I was reading 1 Samuel 8, and saw something that really struck me. Israel had demanded a king, so that they would be “like the other nations.” The way that God chose to govern them—a system using judges and spiritual leaders—was “different” than the way the other nations were being run, and the people wanted to have a king, just like those other nations have. It’s like little Billy wanting to have cancer because little Johnny does, and he doesn’t want to be left out.
God warned them that having a king wasn’t everything that it was made out to be. He spoke in very clear and definite terms through Samuel. God warned the people that if they have a king, he will take some of the people into forced servitude, tax them repeatedly, take the best of their fields and vineyards for his own use, and basically foul up what was, at that point, a unique but very effective form of God-centered government. God even tells them in verse 18 that they will regret their choice, and cry out because of the king that they have chosen, and on that day, they will have to live with their poor choice and its consequences.
The people didn’t hear a word of it. Their mind was already made up: “Those other nations have kings, so we want one, too.” So, God gave them what they wanted, and as He predicted, they lived to regret it.
Perhaps the saddest note in this entire chapter is in verse 7:
(1 Sam 8:7 NNAS) The LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.”
Do you hear the broken heart of God in that verse? He tried to show them a different way—a way that was better than the way that the nations around them were doing things. He tried to give them the very best situation possible, but His people rejected Him as their king, and instead chose to step down to the level of the nations around them. When I see that verse, I can almost see the tear in God’s eye.
We do the same thing. For example, think about the way that Christians use things like the media. We have radio stations that sound just like their secular counterparts, but with Christian music, because we’ve copied the way the secular stations are formatted, instead of letting God show us a better way of using the medium. Many of our Christian TV programs are designed the same way, along with our magazines, our newspapers, and our websites. The only real difference is that many of the Christian efforts aren’t as well executed and turn out looking or sounding second-rate.
I believe that God would like to show us some exciting, creative, and very effective ways of doing things that are so different—so “outside the box”—that we’ll stand out in the crowd, just like Israel stood out in a sea of pagan nations ruled by kings.
Of course, that would mean that we have to actually listen to what God says, and how He directs us. It also would require a special brand of “Holy Boldness” to step out there and break some new ground that might actually seem to defy the trends of our society.
With God as our king, we can turn the world upside down for Christ. Which king would YOU rather serve?