In the scrolls of the prophet Samuel you meet the first two kings of Israel and their stories are so ineffably attached to our spiritual lives.
Following the exodus from Egypt, a death-to-life movement, the Israelites are easily reconquered by their own failure to recognize a new era. Doubt, fear, selfishness pervade an understandably vexed people wandering a desert. And so the Lord provides.
Entering the promised land, Israel is again nearly paralyzed by fear and doubts, I mean how do nomads take walled cities? But the Lord, again, provides a way.
Establishing settlements, Israel is, as you might expect, disturbed by their new neighbors (presumably for coming uninvited) and the Lord ordains these figures called judges. They acted as protectorates of the people being famously endowed with wits and strength to buff their angry co-residents. The Lord provided shepherds for His flock.
Moses made a dry path through a sea and Samson could split the jaws of a lion; inarguably the Lord provided. Strange bread rained from heaven, and a group of 300 took on 10,000; always the Lord provided.
Yet humanity can only interpret what is before them.
For this reason, when an Amalekite king sets his army in array against Israel, the people cry out to Samuel for a king.
5 And [the elders] said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.
6 But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord.
7 And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
Of course: God got tight, but then He does something I’m sure you’re all familiar with. He allows this ignorant backsliding so that someone might understand there is substance to His method. Kind of like when mom let’s you learn from your mistake and graciously doesn’t say “I told you so” when you repent later.
While Saul, the first king-elect, looked good (he was of great physical stature), he knew to obey God (he was of good practice), and he was humble when presented the kingdom (he acted the part); God foretold that Saul would eventually fall into selfishness and hubris and all corruption that shadows power.
Every believer has received an anointing from God, has been called to communion through prayer, bible study, faith-fellowship and is rectified for ministry. Called to be joint-heirs with Christ. But how often are we become Saul, looking good on the outside but lacking the integral component of our calling?
It’s not long before Saul receives an assignment and forsakes it for an outcome that he decided was better. He uses his own propensity in judgement to weigh the options and define righteousness. And this virtually minute, or “not-so-terrible”, form of disobedience is the most dangerous. Saul has, in his heart, made himself his own high authority, his own god.
“What is more pleasing to the Lord:
your burnt offerings and sacrifices
or your obedience to his voice?
Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice,
and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.
23 Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft,
and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.
So because you have rejected the command of the Lord,
he has rejected you as king.”
Idolatry and sorcery were well-known abominations to the Hebrew people. So this word from Samuel must have seared deep. Saul was in every way trying to honor God, but he was doing it by his own means, by methods that he measured correct.
And I am guilty of this. Are you?
But this is a story of two kings and you might have heard of the next: David son of Jesse.
Now Saul was elected by the people, people who could only see the external attributes of a man, but David was elected by God who judges the inward parts of a person. In fact, David was a meager looking boy, short and scrawny, left to tend to sheep; but a sheep-tender the Lord was seeking.
Despite the fact that he was regarded lowly he was faithfully obedient. Even after being anointed to be king, he still delivers his brothers sandwiches at his father’s request.
As you’ll hopefully read in the scrolls of Samuel, David was a man after God’s own heart. Prayer and worship were the fiber of his being and he moved not it if were not with God. He asked God about everything before everything. He was a different breed of king entirely. Ancestor to our Lord Jesus, David is the model for the believer.
He does fumble a ball or two and those incidents merit their own focus-study but really I had to ask: Are you a Saul, or are you a David? Saul who used his God given crown for his own purposes or David who knew whose crown it was?
Like David, we are called to wait on God and pray for direction and the endorsement of heaven, but living this life we can often lose heart to what we see before us.
We create our own ideals about the way things should be just like any other person created in God’s image would. We make decisions based on what it means solely for us and our own. We swing bible-verses like swords at non-believers or even each other and lose touch with God’s heart.
What does God want me to do? How can I find out?
I can testify that once your prayers start to reflect that sentiment, you’re on the brink of true communion.