A couple of times each year, my friend Kristi and I teach a 12 week Bible study that journeys from Genesis through John. This study was originally developed to prepare the groups she takes on study trips to Israel but proved so popular that we opened it to the community.
A couple of weeks ago, my lesson covered Israel’s transition from Theocracy (God-ruled nation) to Monarchy (king-ruled nation).
What strikes me most about the study is this- In giving Saul to Israel for their first King, God was giving them not only exactly what they wanted, but also a perfect reflection of their spiritual state at the time.
Israel was weary of the unseen. She was tired of living by faith. She no longer wanted to wait in humble dependence on a mighty, gracious God who had delivered her time and again. She wanted a deliverance she could see with her eyes and touch with her hands.
God, through Samuel, tried to warn Israel that there was a downside to a seen deliverance. God as King had always worked for their good. A human king would serve himself first and at the price of his own people’s sacrifice.
But they wanted what they wanted. The cost could be counted later.
God granted their request and gave them a man after their own hearts. He gave them Saul.
Saul- tall, handsome, and from the most war-like tribe in Israel. Saul, who like Israel went through all the motions of religion on the outside, but lacked true devotion of heart to God. He both embodied all Israel envisioned in a king and reflected the state of her heart.
And when the time of testing came, the lack of true spiritual devotion and strength wasn’t enough to preserve him. Saul’s God-ordained reign was breathtakingly short. Most of his time spent on the throne was in the blind fury of a mad man attempting to hold on to that which was no longer his.
Israel’s choice stops me cold.
I don’t want to be that foolish child banging on the doors of heaven for that which will never satisfy. I never want to find myself so callously demanding what I want that God allows me to have it… while a much better gift for me lies unclaimed in the courts of heaven.
Help me trust your kind heart for me. Let me never forget all the ways you have delivered me in the past. Though the provisions before me embody earthly perfection, may I choose heaven instead. Today, give me the faith to wait for your deliverance. May I make You my first and best choice.