[Apr 09]--Wanting the Right Thing

1 Sam. 8:1-5, 19-20

One of my favorite books of all time is The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. This book is the fictional series of letters from a demon to his subordinate on how to corrupt a man’s soul. His advice, given from the perspective of our Enemy, is quite insightful. One of the points that Screwtape makes in his letters is that Satan is not creative. God is the only one who creates anything, including pleasures, and the Enemy’s “research department” has yet to produce a single pleasure. The only thing that our Enemy can tempt us with is something good that God has already created, but in the wrong way, in the wrong time, or with the wrong person. For example, Satan can’t create sexual pleasure, so what he does is offer it at the wrong time or with the wrong person.

That temptation is displayed quite profoundly in today’s passage. The people went to Samuel and requested (actually demanded) a king. Was the request for a king a bad thing in and of itself? Let me answer by acknowledging first off that there are several biblical scholars who say yes. I understand their reasoning, but based on passages like Deut. 17:14-20 (which assumes that they would eventually get a king) and the last verse of Judges (which seems to suggest that not having a king was a bad thing), I respectfully disagree with them. So assuming that having a king would not be an intrinsically bad thing, what was God’s problem?

I think that there are two very good reasons for God’s reluctance. First, note a repeated phrase: “like all the other nations.” That phrase alone would've set off alarm bells in Samuel’s mind, and it alone would be sufficient to deny their request. Since when was it supposed to be their goal to be “like the other nations”?! The whole reason why God had rescued them from Egypt, led them to the Promised Land, and given them the Torah was so that they could be different from the other nations.

Second, I believe that their timing was lousy. We're not sure if David was  alive at this point, but if he was, he wasn’t ready yet. So in order to show them the folly of not listening to him, God did the worst possible thing he could've done: He gave them what they wanted. All they cared about was a warrior to lead them into battle (notice that there’s no mention of a desire for a king to bring spiritual renewal and unity), so he gave them a king who physically towered over them. They were totally willing to settle for Saul as their king, while David was waiting in the wings. Presumably if they'd just be willing to wait until the Lord's timing, then David would come up when called and they would've spared themselves a lot of grief. All speculation of "what ifs" aside, my favorite aphorism still is true: No one ever did things God's way who ended up regretting it. And the converse is true as well: Everyone who didn't do things God's way ended up suffering bad consequences. 

The point I’m making here is the value of waiting on God’s timing. It is entirely possible to want the right thing for the wrong reason and at the wrong time. We might be willing to settle, but instead we should commit ourselves to, as my youth minister once put it, “never settle for anything less than God’s best.”

Father, that’s my commitment. I am NOT interested in anything other than your best. Let’s do things your way.

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