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Fit to Follow

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Introduction

The story of Gideon does not end with his death. Gideon, whether he reigned as a king in official capacity or not, has set the stage for the events that immediately follow his death. Abimelech the son of the Shechamite woman, whom Gideon had for a concubine, returns to his city of origin and enlists the assistance of his mother’s family. Through them he gains the confidence of the leaders of Shechem and they conspire with him against the other sons of Gideon.
With this political support Abimelech receives money from the coffers of the Baal-Berith treasury to hire a group of men with no morals to assist him in the assassination of his brothers. With these hired hands Abimelech and his misfits kill all of them with the exception of Jotham.
This long narration of the happenings after Gideon’s death can be broken into three main parts:

Three sections

The Record of Abimelch’s Treachery - 9:1-6
Here the stage is set for Abimelech to become king. In doing so he would commit treachery against his father’s house by slaying his other 69 children.
The Rebuke of Abimelech’s Coronation - 9:7-21
Jotham comes out of hiding to confront the men of Shechem over their choice to crown a king. It is evident from his speech that he not only refuses to support the coronation of his brother, but that he opposes a coronation altogether.
He uses a story to drive home his point. It involves the greatest of treasures of the people of the area in regards to trees. He uses the olive tree, the fig tree, and the vine. These trees produce the treasures of the area.
The trees turn to each of these trees and ask them to reign over them as their king. All of these refuse as they have more important work to do in producing for the good of others. With their refusal the trees turn to the bramble and ask him to be their kings. The bramble tree is useless, produces nothing, and offers no value. The bramble accepts the trees invitation so long as they rest under its shadow. The problem is the bramble no ability to give them what he is offering; first because of mere size for trees such as the cedars of Lebanon would not be able to rest in the bramble for the bramble is puny in comparison to the cedar and secondly the bramble does not have the shade to offer and is filled thorns.
In the end the bramble composes a curse on the other trees should they not be subject to him as they have promised.
In this Jotham was clearly sending a message, not merely in opposition to Abimelech, but to the men of Shechem about the ramifications of making anyone king much less someone as useless as Abimelech.
In verses 18-20 he ends his speech by getting to the heart of the matter. He was not rebuking Abimelech for desiring to be king nor was he rebuking Shechem for desiring him to be king, but he was rebuking them for the acts they committed against their national hero and the chosen vessel of victory by Yahweh, Gideon himself.
This rebuke comes with a curse. One might dismiss this speech as the ravings of a jealous brother or of one stricken by grief. While Jotham is not a direct messenger of Yahweh it would seem God was at the heart of this rebuke because of the events that are to follow.
The Demise of Abimelech’s Reign - 9:22-57
These verses detail for us the rise of Abimelech to power and his subsequent demise. Things quickly turn sour and the men of Shechem turn against Abimelech. Their heart is no more inclined to follow him.
This makes way for the conspiracy of Gaal which Abimelech defeats. One is left to wonder whether Abimelech will ever get his due, but it is coming, and the narrator lets us know that up front when he states that Abimelech reign would last a mere three years.
He turns his sites to another city. Using the same tactics here as he did with the men of Shechem he causes all the people to go into the tower out of fear. As he is set to start the blaze and burn the tower as he had done in Shechem a woman casts a millstone down from the town and nails Abimelech right in the head. Just before he dies Abimelech’s last thoughts are concerning his legacy. He remains arrogant to the last moment worrying more about how he was killed than why he was killed. He orders his armor bearer to kill him so it could not be said he was killed by a woman.
This story becomes possible because of the men of Shechem. The men of Shechem looked at Abimelech as one that was fit to follow. They believed this simply because his father was Gideon and his mother was their kinswoman. They had no other basis for choosing him over the other sons of Gideon. Foolish was their choice.
I want to preach to you a message this morning entitled Fit to Follow.
Let’s look at some key phrases in this passage.

They Inclined Their Hearts

Judges 9:3 KJV 1900
And his mother’s brethren spake of him in the ears of all the men of Shechem all these words: and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech; for they said, He is our brother.
Judges 9:
Have you ever heard someone use this phrase, “Just follow your heart.” It is a phrase that people often use. It is used by people that have good intentions for the person they say it to. It is used by rebels who believe that folks ought to be able to do what they want so if they desire to do something in their heart, just do it. It is used by Christians that do not understand the terrible ramifications that could come of such awful and unscriptural advice.

A. Do Not Follow Your Heart

The men of Shechem followed their hearts by following Abimelech. The problem with following your heart is that it doesn’t always put you on the road to joy and happiness. What some people mean when they tell you to follow your heart is for you to do what makes you happy. The problem with that is then it is our hearts that are doing the leading in our lives rather than God.
We know better than to say to a child, “Do whatever makes you happy.” Why? Because for my two year old that may mean using a marker to draw all over the walls, to eat candy and ice cream every night for dinner, and never go to bed at night.
For my four year old that may mean hitting his brother, doing whatever is necessary to obtain and retain the full attention of mom and dad at the same time, and taking every toy he owns into the living room, to church, or piled in his bed to sleep with him.
We should know better than to say to a teenager, “Do what makes you happy.” Why? For some teens that would mean wild parties filled with alcohol and drugs, for others it would mean deep intimate relationships and sometime with multiple partners without considering any of the ramifications of their actions, and still for others it might mean choosing friendships and influences that are harmful to their lives and their future. This all in the name of following their hearts.
Somehow we have convinced ourselves that while it is not good to allow children and teenagers to follow their heart and do whatever makes them happy that once you reach adulthood, that coveted age of 18, that all of a sudden you are completely qualified to follow your heart and do whatever makes you happy. We have convinced ourselves that we now have the appropriate mindset for we are no longer children and we are no longer young, ignorant, teenagers. We are adults and now we no the answers to our own happiness.
And yet, each and every day adults follow their heart and do what makes them happy and their lives are in chaos. Adult relationship fail everyday, adults get fired from their jobs because they did what they wanted and not their employer, marriages fall a part because one spouse or the other or both are doing what they want and not paying attention to what the other needs, humanity is turned against itself committing atrocities against one another all in the name of following their heart and doing what they want and what is best for them.
Friend, do not follow your heart as the men of Shechem followed theirs.
Jeremiah 17:9 KJV 1900
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
The Bible says,
Your heart may want something, but that does not mean it is good for you.
B. Consider Your Reasoning
Not only did the men of Shechem follow their hearts to crown Abimelech let’s look at their reasoning, “He is our brother.” Abimelech was one of the many sons of Gideon, but one thing he had that the others did not is the blood of a Shechemite woman.
Their hearts were inclined to follow Abimelech on the reasoning that Abimelech was their own kin. Surely this makes him a better leader than all the other sons of Gideon. Surely the fact that he is our brother will mean he will bring us favor that the other sons of Gideon would not offer us.
So, their reasoning for inclining their hearts to follow Abimelech was that he was loosely kin to them through a woman that was the concubine of Gideon and had left Shechem many years ago and raised a son away from Shechem, but somehow because our blood runs in his veins he will do what is best for us.
You see their reasoning was faulty. They never looked at his character only at his blood line. They saw a leader that could benefit them, but what they did not see was a man that wanted to lead for his own gain, his own power, and his own legacy. He did not care for the men of Shechem, but they were too busy following their heart that they did not realize he was not fit to follow. His bloodline said he was fit to follow, their hearts told them he was fit to follow, but their reasoning was faulty and so they could not see that his character identified himself as one that was not indeed fit to follow.
Proverbs 14:12 KJV 1900
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, But the end thereof are the ways of death.
Proverbs 3:5–6 KJV 1900
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; And lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, And he shall direct thy paths.

Abimelech hired vain and light persons

Vain means fruitless.
So the fruitless man went and got other fruitless men and killed 68 people.
Does this sound like the man that was fit to follow?
And yet, once he had completed his task the men of Shechem gathered to make him king. They were following their hearts to make Abimelech king and because of that were blinded to the extent he was willing to go to gain their favor and their trust to be the one they followed.
This shows us further that they were so blinded by the desires of their heart that they could not see Abimelech for what he really was, a vain man with no substance and no character that was willing to do anything and everything for prestige, power, and prominence.
Because they were blinded by the inclinations of their heart they made a madman a king over them and they paid an awful price. Abimelech would later kill the very men that had made him king. I wonder, as they were locked in their tower awaiting Abimelech’s furry (and they knew what he was capable of), what they were thinking about their decision to follow their heart? I think we can estimate that they were fearful of what was coming and they were sorrowful for their choices.

Slay me, that men say not of me, A woman slew him

Abimelech, too, had followed his heart. Abimelech was not fit to follow. Shechem should not have followed him and Abimelech himself should not have followed himself. But after all, Abimelech was only following his heart. Yes, he was, but it did not end well.
Conclusion:
Even in his death though Abimelech was more worried about who they would say killed him than he was about the life he had lived to get where he was. Many people on their death bed express doubt, some guilt, and some sorrow for various things that happened and for times they followed their heart instead of God, but not Abimelech he was not fit to follow even at death. He expressed arrogance about his legacy.

Conclusion:

Abimelech was not fit to follow. The men of Shechem did not see because they were blinded by what their heart desired. They considered only what they thought was good for them and so they followed their heart to follow Abimelech based on faulty reasoning that he is our brother.
Abimelech was not fit to follow, but he followed his own heart and his life ended in shame. The one thing he did not want people to say about him is written, in detail, in the living Word of God. Following his heart did nothing good for him and it cost him everything.
Who is fit to follow?
This story points us back to the only person that is fit to follow. All men are faulty in some way or another. Each person is following their heart who is not following God. We must choose to follow God. If we follow God we must abandon our own will to follow after our own desires. While the desires of our hearts may seem so precious as the time when we find ourselves locked in the tower of Shechem we will not be happy, but sorrowful.
God is the only one that is fit to follow. We must give ourselves over to him and follow him. He is the one with the character that is required of a person we choose to follow.
Do not set your heart on the things that you desire. Instead set your heart on God. Follow him. He will not steer you wrong. In him you will experience blessing, joy, and love. It is indeed the opposite result of following after your own heart.
Ultimately, the men of Shechem were not following Abimelech, but their own heart. Abimelech was not following anyone, but his own heart. Do not follow your heart. Follow God. His is fit to follow.
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