|So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, "You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have." |
6 But when they said, "Give us a king to lead us," this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD told him: "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do." (1Samuel8:4-9)
Trusting in an invisible God is hard...
We tend to be very focused on what we can see, hear, and touch. So the Israelites constantly worshipped idols (even idols that stood in the house and could be bumped over by playing children - see Isaiah's sarcastic description in Isaiah 40:18-20)
The alternative to idols is to put our trust in human leaders. Good leaders remind us that they are not God and point us toward the one true God. Bad leaders tend to eclipse God (like the moon tries to eclipse the sun) but it never lasts long. They also demand luxury and status as a right and privilege of their position.
Israel asked for a king. They wanted an earthly symbol of power, security and prosperity. They wanted to be like other nations. They wanted to be a monarchy (a nation governed by a king) rather than a Theocracy (where God is King). When there were negotiations between nations, they didn't want Samuel, an old dusty prophet to represent them as a nation who were led by an invisible God. They wanted to be sophisticated and organised, led by an impressive monarch who headed up a well-oiled national machine.
Samuel is angry at their request. God makes it clear to him: "Samuel, this is not about them rejecting you, but about them rejecting me."
At the heart of the matter is faith.
Are you willing to keep trusting in a God who keeps Himself invisible - or do you have "idols" and "monarchs" who have taken God's place?