Have you ever heard the saying, “The grass is not always greener on the other side”? This saying rings true for most of us, as we have grown to know that it is much better to be content with what we have than to covet over the things of our neighbor. For experience has taught us that things are not always better on the other side.
The nation of Israel had to find this out the hard way. Israel had a pretty good thing going for it. God was function as their King and He protected His people from harm. Yet something in the hearts of men compelled them to compare themselves to their worldly neighbors. They could see that other kingdoms had Kings to rule over them and lead their people into battle. In hindsight, we would say, “Are you kidding me”? For we all know that it is much better to have the living God on your side than to have an earthly leader. Nevertheless, the coveting of Israel manifested itself as unbelief as the people cried out for an earthly King to rule in place of God the Father. God was not pleased.
Here is the entire 8th chapter of 1 Samuel. See for yourselves the covetous thoughts of the people and the response given by God. See how the people reject and refuse the wisdom of what will happen if they choose to live under the rule of an earthly king?
And it came about when Samuel was old that he appointed his sons judges over Israel. Now the name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judging in Beersheba. His sons, however, did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice.
Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah; and they said to him, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD. The LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day—in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also. Now then, listen to their voice; however, you shall solemnly warn them and tell them of the procedure of the king who will reign over them.”
So Samuel spoke all the words of the LORD to the people who had asked of him a king. He said, “This will be the procedure of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots. He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and of fifties, and some to do his plowing and to reap his harvest and to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will also take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and your vineyards and your olive groves and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your seed and of your vineyards and give to his officers and to his servants. He will also take your male servants and your female servants and your best young men and your donkeys and use them for his work. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his servants. Then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.”
Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, “No, but there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” Now after Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the LORD’S hearing. The LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to their voice and appoint them a king.” So Samuel said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.” (1 Sam. 8:1-22)
Listen closely to this piece of wisdom. History repeats itself! Sometimes the mistakes of our forefathers are cast aside only to be repeated by those who think they hold more wisdom. What was the mistake of the people of Israel? The answer? They did not truly honor God as their King. They didn’t have the faith that He would be able to handle the things that were really going on in the world. Their decision was the fruit of unbelief. The consequence being that whenever Israel had a King who did not follow the Lord, the entire nation suffered for it.
Picture this? Israel made the mistake of not allowing God to function as their king. Hundreds of years later, we find Jesus coming as King of the Jews and dying for our sins on the cross. Shortly after His resurrection, Jesus then sends His Spirit to reign as King over our hearts as He rules and judges our thoughts against the unity found in the Father’s nature of holiness. It is here that we find those who truly believed in the indwelling of Christ as they surrendered daily to His will. This beautiful picture of the Kingship of Christ can be seen as the early church prospered under great adversity and reached into many parts of the world. Christ was speaking to them directly (by means of the Holy Spirit) and also using others to speak the will of God just as He did in the past.
But then, something happened. An earthly ruler decided that He wanted to control and organize all of God’s people who were part of this expanding new Kingdom. And in one foul swoop, the official Catholic Church was created. The man’s name was Constantine and from this point, it did not take very long before Christianity embraced an earthly ruler (known later as the pope) over the indwelling Spirt of Christ. Many of us protestants may be nodding our heads in agreement. Yet we cannot be so arrogant, for even though we are not ruled by one man wearing a pointy hat, we have all decided to embrace a modified version of this great mistake.
You see, a man named Martin Luther was able to see the great sin that could take place when we choose an earthly King over the King of Kings. And Luther stood against many injustices that were being seen in the Church. Unbeknownst to him, Luther found himself in the unique situation of becoming the founder of a brand-new division in the body of Christ. And even though he never officially renounced the Catholic faith, he knew that the things he said and taught would be very influential in guiding the new budding protestant church.
It was here in these brief moments of time where the decision could have been made to once again allow Christ to be king of His church. However, the power and pride of controlling the masses masked the true calling of God. Luther did many great things, but His greatest mistake was retaining the religion, traditions, and hierarchy of the ecclesiology of the Church. For hidden deep within the first great reformation still remained the basic seed of unbelief that God was not capable enough to lead His own Kingdom. Of course, we still gave Christ lip service as the head of our faith, yet in reality, Protestantism decided that God only speaks His true will to our earthly Kings or by majority vote.
Take almost any denomination and you will find a person or group of people who are truly in command of the beliefs and doctrines of thousands of other believers. In some denominations 1 to 8 people stand as Kings under God while in others, large groups of delegates are elected to debate and cast the deciding vote as to discerning the will of God. These types of systems have worked well for thousands of years only because God has put up with our unbelief and has given us grace. But the time is coming and has arrived (as the second coming approaches), that Jesus Christ wants to see who will allow Him to be the true King of the Church once again.