After Abimelech had ruled over Israel for three years, God sent a spirit that stirred up trouble between Abimelech and the leading citizens of Shechem, and they revolted. God was punishing Abimelech for murdering Gideon’s seventy sons, and the citizens of Shechem for supporting him in this treachery of murdering his brothers. The citizens of Shechem set an ambush for Abimelech on the hilltops and robbed everyone who passed that way. But someone warned Abimelech about their plot.
One day Gaal son of Ebed moved to Shechem with his brothers and gained the confidence of the leading citizens of Shechem. During the annual harvest festival at Shechem, held in the temple of the local god, the wine flowed freely, and everyone began cursing Abimelech. “Who is Abimelech?” Gaal shouted. “He’s not a true son of Shechem, so why should we be his servants? He’s merely the son of Gideon, and this Zebul is merely his deputy. Serve the true sons of Hamor, the founder of Shechem. Why should we serve Abimelech? If I were in charge here, I would get rid of Abimelech. I would say to him, ‘Get some soldiers, and come out and fight!’”
This “spirit that stirred up trouble” was not just an attitude of strife, it was a demon. It was not Satan himself, but one of the fallen angels under Satan’s influence. God used this evil spirit to bring about judgment on Shechem and Abimelech. First Samuel 16:14 records how God judged Saul in a similar way.
Abimelech was the opposite of what God wanted in a judge, but three years passed before God moved against him, fulfilling Jotham’s parable. Those three years must have seemed like forever to Jotham. We may wonder why Abimelech wasn’t punished sooner for his evil ways.
We are not alone when we question why evil seems to prevail. Job, Jeremiah, and Habakkuk all asked God that question (Job 10:3; 21:1-18; Jeremiah 12:1; Habakkuk 1:2-4, 12-17). God promises to deal with sin but in his time, not ours. Actually it is good news for us that God doesn’t punish sin immediately because we all have sinned and deserve God’s punishment. God, in his mercy, often spares us from immediate punishment and allows time to turn from our sins and turn to him for forgiveness. Trusting God for justice means (1) we must first recognize our own sins and repent, and (2) we may endure a difficult time of waiting for the wicked to be punished. But in God’s time, all evil will be judged. All wrongs will be made right.
Next time you see evil succeeding, pray not only for God’s justice, but pray that by his mercy, evildoers would repent and turn to God. Then thank God for his patience with you and for the grace, mercy, and forgiveness he’s shown you through Christ.