The King of the Trees

Scripture Reading — Judges 9:7-20

Finally all the trees said to the thornbush, “Come and be our king.” — Judges 9:10

Today’s reading includes a parable in which the trees search for a king. The parable emerges from a time of turmoil in the period of the judges in Israel. It comes as a stinging critique of people who seek a king for all the wrong reasons. Rather than seeking God’s help and approval in finding a king, they sought to advance their own power and selfish ambitions.

In the parable, the trees seek a king first from one of their own, an olive tree. But the olive tree is too content producing olives and oil. The fig tree and grapevine similarly have productive lives serving a purpose. They see no reason to give this up in order to rule over others.

In desperation, the trees turn to the thornbush and say, “Be our king.” The thornbush can’t believe his luck. If these other fools don’t want the job, he’ll take it! His thorns and brambles have always been despised. But now he’ll show them!

The thornbush king demands absolute loyalty and makes threats to those who are dis­loyal. Jotham, the parable-­teller, finishes by essentially saying, “May you get the leader­ship you deserve.”

Often we get the leadership we deserve rather than the good leadership we truly need. But through God’s goodness we have Christ as our King—our needed Savior. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Prayer

Lord, forgive us when we seek rulers who have more ambition than wisdom. And help us to take refuge in the King who hung on a cross for our salvation. Amen.