Links Daily Devotional

Give Me Some Shade

“Finally all the trees said to the thornbush, ‘Come and be our king.’ “The thornbush said to the trees, ‘If you really want to anoint me king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, then let fire come out of the thornbush and consume the cedars of Lebanon!’” (Judges 9:14-15, NIV)

Trees. A golfer’s foe when an errant shot disappears into the tangled world of darkness, or friend when it miraculously ping pongs off the branches back into the fairway. I have experienced both many times over the course of my career.

In the dry wilderness of the Holy Land, trees are a precious commodity and offer shade, sustenance, beauty, as well as significance in the biblical narrative. However, some trees only present deception and future destruction to an untrained eye. One such tree is the thornbush, or the Atad tree.

In the book of Judges, Jotham (the youngest son of the great judge Gideon and lone survivor of a mass murder against his brothers) climbed to the top of Mount Gerizim to proclaim the parable of the trees. Abimelek, one of Gideon’s sons, was the mastermind behind destroying 70 of his brothers and then deceived the citizens of Shechem to crown him their king.

Earlier in the plot, Gideon had fought and risked his life to save God’s people from the hands of Midian. The people desired for him to be king, but Gideon refused and insisted that only the Lord would rule over his people. Not long after Gideon’s death, the Israelites quickly forgot the Lord, again, and prostituted themselves to Baal as god.

The parable of the trees exposes our propensity to lust after someone or something as god instead of the Lord. The trees of the land went on a search to anoint a king to rule over them. The Olive was approached first and refused because its oil was highly honored and used by all. The Fig said, “Should I give up my fruit, so good and so sweet, to hold sway over the trees?” The Vine also declined to give up its wine that gives cheer. The Thornbush stood proud and replied, “Come and take refuge in my shade,” ready to breathe fire over those who refused it as king (Judges 9:8-15).

Sitting in the shade of a tree was a common illustration of the day and represented the king as a place of protection. The thornbush offered false shade, for resting in the shade of a wild Atad tree provides no rest. Larger than all other fruit trees in Israel, the Atad’s roots grow deep and are wide-spreading, leaching all nourishment from the surrounding soil. It also has two thorns, one straight and one hooked, while its fruit is small and not very tasty.  An Atad tree will destroy everything around it. Looking to an Atad tree as king is like turning our face away from God, a slow downward spiral toward spiritual death.

Abimelek was an Atad tree. He eventually destroyed the very people who chose his kingship. The root meaning of atad is to pierce. Jotham used the parable of the trees to pierce the conscience of his listeners. However, they didn’t heed his warning and lost their lives. In the end, God repaid Abimelek’s wickedness with death at the hand of his own armor-bearer.

I enjoy the shade and fruit of a good tree, and the parable of the trees piques my curiosity to ask, “What kind of tree am I? Do I offer fruit that brings sustenance, goodness, sweetness, cheer, and shade? Am I a place of rest for others? Or am I an Atad tree…taking from everyone around me so at the end of the day they die and I live?”

“That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers” (Psalm 1:3). My desire is to continue to grow into this kind of tree.

Tracy Hanson
December 3, 2013
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