The people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles. (1 Samuel Ch 8)
That’s a pretty key moment in the long narrative of the nation of Israel. Up until that moment, though they have been “ruled” by men and women called “Judges,” God—YHWH—has been their king.
But then they make a different choice. They look around, at the world around them, and ask the current judge, Samuel, to find them a king.
After all, everyone else has one.
Samuel tells God what they want, and God actually says to let them have one. He knows what this means…
He knows they are rejecting him as their king…
When I think about this, it makes me pause: what kind of love and security does it take to accept a rejection from someone so dear?
(From my ongoing counseling, I know that these are some very, very healthy and strong boundaries.)
God can take the rejection (though it certainly hurts). What’s more, on top of the shock of knowing that God can allow His people to turn their back on Him, He is also capable of feeling that pain.
There’s a glimpse here, a hint of some deeper reality:
Maybe, rather than God being a distant far off deity who is eternal and unmovable and utterly unlike us…
Maybe, just maybe, God knows what it’s like to be rejected, AND He knows how to feel it.
HE FEELS IT.
This little passage of scripture also says something powerful and poignant about us—or, let’s be honest: about me—and that is simply this:
Kings are always the easy way out.
Samuel tells the people what a monarchy is going to bring: among other things, standing armies (institutionalized violence) and taxes (economic disparity).
But the people say, “Bring it on.”
And so do I.
I recognize something of myself in Israel’s response, namely that it’s always easier to opt for systems and rules rather than the radical grace and love of God.
It’s always easier for me to turn my back on God’s radical love and on the idea that everything is grace and instead embrace a subtle tit-for-tat existence with God:
… When I “behave” my life goes well; God makes good things happen.
… When I “sin” my life goes badly; God punishes me by “making me” lose my job, or my relationship, etc., etc.
Why do I do this? For the same reason Israel wants a king: because it’s always tempting to want to be like the world around me.
The world works this way: when you do well, you’re rewarded; when you blow it, you’re punished.
But, just like in this story, God doesn’t work like the world does:
… When I “behave”, God loves me, but I’m not like a star pupil that gets to sit at the head of the heavenly class. God loves me because His essence is to love. He can’t help it.
… When I sin/stumble/fall/mis-behave/etc., God still loves me. He doesn’t punish me by withdrawing His love, or “making bad things happen” to me.
(This is not to say there aren’t human, real consequences to bad decisions: this is just to say you can’t attribute these things to some kind of heavenly system of justice and scales.)
By the way: this “being like other nations” comes out whenever we post something like, “Got a new car today #blessed.”
Because whether you got a new car today, or your car got re-possessed, you are still #blessed.
All of life is a blessing. We just don’t often see it.
Because that’s the way the world works.
And we want to be like all the other nations.
I woke up this morning to a #blessed reality.
My breath, right this very minute, is a blessing.
It’s all grace.
Maybe what you can do, right now, is to pause and acknowledge the ways that God is blessing you.
Your home or apartment? Blessing.
Your friends? Blessing.
Your job? Your school? … You got it: Blessing.
Your life? This moment?
Sure: the world might think you’re crazy to think this way. But guess what?
You don’t have to be like the world.
Under the mercy,
As always: thanks for commenting, sharing, etc.