The Lesson of King Abimelech

I don’t have the greatest memory when it comes to the Christian Bible.

Which is why I have to read it many times over in order to grasp the lessons of its many stories and parables throughout its 66 books dubbed scriptural canon.

So this morning in my private time of daily devotions, as I still call them, I’m reading the story of Judge Gideon and his son, King Abimelech of Israel. And I find in my mind this little hole or blank spot where I had long ago forgotten that Israel had a King before Saul. Yep. Abimelech was successor to his father, Gideon, yet not as Judge but rather by assent of the governed he was named King. King Abimelech. Long before King Saul ever assumed such power.

How could I have forgotten that?

Well, therein lies a lesson perhaps not just for me today but for you upon reading this, or upon re-reading Judges 8-9 if you are so inclined.

I wonder, dear friends, if there are not two types of power in this world that we humans are capable of drawing from.

First is the power of fear, which leads us to take control over other people or situations by either “fight,” the choice made by such biblical heroes as Judge Gideon and his son, King Abimelech, or by “flight.” The Hebrew parable tellers and later biblical writers remembered the ones who chose to “fight” for control. They were called heroes. Those who used “flight” were forgotten and not remembered at all. They probably outlived the heroes and died a peaceful, natural death for all they knew or we can ever know.

The lesson of King Abimelech is that the power of fear that leads one to choose “fighting” for control over others is a power lasting all the way to the grave. But beyond the grave is most easily forgotten. Among those who chose mostly to fight out of fear, we find Judge Gideon who, despite his life of heroism before the grave, left Israel to live on as a nation that worshiped Baal-berith as their god (see Judges 8:33). Men like Gideon and his son, Abimelech, achieved a fair amount of control during their earthly lives. But they bore no lasting influence. They become forgotten figures in the long run. Meaning I am probably not the only one to have forgotten King Abimelech.

The power of fear to help us gain control over other people and situations, whether by means of fighting or fleeing, is short-lived. It is easily forgotten. It has little lasting influence.

But there is a second power we humans are capable of drawing from.

In my mind this power comes not from the body but from the soul.

This power bears lasting influence well beyond the grave and is never to be forgotten, unlike King Abimelech. It is the power of love.

Unlike fear, love always seeks influence and never control. If you doubt me on this, think of two different people you have known in your own life, one who sought always to control you and speak for you or decide for you or manage your life from morning to night, and one who sought never to control you but always to influence you by first understanding and then informing you in ways that added to your own understanding. Now you choose: which of those different people loved you most?

Love is what Jesus is remembered for. Fear is what King Abimelech, who lived and then died by the sword, is forgotten for. Love carries lasting influence forever, well beyond the grave.

Each of us has this important choice to make in this life. Do we want to be remembered or forgotten beyond the grave? At the risk of over-simplification, there is from scripture this critical lesson about power that is later forgotten because it came from fear and led to “taking control.” This was the consequence of King Abimelech’s own choice, but a noteworthy lesson for ourselves as we still live on to make new choices for ourselves.

Love was, and still is, the lesson of Jesus’s own choice and one we can still learn from if we prefer the consequence of lasting influence beyond our own grave. His is the lesson of power that is never forgotten because it used love that led to giving influence, in total opposition to the forgotten power of fearful control.

Each day………….yes, even today……….each of us will have a choice to make. Which source of power should we use to get through this day and the night to follow? The power of fear that will lead us to take control in the short run, whether by fight or flight? Or the power of love that will lead us to give influence for the long run, by helping someone out even today in their own time of hurt?

Today will we choose to be more like King Abimelech? Or more like Jesus?

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