Today’s reading: I Samuel 9-12.
It’s hard for us to imagine why anyone would want to be ruled by a king. We cherish our freedom and associate kings with despots who abuse their power. The Israelites, however, cried out for a king, perhaps because they had grown weary of the endless conflicts with the Canaanite nations around them and thought that a king would have the power to bring them peace. In a watershed moment God gives them what they ask for, at the same time warning them of the trouble it will bring and chastising them for rejecting his authority.
“But when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites was moving against you, you said to me, ‘No, we want a king to rule over us’–even though the LORD your God was your king. Now here is the king you have chosen, the one you asked for; see, the LORD has set a king over you.” I Samuel 12:12-13
You have to wonder why God gave them something that was not his primary plan for them. Perhaps he was making the best of something they were bound to do on their own. Maybe it was his own form of discipline and instruction to burden them with a king. In the years to come all of Samuel’s warnings about the dangers of kings would come true. The kings would tax the people heavily and take away their children for royal or military service. The best of their lands and livestock would be taken away and given to the kings, who would treat them like slaves. Out of all the men that would take the throne over the next four hundred years or so, only a handful of Judah’s kings and none of the northern kingdom of Israel’s kings would be considered good.
In contrast God’s rule stands out as wise, loving, and just. That may be the most important lesson of Israel’s experiment with kings, learning the true value of letting the LORD rule in our lives. But what does it mean to let him rule?
- It means we trust his direction, even when we can’t see where he is taking us.
- It means we trust him to provide for our physical needs and to protect us, even in times of distress.
- It means we obey his word rather than doing what we want to do.
Learning to live under the king’s rule is a very practical lesson for all of us, for “the king is coming.” He has come, bringing salvation by his death and resurrection. He will come again to reign over the earth. Even now his kingdom of heaven is enthroned wherever believers bow down to worship him.
Image by flow14 on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0