What Is the Good News of Yeshua? (Part 17)
Following the death of Moses, it would be his successor Joshua who would finally bring Israel into the land. With the tablets of the testimony before them, the people set off on their divinely appointed campaign to conquer and resettle their ancestral home. Through obedience to God, miraculously falling walls (Joshua 6:12ff), physics-defying celestial events (10:12f) and five years of fighting, the land promised to Israel’s fathers was theirs… mostly. God had dispossessed the previous occupants because of their wickedness, giving the land to His covenantal people (Deuteronomy 9:4-6, cf. Leviticus 18:3ff). And Israel served Adonai for all of Joshua’s days, and for all the days of the elders who outlived him…
“[but] another generation arose after them who… did evil in the eyes of Adonai” (Judges 2:10-11, mjlt).
Having disobeyed God by not completely driving out the land’s inhabitants, Israel activated Adonai’s promise to make the remaining nations a thorn in their side (2:3). The foreign religions of those people would become an alluring snare, as Israel continually and repeatedly failed God’s test by fervently going after other gods and worshipping them. So for their blatant defiance and grave unfaithfulness, God gave Israel over into the hands of their plunderers. No longer could the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob stand against and conquer their God-strengthened foes (2:14, 3:12). Over the next 300 years, in a recurring cycle of reprieve and defeat, whenever Israel would cry out to God, He would feel sorry for His people—despite their disloyalty—and in His compassion, raise up judges to lead and to save them. Anytime a judge was raised up, God would be with him, and Israel would be delivered. But whenever that judge died, the people “turned back [to other gods] and [did] more corruptly than their fathers…. They had not fallen away from their [evil] practices or from their stiff-necked way” (2:19).
“In those days there was no king in [Israel]. Each man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6, mjlt).
As the time of the judges neared its end, God raised up the prophet-priest Samuel—an enduringly upright servant of God, who led his people in righteousness. When Samuel grew old, he made his sons judges over Israel, yet they did not walk in their father’s ways, and turned aside after their own gain. Seeing this, the people confronted Samuel, rebuffing the leadership of his rebellious sons. And seizing the opportunity to object to the status quo—in pursuit of the ways of the nations (1 Samuel 8:5)—the people demanded for themselves… a king.
Aggrieved at their worldly petition, Samuel nevertheless brought the matter before God. And God’s reply, to do exactly as the people had said, must have wounded Samuel all the more. Though Samuel warned the people of the contempt and harshness they would receive from their requested king (8:11ff), they refused to listen, wanting nothing less than to be led about and lorded over just like the surrounding nations. As God had told Samuel, no longer would the people willingly subject themselves to His reign:
“Listen to the voice of the people, to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you; rather, they have rejected Me” (1 Samuel 8:7, mjlt).
So God sent Saul to be king over Israel, and in him, the people received the king they deserved.
An oppressive ruler, Saul would force the people into his personal service, and make them work his land. Having come from wealth and privilege, he would take the people’s choice harvests for his own, and the whole nation would become as fearful slaves (8:11-18). But what the people had most desired was a warrior king who would handily defeat their enemies, and—despite the harsh conditions with which Saul afflicted Israel—at least, in war, he delivered. Wherever Saul turned, he crushed Israel’s foes. Yet the greatest casualty of the wars of Saul would not be left on the battlefield. For all of his success in warfare, Saul nevertheless foolishly engaged in armed conflict with God.
Saul repeatedly skirted the instructions of his Commander, feigning compliance while making excuses for his circumventions. Even in the offering of sacrifices meant for pleasing God, in reality, Saul only sought what pleased himself, amending the priestly rites as he wished. Saul desired spectacle and attention over humility and obedience, believing in his arrogant pride that he knew better than God. It was in the face of this fatal flaw that Samuel announced the king of Israel’s inevitable (and more excellent) replacement—“a man according to [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:13f).
Like the ungrateful assembly who demanded a king, Saul had turned away from God and rejected Him. By putting his personal concerns above Adonai’s commands, Saul became the cause of his own eventual downfall. The line of his kingship would soon abruptly end.
A new king—a humble king—was coming. The God of Redemption was about to give Israel—and everyone, everywhere—the King they didn’t deserve.
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!