Summary: The story of Abimelech demonstrates the shortfalls of Human Wisdom.
Right in their Own Eyes
Text: Judges 9
The Poem "Smart" by Shel Silverstien (from Where the Sidewalk Ends--available at your library)
Judges 21:25 "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit" or "everyone did what was right in his own eyes"
Proposition:. Like the boy in the poem there’s a problem with us thinking we’re so smart:
Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.
Likewise James contrasts the Wisdom that comes from God with the wisdom from the devil, noting that Godly wisdom brings peace but human wisdom is the source of selfish ambition, disorder and every evil practice.
Interrogative: As we look at the story of Abimelech it reads like a screenplay written to demonstrate the pitfalls of Human wisdom. To fully appreciate the wisdom God means for us to gleam from this passage the question we must ask ourselves is what’s wrong with doing what seems right in our own eyes?
Transition: In the Story of Abimelech we can plainly see at least four reasons that doing what seems right in our human eyes is a recipe for disaster. The first and perhaps the most obvious reason is that Human wisdom fails to...
In the opening verses of the passage we find Abimelech and the people of Shechem trying desparately to justify their own desires:
1-3Abimelech son of Jerub-Baal went to his mother’s brothers in Shechem and said to them and to all his mother’s clan, 2"Ask all the citizens of Shechem, ’Which is better for you: to have all seventy of Jerub-Baal’s sons rule over you, or just one man?’ Remember, I am your flesh and blood." 3When the brothers repeated all this to the citizens of Shechem, they were inclined to follow Abimelech, for they
said, "He is our brother."
A little later in the passage we find Abimelech’s half brother challenging their justfication.
16-20"Now if you have acted honorably and in good faith when you made Abimelech king, and if you have been fair to Jerub-Baal and his family, and if you have treated him as he deserves17and to think that my father fought for you, risked his life to rescue you from the hand of Midian 18(but today you have revolted against my father’s family, murdered his seventy sons on a single stone, and made Abimelech, the son of his slave girl, king over the citizens of Shechem because he is your brother)19if then you have acted honorably and in good faith toward Jerub-Baal and his family today, may Abimelech be your joy, and may you be his, too! 20But if you have not, let fire come out from Abimelech and consume you, citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and let fire come out from you, citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and consume Abimelech!"
The truth is that without a God-centered standard for right and wrong there can be no such thing as justification. In the abscence of an absolute plumb line, the sole basis for deciding right and wrong becomes the desire of the individual. And becuse my desire and your desire will eventually come into conflict there is no overidding JUSTIFICATION.
So in fact doing what seems best to me in my human wisdom can never Justify. And there is something else that human wisdom cannot do, it cannot...
22After Abimelech had governed Israel three years, 23God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem, who acted treacherously against Abimelech.
The unholy alliance between Abimelech and the Shechemites has predictably begun to unravel.
As I mentioned just a moment ago, with human wisdom there is no standard of right behaivior, therefore my wisdom and yours will come into conflict at some point. What binds men and women together in purpose is only a passing common goal--a desire to use another person or people for one’s own goals.
ILLUSTRATION: Intrigues on the show SURVIVOR. Players form alliances only to later turn against their former partners.
When we rely upon human wisdom there is no Unifying standard no common goal based on common good because we can never agree upon what’s good. What makes me happy eventually will make you unhappy.
Therefore human wisdom can never UNIFY. The next thing that human wisdom lacks the capacity to do is the one that people most often find surprising. That is the fact that doing what’s right in our own eyes doesn’t even...
28Then Gaal son of Ebed said, "Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should be subject to him? Isn’t he Jerub-Baal’s son, and isn’t Zebul his deputy? Serve the men of Hamor, Shechem’s father! Why should we serve Abimelech?
Shechemites got the king they wanted, a ruler who was their brother... Or who was at least half of their ethnicity, but now that they’ve got that, even that isn’t enough and along comes Gaal dredging up an even more ancient rivalry. Shechem took it’s name from the man who centuries before had raped the daughter of Jacob, in response to this the sons of Jacob had slaughtered, Shechem, Hamor his father and all the men of the town. Gaal comes along now saying, "shouldn’t you of Shechem be led by the sons of Hamor and not one of the son’s of Jacob?"