son of Gideon’s servant girl/ concubine, and unlike the judges in this book, he is not raised up by the Lord; he is not a judge or deliverer for Israel. Rather he seeks greatness and power for himself, by appealing to people’s selfish nature, by wiping out all possible opponents, (all the sons of his father Gideon, but by different mothers) and by being funded by money given to an idol! (Sounds like the path to power for most tyrants and even presidents today. God is not consulted in this process; it is all what appeals to the base nature of man.
The lesson here is that the lure of obtaining power will turn men into beasts. Think about people who want to grab power in politics, in churches, in the corporate world, etc.
But then there is a Gospel counterpoint to this grab for power. For consider Jesus, the Son of God, who willingly gave up His power, who gave up His immunity to pain, and who willingly surrendered His heavenly comfort, honor, and privileges…so that He could become one of us, and feel our pain and be tried and tempted, yet without sin.. Why? To be our Savior, our Deliverer, our Lord! Jesus Christ became the true Judge!
And because He humbled Himself, God the Father lifted Him up and exalted Him! (Phil. 2:5-11)
Application: We are called to die to any grabs for power, and instead, to humbly follow Christ, in the path of the cross. God promises that those who humble themselves will be lifted up, while he warns us that those who exalt themselves will be cast down. How about you? Do you practice this as a husband, as a parent, and a boss?
Second, Jotham speaks tough truths from the Mount of Blessing (vv. 7-20), just as Jesus would speak tough truths and blessings in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).
Jotham is Abimelech’s half-brother, and is the only one of 70 sons of Gideon to escape being murdered by Abimelech (v. 5). Jotham climbs to the top of Mount Gerizim, one of the two 3,000 foot mountains dominating the landscape in Shechem, and proclaims a parable that exposes the wickedness of Abimelech and the foolishness of the people of Shechem.
Jotham is the only person in this chapter who speaks with truth and integrity (vv. 16, 19), and God uses him to pronounce God’s curse on those who abandon God’s truth and integrity. He faithfully rebukes the Shechemites, and warns them of the consequences of their actions.
The place where he speaks these truths is highly significant. Mt. Gerazim was the mountain where Israel was to proclaim the words of the Lord’s blessing, as the Lord had instructed Moses in Deut. 27:12. In Joshua 24, Joshua led Israel in renewing this covenant with the Lord on this mountain.
So Mt. Gerizim was a place of blessing, and it could have been at this time as well, if Israel had listened to Jotham, but it did not. Instead it became a place of cursing, just as later, as it was known as Samaria, the idolatrous capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, which would be sent into early exile in Assyria, never to return.
In Jotham’s parable, those good trees (vv. 9-13, the olive, fig and vine) represent those good men who would rather serve others than rule over others. [Note: there’s lessons here: about the greater effectiveness of good people to serve behind the scenes rather than as up front leaders; a warning that it is a great sacrifice to give up one’s effective service in order to head up a government…and a great temptation to sinful pride! Mathew Henry comments: “for which reason those that desire to do good are afraid of being too great.”] (Think about George Washington as a servant leader who was hesitant to be president.)
But the people of Shechem choose Abimelech, a worthless thorn bush, to be their king, and he would only bring misery to himself and the people. The people of Shechem fail to listen to Jotham’s warnings and rebukes, and instead of receiving blessings from God, they will receive curses, as their own wickedness comes back to haunt them.
What’s the gospel counterpoint to this? In is interesting to compare Jotham’s speech on the mount of blessing with the speech on the mount that our Lord Jesus Christ would give a millennium later. For that sermon begins with ten blessings for those who humble themselves and trust the Lord, and it also includes strong words of warning and rebuke for those who remain proud and unbending before the Lord (See the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7).
Application: Let me ask you: Do you have ears to hear God’s warnings? Are you able to take in any rebukes that Holy Spirit sends you? And conversely, do you really believe the promises of God that you hear in a sermon or read in your Bible? Remember how Jesus finishes the Sermon on the Mount, with the story of the wise and foolish builders related to what you do with the Word you hear. Will you commit to putting God’s Word into practice? God’s Word will either be to us a gospel blessing or a gospel curse. Christ has taken the curse of our sin upon Himself, and bestowed on us the blessings of His righteousness, and then He calls us to walk in His ways.
Third, God sovereignly ordains judgement on all the wicked in Shechem (vv. 22-57), just as Jesus Christ will one day bring a final judgement on all the wicked (Revelation 16-20).
For three years, Abimelech’s scheming seems to be working, as he rules over Shechem. But then things unravel, as treachery slithers in, which always happens when truth and integrity are abandoned. Michael Wilcock comments: “Since both Abimelech and the people got where they were by breaking faith with Gideon’s family in the first place, they could hardly be surprised when in due course they broke faith with each other.” Think about a married man or woman who break their marriage vows and have an adulterous relationship with another person. If they end up divorcing their spouse and marrying the new person, how can the new couple be sure of each other’s faithfulness for the future? In the same way, to break faith with God and with others will always lead to more treachery and unfaithfulness.
Then a series of attacks and plots against the various sides takes place. Things escalate, and many are killed. There is an attempted coup by Gaal, with subsequent reprisals. Abimelech and the people of Shechem begin to reap the seeds of deceit and murder that they had sown. God now “speaks the sentence that they have passed upon themselves” as Jotham’s prophecy reaches fulfillment. Treachery becomes dominant, as truth and integrity have long ago been abandoned. Matthew Henry notes that God permits the devil to sow discord between them, and that God sovereignly uses even the Evil One to do His bidding.
As Jotham had predicted, Abimelech is the worthless bramble, (good only to be burned up), and the people of Shechem were foolish to choose him as their king. Jotham’s prophecy about burning comes true when Abimelech sets fire to the tower to kill some of the people of Shechem inside (vv. 48-50)
But when he tries to do the same to the tower of Thebez, and as he approaches the entrance to the tower, a woman inside the tower drops a millstone, and this projectile lands squarely on the top of Abimelech’s head! Think about that: one woman, with one stone, ends this blood thirty tyrant’s rule… which began on one stone (where he slaughtered the sons of Gideon, v. 5)
He was slain with a stone, even as he killed his brothers on a stone
The stone cracked his skull… the place of his crown!
He was mortally wounded by a woman, which was a disgrace to him. And yet… he was more concerned about his pride, even while dying, then he was about his relationship with God! Like many today, as they are dying, they are more concerned with trivial matters, instead of eternal ones! How about you?
In having Abimelech fatally wounded by a millstone dropped by a woman from a besieged tower, God brought justice. The truth and integrity that Jotham appealed to in vv. 16 and 19 were now rebalanced and restored
We might even say that this woman who carried this heavy millstone to the top of the tower was a “judge”? After all, she delivered Israel from this tyrant, like Jael did, in Judges chapter 4.
Let us trace the hand of God in all of this with wonder and faith!
So both Abimelech and the people of Shechem are destroyed, according to the curse pronounced by Jotham. We could say that Jotham’s curse moved the events of this chapter along, as God would not allow the evil of Abimelech and the Shechemites to stand unpunished.
56 “Thus God repaid the wickedness that Abimelech had done to his father by murdering his seventy brothers. 57 God also made the people of Shechem pay for all their wickedness. The curse of Jotham son of Jerub-Baal came on them.”
Divine judgment was therefore fulfilled in this double destruction. You reap what you sow. And while the name of the Lord is not mentioned even once in this story, God is mentioned five times (7, 23-24, 56-57). We see God using evil to destroy evil, as He is sovereign over evil. Our hope and comfort is that God will always destroy the destroyer of His people.
All of this judgment foreshadows what we read about near the end of the Bible, in Revelation 16-20, where the Lord Jesus Christ returns as the Judge of all the earth, to rescue His loved ones and to inflict His righteous and holy wrath upon all those who refused to bow the knee before Him.
Judges 9 is a story about who the Real Judge is… and how He shall always do what it right.
God uses the peculiar characteristic which evil has of undoing itself. In vv. 22-57, we see God’s process of judgment is often gradual and unseen, like wood slowly and silently rotting away, until one day the steps or the floor caves in and collapses.
“It takes only the first tear in the fabric of good faith/ trust for the whole garment to begin unraveling.” Romans 1:26ff. “When God takes His restraining hand off the brake, the wicked man rushes forward to his own destruction.” The judgement of the Lord are true and faithful!
My friends, this is what will happen to our country, unless we repent and turn back to the Lord.