READ: 1 SAMUEL 8:1, 3-7, 9-10, 19-22
(1, 3) When Samuel got to be an old man, he set his sons up as judges in Israel…. But his sons didn’t take after him; they were out for what they could get up for themselves, taking bribes, corrupting justice.
(4-5) Fed up, all the elders of Israel got together and confronted Samuel at Ramah. They presented their case: “Look, you’re an old man, and your sons aren’t following in your footsteps. Here’s what we want you to do: Appoint a king to rule us, just like everybody else.”
(6)When Samuel heard their demand–“Give us a king to rule!”–he was crushed. How awful! Samuel prayed to God.
(7, 9) God answered Samuel, “Go ahead and do what they’re asking. They are not rejecting you. They’ve rejected me as their King….So let them have their own way. But warn them of what they’re in for. Tell them the way kings operate, just what they’re likely to get from a king.”
(10) So Samuel told them, delivered God’s warning to the people who were asking him to give them a king….
(19-20) But the people wouldn’t listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We will have a king to rule us! Then we’ll be just like all the other nations. Out king will rule us and lead us and fight our battles!”
(21-22) Samuel took in what they said and rehearsed it with God. God told Samuel, “Do what they say. Make them a king.”
Then Samuel dismissed the men of Israel: “Go home, each of you to your own city.”
THINK: The Israelites wanted God, but they were afraid they’d miss out if they didn’t have a king like the other nations. They wanted to fit in with the other nations by having a king lead them and fight their battles for them. Read the passage again, this time deeply feeling the determination of the Israelites and the disappointment of Samuel.
(1) Who do you resemble most? (a) Samuel – being confronted by people asking him to make changes he believes are wrong, or (b) the Israelites – wanting him to be like others?
(2) If you chose a, converse with God about this as Samuel did: What would you like to say to God regarding these demands? If b, how would you finish this sentence: I want to be like ____________. If you continue wanting to be like a certain person, how might it cheat you out of what God wants for you?
(3) What would your life look if you trusted God to give you what you need, regardless of how odd that may seem when compared to other people’s lives?
Personally, I have wanted to be more like Samuel but, in practice, I have behaved more like the Israelites. Many times, I’ve said that I wanted to be distinct, to have the kind of faith life that screams “I trust God more than I care what others think.” But the reality is: as soon as it starts to look like my life be heading in an unfamiliar direction, I get a little scared when my life starts to take a trajectory that I can’t figure out, or if I can’t make sense of it for myself or others. I have wanted a life that I was different, but I’ve also wanted to be able to understand it AND explain it to others. The longer I live, the more I am being shown that those two things are rarely going to coincide! I am trying to be okay with that!
I don’t know what my life would look like if it were someone else’s. I don’t know what I’d be cheating myself out of either. The problem is: I can be a little short-sighted when it comes to things like that. I have a hard time being eternally minded. I make plans for eternity, certainly. However, I can’t imagine what I would be missing out on. That being said, I know that there are many things in my life that I would be missing had my life gone the way that I thought I wanted it to when I was younger, before I realized that sometimes it can be painful to follow God (like when you pray and pray for something and the answer is “no”).
As for what my life would look like if I trusted God to give me what I need: well, pretty much like it does now. I’ve been put in the position of not being able to do anything about the position I’m in. We were obedient to God, and it got us into a position that is unlike anything I’ve ever been in before, and the only thing I have to operate on is faith. The only other alternative is to take matters into my own hands and grab back control of my life from God. But I’ve gone too far down this road of faith. I know where it leads, eventually. I know that this is the only path of true reward. So uncomfortable or not, I’m gonna keep walking this path. I will come out on the other side. I know that God did not lead my into the desert to let me die out here. He just doesn’t do that!
PRAY: Be honest with God about any frustration of wanting to be like others or frustration with those who do. Ask God to show you the advantages of trusting him more with these things.
Dear Heavenly Father, I know you hear the prayers of those who pray to you believing that you are God. I know that I was praying to that same God when I asked you to spare me from the spot I’m in now. And I know that you heard me, even though you did not grant my request. I also know that you are faithful to deliver those who love you and are obedient to you. Help me to remember this when I am tempted to complain that my life doesn’t look like what I thought it would, or like everyone else’s. You have chosen this path for me, and me for this path. Help me to walk it with grace and dignity and integrity, trusting you for every step, every decision. Help me to remember that anxiety and worry and confusion are tools used by Satan to try to derail me from this path, to entice me to step away from your will and pursue my own path, my own way, my own will. I pray that when I am feeling anxious, I would remember that you did not put that feeling there, that you did not lead me this far to leave me to figure the rest of it out myself. Help me to remember when I am worried that you are not taken by surprise by anything that I am confronting or am about to. When I am confused and striving to figure things out for myself, help me to remember that you are not a God of confusion, but of perfect order, and that all things work together for the good of those that love you and are called according to Your Will. And help me to remember that, even though it is painful, I am smack dab in the middle of Your Will because I was obedient, and the only way to get through this is to continue being obedient.
LIVE: While you sit in a quiet place, practice feeling okay being different from other people. If you can, view that difference as special or chosen. Relax with a sense of God’s hand on you.