Thursday, March 3, 2016

"So you want a king ..."

Day #64

Scripture Reading:  I Samuel 6 - 10 ...

What an amazing thing it would be if all the people of the world acknowledged the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as their Ruler, as their LORD, and then obeyed His Word perfectly, loving God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, and their neighbor as themselves!  Oh wait, that would be heaven ... or the new heaven and the new earth that God promises to those who believe.  That's what eternity will be like for all those who confess their sin and who come to God through faith in Jesus Christ.  As we continue to read through the Bible you see repeatedly throughout the Old Testament why the Savior had to come and why THIS world will never reach the glorious picture God gives of His future kingdom.

God had ruled over Israel from the beginning and in the tabernacle and the offerings He had commanded, God displayed His holiness among His people.  The Ark of the Covenant was a symbol of God's presence with His people.  It was not a good luck charm, as the Israelites had apparently come to view it, but a reminder of God’s holiness and of His presence with those whom He chose to be His people.  When it was captured by the Philistines, God made it clear that He was NOT present with any other nation as He was with Israel.  Wherever the Ark was kept, God caused death and disease among the Philistines until they finally returned the Ark to Israel, along with a guilt offering.  

God's judgment even fell on the men of Beth Shemesh in Israel because they looked inside the Ark of the Covenant and so dishonored the holiness of God.  They cried out, "Who can stand in the presence of the LORD, this holy God?  To whom will the Ark go up from here?" (6:20).  Who would be brave enough to receive the Ark after all these things had taken place?  The Ark was moved to Kiriath Jearim and remained there for twenty years.  During that time all the people of Israel mourned, confessing their sin before the LORD, seeking His forgiveness.  

Samuel was sent by God to use this time to call them to a deeper commitment to God:  “If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve Him only, and He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines” (7:3).  They said they would and for a brief time they sought the LORD and worshiped Him.  God then gave Israel victory over the Philistines and Samuel set up a stone and named it, "Ebenezer," saying, "Thus far has the LORD helped us" (7:12).  So God revealed again His blessing upon Israel and His rule over them.  When we believe in God and confess our sin and live with Him as Lord we rest in His blessing.

But Samuel was old and his sons did not follow the Lord, so the people of Israel came to Samuel and asked for a king to lead them.  Their reason:  so they could be like the other nations around them!!  (8:5-9).  Samuel was displeased with their demand, but God revealed to Samuel a truth so profound that it describes the actions of every human being who has ever lived, "It is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king."  This is the horrible state in which people without God find themselves to this day.  Most want a “god” they can manipulate, a god of their own making, a god who is not sovereign, who is not in control, who exists to be THEIR servant, not the other way around.

There was more to this request than simply wanting a king to be like the other nations.  Israel was not like the other nations.  God had chosen them to be different.  He had made them HIS people.  Now they wanted to be like everybody else.  How similar is that mistake to the desire of many today who claim to believe in “God,” but who refuse to acknowledge that HE is Lord!!!  God calls His people to be the “light” and “salt” of the earth, to be different, to be separate, yet many who take the name of Jesus want to be like those who don’t know God.  These, too, have rejected the one true God and His Son as their King!!

Samuel told them that a king would do things they wouldn't like, but the people insisted and eventually, God gave them a king:  Saul.  Physically speaking, Saul was "a man's man!"  He stood a head above everyone else.  He “looked” like a king!  So Samuel anointed Saul, but when he gathered the people together to announce Saul as king, he was nowhere to be found ... he was hiding.  Samuel told the people, "You have rejected your God, who saves you out of all your calamities and distresses.  And you have said, 'No, set a king over us.'" (10:19).

Saul displayed the weakness of his character, but God revealed HIS power by sending His Spirit to temporarily change Saul's heart (10:6-7,9).  Even though Israel now had a king like the other nations, the reality was that because of His love for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and His promises to their descendants, God was STILL ruling over them and HE would decide who would be king.  The destiny of the nation was in HIS hands.  The nation would eventually be divided and God's purpose would be fulfilled through Judah ... a small, tiny remnant of the descendants of Jacob.  God IS King!  ... no matter what you and I and others may think.  People can and do deny that fact and make for themselves all kinds of “gods,” but it doesn’t change the truth:  Jesus Christ is Lord!

The wise thing to do is to acknowledge God as King, and those who have the Spirit of God within them will do exactly that as we draw near to Him and serve Him through faith in Jesus Christ, His Anointed.  Psalm 2 says that "the kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against His Anointed One. ... The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.  Then He rebukes them in His anger and terrifies them in His wrath, saying, 'I have installed MY King on Zion, my holy hill'" (vss. 2,4-6).  Jesus IS King, and every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Him as Lord.

Blessed are all who acknowledge Him today!

"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name.  Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven!  I acknowledge no other King but You and I ask You to fill me daily with Your Spirit that I may serve You and You only all my days and enter into Your eternal kingdom.  May You receive praise and glory as I live my life in Your presence!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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