A friend recently made a comment to me that set my thoughts in motion about the current state of our government. It involves a Bible character that is pretty well known, his rise to power and his failure.
The nation of Israel had been governed by spiritual leaders and judges for hundreds of years. This was not the way other countries were ruled at the time. Monarchies were the order of the day. So, the citizens of Israel decided they wanted to be like their neighbors and be ruled by a king.
This is what God said about the situation to Samuel, who had been the high priest who had rule over the nation:
“Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but have rejected Me from being the king over them. According to all the deeds which they have done to Me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, hearken to their voice; only, you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” (1 Samuel 8:7 - 9)
Saul was chosen as the first king of Israel. God allowed it because the people had hardened their hearts toward the established order of rule. He let them have their way, but also let them deal with the consequences.
Saul was a good looking fellow, tall and stood out in a crowd. He was head and shoulders above the rest. He had also successfully led a military campaign and the people liked what they saw. They wanted a good looking hero to be established as their king.
The trouble was, Saul didn’t have the heart of a king. His success and rise to power went to his head. He enjoyed the adoration of the people, and his elevation to power. His victory was short lived. Running a nation was a whole lot tougher than winning a battle or two. Out of arrogance he also decided to break the established laws of the land and offered a sacrifice to God that should have been made only by the priests. He got so full of himself, he didn’t even realize he had crossed a forbidden barrier.
He made ridiculous demands of his troops. He turned on people who were on his side. He wanted to punish anyone who he considered a threat. He didn’t even realize when God’s blessings had left him. Among other things that were forbidden, he even went to a witch for advice. Can you imagine the leader of a country turning to witchcraft or spiritualists to try to get advice about performing his duties?
The high priest, Samuel, told him, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. The Lord would have established your reign over Israel forever, but now your kingdom will fail. The Lord sought out a man after His own heart, and appointed him to be prince over Israel because you have not done those things which you were commanded to do.”
In the end, the Kingship of Israel was transferred to David, one of the most well-known heroes of the Bible, who was a man after God’s own heart.
How is this story relevant to our modern world?
People still have a tendency to want a hero to look up to. They want someone who is different and stands out from the pack. People still gravitate toward who they consider to be beautiful. We often elect people to office for the wrong reasons. We choose our leaders for the wrong reasons. We see only the surface package without knowing what is on the inside of that person and they can conceal their own personal agenda from the public eye for a season.
Voting people into office that lack experience is almost always a mistake. A person who has not been through difficulties in their own life and professionally, are ill equipped to lead businesses, corporations, courts, cities, states, or nations. Almost anyone can lead in the good times when everything is going well. In times of trouble, we get a real glimpse of who we’ve placed at the helm.
Here is the good news. We learn from our mistakes. If we are truly wise, we will learn from the mistakes of others. We become wiser and stronger through experience. We get more than one chance to get it right.
Saul’s problem was that he wasn’t willing to admit his own human frailties and failures. He wasn’t ready to admit that he had disobeyed God. He wasn’t willing to humble himself before God and repent for his mistakes and his arrogance. It was almost as if he had developed a sense of “entitlement” that he deserved to be king because of his own worth. That was his undoing. Instead of turning to God, he turned away from God.
David was not a perfect man, yet he was a man after God’s own heart. He made mistakes, but he repented of them. He kept his kingship in perspective and always realized that God was bigger than he, and bigger than the nation of Israel. He worshiped God and gave God credit for the success of his kingship. His ego wasn’t so big that he couldn’t acknowledge his need for God to reign over Him and to direct his path.
In our own individual lives, the lesson to be learned from Saul and David is that God looks at the heart and not at the outward trappings of man. He knows us inside and out. No matter what appearance we have in public or what kind of image we might project, God knows us absolutely. He knows the most secret place of any man — the inside of his heart.