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Game of Thrones

Judges  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  37:32
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A Series of Unfortunate Events

Watching the Netflix show “A Series of Unfortunate Events”
The beginning song: Look away, look away. This show will wreck your evening, your whole life and your day, every single episode is nothing but dismay. So look away.
This passage is about the brokenness of our world, the sin and selfishness of men, and the chaos that ensues. This is the Game of Thrones, a Clash of Kings, men struggling to rule over one another, and stabbing each other in the road to get there.
Dylan, not cleaning up front yard?
Logan cheating in Barbarian?
This is the legacy of Gideon, the man who refused the title of King but took to himself the privilege and life and glory of the king of Israel.
We shouldn’t be surprised when someone bends the rules or breaks the rules! We should be surprised when anyone follows the rules when it isn’t directly to their benefit.
So, this passage is nothing but chaos and dismay: look away, look away.
In the words of the teacher: everything is meaningless under the sun. It is the law of the jungle. Every man or woman for themselves. Grab what you can where you can and the devil take the hindmost!
Fend for yourselves!

Game of Thrones

Who will sit on the throne of Israel?

Abimelech

Introduce the young “prince”.
Why shouldn’t he inherit the legacy of his father, his father’s rightful place, King of Israel? What makes his brothers any better than him? With seventy brothers, it isn’t it about who is most fit, and that is about who has the boldness and cleverness to seize the initiative.
And so he does:
Joshua 9:1-
Joshua 9:1–2 ESV
As soon as all the kings who were beyond the Jordan in the hill country and in the lowland all along the coast of the Great Sea toward Lebanon, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, heard of this, they gathered together as one to fight against Joshua and Israel.
Judges 9:1–2 ESV
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.”
And it works.
And it works.
Sechem is a Canaanite community existing within the tribal structure of Israel. It is at a nexus of trade routes between the coastal plain and the Jordan valley, so a rich city. Jacob had lived near Shechem, and then Shechem slept with his daughter Dinah, and Simeon and Levi said he could marry them if the whole city got circumcised and they did it, and while they were recovering they killed all the Hamor and Shechem and all the males.
So… maybe some bad blood there.
And Abimelech is half-blood, and probably looked down on by his half-brothers because of it.
And Abimelech gets these guys on his team because he is related through his mom, but a son of the “not-officially-a-king” Gideon.
Judges 9:3–5 ESV
And his mother’s relatives spoke all these words on his behalf in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem, and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, “He is our brother.” And they gave him seventy pieces of silver out of the house of Baal-berith with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, who followed him. And he went to his father’s house at Ophrah and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone. But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, for he hid himself.
Joshua 9:3–5 ESV
But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, they on their part acted with cunning and went and made ready provisions and took worn-out sacks for their donkeys, and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended, with worn-out, patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes. And all their provisions were dry and crumbly.
Joshua 9:
Judges 9:3:5
He killed them all. Seventy of them! That’s a long day. On one stone, which implies ritual sacrifice of some kind.
He killed them all. Seventy of them! That’s a long day.
Judges 9:6 ESV
And all the leaders of Shechem came together, and all Beth-millo, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak of the pillar at Shechem.
Do the leaders of Shechem have the authority to crown Abimelech king? No, but might makes right here. And Abimelech rules as king.
One brother escaped, and you might think this is a story of him growing in power and getting revenge and justice… but that doesn’t happen. Jotham climbs a mountain, where he couldn’t easily be reached, and he insults his half-brother.
The trees asked for a king. First they asked the olive tree, who said no. Then the fig tree, who said “I have better things to do making sweet sweet fruit.” Then the vine, who said “Shall I leave my wine that cheers God and men?” (I love that).
Then they asked the bramble. The thorny weedy not-even-really a tree. And it said yes and “let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Labanon” (the famously tall, beautiful and most valuable of trees).
Judges 9:15 ESV
And the bramble said to the trees, ‘If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade, but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’
Judges 9:
And he concludes: if you have done the right thing then rejoice.
But if you have done the wrong thing…
Judges 9:20
Judges 9:20 ESV
But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech and devour the leaders of Shechem and Beth-millo; and let fire come out from the leaders of Shechem and from Beth-millo and devour Abimelech.”
And then, far from a revenge story… he ran away.
Judges 9:21 ESV
And Jotham ran away and fled and went to Beer and lived there, because of Abimelech his brother.
And Abimelech just wins.
Abimelech did what was right in his own eyes. My will, my way. I do what I want. It’s good to be the King.
But God is the King of Israel, and is not content that any should rule on his throne.
Judges 9:22–23 ESV
Abimelech ruled over Israel three years. And God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech,
Judges 9:22-23
(A bit disturbing that God “sent an evil spirit” here).
Judges 9:24–25 ESV
that the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood be laid on Abimelech their brother, who killed them, and on the men of Shechem, who strengthened his hands to kill his brothers. And the leaders of Shechem put men in ambush against him on the mountaintops, and they robbed all who passed by them along that way. And it was told to Abimelech.
Already there is trouble. Already violence begets violence. Shechem begin to subtly erode Abimelech’s power, and it makes sense that they wouldn’t want Abimelech to get too powerful. That isn’t in their best interest, they setup Abimelech as King in hopes he would give them special treatment as their relative. But Abimelech finds out about it.

Gaal

Well, if Abimelech can decide he wants to be king, why can’t someone else. Gaal, a purebred Canaanite, a Shechemite, a child of Hamor who was killed by Jacob’s sons. He comes to twon.
Judges 9:26–28 ESV
And Gaal the son of Ebed moved into Shechem with his relatives, and the leaders of Shechem put confidence in him. And they went out into the field and gathered the grapes from their vineyards and trod them and held a festival; and they went into the house of their god and ate and drank and reviled Abimelech. And Gaal the son of Ebed said, “Who is Abimelech, and who are we of Shechem, that we should serve him? Is he not the son of Jerubbaal, and is not Zebul his officer? Serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem; but why should we serve him?
Judges 9:26-
So Gaal is going to do what is right in his own eyes.

Zebul

But so is Zebul! Zebul is caught in the middle, placed as governor of Shechem by Abimelech but face to face with Gaal.
So he sends a message to Abimelech to gather his army and come out. And to sneak up by night and attack at sunrise.
Then he stands with Gaal while it is happening and convinces Gaal that he is seeing shadows when he spots the invading armies.
And
Judges 9:34-3
Judges 9:34–38 ESV
So Abimelech and all the men who were with him rose up by night and set an ambush against Shechem in four companies. And Gaal the son of Ebed went out and stood in the entrance of the gate of the city, and Abimelech and the people who were with him rose from the ambush. And when Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, “Look, people are coming down from the mountaintops!” And Zebul said to him, “You mistake the shadow of the mountains for men.” Gaal spoke again and said, “Look, people are coming down from the center of the land, and one company is coming from the direction of the Diviners’ Oak.” Then Zebul said to him, “Where is your mouth now, you who said, ‘Who is Abimelech, that we should serve him?’ Are not these the people whom you despised? Go out now and fight with them.”
“Where is your mouth now?” I love it. Come on, big man!
Judges 9:39–40 ESV
And Gaal went out at the head of the leaders of Shechem and fought with Abimelech. And Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him. And many fell wounded, up to the entrance of the gate.
Judges 9:
But that isn’t enough for Abimelech, what about the people of Shechem? Didn’t they betray him too? He sets an ambush outside the city so when the people go out to the fields, he and his men rush and kill them.
Judges 9:45 ESV
And Abimelech fought against the city all that day. He captured the city and killed the people who were in it, and he razed the city and sowed it with salt.
The leaders flee
Judges 9:
Judges 9:46–49 ESV
When all the leaders of the Tower of Shechem heard of it, they entered the stronghold of the house of El-berith. Abimelech was told that all the leaders of the Tower of Shechem were gathered together. And Abimelech went up to Mount Zalmon, he and all the people who were with him. And Abimelech took an axe in his hand and cut down a bundle of brushwood and took it up and laid it on his shoulder. And he said to the men who were with him, “What you have seen me do, hurry and do as I have done.” So every one of the people cut down his bundle and following Abimelech put it against the stronghold, and they set the stronghold on fire over them, so that all the people of the Tower of Shechem also died, about 1,000 men and women.
Judges 9:46-
They killed them all. Why not do it again?
Judges 9:50–52 ESV
Then Abimelech went to Thebez and encamped against Thebez and captured it. But there was a strong tower within the city, and all the men and women and all the leaders of the city fled to it and shut themselves in, and they went up to the roof of the tower. And Abimelech came to the tower and fought against it and drew near to the door of the tower to burn it with fire.
:50-52
But justice this way comes.
Judges 9:53–57 ESV
And a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head and crushed his skull. Then he called quickly to the young man his armor-bearer and said to him, “Draw your sword and kill me, lest they say of me, ‘A woman killed him.’ ” And his young man thrust him through, and he died. And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, everyone departed to his home. 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.
Judges 9:

We Need a King

Peace must be brought. Peace must be made. Peace at the hand of a King. And not a weak king who can be overthrown, but a strong king.
If everyone does what they want, what is the result? Peace and harmony? No. War. Death. Destruction. Fire. Everybody dies. Everybody loses.
Over and over and over again. This is the message of Judges. When “everyone does what is right in their own eyes” chaos reigns. People get hurt in all the possible ways. The story is the same over and over again, what changes is the diverse and creative ways people get hurt.
We may be tempted to think things are better now and we are making progress. I just finished a beautiful, heart-breaking book about World War II called the “Nightingale”. The history of the twentieth century argues that we are just upping the scale of devastation and destruction that our sin and selfishness can cause. The twenty first century isn’t off to a perfect start either!
And that is the war without, the grand scale of nations.
This is replicated all the way down. Within our country, within Colorado, within my neighborhood, within my family and within my own heart. There is enough competing desires and thoughts and questions and fears just within me alone to cause damage and destruction! Because I want to be the King of me.
This is the “problem” that the Christian worldview is so very clear about.
The problem with the world isn’t a lack of food, or education, or sanitation, or the right economic or political model.
The problem with the world isn’t
And so can fully appreciate what the people of Israel started to think: we need a good king. A real king. This “every man does what is right in his own eyes” just doesn’t work!
Peace must be brought. Peace must be made. Peace at the hand of a King. And not a weak king who can be overthrown, but a strong king.
We need a peace-maker. We need a King.
The mistake, the absolute foolishness, is that they keep looking among themselves for that king. For another sinful and selfish human. Maybe this one will be better? Maybe this one won’t have fatal flaws that ultimately lead to downfall.
After trying every size and shape of King, God begins to give the Israelites the image of a King who won’t fail, who won’t struggle and betray, who won’t fall to sin and selfishness.
Isaiah catches a glimpse and says:
John 14:27 ESV
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Isaiah 9:6 ESV
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
And that peace cascades, that peace changes everything.
That peace means that we can stand in the middle of a war torn country, or in the midst of a war-torn family, or just the raging battle within… and be still… and know that He is God… and experience a peace that reflects trust in the King rather than anything to do with our surrounding circumstances.
Philippians 4:6–7 ESV
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Prince of Peace

My heart a storm, clouds raging deep within The Prince of peace came bursting through the wind The violent sky held its breath And in Your light I found rest
My heart a storm, clouds raging deep within The Prince of peace came bursting through the wind The violent sky held its breath And in Your light I found rest Tearing through the night Riding on the storm Staring down the fight My eyes found Yours Shining like the sun Striding through my fear The Prince of peace met me there You heard my prayer Hope like the sunlight piercing through the dark The Prince of peace came and broke into my heart The violent cross, the empty grave And in Your light I found grace Tearing through the night Riding on the storm Staring down the fight My eyes found Yours Shining like the sun Striding through my fear The Prince of peace met me there You're always there And You hear my prayer
Tearing through the night Riding on the storm Staring down the fight My eyes found Yours Shining like the sun Striding through my fear The Prince of peace met me there You heard my prayer
Hope like the sunlight piercing through the dark The Prince of peace came and broke into my heart The violent cross, the empty grave And in Your light I found grace
Tearing through the night Riding on the storm Staring down the fight My eyes found Yours Shining like the sun Striding through my fear The Prince of peace met me there You're always there And You hear my prayer
Your love surrounds me when my thoughts wage war When night screams terror, there Your voice will roar Come death or shadow, God I know Your light will meet me there When fear comes knocking, there You'll be my guard When day breeds trouble, there You'll hold my heart Come storm or battle, God I know Your peace will meet me there Again and again Oh, be still my heart I know that You are God Oh, fear no evil For I know You are here And my soul will know Your love surrounds me when my thoughts wage war When night screams terror, there Your voice will roar Come death or shadow, God I know Your light will meet me there And my soul will know When fear comes knocking, there You'll be my guard When day breeds trouble, there You'll hold my heart Come storm or battle, God I know Your peace will meet me there Oh, be still my heart And my soul will ever know that You are God And You heard my prayer
Your love surrounds me when my thoughts wage war When night screams terror, there Your voice will roar Come death or shadow, God I know Your light will meet me there When fear comes knocking, there You'll be my guard When day breeds trouble, there You'll hold my heart Come storm or battle, God I know Your peace will meet me there Again and again
Oh, be still my heart And my soul will ever know that You are God And You heard my prayer
Oh, be still my heart I know that You are God Oh, fear no evil For I know You are here Oh, be still my heart And my soul will ever know that You are God And You heard my prayer
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