Once upon a time, a long time ago, in a faraway land, the trees decided to anoint a king. And so they brought forth the most likely candidates. They first asked the Olive tree if he would be king…but he didn’t want to give up his oil to become king. So they asked the fig tree…but he didn’t want to give up his figs. So they asked the vine…but he didn’t want to give his wine.
Finally, with no more trees left to ask, they asked the thorn bush. The thorn bush, usually overlooked, was very excited about the proposal and gladly offered the other trees shade under his brambles.
This was a parable told by a young man named Jotham to the citizens of the village of Shechem (you can read it in Judges 9:7-15). It was there that a man named Abimilech had used treachery and violence to gain the crown: He became king by murdering all 70 of the other candidates. Talk about dirty elections!
And in response to this political drama, Jotham tells this story. His point is clear. A man (or tree) of integrity would never sell out or use violence just to become a king. Only a thorn bush would do something so depraved. Treacherous, murderous, Abimelech was that thorn bush. Take refuge under his brambles if you’d like, Jotham says, but don’t start crying when you’re pricked…that’s the nature of living with thorns.
My guess is the trees were sick and tired of the direction of the forest – so in anger and protest they exalted a thorn-bush. They should have known better: a thornbush will remain a thornbush, even if perched on a throne. The people of Shechem should have known better, too.
Just so you know how the story turns out, it seems Jotham was right after all. After three years on the throne of Israel – three years of wickedness – Abimelech met with a falling millstone dropped from the second story window by a loyal subject tired of getting pricked by thorns.
Makes you appreciate free elections, doesn’t it? Pray, choose, and vote.