What is the one thing that usually gets us in trouble? James says it can light a fire. James 3:5 So also the tongue is a little member, and boasts great things. Behold, how little a fire kindles how large a forest! I used to have a plaque that had an "Elroy-was-here" face on it. If you are too young to remember that, back during WWII, you could find this hand drawn icon in a lot of different places. It was a straight line with a huge nose draped over it and large round eyes and hands on each side of the nose gripping the fence. My plaque read, "Lord, help me to keep my big mouth shut and my nose out of other people's business." It was good for me to remember that.
Our mouth (or tongue) has a habit of running without our brains kicking in gear and that usually gets us in hot water. The same thing happens in our next funny story from the Bible.
What about Gaal? (Gaal means Loathing. He was the son of Ebed)“In those days, there was no king in Israel, everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 21:25
A little background here... Gideon saved Israel from the tyranny of the Mideonites with just 300 men -- a drop of water compared to a river. He had a lot of wives and those wives gave him 70 sons. After Gideon saved the Israelites, they begged him to rule over them. Even then, they wanted a king. Gideon told them "No way. GOD will rule over you." He was hardly cool in the tomb before Israel went back to worshiping Baal and bowing down in the high places. Then along comes Abimelech. He was Gideon's son, but his son by a concubine, not a wife, and she was from Shechem. Abimlech slew each of his brothers except one, Jotham, who managed to hide from Abimlech's slimy followers. Abimlech had gone to the leaders of Shechem and advised them they'd be better off being ruled by someone that was one of them.
Jotham gets up on his soapbox and tells the people of Shechem just how the cow eats the cabbage. He told a parable. (A most delicious way to teach and make a point, which Jesus used frequently.)
All the trees decided they needed a king so they asked the olive tree to be king. No way... said the olive tree, "No. I'll have to quit making my fruit so that I could do all that work. I'd no longer be servant to God." The other fruit trees said the same thing. Isn't it interesting that the fruit trees were asked and the fruit trees said no? The fruitful were the most valued. The oak and the pine and the cedar trees are only useful after they are cut down, but the fruit trees are more useful while producing fruit. Then all the trees ask the bramble to be king, to which the bramble scrambles to grab the crown. Just like Abimlech did. The worthless, scratching and destructive choking bramble trying to rule. He only ruled for three years. Compare that to the good judges who judged, not ruled, for at least 40 years.
This dog... er, bramble... sniffs the wind and sees how it lays. Then his mouth runs way ahead of his brain.
Gaal gets the citizens of Shechem to transfer their allegiance to him. They go out and press grapes having a big ole party. Gaal obviously gets drunk and blasts Abimelech.
"Who is Abimelech? He's not so big as the Shechemites!" He beats his fists on his chest and with a great Tarzan imitation. “If I were in charge here, I would know how to get rid of Abimelech!" (Insert the Tarzan yell), "I would say to him, ‘Let's take this outside buster...let's fight!’ Nana nana boo boo... “ This type of taunt is usually accompanied with the behind wiggle and the finger waggle, hands held appropriately about ear level. Here is one drunk bramble trying to take over another bramble's territory.
Oh, and Governor Zebul hears all about it! "Ummmmmm! " You can just hear the wheels in the man's mind rattling around and 'round. "I ammmm tellinnnnn'!"
The Gov gets this brilliant idea and sends Abimelech a message spilling all the juicy tidbits of Gaal's loud bragging. Then tells Abimlech exactly what to do. It isn't like Abimelech can't think for himself, but the governor has to lay out a plan. It is te classic Indian ambush! Hide in the bushes at night and when Gaal appears "do what the situation requires". What was the Gov thinking? Do we have a three-way bramble brawl?
So when Gaal gets up in the morning probably not feeling very spiffy, probably with an exploding hangover, he downs his morning coffee, yawns, stretches, scratches the itches, then he goes and stands in the open gate! What a target. What a stupid thing to do. All night he was mouthing off about Abimelech to Abimelechs relatives. Didn't he know they were kith and kin? It was like "Uh, here I am...I'm the one in the red shirt!" Any one who has had even the remotest contact with small towns, knows that everyone is related in some way, shape or form in small towns. This is how Abimelech became ruler... he was bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh. His momma was the darling of the town who had snagged a semi-husband who was a Grand Duke--er, Grand Bramble of the forest. You just don't say anything about anybody in a small town because sure as you do, you'll step on a cat's tail and set up squalling all over the place. It didn't matter that Shechem's leaders had put violent men in the mountain passes to rob the passers-by to undermine Abimelech. That was just brotherly squabbling. Everyone knows you just don't step in between brothers when they squabble.
Standing in the gate, Gaal sees this huge army outside the gate and panics. He runs behind Zebul's skirt...
He says all whiney, "Gov Zebul, baby, there are big men with knives and stuff coming!"
Gov. Zebul squints into the distant morning sun and says, "Oh, no. That's just shadows you're seeing from the sun coming up." Now, the hungover Gaal is probably seeing double through the pounding of his head and here is the classic case of seeing what you want to see. Whether Zebul was stalling for time, or was calling Gaal a scaridy cat for becoming alarmed at shadows is speculative. Gaal alarmed himself, it seems by pointing out they were surrounded by an army prickly with war weapons.
Gov. Zebul looks at him with beady eyes and says, "All right Big Mouth, you wanted to be in charge here. You were the one that said Who is Abimlech? You were the one with the Tarzan yodle, and pounding your manly chest. There he is [finger jabbing Gaal’s chest and a smirk on face] Go out and fight him!"
Then Gaal goes out the gate [knees trembling] and fights. But Abimlech basically says “BOO!” and chases Gaal. He flees with tail tucked between his legs after there are bodies strewn all the way to the gate. Zebul then bans Gaal and his brothers from living in Shechem.
What’s the lesson here? Big mouths often cause big trouble. I think the bigger lesson here is choose carefully the person you follow or consort with because he's liable to cause you great pain or harm. I keep thinking about those fellows who followed Gaal. He ran and left them high and dry without so much as a horn-tooting-retreat. They wound up dead. It is crucial to know the character of the person you choose as a leader. How often do we vote without the first real thought of how that person votes on legislation? How well do we know how each candidate feels about each issue? Too often, we find out too late when the person is in office and we can't change it for years. Sometimes, the very bad choice made is because we are so apathetic to even voting. How sad. Arm chair critics are quick with their tongues, but slow with their fingers. Know the candidates and what they stand for. In my opinion, we've got too many brambles in government.
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