The behavior of the king who will reign over you: Part 1
This article appeared in the November 15 edition of the Cottonwood Chronicle
© 11.14.12 By D. Eric Williams
This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you (1 Samuel 8:11a)
Samuel chapter 8 tells us of the desire of the Israelites for a king and begins with their complaint to the prophet Samuel that you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations" (1 Samuel 8:4b-5). The implication is that the children of Israel were happy with the state of affairs under Samuel but were concerned that his sons were not up to the job of judging God's people. However, as we continue through the chapter we find there is more to it than dissatisfaction with the caliber of leadership offered by the sons of Samuel. The prophet provided a laundry list of problems they could expect to encounter if ruled by royalty, Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, "No, but we will have 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" (1 Samuel 8:19-20). In short, the children of Israel were weary of the responsibility that came with self-government under God. They wanted someone who would tell them what to do, relieve them of personal responsibility and protect them from harm. They were more interested in personal peace and comfort than a life of self-government under God.
You see, in the days of the judges there was no king in Israel and every man did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6, 21:25). We typically think of this in negative terms but the fact is, it really summarizes the goal of kingdom living. If a man lives in obedience to God's word doing what is right in his own eyes is discovered by his relationship with the Almighty. Granted, the book of Judges makes it clear that God's law did not often dictate what was right in the eyes of the children of Israel, yet, the whole of Scripture teaches that God desires his people to learn to govern themselves under his authority. This is especially true in the new covenant age. In the age of the Son of Man, the people of God are each individually endowed with the Holy Spirit's power and are no longer driven toward righteousness by another. Instead they are expected to learn God's ways, embrace them and live in accordance with his law apart from the pressure of possible punishment. Thus, this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more" (Jeremiah 31:33-34, cf Hebrews 8:10, 10:16).
Unfortunately 21st century Americans are much like 16th-century BC Israelites. Christians and non-Christians alike are inclined to seek ways to relieve themselves of the duty of self-government. This is expected in the unregenerate but it is without excuse amongst believers. We have been called by our Lord and Savior to take dominion under his leadership and mediation and this duty is not satisfied by an appeal to traditional American values along with a vote cast for conservative politicians running for national office. It should be clear that this sort of thing has been passed off as a biblical approach to political action for too long. It is high time for a change.
More on this next week.
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