And Adoni-Bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off used to gather scraps under my table.

As I have done, so God has repaid me.” Then they brought him to Jerusalem, and there he died.

(Judges 1:7)


I recently received an invitation to take a stroll down the Avenue of the Giants. No, the promoters did not have in mind a walk in one of our nearby redwood forests. Rather, they desired that I should join them at a dinner party to celebrate the outstanding careers and accomplishments of a number of alumni from my high school.

The roster was impressive. It included a renowned filmmaker, two Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, a medical researcher, two physicists, two mathematics professors (one at Cal, the other at Stanford), and the founder of popular non-profit advocating for environmental protection.

God bless them all. And God be praised for whatever good any of them have been able to accomplish, for every good and perfect gift comes from Him (James 1:17).

But brothers and sisters, before ascribing too much glory to the sons of men—and certainly before envying them—let us take a cautionary lesson from the life of Adoni-Bezek.


A Cautionary Tale

Behold him there in his Canaanite palace: rich, powerful, proud, cunning, cruel, and no doubt feared and praised throughout the land.

Behold also his retinue of abjects, once great kings who are now maimed forever, grateful just to be alive, even if they must sustain their meager life by gathering scraps from beneath the king’s table.

And behold Israel, the people of God, who, with God’s help, have destroyed his evil kingdom and brought him to justice at last.

Do you see what the Holy Spirit has pictured for us here? I hope so, for if ever we are to find the holy contentment that God desires for his pilgrim people in the earth, we must.

Adoni-Bezek—a true historical figure—is also a “type” or picture of Satan, the unseen prince and ruler of this world.

Like his Canaanite counterpart, Satan too is rich, powerful, proud, cunning, and cruel (Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28, Luke 4).

Like his Canaanite counterpart, he also has maimed and subjugated many souls, souls who otherwise might have become great kings for God. The dreadful defeat first occurred in Eden, when Adam handed the race over to its shrewd and hateful spiritual foe. And for eons since, it has been re-enacted among Adam’s crippled children, who all too readily fall into their enemy’s glistening web of lies, temptations, bondage, and death.

But notice one important difference: The seventy kings beneath Adoni-Bezek’s table knew they were slaves—and doubtless bemoaned it to the end of their days.

Satan’s slaves, however, are nearly always unwitting captives. They do not know they are his “goods” (Mt. 12:29). They do know they are of their father the devil (John 8:44). They do not know they are ensnared by him to do his will (2 Timothy 2:26). They do not know they are carried along, like so much flotsam on a rushing river, by “the course of this world” and “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2).

In short, while unbelievers may think of themselves as sovereign rulers of their own glorious realms—and feast daily upon the pleasures and plaudits of a watching world—they are in fact wretched prisoners, barely surviving on the worthless scraps that fall from their invisible master’s table.

Now let me ask a hard question of my family in Christ: Do you ever envy these fallen kings? Do you ever ache to “make your mark” on this world, or to “have your moment in the sun,” or to be reckoned as one of the tall trees in the Avenue of the Giants? I do—and have pierced myself with many a pang because of it.

I do not wish to be misunderstood. I have no quarrel with fame, fortune,  power, or (lawful) pleasure, should God be pleased to grant them. My quarrel is with the lust to achieve them, which the Bible says is the animating principle of the world-system, a poison to the soul, and death to a life of contented, fruitful communion with God.

Let us consider, then, the holy antidote—an antidote found in still another Old Testament story rich with typological significance.


One Like a King’s Son

Do you remember Mephibosheth? He was Jonathan’s injured and deformed son, a man “lame in both feet.” After Jonathan’s death, there came a day when King David asked, “Is there not someone of the house of Saul to whom I may show the kindness of God?” And indeed there was!

Listen carefully to these wonderful words of King David; words spoken to the man Ziba, Saul’s former servant, and Mephibosheth’s future steward; words spoken over a dispirited orphan who thought  himself little better than “a dead dog.”

Yes, let every saint of God take to heart the King’s words:

You therefore, and your sons and your servants, shall work the land for him, and bring in the harvest, that your master’s son may have food to eat. But Mephibosheth your master’s son shall eat bread at my table always . . . He shall eat at my table like one of the king’s sons.

What a fountain of joy this is for the people of God! For here again the Spirit speaks of kings, cripples, tables, and food. This time, however, there is good news. Jesus Christ, the High King of Heaven, has bestowed the kindness of God on a chosen people, a people who are still lame in both feet (yet somehow learning to run little errands for their Master), and dead dogs (yet somehow alive from the dead, and squirming like delirious puppies in his welcoming arms)!

Yes, their Lord has shown them great kindness, more even than David showed to Mephibosheth—for David made him like a king’s son, but Christ has made his people to be true sons, and true heirs as well. Because of his victorious warfare in their behalf, they are family to him now, feasting with him always—not under the table, but at the table—face to face, in sweet fellowship with the Great King.


Good and Necessary Bread

Let me repeat my earlier confession: I find I still have a taste for Adoni-Bezek’s poisonous scraps. Fame, fortune, power, illicit pleasure—all keep beckoning. Alas, the tiniest taste fills (but fails to satisfy) and intoxicates (but fails to delight). Truly, they are deceptive food, shutting me out from the pleasures of my Master’s table—yet my wretched flesh craves them nonetheless.

So here is the great lesson I have learned: God’s royal family must learn to eat daily of the bread set before them on the King’s table—bread purchased at the greatest possible cost to their royal host!

Often, we will find it delightful: filling, satisfying, energizing, even intoxicating.

But always, we will find it necessary. We simply cannot do without it, no, not for a single day. For here alone we receive essential strength: strength to turn from the poisonous scraps of the ruler of this world; strength to behold our life in a pilgrim’s perspective; strength to remain content with our present fare (however exalted or humble it may be); and strength to keep our eyes fixed on our true destination: the greatest Feast of all time, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 12).


Final Words, Final Things

Let me close by reminding you again of Adoni-Bezek’s final words: “As I have done, so God has repaid me.” The Israel of God administered the justice of God, and Adoni-Bezek was utterly swept away.

So it shall be in the end, when Christ returns and the glorified “Israel of God” arrives on the scene. The ruler of this world will be utterly swept away, along with his city, his palace, his table, and his pitiful but willing retinue. For God is the rightful ruler over all, and all must therefore be made right.

Therefore, in that day, all tables will be turned. The rich will be poor, and the poor rich; the weak will be strong, and the strong poor; the wise will be foolish, and the foolish wise; the redwoods will be twigs, and the twigs cedars of Lebanon.

Let us therefore be patient. And until that day, let us keep strengthening ourselves at the Master’s table.

Moreover, as we wait, let us not forget that we too were once Adoni-Bezek’s crippled captives, feeding on his table scraps and doomed to his destruction. But in mercy, grace, and love, a greater than he came for us, entered his dark domain, plundered his goods, and took us for his own.

If then, on our pilgrim way, we should happen to meet any of  Adoni-Bezek’s helpless slaves, let us have compassion on them, inviting them at every opportunity to join us: to become one of Heaven’s royal sons, and to know the unspeakable privilege and pleasure of dining daily with the King.


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