Reading: 1 Samuel 6—11
In our engagement with the world around us, in what do we trust? Do we trust in the unseen, eternal God who sits on His throne and controls the destiny of men and nations? Or do we prefer someone visible and impressive in the eyes of the world? Do we feel as if, in reality, that would be more impacting in the cause of the Gospel? Israel preferred the latter.
4So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”...7And the LORD told [Samuel]: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.” (1 Samuel 8:4-8)
Why did Israel want an earthly king; a visible representative? Because they didn't trust God. They trusted in what they could see. That is exposed in their response to Samuel when he warned them of all that a king would do to them and their children.
But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 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.” (1 Samuel 8:19-20)
Not trusting in God is never a rational decision. Biblically, it is folly to trust in ourselves and not the Lord; the essence of wisdom is trusting the Lord (Proverbs 3:5-7). Israel had attempted to use God like some sort of good luck charm in 1 Samuel 4:3. But God was not in the ark like something we can control. He is to be called on and prayed to (seeking the Lord).
Over the next 3 chapters (1 Samuel 4—6), God shows his ability to take care of Himself. Though the Israelites attempted to fight the Philistines without God, and could not; God took on the Philistines by Himself without Israel's help. And after defeating their gods single-handedly, and the people themselves, He then brought His ark back to the land of Israel all by Himself. But Israel had to learn that being the people of God wasn't about having a certain right to use God as desired; it is about walking by faith, trusting in Him, calling on Him, obeying Him.
When they sought the Lord, He worked on their behalf. (See 1 Samuel 7:2, 8-12.) The rock of help (Ebenezer) was where the Lord helped them. The key is to see why He helped them: because they trusted in the Lord as evidenced by their calling on Him. This was the same location, apparently, as where they were defeated and the ark captured (see 1 Samuel 4:1).
On Sunday, as we cover Isaiah 7-12, we are going to see that not only did Israel's monarchy begin with a lack of trust in God, it ended with a lack of trust in God. However, when we get to the New Testament, when the “remnant” who trusts in Christ is gathered in the book of Acts and sent into the world with a constant conflict, persecution and unbeatable odds, they actually do trust in the Lord. How is this trust seen?
They were told to wait for the empowering of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4,8), and so we read, “They all joined together constantly in prayer...” (Acts 1:14). And it didn't stop there. They constantly relied on the power of the Spirit for all they did. They were God dependent.
42They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.... 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. (Acts 2:42, 46)
They didn't stop meeting together to pray at the temple after the day of Pentecost. They continued. They didn't cease to trust in the power of God to work and carry out what He called them to do, they continued to be God dependent. The leaders of the church made it a priority as well. They didn't just rely on preaching, but considered prayer essential to the empower the preaching of God's Word (Acts 6:3-4). When they were facing the most difficult odds, they turned to God in prayer and He answered (Acts 12:5, 12).
Are we more prone to get involved in political action than the corporate prayer meeting? Does that reveal something of where our trust is? Are we looking for an earthly king all over again? We should be engaged as citizens in our nation, but not more than we are engaged with the King of the Kingdom we serve first. The same could be said of programs and so many other things. Are we continuing what the church began: meeting together constantly in prayer?
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,