Sketch by Patrick Murphy
Below is an excerpt from “Despising the Lamb” a booklet that will soon be available at The Voice of One.
Samuel led Israel until he was old. His sons were dishonest and greedy (1 Sam. 8:1-3). The elders of Israel approached Samuel and said, “[A]ppoint a king to judge us the same as all the other nations have” (1 Sam. 8:4-5). Samuel had a red flag and prayed. The Lord said, “Listen to the people…. They have not rejected you; they have rejected Me as their king” (1 Sam. 8:7). This was nothing new. The Lord reminded Samuel that Israel had been rejecting Him since the exodus, generations earlier (1 Sam. 8:8).
Think of that: Through the death of the Passover lamb and the firstborn, God broke Egypt’s power and freed His people from slavery (Ex. 12:6-7, 29-32). In the desert, the Lord provided a steady supply of food, water, and necessities (Deut. 8:1-4, 15). He led them into the fertile, well-watered land of Canaan and gave it to them (Deut. 8:7-10). Despite everything God did the people rejected Him over and over (Psalm 95:7-11). God’s relationship with Israel was nothing if not long-suffering.
Give and Take
Even as Israel rejected the Lord as King, His thoughts were for them. He asked Samuel to warn the people about the king for which they were asking:
He will take your sons and put them to his use…. He can take your daughters to become perfumers, cooks, and bakers. […] He can take a tenth of your grain and your vineyards…. He can take your male servants, your female servants…and your donkeys…. He can take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves can become his servants.” (1 Sam. 8:11-18).
Notice how often the word “take” occurs in this warning. As their King, the Lord gave and gave. The human king would take and take for himself. Everything—including the people themselves—would be used by the king for his own benefit. After escaping Egypt, Israel was asking to be enslaved again. After escaping the nations they were asking to be like them.
As Jesus hung in mid-air, suffocating and bleeding to death, one could just make out the sign above his head: “Jesus the Nazarene. The king of the Jews” (John 19:19). “Rejection” is an altogether weak word for what happened to the King of the Jews. His body was so torn, whipped, punctured, and beaten He barely resembled a person (Isaiah 52:14). He bled internally and externally. He was hungry and dehydrated. A wreath of thorns was pounded onto His head. As He struggled to stand, Pilate asked the people if he should crucify their King. They screamed their verdict: “WE HAVE NO KING BUT CAESAR!!” (John 19:15).
This scene fully illuminates Israel’s rejection of the Lord as King in 1 Samuel. Jesus, God and King, poured out His blood and let His body be broken to save His people. But the people chose Caesar. His military dominated them. His taxes crippled them. But they chose him as their king and rejected the Lord. Israel’s decision was no different in the time of Samuel than in the time of Christ. They chose the self-serving government of humanity and refused the self-giving government of the Lamb.
Conformed or Transformed
Romans 12 begins with an appeal to consider God’s mercy. Christ’s sacrifice defines that mercy. Then Paul urges us to live as sacrifices and says, “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:1-2). Will we be like the nations? Will we conform to the government which seeks its own interests at the expense of others? Or will we be transformed into the image of the Lamb King and live as sacrifices? (Rev. 5:6).
The choice of government seems easy during devotions or worship services. But circumstances put devotional theories to the test. How do we respond when there’s a disagreement about money? Are we consumed with getting our cut or do we look out for others? What about parents, exhausted at the end of the day? Is there complaining that the other isn’t doing their part? Or does each think of how they can lighten the other’s load? In traffic, do we tailgate, gesture, and gripe if someone gets in our way? Or are we willing to yield? (James 3:17). These may be small examples. But they can be telling of where our treasure and heart are (Matt. 6:21).
Rejected with the Lamb
Here’s the bottom line: Humanity will never accept a government that asks it to give up self-determination; people will never accept a King that says, “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me” (Matt. 16:24). Neither will they accept the herald of such a government and King. If the Lamb King governs us we will be rejected whenever He is. Certainly this means being rejected by the world (John 15:19). But 1 Samuel and Jesus’s crucifixion show us God’s people can reject the Lamb just as easily. Our choice to self-govern has led to rape, alcoholism, self-righteousness, pollution, and everything else that destroys what God originally called good (Gen. 1:31). Still, we prefer things this way. Though we want a better world there is something we want even more—government of us, by us, and for us. Anything else is an offense.