FIRST Thoughts

In reading through the story of Israel's rejection of God and God's selection of King Saul to lead the nation of Israel, I was reminded of the times in our life when we think we know better than God what is best for us. Consequently, the 'thing' we can't live without comes to be the instrument by which God reminds us that He alone is able to provide with the necessary oversight to protect what He provides.

Israel wanted a King to rule over them in the place of God. Their desire upset the prophet Samuel who warned those of his day about the consequences that such action would bring, not only on them individually but also upon all who came after them. God reminded Samuel that the people had not rejected Samuel but rather in asking for a king they had rejected God. Samuel would spell out in no uncertain terms how such a choice would bring additional hardship on their life instead of the help that God had so faithfully provided at the point of their need.

No less than five times, Samuel urges them to reconsider because the king they desired so desperately would take, take, take, take, take from you and you will cry out.

1 Samuel 8:19 reveals much about Israel and much about those who profess to be followers of God today who want what they don't need. Listen to the response of Israel to Samuel and to God. "Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, 'No, but there shall be a king over us."

What God said to His people through Samuel concerning those He would establish as leaders would indeed take and take and take from them. And they would cry out! What began with King Saul continued through David, Solomon, and others who would follow, as well. The king would demand that those he ruled over provide for his privilege of ruling. This became so difficult under Solomon that when Solomon died, the people revolted and the kingdom was divided into two separate kingdoms with two separate rulers, thus intensifying their hardship.

What began with Saul is seen today. People in general would prefer someone they can see, someone that represents them well in the public. Character doesn't matter much for people who are focused on the external matters of life rather than the internal matters of life. When you stop and think about it, most decisions about leaders that people prefer or want are filtered through the superficial appearance of the person instead of the more important supernatural work of God in their life.

Case in point--God's selection of Saul as king over His people. God gave them what they wanted. They desired to be represented by the world around them so God provided them a man of the world, a man who would be the equivalent of tall, dark, and handsome. Saul would become a star in his own mind, but his heart would soon drift away from God.

Remember the outward description that Samuel pens. 1 Samuel 10:17-24 says in part, "so they ran and took him (Saul) there, and when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. Samuel said to all the people, 'do you see him (Saul) whom the Lord has chosen? Surely there is no one like him among all the people.' So, all the people shouted and said, 'Long live the king.'"

Israel wanted to be like the nations they dwelt among instead of living the consecrated life that God desired for them, one of living in the world without living like their neighbors. How closely people who claim God as their Father today mirror the desires and decisions of Israel three-thousand years ago.

God gave Saul three strikes in three chapters and he struck out with God. After Saul ruined his reign through disobedience in following the word of God (1 Samuel 15), God begins the replacement process for Saul with a man who demonstrated much different traits internally. David wasn't a bad looking sort, but it was his heart (internal) that God saw as uniquely different from the heart of his predecessor. David wasn't perfect. He committed his share of transgressions against God. The difference? When confronted with sin, Saul gave an excuse and blamed others, while David acknowledged his sin before God and repented.

When you consider the far-reaching impact of a life that is self-absorbed rather than in love with God, it is easy to see why tragedy so often follows. Saul was the one who looked the part and David was the one who lived the part. The part of being the person that God desired for him to be.

What are you longing for currently? Who are you living for currently? The answers to both will reveal whether you are more interested in external 'things' that do not last or internal things that shape the future with faith in God more positively! Remember, looks are only skin deep and soon pass away. However, the ugliness of neglecting God penetrates to the soul.

Be more internally minded than externally manipulated this week!

Pstr K

Psalm 27:1