Thursday, October 03, 2019

Asking for a King

When Samuel got to be an old man, he set his sons up as judges in Israel. His firstborn son was named Joel, the name of his second, Abijah. They were assigned duty in Beersheba. But his sons didn’t take after him; they were out for what they could get for themselves, taking bribes, corrupting justice.

Fed up, all the elders of Israel got together and confronted Samuel at Ramah. They presented their case: “Look, you’re an old man, and your sons aren’t following in your footsteps. Here’s what we want you to do: Appoint a king to rule us, just like everybody else.”

When Samuel heard their demand—“Give us a king to rule us!”—he was crushed. How awful! Samuel prayed to God.

God answered Samuel, “Go ahead and do what they’re asking. They are not rejecting you. They’ve rejected me as their King. From the day I brought them out of Egypt until this very day they’ve been behaving like this, leaving me for other gods. And now they’re doing it to you. So let them have their own way. But warn them of what they’re in for. Tell them the way kings operate, just what they’re likely to get from a king.”

So Samuel told them, delivered God’s warning to the people who were asking him to give them a king. He said, “This is the way the kind of king you’re talking about operates. He’ll take your sons and make soldiers of them—chariotry, cavalry, infantry, regimented in battalions and squadrons. He’ll put some to forced labor on his farms, plowing and harvesting, and others to making either weapons of war or chariots in which he can ride in luxury. He’ll put your daughters to work as beauticians and waitresses and cooks. He’ll conscript your best fields, vineyards, and orchards and hand them over to his special friends. He’ll tax your harvests and vintage to support his extensive bureaucracy. Your prize workers and best animals he’ll take for his own use. He’ll lay a tax on your flocks and you’ll end up no better than slaves. The day will come when you will cry in desperation because of this king you so much want for yourselves. But don’t expect God to answer.”

But the people wouldn’t listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We will have a king to rule us! Then we’ll be just like all the other nations. Our king will rule us and lead us and fight our battles.”

Samuel took in what they said and rehearsed it with God. God told Samuel, “Do what they say. Make them a king.”

Then Samuel dismissed the men of Israel: “Go home, each of you to your own city.”

1st Samuel 8:1-22 The Message

To quote Darth Vader, it is “all too easy” for me to read passages like this (where the Israelites demand to “be just like all the other nations”) and let out a rueful chuckle at the thick-headedness of the Israelites. I relax into the comfy Barcalounger of my own self-satisfaction, safe and secure in the knowledge that I – a mature believer on this side of the Cross – would never behave this way.

The painful reality is that I’m an expert at hiding my ravenous desire to be the king of my own life – so I can be like all the other people who have the dubious privilege of running their own lives. Presented with the truth of where choices like this inevitably lead, I stick my metaphorical fingers in my ears and clap my hands over my eyes.

But, just like the Israelites, my choice to ignore truth thankfully doesn’t mean that God ignores me. And just as God used the monarchy to prefigure the coming of the Real King, He uses my twisted desires to lead me into truth, surrender and actual freedom.

Thick-headed. Self-blinded. Usurping a throne that belongs only to the One who died for me… and yet He still loves me and leads me.

Where do you want to be “king” of your own life?  Take a few minutes to talk to God about abdicating the throne to Him.

Note: songs that sprung to mind while I was writing this: The 77s: “The Lust, the Flesh, the Eyes & The Pride of Life” and Andrew Peterson’s “The Good Confession (I Believe)."

I wrote this devotional for our church's 10th anniversary devotional book - Restoration Church Nashville.

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