Our Bible is rife with stories of heroes who become great because they understand that anything they have or do, they owe to the power of God–and these heroes are very vocal in their praise of God as the author of all good things in their lives.
Gideon is a fine example. A farmer at a time when the Israelites were under the harsh rule of a stronger people, the Midianites, Gideon came from the weakest family of the weakest clan of his entire people. But when the angel of the LORD comes to Gideon and tells him that God Himself will lead the Israelites to victory, Gideon eventually believes. In fact, he believes with such conviction, he trusts God to take only 300 men against thousands of his enemy.
Reading stories of these heroes makes me ask myself, do I honor God for His supremacy in my life, or am I always fighting God to be my own “king?”
When Gideon is gone, his concubine’s son, Abimelech, convinces the people at Shechem to make him King, travels to where his 70 “brothers” are located and slaughters all his competition for the position on one stone. However, his youngest brother, Jotham, escapes and tells a parable of trees to show the Israelites the fallacy of wishing for an earthly king when they already have a heavenly one.
Once upon a time, Jotham explains, the trees decided to choose a king. First they said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king!’ But the olive tree refused, saying, ‘Should I quit producing the olive oil that blesses both God and people, just to wave back and forth over the trees?’ (Judges 9: 8-9 NLV)
The fig tree and grapevine likewise refuse. The thornbush advises to take shelter in his shade if he is to become king. Otherwise, the thornbush will shoot a fire to “devour the cedars of Lebanon.” In other words, nature understands that the greatest glory to be had is to thrive in the function for which God created us. And, though He gives us the free will to choose to follow Him, He does not mean for our function to be seeing ourselves as the masters of our own destinies. Even Jesus said, “Father, Thy will be done.”
So, am I smart enough to be an olive tree? Can I listen to my own self-talk when I am trying to decide things without first acknowledging God’s right to make those decisions for me? How do I let Him make those decisions? I have to continue in my study of His word to know what is truth, to test what is told me, as Paul instructs us to do, and I have to spend time talking to God and being still to hear Him. The latter is perhaps the most difficult skill of all. We barely listen to our family members or friends half the time. How much more practiced must we be to become better listeners of the Maker of the Universe!
Jotham’s parable is not the first time in the Bible we are encouraged to look to nature to learn how to have an even stronger relationship with God, and it certainly isn’t the last. Remember Christ’s declaration:
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” (Luke 19:39-40 NIV)
So, whether I am a tree or a stone, may I always be ready to put God first in all things, which means I will become a more loving servant who knows better than to reach for the auspices of King.