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Israel's Faux King

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Israel's Faux King

Naturally, the conflicts as the result of Israel's birth pangs drive the tiny nation of Israel to thirst for peace but their attempts to quench it only plunges them deeper into tribulation as Israel once again foolishly chooses its leaders. For example, in the time of judges, Israel was to rely exclusively on God and have no form of centralized government. Instead, they attempted to make Abimelech king. Later, they would repeat this mistake during the days of Samuel and demand a king. This last request resulted in the end of the time of judges and the coronation of Saul.

In both cases, Israel sought a king against God's will during a time when God only directed judges to lead the nation. It was a time when Israel's disobedience temporarily forced God to remove His protection and blessings while other nations abused them. Eventually, Israel would plead for help and God would answer by sending a judge to their rescue. On one occasion, God sent the judge Gideon to deliver Israel from the hand of the Midianites and the Amalekites (Judges 6-8). Following God's directions, Gideon first destroyed his father's altar to Baal along with its accompanying grove and then led a small group of men (300 in total) in the destruction of a much, much larger army. In gratitude, Israel's leaders begged Gideon and his descendents to become their king. Motivated by their fear of God, Gideon and 70 of his sons refused. After Gideon's death, yet another of his descendents, Abimelech sought and received the title rejected by the others. He then ordered the rest of his brothers executed. Only the youngest, Jotham, survived and eventually leveled the following charges against Abimelech and the men of Israel:

The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us. But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? And the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and reign over us. But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees? Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us. And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us. And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon. (Judges 9:8-15)

Jotham's indictment heavily draws on critical Bible symbols, each having deeper spiritual applications. The olive tree, fig tree, and vine often symbolize the nation of Israel while the olive tree's oil often symbolizes the Holy Spirit. Like Gideon and the rest of his sons, the fruitful plants refused to give in to lust and pride, abandoning their God ordained roles. Only the lowest forms of life, such as Abimelech the worthless bramble, seek against God's will their own pleasure, power, wealth, and glory; but to their hurt, the men of Israel have made just such a man, worthless weed, their king.

Prior to coronating Saul, Samuel warned the Jews of the suffering the king they demanded[1] would inflict on them:

And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants. And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day. Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles. (1 Samuel 8:11-20)

Without compensation, they would lose much: property, possessions, sons, daughters, servants, stock, and freedom. More ominously, God tells them that when they cry out because of the king THEY chose, He would not hear them. Even with these warnings, the people demanded their king and received Saul rather than God's chosen king, David. Again, these passages weave in the symbols of the olive trees and vines - demonstrating the king takes away the best of their physical possessions and spiritual fruits.

In the future, Israel repeats these mistakes. Instead of waiting for God's king, Jesus, they become impatient, demanding a king immediately. Once again, they turn to bramble, the antichrist, with whom they enter into an extremely ill advised peace treaty. Until overthrown by Jesus, this cruel man rules as he pleases. As He did during Saul's reign, God ignores Israel's pleas for relief from their bramble king. Israel's relief does not come until they desire to see Jesus (Matthew 23:37-39) and, sadly, this only occurs after two thirds of Israel has perished (Zechariah 13:8-9) and Jerusalem has virtually fallen:

For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. (Zechariah 14:2)

Israel pays a terrible price for making this bramble their king. To their shame, this is not the first time, nor the second, but at least the third time.

[1] 1 Samuel 8:4-5