Have you ever done something that you realized later probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do after all? Sometimes we pray for the Lord to close the door if the place we’re headed isn’t best, but the door doesn’t close…so we proceed ahead thinking we’re on the right path. While God is certainly capable of opening and closing doors, sometimes He lets us go on with our plans even when they aren’t His plans, because we’re asking the wrong questions.
In 1 Samuel 8-12, we find the details of Israel’s pursuit of her first physical king. No longer content to trust God to lead them personally through His prophets and priests, they wanted a man they could see and touch and point out in a crowd, like the other nations. They wanted to see their king leading their battles and taking responsibility for protecting them. They asked Samuel to anoint a king over them.
Samuel knew this wasn’t God’s plan. Israel was meant to be a theocracy, God’s chosen people – with God as their king. Yet when he asked God about it, God told him to go ahead and give them their king but warn them what it would cost. They would be taxed, have their children taken as soldiers and servants, have the production of their land and animals assessed and divided to support the king’s household, and more. The price was high in comparison to the freedom and richness that would have come from simply letting God be king.
This wasn’t God’s plan for His people, yet He actively took part in guiding Samuel to anoint Saul. The people had asked the wrong question. They already had what they needed, a king. They missed the point and asked for what the other nations had, so they could “feel secure” in something they could see. ”
They traded their faith for the feeling of security.
Once Saul is established as king and proven himself by winning a great battle, Samuel addresses the people. He tells them what they have done was wicked in the sight of God and displeasing to Him, and God affirms this with thunder and rain. The people are afraid, now realizing they have made a foolish decision in seeking protection instead of the Protector. What will they do? Will God abandon them now and reject them as they have rejected Him?
Listen to Samuel’s words, because he shows us exactly what we need to do when we realize we’ve gone down a road that we’re going to have to walk out to the end because we’re too far to turn back.
Samuel said to the people, “Do not fear. You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. Indeed, you must not turn aside, for then you would go after useless things which cannot benefit or save, because they are useless. For the Lord will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the Lord has been pleased to make you a people for Himself. Furthermore, as for me, far be it from me that I would sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way. Only fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. But if you still do evil, both you and your king will be swept away.” (1 Samuel 12:20-25)
When we realize we missed what God intended for us the worst thing we can do is give up pursuing Him and start living life in our own strength. That just leads us to more bad decisions. Instead, we should confess to God we missed the mark and “double down” on seeking what He would have us do now. Maybe we took the wrong job, or married the wrong person, or moved to a place we thought would give us a fresh start and found out we brought all the old baggage with us. We don’t abandon God and rely on ourselves; we renew our dependence on Him even more. We fear Him and serve Him in truth with all our hearts.
While we might think God will abandon us in return for our foolish independence, He won’t. Not for our sake, but for the sake of His own name. It’s simply not in His character. He’s claimed us. He’s put His Spirit in us. He’s declared us family, and He takes care of His own.
I love that Samuel recognizes his role, to continue to pray and support and instruct and teach the people even though they’ve rejected his counsel and done this foolish thing. When our Christian brothers and sisters refuse to listen to the pleading wisdom we give them from scripture we don’t simply shrug our shoulders and tell them, “You made your bed, now lie in it!” When they come to their senses and look up for help, we ought to be right there with the prayer support and encouragement they need.
God can take our bad decisions and turn them into something very very good if we allow Him to. Israel’s request for a king will lead to the establishment of David’s throne, the place where Jesus Himself will rule as King, just as God intended. They will go through a lot of pain and suffering of bad leadership that could have been avoided to get there, but the ultimate theocracy will one day be put in place again.
God did not abandon Israel, and He won’t abandon you either.