1 Samuel 8 :: "Give Us a King"by Ed de la Cour on November 11, 2012
Many of us are uncomfortable about political sermons, and I don’t present many messages that are political, but as John Piper says, “The Bible is political — not like a chanting bullhorn on the street, but like a rolling thunder blast from heaven.” Man is a political animal and God has a lot of concern for the way we govern and live together. In the Bible, God speaks to both people and their governments.
Let’s get this straight: America is not Israel and Israel is not America. We do not have a monarchy. But we can learn a lot from the way God responds to the behavior of people and kings. We can learn from the way people and kings respond to the pleas, to the entreaties, and to the teachings of God. There are some similarities between the people of Israel in 1 Samuel 8 and the people of America today. You would think people who experienced the revelation of God would respond to God much differently than they do. Like those people in Samuel’s day, America has seen God perform powerfully miraculous acts on our behalf. Israel was delivered out of Egyptian slavery and received the provision of God for years as they wandered through the desert. You and I and millions of Americans have been granted the privilege of seeing Jesus crucified for us. We know the power of the cross and the power of the resurrection for changing and healing broken lives. But the oft-quoted question is, “God, what have you done for me lately?” People are no different today than then; they will always vote for Santa Claus. We like free stuff. Neither the Israelites then nor Americans now have been able to rely on their heritage, on past history, to keep their hearts focused on God.
Like Israel, we insist on looking to the promises of men to find our hope. When tough times come upon us, we look to man’s power to act on our behalf to save us. We are actually arrogant enough to believe a storm of historic proportions is not too big a problem for the central planners of FEMA. Modern man possesses historic amounts of hubris, while at the same time he is entirely incapable of creating real solutions. The men we elect to public office talk a good game. They know how to posture. They know how to puff out their chests. They can growl angrily and they even know how to howl into the storm, but they can accomplish very little. Jeb Bush’s son is starting his political career. His qualifications include: he is a Bush and he is handsome, the Republican version of the Kennedy who won here in MA.
It was an ineffective and unrighteous government that so angered the people of Israel, which so stoked their irritation that they felt themselves quite justified to demand a king. Samuel’s sons were awful rulers. They sought to enrich themselves at the expense of the nation. But the excuse of unjust governance does not matter to God. The people simply used that excuse as the pretext to get what they’d always desired – to be set free, to be released from the yoke, to be relieved of the hardship of serving God. So those people who confronted Samuel – that’s us, that’s our nation, actively turning away from God.
We see a scary truth here because God acceded to their demand. In the language of Romans 1, God “gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts... to a depraved mind.” They knew what they wanted, and what they wanted was not God. If you have never realized this before, let me tell you – you need to be frightened when God lets you have your way. When God lets you have your way, it means you have rejected His way and you have chosen your own path… it means consequences will surely follow… it means you are on your own and left to your own devices.
I realize we are not Israel, nor is America a theocracy. People who sought to create a country where righteousness, liberty and freedom might abound founded our nation. Surely, they were sinful people and certainly they did not create the absolutely perfect union they sought. Our constitution was ratified 225 years ago and in the mind of a majority of voters last week, in many states and with many ballot initiatives, we moved beyond allowing that document to guide our national decision-making process. It may well be, as the Bible says in Proverbs 14:24, “Righteousness exalts a nation,” but we do not believe it anymore nor does our government pretend to live by that ideal. Up to now, most Christians in America have simply sat in their recliners and pined away for the good old days. Friends, those days are gone forever and they are not ever coming back.
1 Samuel 8 provides us with a fresh dose of reality. First of all, the nation made their choice without consulting God. Israel isn’t alone in making Godless decisions. How many of us have made choices in our personal lives that left the Bible behind so we could do what we wanted? God told Samuel what the people ought to expect as a consequence of the choice they were making. Their desire was to be like the other nations and that sounded good to them. Other nations had kings, pomp, parades, and royalty dressed in resplendent fashion. Israel seemed poor and backward in their own eyes, having only prophets and judges to guide them. When their leaders did seek God, their nation was blessed with prosperity and peace. But then there were generations of backsliding when other nations were free to roll over the twelve tribes and take whatever they wished. Israel was tired of being the region’s punching bag. They reasoned a king of their own could pump up the national defense and make Israel great and greatly to be feared. They never thought of how God might fit into their national – or their personal – reality. To them, God was just kind of “out there.” He was a good god. He came when He was called and then He left you alone.
Many of us believe in that kind of god, a god who will come when he is called and then leave you alone. We regard holiness as part of some kind of deal we think we have made with God. The deal is: we are willing to behave if God will reciprocate by blessing us with provision, by taking care of our families, by giving us a comfortable retirement. Here’s a news flash: you can’t make deals with God regarding holiness. The Bible teaches holiness is unto the Lord. In other words, holiness is what we offer unto God because He commands it, not because He will do anything we want if we are good. Living a holy life is not about the least we can do and still get blessed. Holiness is our living sacrifice. Holiness is our spiritual worship; it is holy and pleasing to God. If God does not bless us to our satisfaction, we are not free to throw our relationship with God out the window and consider the contract broken so we can live like hell.
I believe we will be living in the midst of increasing difficulty in the days ahead. God wants us to know in advance it is not because His love for us has diminished, not because His love for is has dwindled in any way. However, purity comes only by fire, and God has called His Church to be a pure people. There is a season of fire before us. Growth to maturity does not happen on the mountaintop, at the pinnacle of political or personal success. Growth comes in the valleys of life. There is the season to be lived in a dark and painful valley before the Church of Jesus in the days ahead. Through this time we will grow and we will come to experience spiritual maturity in ways we never imagined. But it will not be easy and many will fall away.
Israel demanded a king and that king was not going to be God. America has demanded that God leave us alone, and so the consequences of our choice will be visited upon us. One way or another, America will learn Jesus will be our King, and our King alone, or King Jesus will be our enemy.
I recently found this quote by Mike Huckabee: “God is either going to deliver us FROM evil, or deliver us into it so we can experience what our rebellion has earned. I pray for grace and mercy, but prepare for His deserved justice.” We may find out what it is like to receive justice and not mercy.
I believe God would point us toward His solution today. Israel came to the place where they could see no other solution than to demand a king. It is very easy for us to see no way other than politics to solve our problems. It is very easy to rant and rave, to become angry and bitter because your candidates lost the election. It is easy to storm off and declare America is doomed. Instead of behaving like people who have lost their hope, what do you want to do about it?
Think deeply about this and see if it is not true because the church as we know it in this country is coming to an end. Yes, there are many traditional churches dotting the landscape, but those churches are largely window dressing. They are not effective in reaching lost people, and we desperately need to be committed to reaching lost people and to making a difference in these last days. One’s political preferences will not help a broken person into the Kingdom of God. Only the Church of Jesus can do that. If churches lose the commitment to reach lost people they become irrelevant.
The solution starts right here, within me and within you. Do you want to see God bring revival? Fine – we all want to see God work in revival, but a lot of us would prefer if God revived someone else. We’d like to watch God work, but from a safe distance. We want to be able to talk about how we were there when it happened, but we don’t really want to submit our questionable habits to God. We don’t want to submit the way we live our own lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Listen friends, it’s not revival unless we receive it. It’s not revival if everyone else is revived except us, if other churches are experiencing the presence of God and we are sitting by the sidelines.
Today, it is no exaggeration to say our nation’s fate and the fate of our church hangs in the balance. We are much closer to the end of the life of our nation as we know it than we ever supposed. We are not asking God for a second chance; we are pleading for mercy in the eleventh hour. Today, the rubber meets the road. Our nation is sick and our people are dying. The judgment of God is upon us. Whether you are talking about the frequency and intensity of huge storms, the depth of financial crises, the increase of deadly disease, the breakdown of marriages and families, the depth of mental illness, the loss of morality – the list goes on and it is impressive. As a culture, we are beyond broken. As a nation, we are on the fast track to becoming Greece, with mobs rioting in the streets because the government can no longer afford to give the people the free stuff, the bread and circus they crave.
For us to set our hopes on political outcomes is folly. A new king or a new president cannot make all things new. Politics will not make America work again. The only hope for our country is the transformation of her people. Jesus is the key that the church has missed in our affection for one political party. God is showing us our folly and our sin. Changed lives are what it takes to effect a change in our nation. Change happens one person at a time. You can’t throw money at this problem. You can’t vote this change into effect. In the face of our nation’s rebellion, this community needs to be able to see a clear vision of Jesus and we are the ones God has chosen to make Him visible.
As you look at America today, at Cape Cod, or at our town, are you seeing the future for which you dreamed? Is this the life you were hoping for as you grew up? There’s a disconnect, a suspension of reality, between what we want out of life and what we are receiving because of our decisions. There is a disconnect, a suspension of reality, between the unrealistic expectations of people all around us and the plain Word of God. People no longer have any idea of how to relate to God. They need help. They need to discover people who know how to relate to God – that’s you. They need to find people who have not decided to go their own way, searching for their own king to justify their choices.
God is looking for people to throw themselves at His feet, to seek His face without holding onto all the stuff that – up to this moment – we have considered off limits to God. Perhaps, after our service ends, you’d want to remain and pray and seek the face of God for yourself and for our community. We will welcome you to come forward to pray and to remain for a while here before the Lord.
So, Father, let it start with me, not with the president, not with Congress, not with some other church. Begin Your work in my life and in my heart. Cut off from my affections what You have declared is wrong in Your sight; whatever is displeasing to You, Lord God. Lord Jesus, I want You to be my King and my only Lord. Amen.
Edmund C. de la Cour, Jr.
First Baptist Church of Pocasset
298 Barlows Landing Road
Post Office Box 1080
Pocasset, MA 02559
Church Office: 508-563-3164