Choosing a king

I’m not surprised the 2008 presidential race began immediately following the 2006 mid-term elections. The lives of most politicians revolve around the acquisition and maintenance of power, so this “early” campaigning is not so much their attempt to get an early start as it is a characteristic of their power-grabbing lifestyle. It’s just who they are. In fact, one could make a pretty convincing argument that many of the candidates were running well before the 2006 mid-term elections — a couple of them for decades.keys.jpg

What does surprise me — well, maybe “surprise” isn’t the right word, “disappoint” is more accurate — is just how much Christians invest in the selection of elected officials. That’s not to say I think Christians should withdraw completely from the realm of politics and public affairs — I am extremely excited about the candidacy of Ron Paul for president. But I do think Christians need to reevaluate some priorities and find out whether or not they are attempting to replace the King of kings with a worldly king of their choosing.

We actually have a pretty good biblical example from which to draw some guidance. In 1 Samuel we read about the Israelites — a people chosen by God for His own  — demanding to be like all the other nations. They were in a better position than any other group of people and they rejected the One responsible for the blessings they enjoyed.

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.”

But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord.

And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. “According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you.

“Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”

So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots.

“And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots.

“He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.

“He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants.

“He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants.

“He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men[fn1] and your donkeys, and put them to his work.

“He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.

“And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. 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.”

And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey their voice and make them a king.” Samuel then said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.” – 1 Samuel 8:4-22

Essentially God told the Israelites they could have a king if they really, really wanted one but to be aware that the king would take the very best of their property — even their children — and use it as he saw fit. The lives of the Israelites became nothing more than resources to be utilized at the king’s discretion and for the king’s benefit. They became the property of the king.

What’s worse, they were told beforehand what would happen if they rejected the lordship of God and insisted on a king. And they got exactly what they bargained for. Saul became their king and he did exactly what God told the Israelites he would do. He was a disaster for the Israelites — one they’d asked for.

Now, when we study the Old Testament we have a tendency to question the judgment and wisdom of the Israelites.  “How in the world could they make such a horrible mistake?” we’ll often ask. But we need to be real careful, because we often behave in a manner every bit as bone-headed as the Israelites. In fact, a very similar situation faces us today — the ever-present presidential campaign.

As Christians we have become more consumed with politics than we are with Scripture. We invest more time and more money trying to improve our country than we do obeying the commands of our Lord. And now we have candidates who are telling us exactly what they’d like to do should be choose them.

One leading candidate has advocated an ever-expanding state, with higher taxes, and more control over our livesand our children. This candidate has espoused a highly collectivist plan for American where your property will no longer be yours it will be “ours.” And by “ours” this candidate means it will belong to the state, to be used by the state for purposes deemed appropriate by the state. Sound familiar?

I’m not surprised when non-believers glom onto this sort of rhetoric. They need hope in something and the state makes one of the most visible claims to hope in the world. But Christians have a blessed hope. We exist to glorify God alone. And when we abandon our mission of glorifying Him and expanding His kingdom and instead make our priority an election or a candidate or a country we may well be forfeiting the blessings God has to offer in exchange for a king — or a queen.

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