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.”
Have you ever wanted something, worked for it and secured it, and then realized that you were worse off than before? Sooner or later, most of us discover that all that glitters is not gold—and so we should be careful what we aim for, work for, and wish for.
The people of Israel were, by the eighth chapter of 1 Samuel, very sure of what they needed. And so they asked for and insisted on “a king to judge us like all the nations”
(1 Samuel 8:5). But in doing so, the people of Israel had essentially rejected God as King. They no longer wanted to be known as a holy people and a distinctive nation. Instead, they wanted to be free of God’s perfect rule and absorbed into the surrounding culture.
To this entreaty God gave a solemn warning: Be careful what you ask for! He would give the people what they wanted—but His willingness to grant them a king would turn out to be an act of judgment for their foolish, faithless request. A king would take their children as soldiers and servants (1 Samuel 8:11-14). He would take their best possessions (v 15). Worse of all, He said, “You shall be his slaves” (v 17).
In the book of Romans, Paul recounts the folly of humanity that courses from the Garden of Eden through the whole history of the world: though we recognize there is a God, we don’t honor Him and instead exchange His glory for idols we deem to be better (Romans 1:21-23). “And since [we] did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave [us] up” to live according to our passions and desires—and to suffer the natural outcome of our choices (v 28-31). God’s present judgment is seen not in withholding from humanity what we want but in letting us have it. Sin is its own punishment.
How easy it is to declare, whether with our lips or by our decisions and our deeds, that we no longer want to live under God’s kingship—that we want to be free to be our own person and make our own decisions about who we are, what we have, and what we believe. But God’s kindness is seen in not giving us what we think we need. Having shown them in King Saul the insecurity and disappointment that the king they wanted would bring, God brought Israel the kind of king they had not asked for but truly needed—David. And He offers us today the Savior and Lord who we would never have asked for but who we desperately need. So, as you consider what you want in life, remember this: God has already given you what you most need in giving us His Son. And His kindness is seen not just in what He gives but what He withholds, for He knows better than you do what you truly need in your life.
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Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, published by The Good Book Company, thegoodbook.com. Used by Truth For Life with permission. Copyright © 2021, The Good Book Company.