And Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to his mother's brothers, and communed with them…
There was to the fig-tree no excellency like that of meeting adequately its own ends and of fulfilling its own inborn purpose. The fig-tree was not created to be a king among the trees. That was not its selected part or its appointed task. The oak and the cedar might be great in strength, the ash and the willow might be exalted for beauty, but in its own way of being great the fig-tree had a dignity all its own; measured by what it was meant to be and by what it was meant to do it might rest, secure for all time of usefulness and of honour. The real measure of the success or failure of each life is thoroughly and exactly the measure of its self-fulfilment. Centuries afterwards a Greek philosopher laid hold of this same principle, and he gave to it a more philosophical interpretation, a profounder application to the life of man; but Aristotle did not teach the lesson of it more finely, he did not illustrate it more happily, than had been done before in this passage. The measure of the success or failure of each life is thoroughly and exactly the measure of its self-fulfilment. As with the fig-tree, it is the excellency of man to live and to be fruitful in those powers which are distinctly his own; to be rational because he alone is truly rational; to be moral because he alone is moral; to be spiritual because he alone within the earth is breathed upon from a higher world, and hears with a deeper hearing a music and a song which hath not been uttered, Nature and God alike ask of man not the life of the tree or of the brute or of the angel, but the life of man as man. For man to turn from the culture of that rational and moral life which is distinctively his own, for man to yield his own peculiar task, for him to forsake the high inheritances of rational freedom and of moral purpose, is to tear from his own experience, to cut from out his history, the very justification of his existence in the world. Let him look well to that. It is not his life to be merely strong. When we look for strength we will not look to him. We will not look for strength to man, but to the deep-settled hills laid strong and sure among the rocks; to the wild waters of the flood as they beat and scream in their ruin of the land; to the winds of heaven as they fall sharply upon the sea; to the great fish within the deep; to the huge beast within the forest; to a thousand things in earth and sky; but we will not look for strength to man. Nor is it man's life or woman's to be merely beautiful. When we look for beauty we will not look to man, but we will look far out upon some deep blue quiet of the hills, to the unfolding glories of the new day, to the sweet radiance of those tears which the dying night has left upon the flowers; we will look to corals of the sea, to diamonds from the under-world, to the waving shadows of the forest and the fields. To these we will look for beauty, but not to man. Let man keep and wear the graces which as man are his; let woman be dowered in those beauties which are all and peculiarly her own; but let that motive die within us which has no task for man or woman but those sad and empty services of flesh, those weak apparent shows of lust or ease or wealth. Oh, for men whose first and thorough task will be that of being men! Oh, for women whose souls and hearts are set deeply in the purpose of being and of serving under woman's name in those causes which are all her own, among those dignities and sanctities which make with men her queenliness and saintliness for ever! If there is need to-day for a humanity which is human — for manly men, for womanly women, for childlike children — there is need also for a churchly Church. Institutions as well as individuals have their primary uses and their distinctive life. The Church, too, if she is to continue among men, must act truly and deeply from her own powers, must be strong in a Church's spirit, instinct and eager with the Church's mission. The life of the Church may have its social aspect, it may have in a sense its business aspect, it has been forced to have in certain quarters an aspect which is purely political; but the measure of her exclusive and especial triumphs along lines like these is exactly the measure of man's detestation of her cause. The Church, to be the Church, must be primarily and essentially religious. There are individual Churches which are not successful in any sense, but the Church which is successful in the life God sends her out to live, that Church which in a religious sense is a success must be a success in all senses and for all wise and honourable work.
(E. G. Murphy.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem unto his mother's brethren, and communed with them, and with all the family of the house of his mother's father, saying,