Israel is still determined to have a king. Even after the warning Samuel gave them. A stubborn and determined people.
Israel wants a king like the rest of the nations around them, as God knew they would. The variability of the judges who have been serving over them has most probably been a factor in this decision. But having a king doesn’t mean smooth sailing or that your interests will even be taken into consideration. Samuel tried to tell them this but they won’t hear it.
“No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles” (verses 19b-20).
It sounds to me like a case of ‘the grass is always greener.’ How many times do we look around and see what someone else has and wish we could have it too? We see only the results. We don’t see what it took to get that result nor do we see all the pitfalls that come after attaining it.
Israel didn’t see what the other nations had to give up to appease their king. They wouldn’t listen to Samuel as he tried to explain the ‘cost’ to them. They believed they could make it work their own way and stubbornly refused to listen to God’s caution.
I have been wrestling with this section for a while this morning. I started with giving an example of illustrating the ‘grass is always greener’ principle using two characters and a new car buying experience. One wanted what the other had but didn’t take into account the hidden costs or how their life would change as a result. I ultimately deleted this because it didn’t feel right.
Next I thought about speaking to the problem of Israel’s stubbornness. I suffered from that same trait and learned through a LOT of hard lessons that it needed boundaries. Anyone who has been on this journey with me for very long has seen examples of my stubbornness, both hurting and helping along the way. When it hurts it’s called ‘stubbornness’ but when it helps it’s called ‘determination.’ Same character trait, just used in different ways. But that didn’t feel like the way I should be going either.
Finally I was given one more aspect to look at. This aspect is the difference between God’s perfect will and His permissible plan. God did NOT originally intend for Israel to have any king other than Him, but He knew they were going to ask for one before He even got them to the Promised Land. ALL the things Israel was asking for in a king, God had already provided, other than one aspect. That aspect was Israel being like the rest of the nations.
From the beginning God separated Abram. He set him apart and had him live by standards He set out. The first heart separation was when He called Abram to leave his own people and follow Him. The first outward separation was that of circumcision. The first legal separation was when He gave them His Laws. ALL of these separations were initiated by God and intended to mark His people as different from the rest of the nations. They weren’t supposed to ‘be like the other nations’ in their hearts, conduct, or government.
God’s “perfect will” for Israel included them coming to Him for their leadership in all aspects of their lives. He would provide answers to their questions. He would be their King. He would judge them. He would go before them in their relationships with other nations. He would fight their battles. He would provide for their needs. He would comfort them in times of trial and rejoice with them in times of victory. He would be more than a king to them; He would be their Father.
As a Father, He expected certain standards from His children. Israel had trouble living up to those standards. Not because God’s standards were wrong or too lofty but because man had sin in his heart. God would deal with this issue for His people too but that part was still to come.
Israel wanted a leader who was more tangible. They wanted a flesh and bone leader that they could follow with their eyes and ears. This is what all the other nations had. They didn’t want to have to depend on someone else to tell them what their Leader said; they wanted to hear it from his own mouth. (When God tried that with them in the wilderness it nearly scared them to death!) They wanted a single man they could all turn to and take their direction from. They wanted that man to provide them with direction, protection and provisions.
God gave Samuel permission to give Israel what they asked for. Israel having a king is part of His permissible plan for them. But it came with consequences. These weren’t consequences HE would inflict on them for not choosing the path He laid out but ones that occurred because of THEIR choice. They chose to have a fallible human ruling over them. That human would make mistakes in leadership, follow their own desires, and at times be overwhelmed by the enormity of their responsibility.
God has a perfect will for each of us but I’m sorry to say that we mess it up. There are times when we walk closer to that line than other times. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that some walk ON that line at times. I try but I already know I fall short. Then there is God’s permissible plan for our lives. It comes with consequences too. Those consequences are the result of sin. Being in the “permissible” plan means we have left His “perfect will” someplace. He isn’t going to snatch His ‘umbrella of protection’ away from your head because you didn’t live up to His standards but you are going to get wet because YOU stepped in a puddle. He doesn’t want you ‘getting wet’ and playing in the puddles of sin but He knows you will at some point anyway. He takes your hand in these places and guides you back onto HIS path.
Depending on how deep your puddle is and how much you splash around in it you may wind-up soaked to the skin. These are the times when His umbrella won’t even do you any good. He stands back and waits until you are done making a mess of yourself. He offers a towel and clean clothes (forgiveness) but won’t join you in the mud or even tell you that what you did was perfectly fine by Him. There WILL be consequences. Sometimes, because of mercy and grace, He softens those consequences. Then He lets you turn back to HIS path and start walking HIS way again.
God allowed Israel’s stubborn choice of a king. He knew they would make that choice and He knew it would cost them in the long run. He allowed them to learn the hard way through experiencing both the good and bad aspects of their decision. He didn’t rescue them from their kings. He provided guidance to their kings who would receive it through His original plan of the priesthood. But even then, the king had to choose to listen AND the priest had to be following Him to provide HIS direction.
Man is NOT perfect. God’s perfect will is for us to follow Him faithfully all our days. God KNOWS man is not perfect and He loves us anyway. He DOES NOT give you permission to sin but He does love us through it and brings us back into His will. He also uses our experiences in sin and their consequences to teach us lessons along the way. God wasn’t giving Israel permission to have a king because it was part of His perfect will but because He would use it to bring about His perfect will for the rest of the world.
Father God, thank You for Your mercy and forgiveness when I walk out from under Your perfect will. Thank You that You don’t abandon me in my sin but call me back to You. Thank You that You don’t leave me with gaping open wounds from my sins but heal my heart and use those scars to create something beautiful again. I will never look like the original clean slate but the scars create a pattern that created who I am today. I pray that the woman You have made me into is as pleasing as the one who You originally intended. After all, You knew me before I was even born and where I would go in life. Thank You for never giving up on me.