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(Part 87)


January 17, 2014

Today’s readings:
1 Samuel 8:4-22
Psalm 89:16-19

Jesus is the Lord and King! “Truly the Lord is our shield, the Holy One of Israel, our king!” (Ps 89:19). However, Christians in the secular world look on themselves as lords, whether Presidents of countries or CEOs of corporations. Unfortunately, some Christians serving in the Church also see themselves in the same way. Those in top leadership look to power, authority, position and privilege. It is the way of the world.

So it was with the Israelites. All the elders of Israel went to Samuel and said to him, “appoint a king over us, like all the nations, to rule us.” (1 Sm 8:5b). Israel up to that time was led by judges but not ruled by them. Indeed there is a need for leaders, even in today’s organizations. But the elders of Israel wanted to ape the nations around them.

What was wrong with that? First, there is only one King, and that is God. The Lord said to Samuel: “Listen to whatever the people say. You are not the one they are rejecting. They are rejecting me as their king.” (1 Sm 8:7). Second, again there is the very real danger that a king would lord it over the people. So the Lord told Samuel to warn the people. “Now listen to them; but at the same time, give them a solemn warning and inform them of the rights of the king who will rule them.” (1 Sm 8:9).

Samuel told them the consequences (1 Sm 8:11-17). “The people, however, refused to listen to Samuel’s warning and said, ‘No! There must be a king over us. We too must be like all the nations” (1 Sm 8:19-20a).

Christians today, including Christian leaders, are like that.

One, they look more to the world for wisdom and direction rather than look to the radical ways of God, which oftentimes are inscrutable and deemed foolishness in the eyes of men.

Two, because of our fallen nature, we are often disobedient, stubborn and undiscerning. This is despite all that God has done for us, all that He has taught us, all the wonders that He has shown us. “They are acting toward you just as they have acted from the day I brought them up from Egypt to this very day” (1 Sm 8:8a).

Three, when one meets Jesus the first time, there is great joy and resolve to follow him. For many, the zeal soon turns cold. They are overwhelmed with their problems, they are enticed by the world, they are assaulted by the evil one. They are not ready to suffer, to give up things for God, to let go of worldly attachments. Pretty soon, as the Lord said, they “are deserting me to serve other gods.” (1 Sm 8:8b).

Now we are called to do massive evangelization, and as we have been saying, one consequence of that is that we are plunged into spiritual warfare. The Israelites also were thinking of war, because that is what they had experienced through the years, and would continue to war on the peoples of the land. Now this was one of their reasons for wanting to have a king. “We too must be like all the nations, with a king to rule us, lead us in warfare, and fight our battles.” (1 Sm 8:20).

But through all their battles, it had been God who had helped them win the victory. With Moses God wiped out the whole Egyptian army in the waters of the Red Sea. With Joshua God allowed the sun to stand still so that they could decimate the Amorites. The Israelites should have known better. “You are their majestic strength; by your favor our horn is exalted. Truly the Lord is our shield, the Holy One of Israel, our king!” (Ps 89:18-19). It was knowing that God fought for them that brought them victory and blessing. “Blessed the people who know the war cry” (Ps 89:16a).

How about us? Yes we look to Jesus as Lord and King, but do we really understand his ways?

One, we are called to holiness. To be holy is to be set apart. But more and more, the people of God cannot be distinguished from the secular world. This is by their own choice and desire. “We too must be like all the nations” (1 Sm 8:20a).

Two, God does not force Himself on us. He offers Himself, but we need to accept. God respects our free will, even as He sees that we are going the way of perdition. Thus the Lord said to Samuel: “Listen to whatever the people say.” (1 Sm 8:7a). When they were insistent in wanting a king, the Lord was emphatic as well: “Listen to them!” (1 Sm 8:22a). Even knowing the dire consequences, the Lord said: “Appoint a king to rule over them.” (1 Sm 8:22b).

Three, God might not forever patiently wait for us, since there is work to be done and a war to be fought. When we realize our folly and turn to God, He might not immediately reverse our sorry situation. “On that day you will cry out because of the king whom you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you on that day.” (1 Sm 8:18). Indeed, in the history of salvation, dire consequences of rejecting God have at times gone on for centuries.

It is Jesus who rules us. It is Jesus who leads us in battle. It is Jesus who gives us the victory. It is only Jesus who is Lord and King.

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