Just like Israel, we sometimes want to turn from God and go our own way, even if we are warned about the cost.
1 Samuel 8:10-22
10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 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.”
21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. 22 The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”
Then Samuel said to the Israelites, “Everyone go back to your own town.”
We’ve all seen it before: the little kid who is warned by their parents not to do something – and is told the consequences – but goes ahead and does it anyway. Perhaps you can even remember it from the child’s perspective! Sometimes we laugh as we see the child listen to the warning and then we watch the thoughts play across their face: “How can I get around this? Maybe it’s worth the consequences? I reckon it might be…” As a child, my wife’s uncle was warned not to swim in the flooding Mary River. He did it anyway, reasoning that the thrill was worth absolutely any punishment.
But it’s not just kids, is it? We adults are tempted too: by money, security, comfort, sex, power or whatever else. And even if we know some course of action is contrary to God’s will – and hurtful to ourselves and others – we may yet try to justify it to ourselves. We may go ahead and do what we feel like, instead of what is right and good. We may take Jesus off of the throne and put ourselves on, in our own minds at least. We give ourselves the status of a monarch, to do whatever we please, and to heck with the consequences to us or others.
Israel was in an unfortunate position. God had clearly set out that Israel was to be a nation unlike any other. And if that was a nation without a king, as God willed it, then so be it.
In fact, they were not without a king. They already had God – a king like no other, one that would never fail, would never leave, and would always know what was best for them. But they wanted a man to rule them. A regular human with a heart full of corruption and selfish desires. And they wouldn’t take no for an answer.
So, Samuel stepped in with God’s message, setting out a list of everything that would be taken from them. He reminded them of the greed and selfishness that affects every human and would affect their king. He reminded them that the king that they thought would be an end to their suffering would only prolong it.
So unbearable would their lives become that, in the end, they would turn back to the God they rejected and call out to him. The same way they had every other time that they turned away.
Yet, even as Samuel told them of the lives they faced, they did not listen to him – just as we do not listen to God when we race after earthly things we know we should not possess. Do we not already know the cost of sin? Do we not understand what is at stake if we do not live for God? Do we not know of the consequences here and now of our foolish actions, let alone down the track? Why is it then that we deliberately choose to listen and not obey? Why do we ignore the king we have, and put ourselves on the throne?
Samuel told Israel that, when they called out in despair, their faithful God would turn a deaf ear. But we see in Jesus that the judgement was only temporary: God ultimately replaced their useless king with the all-surpassing king Jesus. Let’s look to him on the throne too.
Head: What is a recent case where you really wanted to do something, even though you knew it was wrong and harmful? Is there something you’re considering right now? Think hard!
Heart: What thoughts did you use – or do you usually use – to justify it to yourself? It’s just a “small” thing? It “makes sense”? It’s time to “look after myself for once”? Do you think these are actually true?
Hands: How can thinking about others – and God – help you to properly weigh the natural consequences of making an “I’m the boss” kind of decision?
Prayer: Dear God, help us to not live our lives with ourselves as ruler, ignoring the consequences. Instead, help us to live for you with Jesus as our King, and treasuring what you have given us because of it. Amen.
A song to listen to: You are My King (Amazing Love)
Geoff Pryde and Maddie Pryde- Creek Road Presbyterian Church- Carina