"Learning From Israel's Mistakes"
1 Samuel 8:1-9
By Drew Zuverink
"When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel's leaders. The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice. So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, 'You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.' But when they asked for a king to lead them it displeased Samuel so he prayed to the Lord. The Lord told him: 'Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them: but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.'"
This story marks a tragic part of Israel's history. Israel never had a king up until this point. That made them completely unique in comparison with every other group of people in their area. Every other nation had a king to lead them but Israel was different, they followed God as their king - or at least that was what they were supposed to do. Now it seems that the people were tired of being unique in this way. Israel didn't want to follow God as their king anymore, they wanted a regular human king like the rest of the nations had. They saw how the other nations lived and they envied them. To put it as plainly as possible; it seemed better to the people of Israel to follow a human king than to follow God as king.
Many of us read this and think that the people of Israel must have had IQ's of about 50 back then. How could they possibly envy the other nations who didn't have the creator God as their king? But thank God that we have higher IQ's now right? We would certainly choose God's rulership over a human's if we had the choice.
Or would we?
Working in the church I get to hear first hand of how difficult it can be to follow God's kingship. Some Christian families are in the middle of some pretty rough drama. I know right, even Christian families can have drama? Yup. Christian families are no different than non Christian families in that way, all families can struggle relationally sometimes. But you know what is supposed to be different about Christian families? They are supposed to submit their drama to the Lord. God commands his followers to swallow their pride and to overlook an offense. He commands us to never be vindictive, to forgive and to selflessly love others - even family members who are not doing those same things in return. That's tough to do, but it's what separates Christian families from the world's version of family drama. In fact, that might seem so tough to some people that they might even prefer to handle the drama like the world gets to. The world doesn't mind a little bit of vindictiveness, and for heaven's sake, if the other person isn't changing or reciprocating your efforts to solve the situation, then forget them right?
Family drama is just one example of this, there are countless other ways in which we choose a different king other than God to lead us. Really think about it though, does choosing that path ever turn out well for you in the end? Don't just agree and say, "No," actually think of a situation in which you rejected God's leadership - how did it end up? My guess is with at least a little bit of pain and regret.
You see, I think that we are more similar to the Israelite's than we are different. I'm constantly convicted of my own failures when I read Israel's horrible history. Reading the Old Testament often feels like I'm looking in a mirror. But as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10, Israel's history is written down for us as examples to keep us from making the same mistakes as them. So whether you are in the middle of some intense family drama, or you're struggling with forgiving someone who has hurt you, or whatever it may be that you are struggling with - do not envy how the world gets to handle those situations but instead follow God's leadership. I promise no matter how hard it will be for a time you will have less regrets in the end.