When God’s People Ask for a King…

Until the time of Saul, the children of Israel were ruled through “judges,” who were raised up like prophets among the people and were led by their decisions and directions. For several decades, this worked until one day there came a cry out of the people, demanding that God provide them with a king like other nations.

They delivered this message to Samuel the prophet, who would become the last of the judges. And he delivered the message to God. Samuel was distraught, thinking the people had rejected him, but God quickly removed that from him and said, “They have not rejected you, but they have rejected me.”

Since the deliverance from Egypt, God had been their king. Now, the Israelites wanted to be like other nations. To have a powerful ruler who looked the part and could command authority on a world stage. They wanted to have power and make their name great in the earth. They believed the only way this could be accomplished was through a human king.

So God gave them what they desired.

Even in his disappointment in the people of Israel, and even giving in to their demands, he warned them. He gave them a chance to think about what they would endure if they had an earthly king. “A king will take from your harvests and the fruit of your labors to build himself palaces. He will take your children and make them fight wars on his behalf. He will take from you and cause you to work for him. You will be as indentured servants to the king.” (My paraphrase.)

But they closed their ears to the voice of Samuel and the Lord and said “give us a king.” So God gave them what they wanted.

Sometimes, God gives us what we want even when He knows that’s not what we need. There are times when we cry out for our way to such a degree that God allows us to have it. He did this often with the Israelites, allowing the consequences of their decisions and demands to judge them and cause them to understand the true wisdom that would have been found in God’s choice for them rather than their own.

As I’m watching the election debacle unfold around me, and seeing the church melting down in partisan bickering and devouring one another, I wonder if it’s the church asking for a king this time. I’m not only referring to the evangelical right that is attempting to crown Donald J. Trump as the new king, but also, the liberal leaning religious left, who is trying to claim the moral high ground (imagine that!), heralding Hillary Clinton as the queen. Both sides rejecting the true King for one of their own making.

Sometimes God gives us what we want. Maybe what we have in this disaster of a choice is truly the result of God giving the church what she wants.

The evangelical church has longed for the “good old days” when Christianity was the norm, protected by the American society and the cornerstone of morality and law in the land. However, times have changed and our culture has, over the last 50 plus years, become postmodern and post-Christian. Now in an effort to protect what power the evangelical movement believes it has left, it has thrown all of its influence behind a man who has no understanding of what the word evangelical even means.

The religious left has its own stake in the game. The desire to keep progressing in a direction of liberal freedom and expression, to remove the standards of “long held religious beliefs” that stand in the way of that progress has led them to throw their influence behind the first woman nominated to be President. Though this is an accomplishment we as Americans should be proud to say we’ve finally achieved, the choice is one of a woman stained by scandal, lies, suspicion and her own lack of respect for human life.

Here are our Sauls. Pick one.

I believe no matter who is elected into office out of these two choices (unless by some miracle, a third-party candidate upsets the election), we are looking at living for at least the next four years under a spirit of Saul. Even though Saul had the look of a king, tall and handsome, strong and forceful, he did not have the character to carry the anointing that came with the job.

When someone steps into a position of authority when they do not have the character to carry the responsibility and sacrifices it requires, they fall back to their sinful nature to fulfill it. This is what a Saul does.

Saul was soon over his head on the world stage. He was quick to engage, but not to follow through. In his battle with the Amalekites, he saved the king and kidnapped him rather than destroy him as the orders of the Lord through Samuel instructed. He even presumed so much to take the place of prophet and offer a sacrifice to the Lord in his arrogance and haste, out of fear of the people. He also amassed great wealth and indentured hundreds of young men into his army as the Lord had predicted. But this did not give him the courage he needed to handle the giant of Gath when forced to a stalemate for weeks at the battle line against the Philistines.

It was a shepherd boy who stood up to him, refused to take on his armor or tactics, that took down the giant with a sling and a stone, and a declaration of the one true king on his lips.

Saul quickly got threatened by even those in his own household and soon found himself more distracted with David than with the real enemy.

I believe under a spirit of Saul, we will see more persecution of the true church, those who will stand up for the kingdom of God over the kingdom of man. And this attack will not be from just the left, but the right as well, because what is sought by them both is not truth, or righteousness, or even to “make America great again,” but rather both sides desire power. But the kingdom of God is not seeking power on this earth, but rather in the heavenlies where the spiritual power over the earth is truly shaken.

Those who would justify their Saul through the excuse that their choice has allegedly become a Christ-follower need to reread the account of the Biblical King Saul. He was counted among the prophets once when he was chasing David to kill him, and came upon a group of prophets. He found himself caught up in the spirit as well and prophesied with them, and it caused him to turn around for a while, but it was only a surface experience. There was no true repentance and change of character and soon he was on the trail to kill David (the newly anointed one) again.

The good news is this: the church always thrives and multiplies under persecution. Could it be that God’s purpose in presenting these two Sauls before us is that no matter which we choose, he is at work in the background preparing for revival to the nations, due to their failures and attacks against the anointed of God? Could it be that we’re about to experience another expulsion from Jerusalem like in the book of Acts when the early church was comfortable, but God wanted them to go into all the world and therefore allowed the persecution of the church to spur them out?

My heart breaks watching the church fight over which Saul they desire to lead them. I believe Jesus is being set to the side, while his bride flirts with Saul in hopes she will get the prize of power or prestige or dominance in our culture. There is going to be much need for repentance and healing after November 8th in the American church. How we come together to restore relationship and come back under our true king will determine how well we will fair under the administration of Saul, whichever one we get.

Let us repent of our agendas, our divisive attitudes and commit our ways and our nation to God. Jesus, be our king and to you only will we align our hearts and wills.

 

Faith’s Fruit

  
Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, is how the writer of Hebrews 11 defines it. Some have tried to teach that faith is a currency through which we get stuff from God. But Hebrews hints that it is much more than a simple give and take.

Faith is a trust we place in someone else, a giving of ourselves to them, believing they have our best interest at heart. When we place our faith in God, there is a connection that takes place. It is our trust in him that brings him pleasure. “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” When we entrust our lives into his hands, God is pleased and his favor shines in our hearts. If I trust him, what I do for him comes out of my trust, not my trying to buy his pleasure by my works. It’s not what I do that brings him joy, but trusting him that makes him smile.

When I have faith in God, it’s more than just trying to prove to him how much I believe his words or promises, it is entrusting my life, my fears, my family, my worries, my past, present and future into his care. Then I begin to see something I’ve never seen before…the invisible. Those things I’ve hoped for, I find in God’s hands and he makes all things work together for good, because he has my best interest in mind. I see the things that those who are not trusting cannot see, for my faith becomes the evidence of his grace in my life.

Faith does not guarantee that I will get whatever I want in my life. Reading the letters of Paul and the early church will show us that. They had greater faith than we can imagine, yet suffered unimaginable hardships. Jesus himself did not get the cup to pass from him in the Garden as he prayed the night before his death, and he had perfect faith.

Instead, my faith, which is my trust in God, will anchor me to the One who holds my life and walks with me through my fears, trials, grief and pain. It will be what provides favor and blessings in life, not because I deserve it and do good enough to get his blessing, but rather because all he asks is that I trust him and live my every day from the trust that he will be with me through everything I face.

This is the fruit of faith…a deeper, real confidence in the One who gave his life for me and a relationship through which I can face life with a different perspective.

Fight for Identity

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Jesus went into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil after being baptized by his cousin, John. He had come out of the water and heard his Father speak from the heavens above, “this is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

What a mountaintop experience! The Holy Spirit descending to him like a dove. Supernatural voice speaking from the heavens. His Father “owning” him before mankind. Then he faces the devil.

After forty days of fasting, Jesus is unquestionably hungry and the enemy comes to attack him at his weakest. Tempting Jesus would be easy at this point, hungry and lonely. The devil offers him to pick up his divinity he had poured out to become a man. He tempts him to turn a stone into bread, to show his special status as the Son of God by jumping off the temple and to bow down and worship the devil to shortcut his journey to be Lord over the earth.

But the heart of these temptations are not just about the acts themselves. The devil frames his temptation by saying “if you are the Son of God.” IF. Two letters but with so much power. The enemy was attacking Jesus’ status as a Son. His identity. He wanted to cause Jesus to doubt his identity. He knew that if he could get him to doubt who he was, he could shake his confidence and trust in the Father.

This is why it was so important for the Father to put on such a display before at Jesus’ baptism. He displayed Jesus for all the world to see as his Son. He wanted Jesus to face the enemy armed with the truth of his identity without a doubt.

You and I don’t have the luxury of having God speak out of the heavens to declare us his children, but He has declared us his children through his own Son’s sacrifice and through his word. You and I face this same temptation every day as the enemy and the world and our flesh tries to define us. We are tempted to give in to what these have to say about us and live out their definition and destiny rather than God’s.

We must be like Jesus though and lean back and listen to our Father’s declaration over us. Let it be the sound we listen to when the world speaks another identity. We cannot let this be stolen from us. We need it for without it, we will be lost in the wilderness.