In the Mel Brooks movie History of the World Part 1, King Louis XVI enjoys his reign as king of France just prior to the French Revolution. “It’s good to be the king,” he comments to the camera (I’d show you the film clip, but it doesn’t meet the standards of propriety for this blog). In the video above, King Louis XVI hones his shooting skills at the price of a few lowly peasants.
In today’s reading, we’re going to explore our tendency to place people in positions of authority.
Please join me.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
1 Samuel 8:1-9:27. Following the example of his mentor and predecessor Eli, Samuel failed to raise up sons who respected their appointed positions. Instead, we read his sons “did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.”
While Samuel couldn’t control the actions of his sons, he did choose to appoint them as judges and we read nothing about him opposing their evil ways.
So the people complained, asking Samuel for a king. However, the people’s request comes with a bit of irony. The New Bible Commentary explains:
With both Eli and now Samuel, it was obvious to everybody that great and good men can have evil, worthless sons; and yet the elders responded by demanding a king. By definition, a king is a ruler whose son automatically becomes king after him!
Not until verse 20 do we find the real reason behind their request: “Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles” (italics added).
The people wanted to be like the other nations.
John 6:22-42. Jesus’ words in this passage sealed his fate. By saying, “I am the bread of life,” he was saying, “I’m all you need.” This was the first of many “I am” sayings of Jesus that appear throughout the book of John. The bread of life was a reference to the manna God gave to Israel while they wandered in the desert.
Literally he was saying, “I’m God’s provision for you.”
Psalm 106:32-48. Looks like we have a running theme here. In this psalm, we read that rather than destroy the surrounding nations, Israel chose to adopt their customs. Much to God’s dismay, they wanted to be like the other nations. So God gave them what they wanted—they were invaded and occupied by treacherous peoples.
Then, when they begged for deliverance, God answered their prayer. Over and over again. Finally (and this isn’t in the psalm), God delivered his people once-and-for-all by sending Jesus, the bread of life.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
Today’s reading from 1 Samuel offers us a window into our souls.
For hundreds of years, God resisted the Israelites’ request for a king. God wasn’t opposed to governing his people through gifted leaders. He demonstrated his desire to work through people like Moses, Joshua, and Gideon.
Admittedly, Israel hadn’t fared well under the leadership of those men, nor any of their judges. The problem didn’t reside with the leader, but with the followers.
Yet God opposed the idea of Israel being ruled by a king. Why?
At election time, we tend to vote for the candidate who we believe will finally solve our national woes. When the person fails to live up to our expectations, we move on and seek out someone else.
In church, we’re drawn to the dramatic, charismatic personalities. For many of us, we don’t want to pray, read the Bible for ourselves, and wrestle with God. We want someone to do it for us and tell us what to believe.
We want somebody to tell us what to do rather than go to God ourselves. It’s too much responsibility…too much work! we convince ourselves.
Our tendency as human beings is to place our trust in something or someone we can see. Placing our trust in a God we can’t see is difficult. Nevertheless, what God wants from us is to trust him. To place our faith in him. In Hebrews 11:1 we read, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” The essence of faith is trusting in God, whom we cannot see. Later, in Hebrews 11:6, we read that “without faith it is impossible to please God.”
It seems as if God relented to the people’s request by saying, “If you want a king, I’ll give you what you want.” So, God appointed the prototype. Saul is described as “an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites—a head taller than any of the others.”
Very quickly, however, it became apparent that Saul wasn’t the answer to their problems.
What does God want? Us. He wants us to look to him for guidance, for comfort, for spiritual sustenance, for communion.
As Jesus explained, he’s the bread of life. Our food.
And he invites us to partake of him, to feast on him alone.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- How have you experienced Jesus as the bread of life?
- Do you agree with the statement that “We want somebody to tell us what to do rather than go to God ourselves”? Why or why not?
- To what extent do you place your faith in God rather than a person, country, church, or political ideology?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.