January 29, 2015

Killing the King

by Jesse Johnson

crownGod made people for the purpose of delighting in his glory. We delight in his glory by rejoicing in his character, and believing by faith his promises. The nature of this faith results in both a hatred of sin, as well as an eager joy at learning more and more about God.

But because of sin, faith doesn’t come naturally. In fact, people rebel against God, and often reject him along with his promises. When that happens, sinful people are not content with a vacuum—instead they seek to replace the joy that can be found only in God with a quest for joy somewhere else. 

Sometimes they pursue flagrant sin, sometimes they trust fallible men, other times they search for meaning and fulfilment in self-righteousness.

This is called idolatry, and idols always (and predictably) fail, and when they fail people turn against them and also against God. They blame God, they increase their hatred of him, and they further reject his promises.

This scene is played out on the pages of 1 Samuel. From the calling of Abraham until the birth of David, Israel had no king but God. Yet throughout the days of the Judges they rejected God, and finally they demanded that God give them an earthly king to rule them “like the other nations have.” God granted their request, and gave them Saul.

Predictably, Saul failed as a king. He didn’t bring peace from their national enemies. Neither did he bring peace internally. He didn’t lead people toward covenant faithfulness with Yahweh. When his rebellion culminated in a flagrant act of disobedience, Saul was told he would be king no longer, and instead Israel would receive their first ever godly king; a man after God’s own heart.

What follows in 1 Samuel 17-31 is the story of how everyone tried to kill the king. Saul turned against David—the real king—and tried to murder him in a vain attempt to undo God’s covenant promises once and for all. But the more Saul tried to kill David, the more he was actually killing himself. He grew further and further away from the Lord, until finally he died in a foolish battle. His life was simply one of many casualties of Israel’s war against Yahweh, their true king.

Thus the last half of 1 Samuel is about killing the king. Saul’s attempt on David’s life, Israel’s attempt to be free from Yahweh, and the real king finding no place in his kingdom for safety and being forced to flee (and even feign his own demise). It shouldn’t surprise us though that everyone failed to overthrow God. His king would take the throne, and he would build an everlasting kingdom.

If you make an idol your king (or a king your idol), don’t be surprised when at the end of your life you realize all that you lived for failed, and only God’s king remains. His kingdom cannot be shaken, and in an attempt to kill God’s king, you are only killing yourself.

Jesse Johnson

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Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA. He also leads The Master's Seminary Washington DC location.
  • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

    I find the most frightening lesson from 1 Samuel is that God will sometimes grant us what we ask for (or secretly desire in our heart) and allow us to suffer the consequences.

    • The country song is true. Thank God for unanswered prayers.

  • MR

    I think it was Matt Chandler that said, “If we trace all of
    our disappointments and frustrations in life to their source, it will reveal
    our idolatry.”

    • Jason

      Looking at it from the outside it’s easy to think “They had every reason to trust God. Somehow they thought someone else could still be a better leader. Finally, they didn’t even listen when they were told a king would be bad news (1 Samuel 8:10-22). That’s crazy!”, but when something other than God has our hearts we will do the same thing (and it’s just as crazy).

      It’s especially easy to fall into wrong desires when we start “keeping up with the Joneses” which is very much what seems to be happening there as they kept saying how they needed a king to be “like the other nations”.

    • Amen to that.

  • kevin2184

    Powerful and sobering words, Jesse. Succinct and with great perspective. Amen, brother.

  • Ray Adams

    Wonderful thoughts! Very helpful. Appreciate the connection of the underlying illustration from Israel’s human king to divine King. King of kings.

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