If you ever needed proof that the Bible isn’t G-rated, here it is. It seems like today’s reading was taken from a Hollywood plotline instead of the pages of holy Scripture. Yet here we are in the midst of a family conflict that would make the disputes of any mob family pale in comparison.
Sadly, any one of us could be Abimelech. Instead of looking to the Lord and trusting in Him to provide a leader when his father Jerubbaal (Gideon) died, Abimelech took matters into his own hands. He took power by force, murdering any potential rivals to a supposed “throne” in Israel. He did whatever he thought necessary in order to win status and authority. And we’re capable of doing the same.
We may read Abimelech’s story and feel as if we would never stoop so low as to murder our own brothers, yet Jesus teaches that whenever we possess hatred in our hearts toward our brothers we are murderers (Matthew 5:21–22). We may see the brazen way in which Abimelech torched his own people and his own city out of pure spite for their betrayal of him and think we’d never be so wicked. But each of us is capable of the same hatred and wickedness. Whenever we are divisive, gossiping, or playing for power in the church, we believe and behave just as Abimelech did. We may scoff at the cowardly way Abimelech died by having his servant armor-bearer run him through so that his reputation isn’t ruined because he was killed by a woman. But we, too, can be cowardly and seek to protect our reputations, lying and manipulating others to make ourselves look heroic instead of helpless.
All of this shows our radical need for God’s forgiveness and empowering grace. We need redemption. We need a Savior. Tragically, there is no redemption in Judges 9—it’s all bad. But we do have a Savior who will rescue us from the curse our evil should bring upon us. We have Christ who died because of the anger we have toward our brothers. Christ laid down His life for our gossiping tongues, hateful hearts, and divisive actions against His people. His righteousness becomes ours through faith, so we don’t have to manipulate others to keep our reputation. Our identity is secure in Jesus Christ.
We are capable of great evil—just like Abimelech. But we are deeply loved in Christ, and His Spirit has given us new hearts and a desire to obey. Let’s repent and turn to Him again today. Let us be true worshipers of the Father in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23–24).