Tuesday, August 16, 2011

King of Israel

For those following the M'Cheyne Bible Reading Plan, Israel demands a king (like the nations) in today's reading (1 Samuel 8).

I've always thought it was interesting how Israel progressed through history to where they wanted to appoint a king. It begins with a prophesy through Moses just before they enter the Promised Land.

“When you come to the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ you may indeed set a king over you whom the LORD your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.
“And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:14-20 ESV)
As Israel settles the land and strays from God, they cycle through judgment and deliverance as God raises up judges to rescue his people. Through this period, one judge's (Gideon) son, Abimelech, made himself king over Israel after his father died. That lasted three years and Israel went back to the rule of the judges.

And he went to his father's house at Ophrah and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone. But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, for he hid himself. And all the leaders of Shechem came together, and all Beth-millo, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak of the pillar at Shechem. (Judges 9:5-6 ESV) [Read all of Judges 9 for the rest of the account]
Near the end of the book of Judges, the writer keeps repeating the phrase, "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 21:25). The book closes with the judgment. The greatest tragedy about this statement is that God himself was not King over Israel, as he should have been.

So as the story progresses into Samuel, the nation starts clamoring for a king as Samuel's sons rule Israel with corruption. But they don't want a king because they want a just ruler, they want a king to be their military leader.

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” (1 Samuel 8:4-9 ESV)

So Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking for a king from him. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.” (1 Samuel 8:10-18 ESV)

But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey their voice and make them a king.” Samuel then said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.” (1 Samuel 8:19-22 ESV)
God uses this (starting with David) to complete his greatest plan of salvation. So while the nation of Israel had impure motives, God still used it for their (and our) good. Praise God for his sovereign rule over his creation, that he would send the Perfect King to save us and judge the nations (Matthew 21:5, Matthew 27:11, Revelation 15:3, Revelation 19:16).

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:20 ESV)

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