Judges 9:1-2 “Now Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to his mother’s relatives and said to them and to the whole clan of his mother’s family, ‘Say in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem, “Which is better for you, that all seventy of the sons of Jerubbaal rule over you, or that one rule over you?” Remember also that I am your bone and your flesh.’”
Are you familiar with the Bob Dylan song, “Gotta Serve Somebody?” The first verse and refrain go like this:
You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
I thought of this song for some reason as I read the story of Abimelech in Judges 9. Abimelech was the son of Gideon by his concubine. Gideon also had 70 other sons by his many wives. Although Gideon obviously had his faults, God used him to bring salvation to the nation of Israel by way of victory over the invading Midianites. Gideon had another name as well – Jurabbaal. It was a name given to him by his father after Gideon destroyed his father’s altar to Baal. The word Jurabbaal means “let Baal contend.” It spoke of Gideon’s opposition to the false god Baal, and thus his allegiance to the true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Gideon, despite his flaws, was a follower of the true God. Gideon had to serve someone, as the song says; either the true God of Israel or the false god Baal, whom his own father served. Gideon chose to serve God, and his choice led to a life of victory.
But then there was Abimelech. He too had to serve someone, and rather than serve the God whom his father served, he chose to turn away from the God of his father, to live a life of treachery. First, he conspired with the men of the city of Shechem to murder the other 70 of Gideon’s sons. He ended up killing all but Jotham, the youngest, who later prophesied destruction upon Abimelech for what he had done. By his treachery, Abimelech rose to become the leader of Israel. During that time, conflict arose among those who had joined him in his conspiracy. This led to treachery from his own men against him. We are told that these men “went into the house of their god and ate and drank and reviled Abimelech” (Judges 9:9:27). There they conspired to kill him. Nevertheless, he continued to experience victory for a time, as he brutally suppressed the mutiny. Yet, in the end, he was killed as a woman dropped a millstone from a tower upon his head, and then he was pierced with a sword by his own armor bearer. At the end of the chapter, we are told “Thus God returned the evil of Abimelech, which he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers. And God also made all the evil of the men of Shechem return on their heads, and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal.”
It’s a sad end to this one who lived his life to serve himself and turn away from the God of his own father. And so, each one of us must decide whom we will serve. Joshua put it this way to Israel as he prepared to lead them into the promised land: “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14-15).
So, who are you serving today? Jesus told us that we have to serve somebody with these words: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24). The fact of the matter is that we come into this world in a condition of enmity against God (Romans 8:7). We didn’t serve Him. Rather, we lived as rebels against Him. Paul put it this way: “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). Sounds like Abimelech’s kingdom, doesn’t it? But we can be certain that opposition to the true God is a dead-end street. Like in the case of Abimelech, although the wheels of God’s justice may turn slowly, they turn very fine. We will reap what we sow, and if our “sowing” is to the glory of anything other than God, the result will often be grief in this life, but certainly it will be eternal regret and unending grief in the next.
But wonder of wonders, it was while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us. Though each and every believer was in Satan’s camp at one point, “the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, (and) He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7).
You see, as Bob Dylan said, “you’ve gotta serve somebody.” Will it be the God Who loved His enemies and has offered forgiveness and eternal life through the death of His own Son, or will it be something or someone else, a choice that is sure to bring destruction on your own head? You’ve gotta serve somebody. “Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” It is a choice that each one of us must make. Who will it be?