Sometimes we want to be like other people, even if those people are miserable. The allure of being part of the crowd inebriates us against our better judgment. Most of the time we hate standing out.
This is what happened to the Israelites when Samuel got old and his sons dropped the leadership ball. “They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice” (1 Sam 8:3).
We want a REAL ruler!
Apparently in response to this leadership succession failure, “all of Israel” gathers together to deliver their verdict to Samuel:
You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.
Samuel knows this won’t be good for Israel, so he prays. The Lord tells him to listen to the people and appoint a king, but to also warn them about what having a king will mean.
The king will conscript your young men for his army. He will take men to plow his fields and make the weapons of war. He will take women to be perfumers and bakers and cooks. He will take the best of your land and give it to his attendants. A tenth of your harvest will belong to him.
He will take, he will take, he will take… and “you yourselves will become his slaves.”
The people refuse to listen:
We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.
Getting what you ask for
The Israelites dream of what a king “like the other nations” will do for them. Someone to lead us and go out before us. Someone to fight our battles.
They don’t think it through all the way. The king is only one man. The way he fights for you is to conscript your sons into his army. The way he leads you is to require a tenth of your harvest.
You think the king will serve you, but you will become his slaves.
Ironically, you’ll get exactly what you asked for: a king “like the other nations.” One who exploits and plunders his own people.
Wanting what you already have
The second, more tragic, irony of this story is that what they want in a king is exactly what they already have in the Lord.
The Lord actually does lead them and go before them. He actually does fight their battles for them. They already have a king who leads them like a shepherd, a ruler who serves them.
They are pining for something they already have!
But they can’t see it when Samuel’s sons go off the rails, so they insist on getting a king “like the other nations.”
And they get one. They get Saul, a disaster of a king, filled with jealous rage and self-preserving justification.
They reject their God who can actually lead them and choose a human king who can’t.
Making mud pies in a slum
How many times do we do this? We long for what can never satisfy us. We think a new relationship or a new circumstance or a changed situation will be the “thing” that gives us what we really need.
Van Morrison sang it for us:
When will I ever learn to live in God?
When will I ever learn?
He gives me everything I need and more
When will I ever learn?
We dig around in the trash for that which is abundantly available to us.
As C.S. Lewis said in The Weight of Glory,
It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
As a leader, where do you look for “a king like the other nations”? Where is it you tend to focus when feeling needy or lonely?
Hear the good news today that Christ is your sufficiency. He is all. He is infinite joy. In him are eternal pleasures.
How can you turn your attention toward Christ today, refusing to be so easily pleased?
Werner Olivier says
Good post Ben
I often think about this.You get people that are always want to keep up with the Joneses who are always in competition with somebody and the list goes on and on.They are actually so poor and have not dicovered the real life in Jesus, and He provides us with everything in this life and for the eternal life for ever.Thanks also for your previous posts.I am reading all of them.
Werner Olivier Thanks Werner! Glad they are helpful.