What Jotham wants to make clear with his parable is that to rule over others is to spoil the blessing God wants to give. Where people are given the opportunity to rule, the use and blessing of the Holy Spirit (represented in the olive tree), righteousness (represented in the fig tree) and joy (represented in the vine), all gifts of God, are withered. The final result of rule can be seen in the bramble – with which the inhabitants of Succoth have received a sensitive lesson (Jdg 8:1616He took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and he disciplined the men of Succoth with them.) – which will cause nothing but pain. Here is shown what human government in the house of God ends in.
The tree here is a picture of a reigning power. We can also see this for example with Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 4:20-2220The tree that you saw, which became large and grew strong, whose height reached to the sky and was visible to all the earth21and whose foliage [was] beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which [was] food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt and in whose branches the birds of the sky lodged—22it is you, O king; for you have become great and grown strong, and your majesty has become great and reached to the sky and your dominion to the end of the earth.). With the trees it is always about bearing fruit and giving it up when to rule is started. By nature, people want to be governed by someone in whose life fruit is seen. The true spirit of government is the spirit of serving (Lk 22:2727For who is greater, the one who reclines [at the table] or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines [at the table]? But I am among you as the one who serves.). Exercising authority in the sense of lording is of much less value than fruitful serving.
In the story of the trees, Jotham exposes the character of Abimelech and also the unfair and disingenuous actions of the citizens of Shechem against the memory of his father Gideon. We will see that we can apply Jotham’s story to leadership in individuals, but also to the overemphasis of a particular doctrine. The purpose of the parable is to recognize the guidance of God and to avoid having ourselves confirmed in such a position by others who want to give us a place of honor.
The olive tree is the first tree to speak. He is a picture of the energy and enlightenment, power and fruit of the Holy Spirit. Olive oil kept the candlestick in the tabernacle burning so that there was light (Exo 27:2020“You shall charge the sons of Israel, that they bring you clear oil of beaten olives for the light, to make a lamp burn continually.). We also read that in the Old Testament priests and kings and occasionally prophets are anointed with oil. In the New Testament the believers are seen as priests and kings (Rev 1:66and He has made us [to be] a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him [be] the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.) and the believers are spoken of as people anointed not with literal oil, but with the Holy Spirit (1Jn 2:20,2720But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.27As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.). Oil is a picture of the Holy Spirit.
If the work of the Holy Spirit is clearly visible in one’s life, there is a good chance that one will ask him to take the lead. It may also happen in a community of faith that the working and expression of the Holy Spirit is emphasized in such a way that with it His true place is lost. Then the gifts of the Spirit become the yardstick for the assessment of one’s spiritual life. A person who has a certain gift then enjoys a higher regard than someone who does not have the gift in question.
Whoever examines the Bible in this respect will discover that the Holy Spirit did not come to present Himself, but that He came to glorify the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus says of the Holy Spirit: “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose [it] to you” (Jn 16:13-1413But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.14He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose [it] to you.).
This does not diminish the glory and divinity of the Holy Spirit. It is about determining the place of the Holy Spirit in the Godhead and what He does on earth. By the way: therefore also speaking to and worshipping of the Holy Spirit in word and song and praying to Him are misplaced. Nowhere in the Bible this is justified.
What can become visible in one’s life is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23a22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.). If such a person, with whom this is found, is asked to take the lead, the answer will be: I am too busy in the things of God to start to rule.
The olive tree also has to do with the promises God has given to His people (Rom 11:16-2416If the first piece [of dough] is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too.17But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree,18do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, [remember that] it is not you who supports the root, but the root [supports] you.19You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”20Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear;21for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.22Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.23And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.24For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural [branches] be grafted into their own olive tree?). It also presents the believers as those who are connected with God in everything and who realize that they owe everything to Him (Psa 52:10).
In summary, an ‘olive tree brother’ is someone who is guided by the Holy Spirit and in whom the fruit of the Spirit becomes visible. He is one who takes into account the promises of God and in all things trusts Him. If there is an ‘olive tree brother’ in the local church, he could be told: ‘We want to appoint you as a leader, as happens in the churches around us.’ It is to be hoped that his answer will be like that of the olive tree, so that he can continue to bear fruit for the glory of God.