The Tree King

“But it refused, saying
‘Should I quit producing the olive oil
that blesses both God and people,
just to wave back and forth over the trees?'”
Judges 9:9 nlt
One of the misconceptions myself and many others have fallen into believing is the idea that you are either a leader or a follower; there is nothing else.  Along with that idea comes this bizarrely extreme way to define leader vs. follower.  It seems to set up the spectrum with {celebrity role models, professional athletes and political figures} as leaders on one end and {cult members, groupies, fanatics and lemmings} as followers on the other.  I’m not quite sure I know where to place myself in those terms.
One of the coolest things about reading the Bible on a daily basis is that it allows God to show me how to look at things in a completely different way than the world portrays it.  His way of doing things changes my perspective in every area of my life.  So, when I consider leadership from his perspective, I see that I’m called to be so much more than a leader or a follower.  I found the perfect wisdom to shift this misconception in the book of Judges.
In Gideon’s final phase of his life, the Israelites decide they liked him so much they asked him to become their king.  Gideon turned them down saying “I will not rule over you, nor will my son.  The LORD will rule over you!”  (Judges 8:23 nlt).  Unfortunately, some of the people of Israel weren’t content with that answer.  When one of Gideon’s sons (Abimelech) offered himself as leader to the people of Shechem, he gladly accepted.  His first act as ruler was to gather up all 70 of his half-brothers (the rightful heirs to Gideon’s inheritance) and kill them.  Only one, Jotham, escaped.  He ran to the top of a mountain overlooking Shechem and shouted out this parable to the people.
Once upon a time, the trees decided to elect a king.  First they said to the olive tree, “Be our king!”  But it refused, saying, “Should I quit producing olive oil that blesses both God and people, just to wave back and forth over the trees?” 
Then they said to the fig tree, “You be our king!”  But the fig tree also refused, saying, “Should I quit producing my sweet fruit just to wave back and forth over the trees?” 
Then they said to the grapevine, “You be our king!”  But the grapevine replied, “Should I quit producing the wine that cheers both God and people, just to wave back and forth over the trees?”   
Then all the trees finally turned to the thornbush and said, “Come, you be our king!”  And the thornbush replied, “If you truly want to make me your king, come and take shelter in my shade.  If not, let fire come out from me and devour the cedars of Lebanon.”

So, the good sons of Gideon were represented by the olive tree, fig tree and grapevine.  Abimelech is represented by the thornbush.  The thing I find most interesting isn’t the gross abuse of power Abimelech showed, but rather the respect for service that the other three potential Tree Kings had.  They each turned down an opportunity to lead, not because they lacked anything or were merely  “followers.”

They turned down the opportunity to lead so that they could continue SERVING.

When I look at things from that perspective, it makes me excited to identify areas of my life where I am already producing fruit that blesses both God and man.  I will not lead or follow.  I will serve.


Dear Lord, you sent your son to this earth not to take it over but to OVERCOME it.  I want to see things differently because of your sacrifice.  Thank you for giving me opportunities to serve you and my community of friends and family.  Let me remember these blessings when I am confronted with wanting more.  Strengthen me and keep me in the pursuit of serving you – my True King.  Amen.

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About messyworship

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I believe that you can bump into God outside of a Sunday morning church service. That is what Messy Worship is: a written meditation with an authentic, transparent take on the Bible's application to today's world. This is where I challenge myself to blurr the line between "life" and "worship" so much that the line disappears a little more each day. I hope, by sharing what I learn, the idea of a seamless life of worship becomes contagious.

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  1. Author Image

    Awesome! I would add that there’s a third kind– servant leadership. It’s the kind we see in Godly families and prosperous churches. Everyone is a leader in one way or another, and does so with a joyful servant’s heart, emulating Christ’s perfect example of servant leadership. 🙂

    I needed the encouragement though of “just” following/serving instead of leading/controlling. It’s hard to execute!!!

    SAHM I Am / Reply
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      I appreciate your input, Jen! I totally agree about the servant leadership; I think you and I are actually saying the same thing. I want to take terms like “leader” and “follower” out of the equation completely because ultimately, if we are setting our eyes on being servants and friends of Christ FIRST, we will automatically be doing things for each other with that same servant spirit. I really liked how Gideon refused the leadership request by pointing out to the Israelites that God is the true leader.

      You are right – it’s extremely difficult to execute!!

      Em / (in reply to SAHM I Am) Reply
  2. Author Image


    Nick Kaun / Reply
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      That probably would have been a really clever name for this one, actually!! I guess I kind of am a tree hugger in this case. Haha!

      Em / (in reply to Nick Kaun) Reply
  3. Author Image

    Humble enough to serve, confident enough to lead when needed. Servant leadership is a good thing!

    Mike Westendorf / Reply
  4. Author Image

    Finally had time to read your blog. As so often is the case God’s word (and your blog) comes along at the proper time. You see I’m on the 04/01 ballot to “serve” as Village Trustee. I don’t know if I’ll win or lose. I do ask that His will be done. And I ask that service heart be mine, win or lose.
    Thanks Again Em &
    God’s Blessings,

    Anonymous / Reply
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      I’m so excited that you are taking a step out in faith and offering your wisdom towards that position! You’ve got my vote – I love watching God use you in everything you do, Uncle Curly! I am inspired by your bold faith!

      Em / (in reply to Anonymous) Reply

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