"Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, 5 and said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” 1 Samuel 8:4
"And he said, “This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. 12 He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. 14 And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. 16 And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men,and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. 18 And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the LORD will not hear you in that day.” 1 Samuel 8:11-17
The Israelites decided they wanted a king. Samuel prayed to God, and then warned the people what life would be like with a king. They didn't care about the words he told them, and insisted that they wanted a king- so that they could be like all the other nations.
Keepin' up with the Joneses much? No really, they wanted an earthly king so they could be like all the other nations around them. God apparently wasn't king enough for them. They really were trying to keep up with the neighbors, and of course, this was one of those times where God answered their cries and prayers for a king even though it was not the best course of action for them. God gave them their king... Sometimes, I wonder when we ask God for things, or wish for things, if God gives us things that really aren't good things for us. When we read on in 1 Samuel we see that the words of Samuel come true for the people of Israel. Saul as king commands the sons and daughters of the people for his own purposes.
"Now there was fierce war with the Philistines all the days of Saul. And when Saul saw any strong man or any valiant man, he took him for himself." 1 Samuel 14:52
Any strong or valiant man he took for himself. Families lost members of their families because the king put them into his service, just as Samuel foretold.
Sometimes we may have the exact same experience, we just don't realize it. While we don't ask God for kings and queens, maybe we ask for property, vehicles, vacation homes, entertainment systems,success, wealth, etc. (To keep up with the neighbors, of course.) And sometimes God works things out just so that you can have those things. He helps you to get a raise at work so that you can afford that extra payment every month, or something along those lines. But then you get that thing, and it becomes your "king". It steals your attention from God, first of all. But then as time goes on, you find yourself enslaved to the very thing you thought you desired. Keeping up with the neighbors can be very costly in so many ways. When you have to work so hard all week long just to make the payments on things and needs, and you're just not quite catching up, maybe that's when you have to stop and think about what is taking your attention in your life.
That's when we look, once again, to those Israelites who were so sure they wanted a king so that they could be like everyone else. I think in these instances, we need to look at our desires and think about what we are asking God for, and look at the reasons behind the request. Why do we want to be wealthy? Is it so that we can have money to do fun things and live comfortably? Or is it to help those around us who have so little and need help? Why do we want that new car? Is it a necessity to get to and from work? Or is it simply to try and keep up with the neighbors who get a brand new car every few years and can't help but show it off. I think in those instances where we think we want something because someone else has one and maybe we've seen it, think it's neat and want one for ourselves... those are the instances where we need to re-examine.
You know, I can't help but think way back- about nine years or so. We were living in a duplex with a wonderful landlord who offered us the opportunity to buy the place. It was really more than an offer- he really wanted us to be able to buy it from him, and was willing to wait until we could afford it. Oh, we prayed about that so hard! We were so excited at the idea of owning that duplex! We had ideas and plans in our head, except that God had other plans. The answer from God was a resounding no, and now, in retrospect, I am to thankful for that. Had we somehow been able to afford to buy it, a few years later, Andy had a really rough year at work where he was off for almost a full six months for winter. In that amount of time we probably would have lost the house and a whole lot more. God saw that, He saw into our future and knew that house would have been a purchase we would have regretted. And boy, would we, because now we're living in a completely different city where we are so incredibly happy.
Last night as I was driving home from dance class, I was looking at the sights of my city, and as usual, just thanking God for bringing us here. (We're definitely still in the honeymoon phase of living here.) As I looked at the neon signs, traffic lights and crazy rush hour traffic, I thought briefly about what it would be like to live in quieter times. While studying history for school, we're just getting to the invention of automobiles, and I was thinking about technology and how God really is the one who allows it to unfold as it does. It made me think of those cultures of people who eschew technology for various reasons, like the Amish. I often say I would like to be Amish, because I'd love living a simple way of life, except that I wouldn't really. I like my computer, I like being able to use a phone to call someone to ask a question. I like being able to drive my car to get from place to place. But there is a balance between enjoying technology, and being enslaved by it.
When we spend all our waking hours with that technology, making it a king in our lives, we are enslaved by it, and that's where everything goes wrong. Or when we have to work so hard to make an income just to pay for all these material things in our life... that's when we need to stop what we are doing and re-assess. What exactly are we doing? What is our priority? And then we need to ask God for forgiveness for our attitude and our desires that caught us up away from Him. Sometimes we have to live with those choices and decisions for a long time, and that's okay. But what ultimately and truly is important is to recognize that Jesus is Lord over our lives. Not our house. Not our boat or vacation home. Not our credit score or savings account. It's Jesus. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and sometimes other worldly kings and lords try to steal our attention. There's a great program out there right now about saving money and getting out of debt. It is wonderful for many people- I've seen it in action, but if we're not careful, building that savings account and paying down that debt can become our king for a time. And that's not right. Our focus should be on God! And when He says, save a certain percentage, we do. When He says give a certain percentage to the homeless, we should. There shouldn't be a long thought out process about how giving money to the poor will make that savings account build so much slower. We are to make Jesus our King, and He told us to take care of the poor, the leper, the orphan and the widow.
Instead of wishing to keep up with the neighbors and having the latest and greatest (flat screen HDTV- I'm talking to you!) we need to recognize the real King in our lives and see that He is more than enough for us. That we don't need the latest and greatest. Sometimes those things can and do come into our lives, because God wants us to enjoy life. But they shouldn't rule our lives. They shouldn't be our focus, and they shouldn't be what we are living for. Let's learn from the Israelites and see that living for worldly kings is not all it's cracked up to be. Let's live for the King of Kings.