The Bible is a big book full of many stories. My Bible is filled with many numbers or words scribbled in the margins, meaning nothing to anyone but me. These markings are ebenezers; reminders of the way God has moved.
I’ve had a couple of Bibles since I became a Christian and every single one of them is worn down around 1 Samuel 8. There is a story hidden in those pages that has never ceased to speak to me.
It’s the story of the Israelites wanting a King.
The Israelites wanted a King. They were afraid and they weren’t sure what the future held, and they wanted a king like all the other nations around them; a king who could judge them and go before them into battle and who could fight for them.
The heart of their request is this: they want a worldly possession to fill a godly need.
I know what it’s like to want a king, (and ’m not referring to my British roots, or the royal wedding).
I know what it’s like to feel unsafe in the weirdest way. I know what it’s like to see someone around me who seems safer, who seems more provided for, and to grasp at the one thing they have that I don’t. And I know what it’s like to go before God and beg for that one thing, even when I know He has given me everything I need. Even when I know He has not withheld from me.
We all have worldly things we want because we think they will fill God shaped holes inside of us. We all turn to earthly possessions to satisfy needs that were made to be met in God alone. I walked through what this looks like for me in a previous blog on singleness.
In what ways are you looking for an earthly thing to fill a need God is designed to fill? It’s good to ask God for the things you want. It’s just also good to ask without demanding. It’s good to ask out of faith that you already have everything you need in Him.
There are a couple of reasons the request for a King is so horrific.
- First, it’s a demand to be like all the other nations. The Israelites forgot in the moment of their perceived need that they had been set apart for a reason.
- Second, it’s a rejection of God.
First, the Israelites were set apart on purpose.
The Israelites just wanted to be like all the nations; they didn’t remember that God didn’t want them to be like all the other nations. They had been set apart by God for a reason.
One of the ways God set them apart was by giving them a different King. While all the nations were led by mere flesh and blood, the Israelites had been given God as King. He promised to be for them and fight their battles, and yet they looked around and began to believe that God was holding out by setting them apart as different.
You and I have also been set apart. We’ve been called out of the world. The question is – do we resent that like the Israelites, or do we thank God for the ways He has made us different?
When you watch your friend compromise and get the promotion, do you regret that God has protected you from that? When you watch the girl get the guy because she refused to walk in the way of the Lord are you disappointed that God convicts you in that area?
When you watch your kids get over looked for opportunities because you aren’t willing to be competitive and manipulative, do you ever regret that you are called to act with integrity? When you walk into the neighbor’s house and see all that they have, or witness the mom who can afford plastic surgery to undo all the marks this life has written on her body, do you envy? Do you wish, even for a moment that you weren’t restrained by the Spirit?
Do you resent God? Do you resent that He has set you apart?
Second, the Israelites were rejecting God.
When the Israelites come to Samuel with their request, he isn’t happy. But he brings it to God and God encourages him not to take it personally. He informs Samuel that he should listen to the people because they have not rejected Samuel, but they have rejected God.
Reading that breaks my heart. I’m not sure why it’s so emotional for me. My friends/counselors would tell you it’s because rejection is my deepest fear, and one of my deepest struggles.
So, when I read from the mouth of my faithful God most high, words like “they have rejected me from being king over them’, it stings my soul a little.
He is God and He is a kind and gracious father, and this is His children we’re talking about here. They are standing there, gazing up at a God and father who has never failed or forsaken them and in they are telling Him that they don’t want Him.
In the next post we’ll get into God’s response, but before then I just have a couple of questions for you:
- What is your king? What is the thing you think will make you feel more safe? What is the thing you want God to provide because you’re not really sure He’s sufficient?
- God has set you apart. In what ways do you resent that He has ‘withheld’ worldly things from you so that He could fulfil His promise to not withhold good from you?
- Spend some time thinking and repenting for the ways you have rejected God by demanding something earthly to fill a need He was meant to meet.