Israel was unique…the people had no government as we would understand it today or as compared to the nations they knew of but God was their king. God provided prophets and judges to handle day to day leadership but the central focus of their life was not in political office but in worship where God was King. The visible symbol of government for Israel wasn’t a palace or a white house but the sanctuary where God was worshipped.
The elders of Israel demanded a king amidst good times for the most part in their history. But, isn’t that a funny thing? How many times does prosperity provide the right soil for restlessness? Samuel was old and his sons were unfit for the position and the elders demanded a king. Samuel thinks a king is a bad idea – in part because his own ego gets in the way in thinking that the people have insulted him. But God knows the people are rejecting him once again. In the deepest sense the elders were trying to get out from under the rule of God.
The elders saw what other nations had and they too wanted style and clout. What they didn’t understand is all this style and clout would be at their expense – for the king’s benefit as Samuel so dramatically told them. Did you notice the number of times the following phrase is used, “he will take”?
Peer pressure is evident here – the Israelites have no higher ambition that wanting to be like other nations. We can read words like, “do not be conformed to this world” but when all is said and done many times, the desire to “keep up with the Jones’s” is a trouble causing trump card. Even Samuel is reluctant to go along with God’s desire to give them what they want. But God has a plan…he’s not giving up on the Israelites…but the lesson they are about to learn is a tough one…the lesson of realizing who the king is that they already have…God.
In the movie Evan Almighty…God asks the following three questions: If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?
We want God to just give us what we ask for…Just change my circumstances; Just fix my problems; Just let me wake up tomorrow and be different; Just give me the solution, please. Unfortunately, I haven’t found these to be how God works in my life. We often go on a particular journey to develop something in us rather than just fixing something. Often times what we want and what we need are diametrically opposing – and we find that the real learning is in the journey, not the destination. And…the journey continues.