Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 12-14:23
Today’s Reflection: 1 Samuel 12:17-19
17) Is it not wheat harvest today? I will call upon the Lord, that he may send thunder and rain. And you shall know and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking for yourselves a king.” 18) So Samuel called upon the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day, and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel. 19) And all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king.”
In 1 Samuel 12, the prophet Samuel gives his farewell address to Israel, as he steps down from his official position as the appointed judge or leader on God’s behalf in favor of their new king. In this address Samuel recounts the way God led Israel, how Israel again and again turned away from God to their treasured sins, and how when they prayed God saved them.
Then Samuel points out that despite God’s never ending goodness towards Israel, they chose to have a king rule over them so they could be just like the other nations, rather than allow God to continue to be their king. God even performs a powerful sign to confirm His displeasure with Israel’s decision. The people become fearful, but through Samuel God tells Israel He will continue to be their God, and admonishing them to obey His commands.
When Israel first requested a king God instructed Samuel to anoint Saul to reign over the people (1 Samuel 10:1), but not before telling Samuel that it was not his leadership but God Himself who the people were rejecting (1 Samuel 8:4-9).
It’s clear that God did not want Israel to have a human king. Israel was not to have been like all of the other nations. It was supposed to be a beacon of light and righteousness, made up of people following the Lord. For the children of Israel to fall into the trap of chasing after the spectacle of earthly royalty and competition with foreign pagan and idol-worshipping nations was not God’s plan.
So it should be clear, there is a big difference between what God instructs us to do, and what He merely allows us to do. Here are three important things we need to understand about this:
1) We must know God’s Word in its proper context. By taking bible texts out of context I might get the idea that God approves of polygamy (Genesis 29-30), divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-4), and ignoring the needs of the poor (2 Thessalonians 3:7-10). But a complete reading of scripture tells me that God made one man for one woman (Matthew 19:4-6), He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), and that charity to the poor is a critical part of Christian life (Acts 2:44-45). A complete reading of God’s word is needed to distinguish between what God ordains and what He does not ordain, but allows to happen.
2) God can still work within plans that are not His (sometimes so well that we mistakenly believe they are His). Jacob had two wives (and two concubines in his wives two handmaidens) violating God’s original design for marriage and family, but God used them to bring forth the 12 tribes of Israel. Though God wanted to be Israel’s king, He used David as a Messianic example, and David’s son Solomon to build the first temple. God’s grace is so sufficient He will work within our mistakes. As we continue to strive with God He can still bring His plans for our lives to pass. However, we should be aware that there are consequences when we disobey God. We will not be able to enjoy the fullness of God’s intended blessings and may miss out on some of these blessings altogether.
3) There is always a lesson to be learned from what God does not approve of but does allow. A brief look at the sad history of Israel’s kings—vile, brutal, power hungry, and disobedient to God—shows us why the Lord did not want them to have human royalty. But why did God allow it? It demonstrated clearly that the authority of kings was not something man was truly fit to have, only God. For even the most honourable kings—David, Solomon, Hezekiah, etc.—were far from perfect, and were prone to sin, lust, and corruption. Sometimes we as human beings have to learn the hard way—something that should be clear from Adam and Eve in the garden (Genesis 3), another example when God allowed something that was not His intention for us.