1 Samuel 8:17-20 (ESV)
“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.”
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.”
Have you ever noticed that people do not often respond to warnings? In the passage above, God, through Samuel, told the people of Israel that, if they chose for themselves a king to reign over them in place of simply following the Lord, they would be sorry. The king would enslave the people and make them miserable. The king would take the property and family members of the people for his own benefit. Despite these dire warnings, the people of Israel demanded a king, saying that they wanted to be just like all the other nations around them.
Wouldn’t you love to be able to say that you and I are brighter than those folks? God has told us in his word what we need for everlasting joy. He has told us that pleasures for us are at the Lord’s right hand forever (Psalm 16:11). God has told us that sin leads to misery, hardship, guilt, shame, and death. But we do not often listen any better than did the people of Israel. Instead, like the people of Israel, we want what we want. We desire to live just like the lost world around us, or at least to share in their autonomy. We desire what we think will make our lives more comfortable, even if that comfort will, according to God, lead us to death.
Why do you think God puts a passage like this in Scripture? Why do you think he let Israel do this? God is fully in control. He could have put a stop to these events. But God chose to let us see what the human heart will do when faced with a choice between following God and following its own desires. God gave us this story to remind us that, without his mercy and grace, we would walk right up to the cliff of eternal destruction and leap off.
Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus came to earth and suffered for God’s children’s rebellious and self-indulgent hearts. Jesus knew our rebellious nature, and he still chose to come and pay the penalty for our sin. Jesus chose to reach out and draw us to himself so that we might live, not in a stupor of self-made misery only to fall under God’s wrath, but instead in the sweet joy of beholding the glory of our God that will satisfy our souls forever.
So, when you see accounts like the one above, be careful not to put yourself on the moral high ground. We all rebel in the face of God’s commands. What Christians have in our favor is not our goodness, but the grace of God in Christ.