Predictably, what we see and sense today at the highest as well as the lowest levels of culture is what happens when, as Alexander Solzhenitsyn lamented, “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” As believers, we must let the moral decay of America turn our stomach, but then turn our heart to God in intercession for a spiritual awakening once again in our land.
Going Deep // Focus: Judges 9:56-57
In this way, God punished Abimelech for the evil he had done against his father by murdering his seventy brothers. God also punished the men of Shechem for all their evil. So the curse of Jotham son of Gideon was fulfilled.
Admittedly, this is a weird story, and it’s even weirder that it was included in the Bible. Like a few others we have come across as we read the Old Testament devotionally, this is a head-scratcher. But at the end of the day, this story of Abimelech’s brief but brutal rule as a judge of Israel and his abrupt, gruesome death is a reminder of what happens in a person, and in a society, when God has been left out of the picture.
Abimelech was one of Gideon’s sons—one of seventy or so. And it just so happens that he was the one son from Gideon’s union with a concubine who lived in a different town, Shechem. So there was probably no love lost with his many siblings; he was probably looked down upon by his brothers his whole life. There is a good chance Abimelech had a chip on his shoulder (that unfortunately ended with a millstone on his head—literally. See Judges 9:50-55).
So Abimelech decided to do away with his seventy brothers—which he did in the most grisly fashion (Judges 9:5): likely beheaded at one time. He killed all but one, Gideon’s youngest son, Jotham, who escaped and hid, and then resurfaced with an incendiary prophecy (Judges 9:7-21). This prophecy was a kind of “pox on both your houses” statement that ultimately came to pass. The prophecy was that in selecting Abimelech to be their king, the citizens of Shechem would end up paying for it with their lives and that Abimelch would likewise come to a brutal end for the murder of his brothers. That is the rest of the story of Judges 9.
Now take away the raw brutality of this story, sanitize it a bit, and what you have is the story of leadership in our culture these days. Far too common is the way leaders attain power and the way the citizens surrender power to them. Lying, cheating, doing whatever it takes to make their opponent look bad, saying one thing to get elected then leading another, coming off as a servant of the people but living like a king once in power seems to be just the way it is in our political world. Often in elections, we feel like we have no choice but to hold our nose to cast our ballots. But we get the leaders we deserve.
Why? Simple answer: men have forgotten God. The writer of Judges prophetically summed up our twenty-first century world in the last verse in this book when he wrote, “There was no controlling moral authority to govern peoples’ lives, so everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” (Judges 21:25) Unfortunately, in our day, as was the case in the day of the Judges, “what was right”, without the presence of the “Controlling Moral Authority”, without fail produces moral, cultural, economic and global chaos.
Predictably, what we see and sense today at the highest as well as the lowest levels of culture is what happens when, as Alexander Solzhenitsyn lamented, “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” In his famous Templeton Address, “Men Have Forgotten God”, Solzhenitsyn said
“The failings of human consciousness, deprived of its divine dimension, have been a determining factor in all the major crimes of this century…Yet we have grown used to this kind of world; we even feel at home in it.”
May we never get used to it! May we never feel at home in this present world the way it is now. As believers, we have the urgent calling to humble ourselves before God, acknowledge our sin, repent and turn to him for the healing of our land. As disgusted as you may feel reading Judges 9, let the moral decay of America turn your stomach, then turn your heart to God in intercession for a spiritual awakening once again in our land.
Who knows, God may give us a revival like he did throughout the book of Judges as his people cried out to him. Thankfully, God has made a way for that, even in our day:
If the people who are called by my name will humbly pray to me and repent and turn away from the evil they have been doing, then I will hear them in heaven, forgive their sins, and make their land prosperous again. (2 Chronicles, 7:14)