The following is an excerpt from the The Gospel Project for Adults, Summer 2016. The Gospel Project takes adults, students, and kids on a chronological, Christ-centered journey through the storyline of Scripture. Preview one month free at gospelproject.com.
Read 1 Samuel 8.
When we demand a king, we open the door to enslavement.
In 1 Samuel 8:10-18, Samuel didn’t hold back when he foretold the consequences of Israel’s demand for a king. The dominant word in these verses is take: the king will take your sons and daughters; he will take your crops and your lands; he will take the best years of your lives—he will exploit you and all your resources for himself.
The irony here is tremendous. The Israelites looked to a king to guarantee prosperity and security. What they would receive instead were kings who would take those things from them. They wanted a king whom they could control. Instead, their kings would wind up controlling them. What they thought would empower them would actually enslave them!
This is an Old Testament version of a New Testament principle: When you have other kings besides God, those kings do not save you; they enslave you.
Whatever you depend on for happiness and security, you become the slave of that thing.
Every life has a “king.” A king in your life is whatever you must have in order to be happy and secure. And kings make all of their subjects into servants. The apostle Paul said it this way: “But in the past, when you didn’t know God, you were enslaved to things that by nature are not gods” (Gal. 4:8). Or as Bob Dylan sang, “You’ve gotta serve somebody.”
Now, there are always some free spirits who feel like they have gamed the whole system. “‘You’ve gotta serve somebody,’ huh? Well, not me. I don’t need anything or anybody. I’m not enslaved to any of that stuff. I’m a free man.” But these are the same people who are afraid to commit in their relationships. Precisely because they are “free,” they will not allow anything to stand in the way of their absolute independence. Independence becomes their king, and they become its slave. They must have selfish independence to be happy.
Everybody serves something. There are no exceptions. You are either submitted to Someone who brings life—God—or you are enslaved to something that brings death.
We’ve seen that when we demand a king, we are admitting that God is not enough for us, and therefore, we are opening the door to enslavement. Now we see that the demand for a king makes us look like everyone else, just as it did with Israel (see 1 Sam. 8:19-22).
Similarly, when people who have been redeemed by Christ look to things in this world for protection, security, and validation, they start to look like everyone else. Forgetting their identity and the love that comes from a restored relationship with God, they become bound to a “king” they think will satisfy them. This pursuit leads to the obsessing, overworking, and destructive behavior that we have discussed previously. With this type of behavior, it is difficult to distinguish between professing Christians and the rest of the world.
This is not what God intended for His people. This is not what He intends for you. He wants you to know the love and assurance that comes from knowing Christ. He doesn’t want you to obsess over things in this world that hold only empty promises. We need only to look at the cross, where God poured Himself out for us.
Excerpted from The Gospel Project: A Kingdom Established © 2016 Lifeway Press®. Used by permission.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.