Abimelech son of Jerub-Baal went to Shechem to his uncles and all his mother's relatives and said to them, "Ask all the leading men of Shechem, 'What do you think is best, that seventy men rule you—all those sons of Jerub-Baal—or that one man rule? You'll remember that I am your own flesh and blood.'" Judges 9:1-2 (MSG)
It's lonely at the top, or so they say. No matter how lonely it may be, there always seem to be plenty of people lining up for the job. There is something in our human condition that wants some one to lead us. We like having a leader, an executive, a chairman, a general who will motivate, administrate and inspire. We also like having some one to blame when things don't go our way. We like having a scape goat at the pinnacle of the org chart.
In today's chapter, we see the beginnings of an important theme in God's story during this period of history. When the nation of Israel escaped Egypt and settled in the promised land, they had no formal leader or governing structure. They considered themselves a theocracy, with God as their ruler. It was a lofty and idealistic notion that didn't work so well in practical terms. The "Judges" were leaders who emerged in a time of national crisis, rallied the nation for a number of years, and then were gone. When the Judge died, the tribes of Israel went back into their loose system of tribal leadership.
Enter the crafty Abimelech. He recognized the leadership vacuum. He tapped into the discontent of the people who wanted some one to lead them. He heard the grumblings and whispers in the coffee shop. People wanted a king like all the powerful kingdoms around them. He recognized an opportunity and seized it in a fratricidal blood bath.
He also learned an important lesson in leadership the hard way: He who lives by the sword dies by the sword.
Today, I'm mindful of the authorities in my own life and God's command that I respect and pray for them. I'm equally mindful of those under my authority, and my responsibility to lead well.