The men I get together with on Saturday mornings are faithful disciples of Jesus. They’re also great observers, and when they find a biblical truth they lean into it rather than turning away. A few weeks ago we looked into 1Samuel 8, where the Israelites insisted on having a king to judge us like all the nations (verse 5), and asked the question, Why did the people want a king? The answer came in an instant: So they’d have somebody to blame.
The people wanted a real person with a face, a name, and a title – the one from among themselves who would accept a crown, along with all their derision. Samuel told them in terrible detail what the king would do – he would draft their sons and daughters into his service; he would tax their crops and livestock unfairly; he would take the best of everything for himself… the whole king-system would be an awful burden, to the point that the people would be his slaves (verse 17). Didn’t matter…
And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles” (verses 19-20).
“The nations” can choose whoever-the-heck they want as a king, or choose any form of government, and it matters very little. But for God’s people to reject him as King is a first-degree tragedy. Besides, having somebody to blame is the worst reason to want a representative form of government, mostly because the blame game doesn’t work. You’ll recall this conversation from Genesis 3:
He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate” (Genesis 3:11-12).
Those men I get together with on Saturdays, they know full well that blaming Eve (and God) didn’t get Adam off the hook. As God began pronouncing the consequences of everybody’s actions, Adam might have thought he had presented a strong enough case for his own acquittal, since the serpent and the woman got their sentences first. But apparently, God was only warming up. The blame game has never worked, all the way back to the first try. You’d think we would’ve given up on it by now.
The Israelites told Samuel they wanted a king to go out before us and fight our battles (1Samuel 8:20). If the battle went well, they could congratulate themselves on choosing to have a representative; if the battle went poorly, they could blame the king. The arrangement was no different, really, than partisan politics here in the US or many other nations – blame the other side for promoting the wrong agenda, blame one’s own side for not putting up a good enough fight. Double the blame equals zero progress.
At a seminar a few years back, I heard a Christian speaker say, “Everybody wants to live in a theocracy, but everybody wants to be Theo” (Russell Moore). Since that’s not possible, we’ve been willing to have representatives fight our battles for us, and pretend the lousy outcomes are their fault. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. The first human woke into a true and benevolent theocracy; eventually, God’s people will enjoy the same – And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3). It’s coming full circle – Theo will well and truly be in da house.
I’m not an expert on end-times by any stretch, but even if we’re living, right now, the three hundred and fifty-ninth degree of the circle, the same is true that has always been true: God is on the throne, and his people must live as heirs first and citizens second…
For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2Corinthians 4:18).
Tomorrow, I’m going to ask my Saturday-morning brothers to help me make two lists. One is a list of things that won’t change with the change of administrations next week. Here’s what I’m expecting: all the important things wouldn’t have changed even if the other guy had won the election, and won’t change with whoever wins the next one. The second list is of the battles the Lord actually does want us to fight, my brothers and me, in his strength. Maybe the second list will be different than it would have been, and maybe not. In no case would I expect a radical difference, because the only orders worth following come from the same source:
He has told you, O man,
what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
Grace and Peace (and an appetite for the eternal),