Let me catch you up on what you might have missed in the last post: the Israelites decide that God isn’t King enough for them. Even though He has given them Himself, they come to Him demanding an earthly king so that they can be like all the other nations.
Today we’re going to look at God’s three responses to their request.
1. God grants the Israelite’s request for a King.
God would have been justified to respond in wrath and discipline but instead, He grants their request. God says that their cry for a King has come to Him, so He provides a King.
The people are really psyched about their new King. “They made Saul king before the Lord in Gilgal. There they sacrificed peace offerings before the Lord, and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.”
2. God calls the Israelite’s to repentance.
It’s almost as if the rejection of God in the request for a King has been forgotten, but then Samuel makes a speech that puts the Gettysburg Address to shame.
Samuel starts in slow and then launches into the devastating heart of his message. He spends paragraphs building passion and fervor reminding them of all the faithfulness they have witnessed from God. He reminds them of the ways God has been with them and fought for them and saved them.
Then, in a voice ringing out he reminds them: but you became afraid and you said: ‘a king shall reign over us’ when the Lord your God was your king.
As the thunder roles in, Samuel calls them to behold the power of God and fear at His majesty and might so that they might feel the weight of the wickedness “which [they] have done in the sight of the Lord in asking for [themselves] a king.”
The people freak out. They are indeed terrified. They cry out to Samuel to pray for them that God may forgive them for this great sin they have committed in asking for a king.
When faced with the reminder of the faithfulness of their God, the people repent. They finally see the horror of something that to us can seem trivial. They see the offense threaded in the implication of their desire for a King.
3. God assures the Israelites of His faithfulness
Just when you’re sure something truly devastating is about to happen, Samuel delivers God’s final message to the broken Israelites:
Do not be afraid; you have done this evil.
First, Samuel tells them not to be afraid. The Israelites can have hope, but it’s not because their sin isn’t that bad. He reminds them – they are indeed evil, but there’s a hope outside of themselves. So often, we try to comfort ourselves in our failure with the lie that we ‘aren’t that bad; it could have been worse.’ But that’s not the comfort God calls us to. There’s better comfort available to the believer that will allow us to say to ourselves: ‘I don’t need to be afraid. I’ve done evil, but I don’t need to be afraid.’
Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty.
Second, Samuel reminds them of the betterness of God. God isn’t trying to withhold from the Israelites by not giving them a King, He’s actually giving them better. His call to obedience exists to protect us from trusting in empty things. It’s a call of betterness. It’s a call to ultimately gain, not lose. Stop looking to empty things to save you. Money can’t make you more secure. A better job won’t give you more worth. A husband won’t make you feel less alone. A child won’t make you feel more needed or loved. More success or power or fame won’t make you more significant. These things are empty.
For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.’
Finally, Samuel reminds the Israelites of the greatest reality. He explains why we can acknowledge our evil deeds without fear. He explains why we don’t need to turn to empty things. Because God is for us. He is faithful. He won’t forsake us. We don’t need to be afraid of our evil deeds and we don’t need to turn to empty things.
For the sake of His great name – so that He can show the world what a great Dad He is – God will forgive and bless His kids,
We have all asked for a ‘King‘ at some point. God may have granted your request, or you may still be asking.
If God has granted you your request like the Israelites, how should you respond?
Maybe you’re still celebrating the arrival of the thing you’ve wanted for so long, or maybe, even now, your new ‘king’ is failing you, just as Saul failed the Israelites.
Either way, the call from the Bible is to remember His faithfulness and repent, proclaiming to Him any ways you have looked to an earthly thing to fill a Heavenly need. Don’t let your insecurity or doubt cause you to harden your heart and become defensive about the decisions you have made in your life. Repent and trust in His grace and forgiveness for those in Christ.
If God has withheld that ‘king’ from you, if He has withheld the one thing you want most – worship Him knowing that He has given you Himself instead.
In His great love He has withheld from you something empty so that you might turn and grab onto His fullness. Today, in this moment, you have everything you need in Him.
Let Him be your portion.
Let Him be your King.