“… they have rejected Me as their king.” (1 Samuel viii. 7b)
One of the biggest mistakes that Israel committed as a nation was to ask for a king. When they looked around, they saw that the nations around them were ruled by kings. Israel had no king or royal family! They didn’t want to continue in that state of ‘anarchy.’ Their elders told prophet Samuel, “Appoint a king to lead us.”
Little did they know that they already had a king. God was their king. God chose random men and women, whom they called ‘judges,’ and appointed them to lead Israel. There was no guarantee that a judge’s son or daughter would become the next judge. Out of nowhere, so it seemed, God would select a person and appoint him/her as the next judge. Israel did not have a royal city or palace. God ruled over them from heaven.
The elders of Israel might have felt that God’s government was too intangible, invisible and unpredictable. They weren’t even aware that God was their king! Through their myopic eyes, they could see nothing more than a state of anarchy. They became like their forefathers who got worried after Moses had ‘disappeared’ into Mount Sinai. They wanted a visible ‘god’ to lead them. “Come let us make gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses … we don’t know what has happened to him,” they had demanded.
When Samuel prayed about his people’s demand for a king, God said, “… they have rejected me as their king.” (1 Samuel viii. 7b). In spite of that, God let Israel have a king. But He was quite displeased with Israel’s failure to recognize Him as king and their desire to conform to the pattern of the nations around them. Many centuries later, after Israel had suffered the consequences of their choice, God said, “I gave you a king in my anger.” (Hosea 13:11)
This incident teaches the church of Jesus Christ an important lesson or two. Many Christians are scared of being under God’s intangible government. We are reluctant to let God’s Spirit rule over our churches. We would rather have full control over our programs and schedules than let God dictate terms to us. Our meetings follow a dead, preprogrammed order; we are not open to the possibility of God upsetting our agenda, our timetables and our appointments. We cannot tolerate a moment of silence or uncertainty in our meetings. Everything has to be planned down to the smallest detail. We need to know that we are in control.
Even in the case of church government, we would rather have the world’s pattern of organization and leadership than be a living body under God’s rule. We assume that God places His seal of approval over our decisions just because we start and end our deliberations with a customary word of prayer. We appoint pastors and leaders. We decide the nature and extent of “our ministries.” What has God to do with any of these?
Those ignorant of the Holy Spirit’s work often revile His ways. They complain about the apparent ‘disorder’ and ridicule anyone who mentions the “leading” of the Holy Spirit. They mistake resignation to God’s leading as nothing more than an excuse for arbitrariness and chaos. They mock any Spirit-led church meeting or movement – “This is surely a group of drunk men and women who are led by evil spirits.” Yet, it is through the Holy Spirit that God raised up judges in Israel. The same Spirit empowered and governed the early church in worship, everyday discipleship and mission. The Acts of the Apostles, we are told, and rightly so, should be named the Acts of the Holy Spirit. If the early church could thrive under God’s rule without any human organization, strategic planning, celebrity leaders, church buildings, budgets and tax benefits, what makes us think they were fools? Why did we choose to be like the nations around us?
It takes great faith to let go of our desire to stay in control and let the invisible God take over and rule us in His sovereign ways. God is not a tame house cat; He is like a lion. He is the only true King. As far as the church is concerned, ‘anarchy’ under God’s rule is better than any neat earthly ‘order’ under a human government.