Posts tagged king
The words of a prophet spoken over a wicked people. God would bring his judgement and it would be swift and fierce and seemingly unrelenting. But there was something else. God had placed another vision on Isaiah’s heart – one that he revealed in the midst of this word of God’s judgement.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)
Not only was God going to eventually end his punishment of the people of Israel, but he was going to send someone special. He was going to send someone to defeat the enemies of his people, to establish a throne and to uphold it with justice and righteousness. This, for the people of Israel in Isaiah’s time and even among present-day Jews, was a promise that they would hold near and dear. God was going to fix it!
And he did…but not in the way that most expected. Eventually God would send Jesus to earth, announced by angels who quoted this very passage of scripture. And though he would establish the Kingdom of God, he pretty much left the earthly kingdoms alone, much to the dismay of his Israelite onlookers. You see, Jesus didn’t come to just fix what is broken – he doesn’t want to super-glue together some old clay pot. He wants to re-create! And so, we can only see dim glimpses of the Kingdom that Isaiah spoke of, and yet, just grasping that which we can see makes us wonder how a God could be so great, so powerful and so loving.
Who wouldn’t be excited to have a king like that?
“Oh, I just can’t wait to be king!” So says little Simba in The Lion King. Yet, as Simba would learn, being king is not as easy as it seems. In fact, being at the pinnacle of leadership can come with some pretty grave consequences. As we read through Psalms, there are constant reminders that along with all of the perks of being king come a whole slew of problems.
To put it in context, think of the President of the United States. If you are elected President, you get a lot of perks – a big fancy house, a whole house staff, complete with maids and chefs, a giant airplane, and the list goes on and on. But you know what else you get? You get attacked every single day. You face opposition at every turn. You live in a constant state of looking over your shoulder, because not only does half of the country wish you weren’t in office, but so do half of the people you are supposed to be working closely with to govern the country.
The President of the United States is often called “the most powerful man in the world,” but the job is also arguably the most stressful in the world (just look at the rapidly-growing gray hair that occurred during the last three presidencies). Now, think of David. As king, he had a lot of great things. And yet, just like today, he was constantly facing opposition and history had shown him that the fortunes of a king can turn at any time.
I suspect that is why David was so adamant about placing his hope and trust in the Lord. In whom else could he trust? And in whom else can we trust? Not to say that everyone is out to get us, but, let’s face it, we even let ourselves down from time to time, so it’s pretty unreasonable to expect that other people aren’t going to let us down, too. And so, if we place our hope and trust in another person, eventually we are bound to be let down.
But there is one who won’t let us down – one who knows us better than we know ourselves, loves us more than we love ourselves and is more trustworthy than we could ever dream of being. In the words of King David:
In you, Lord my God,
I put my trust. (Psalm 25:1)
It may not make much sense to us to think of David’s loyalty to Saul. After all, Saul spent the last several years of his life in pursuit of David. Saul, for most of that time wanted nothing less than to kill David. Even if we can understand David’s reluctance to kill Saul with his own hands, it’s hard to comprehend that he would actually mourn Saul’s death. And yet, not only does David mourn the death of Saul and of his friend Jonathan, but he also kills the man who carried out Saul’s final wish by impaling him with a spear.
While this may seem odd to us, I think it really speaks of David’s character. Just as David referenced each time he had a chance to kill Saul, he truly believed that Saul was appointed and anointed by the Lord. Who was David, then, to take it upon himself to dethrone Saul by killing him. Likewise, once Saul was killed, David could mourn the death of someone who had been like a father to him back in those earlier days. He recognized the significant of the moment – Israel’s first king had been killed. This was no longer about personal grievances or vendettas, but about the health and longevity of a nation.
I truly believe that David mourned Jonathan’s death out of personal anguish, but Saul’s death out of a love of God and of the nation of Israel. David had something of God in him – something that understood the ramifications of not only his actions, but the actions of everyone everywhere. David knew that there was a bigger picture.
He was a humble servant and a valiant warrior. He respected those in authority over him. He honored his God. Even though he had to spend several years running from a man who wanted to wipe him from the face of the earth and to destroy his calling, David ultimately was able to step into his calling, all the while maintaining dignity, honor and respect for Saul who reigned before him. This is the kind of character that Israel was to expect in a king and the kind of character God expects in all of us.
The anointing of Saul as king is a pretty strange series of events. First, the people of Israel ask for a king and, though God doesn’t want to, he gives them a king. The king he gives them is Saul, a guy who never went looking for power, authority or kingship. Actually, he just went looking for his donkeys. Then, after choosing and anointing Saul as king, God, through Samuel, reminds the people of Israel how evil it was for them to ask for a king in the first place. But, Samuel says, everything will still be OK if they follow and obey God.
There’s a pattern found throughout Scripture of the people doing wrong and then God redeeming it – not only redeeming the people, but the act itself. Here, for instance, the people want a king (something that God deems as evil), then God redeems that desire by choosing a king for them and anointing him with power and prophetic gifting and the rest.
For Saul’s part, his lack of eagerness to be king can clearly be seen as he hides out among the supplies so that he won’t be identified by Samuel. I know of countless leaders, myself included, who have tried the “hiding out” technique to avoid being identified, plucked from obscurity and called out as a leader. Unfortunately (or, I guess, fortunately), when God has chosen someone, no matter how much they try to hide out, they’re going to stick out in a crowd just like Saul – head and shoulders above everybody else.
Who knows why or how God chooses to weave his good and perfect will into the broken, messed up decisions that we make? Why would God choose a king for the people when he didn’t want them to have a king in the first place? Why would he choose a guy like Saul? Why would he choose to bless Saul and Israel even though the people had sinned in even asking for a king? These are questions that only God can fully answer, but as we dig into the rest of 1st and 2nd Samuel, I think some of these things will become a little more clear.
As I said yesterday, Samuel was certainly a special child – one who grew into a special man. He would serve as prophet, priest and judge over Israel – the embodiment of God for those people. And the people of Israel weren’t stupid. They knew a good thing when they saw it. As long as Samuel was in charge, they had a good life and they weren’t grumbling about not having a king. But as soon as Samuel’s sons came to power and weren’t following the ways of their father, the Israelites started grumbling again. Presumably, they at least had some notion that the reason they were prospering was because of the faithfulness of Samuel.
And so begins this back and forth between God, Samuel and the people of Israel. The people really wanted a king – if for no other reason than just to be like all the other nations – and Samuel thought the idea was ludicrous. I think it’s interesting that 1 Samuel 8:6 says that it “displeased Samuel” that they asked for a king and “so he prayed to the Lord.” You’ll notice that it doesn’t say, “it displeased the Lord and so he spoke to Samuel.” No, this was initially Samuel’s beef with the people. He heard their request and thought, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” And so he consulted with God.
Now, there are a lot of directions to go here, but I think maybe the most fruitful is to understand that Samuel had grown up in relationship with God. He regularly heard from the Lord. He was a student of the law of Moses. He apprenticed under Eli the priest. He was, for lack of a better word, “soaked” in God his entire life. And so, it would stand to reason that something that was displeasing to God might also be displeasing to Samuel. Ultimately, Samuel sought God’s direction regarding a king, but even before praying to the Lord, Samuel knew that this wasn’t a good idea. He knew, because he knew the nature of God.
He knew that God was a compassionate monarch. He knew that God didn’t do things out of selfish ambition and always had the people’s best interest in mind. He knew that human kings could never hold a candle to God, the perfect king. He also knew that the people didn’t so much need a ruler as they needed to follow the rules they had already been given.
When Samuel prayed to God, his gut feeling was confirmed, but God inserted another layer of wisdom into the picture. God affirmed Samuel’s belief, but told him to go ahead and give them a king. This would be a lesson for the Israelites. God knew that no matter how good things were, they were never going to be satisfied until they tried out this whole “king thing.” And so, rather than arguing with them, he said, “Give them a king.” But, he told Samuel to let them know the cost of having a human king.
For me, this is akin to telling a child not to touch the hot plate in front of them. “It’s hot, no no, don’t touch!” “Don’t touch, no no.” It’s hot!” For some kids, though, they are going to have to touch the plate before they’re convinced. And so, God lets Israel “touch the hot plate” in order for them to discover that what he has been telling them is actually the truth. Of course, this is a lesson that the people of Israel would have to learn over and over again – and one that we’re still having to relearn today.