1 Samuel 8:1-22
What a slap in the face this must have been for Samuel and for the Lord! Try to put yourself in the Lord’s perspective here (I realize this is an absurdity to even attempt to see from God’s perspective, but work with me on this). From the day you brought these people out of slavery in Egypt you have promised to go out before them, to govern them, and to defeat their enemies for them. Not only have you promised to do it, you have delivered it time and time again. Did they drown the mighty Egyptian army in the sea? Did they have to tear down the walls of Jericho? Did they hurl hailstones at the Gibeonites? Did those 300 men slay the Midianites with torches and trumpet blasts?
After all that God had done for the Israelites, imagine how He must have felt to hear them say that the king would, “lead us and go out before us and fight our battles” If I were God I would have said, “Hello! What am I, chopped liver?” Fortunately I am not God (a resounding Amen comes from the congregation!) and His ways are higher than my ways.
Here are some observations and lessons from this passage:
- It was inevitable for the people to request a king. As we saw in Monday’s devotional, the people had taken their eyes off of God for so long, and their common values had become so diluted and syncretistic, that they had to defer to a centralizing, human ruler to bring peace to their society.
- Their focus was so deeply based in human, physical reality, that they could not even see the Kingdom of God at work in them. The reality of God’s hand in their history made no impact on their practical life. They were so focused on their bellies and their survival that they could not see the spiritual reality of the covenant relationship that they had with God.
- Their spiritual blindness had created such tunnel vision that they were willing to reject the sound reasoning that God offered them when he spelled out the consequences that would come from choosing a human king. So many times, when people feel that they are backed into what appears to be a desperate situation they are willing to betray reason and their own conscience just to get out of it. The old saying goes, “desperate times call for desperate measures.” Spouses who feel trapped in an impossible marriage will have an affair, sabotage the relationship, or just plain run away from it, rationalizing that “it was so bad, I had to do it.” People who are on the brink of a financial crises will cheat on their taxes or “fudge the numbers” to make ends meet. People whose lives are literally being threatened will kill in order to save their own life. In human logic this makes sense. The question is, “are there really any desperate times in the Kingdom of God?” Or we could poise the question this way, “by what standard are we measuring desperation?” Is self-protection really the rationalization we need to justify sinful behavior? If so, what did Jesus mean when he said we are to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and pray for those who persecute us rather than repaying evil with evil?
- In spite of their short-sighted choices, God was gracious to them. One of the recurring themes we can observe in God’s relationship with His covenant people is that He continually gives them a lot of rope. Was it right for them to want a king? No. Was having a king going to make their situation better? No. The right answer to their problem would have been to repent from their ways, reconnect to the heart of God, and allow Him to be their spiritual King. He would, through their surrendered heart, overflow into the physical reality of their existence and bring true peace to their society. Yet, that is not what they requested from God. So, God gave them what they asked for. He allowed them to have a king and worked with them within the parameters of that mixed up situation.
Did he remove their consequences? No. The nation suffered terribly for having chosen a king. All the warnings that He gave them came true in the centuries to follow. Did He abandon them? Never.
The point for today is, “Be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it.” God does have a simple plan and will for our lives. He wants our surrendered heart to do with what He will. He wants us to live in His Kingdom and serve Him as King. Yet, the battle between our kingdom and His Kingdom still rages on in our hearts. Let’s learn from the poor choices of the Israelites. Let’s not look around at the “Jones’” and see all the cool stuff that the “other guys” are doing. Let’s not fall into the trap of comparing our lives and our church to others and asking God to make us “like that guy”. God does not grade on a curve. He looks at each heart and deals with it based upon the truth of His kingdom.
Let’s spend some time today and ask God to release us from any of the distractions that we may be facing from someone else’s king and get our eyes focused on Him.