the curse of Jotham

Today's devotion from Judges 9.

Judges 9 is truly tragic. Gideon had vowed, "I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you." (Judges 8:23, CSB) But this, sadly, was not the case. He did have one son, Abimelech, that had eyes for the throne and a taste for power. After a bit of political theater, he succeeded in having his brothers, the legitimate sons of Gideon, murdered, save one.

Jotham was the youngest. I guess we could say that he was the least of his father's house? When Jotham saw the atrocity committed, he spoke a parable and a curse. If the people had not acted in good faith, Abimelech would be their downfall. In the encounters that follow, we see the land ripped apart. Struggles erupted between the supposed power players. Ultimately, no one won. Abimelech truly was the the fire that devoured the people.

What can we learn from this chapter? Why is this included in God's Word? It is a warning. Gideon was bent toward glory instead of power. He basked in the glory of "his" victory. The result was unhealthy. Scripture says of his ephod, "Then all Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his household." (Judges 8:27, CSB)

Throughout this entire episode, there is a glaring absence. Where is the people's dependence on God? After the account of Gideon being built upon the foundational premise of trusting God, the absence of Israel's relationship with Him is striking.

God's name really only appears in Jotham's parable/curse, in verse 23 where we read that God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the people, and in being credited for the outcome, but where is the part of the Judges' cycle where the Israelites return to Him after being saved? We see intrigue and political moves. We see idolatry. We see manipulation and death. But where is the worship of the God that used the least of the least in Israel to miraculously save the people?

What a powerful warning for us today. Idolatry is subtle, but insatiable. This sin is a fire that devours. Once we allow anything to unseat God as the only recipient of our worship, the path has been set that inevitably winds its way to destruction. It will not rest until its end is reached or the course has been corrected back toward God Himself.