Under the influence of a king or kings is not a typographical error, it is the article I am setting out to write. Recently, thanks in part to the COVID-19 pandemic and a series of revelations, I find myself without as many kings in my life. Kings? you might ask… kings I will continue to insist. I just didn’t realize that they were kings, but God doesn’t pass on the facts. In order to point the concept of kings out, I am going to review a little about kinghood in the Biblical sense.
The first king I see mentioned (besides God himself) is Pharaoh in Genesis 12. What I can learn about Pharaoh from this passage is:
- Pharaoh was the presumed leader of the land of Egypt (Kings control something: ie. a physical place)
- Pharaoh had children who had titles – princes (Kings have & confer titles, have lineages in line to succeed them)
- Pharaoh had the power to take nearly anything he wanted including humans
- Pharaoh had great wealth and/or access to great wealth (Kings control resources)
- Pharaoh had control over the people and they did what he said (Kings control people/have great influence over people. The implication is that there are consequences for disobedience)
The next king(s) I see mentioned are in Genesis 14 where a total of nine kings are mentioned (eight by name and one by title only). Here are more king facts from the reading:
- Kings can join together (make alliances)
- Kings can go to war
- Kings can honor treaties
- Kings can rebel against treaties
- Kings can conquer territories
Of course we also have a special king named here: Melchizedek king of Salem (king of Peace). He is the first king to bless someone and bless God, as well as the first to offer communion (bread & wine). It is said that he was also a priest. Hebrews 7 mentions Melchizedek in an introduction to Jesus, and as a side note, Jesus is born into the house of Judah (prophesied to rule forever) by lineage but also proclaimed high priest by the perfect & sinless life he lived. (If you want a real interesting read on Jesus’ genealogy, I recommend this one)
- certain kings can bless people
- certain kings can officiate communion
- Kings can accept tribute (tithes)
Why do I bring all this up? Because I have elevated certain people to the status of king in my life.
What did God have to say about kings? Deuteronomy 17:14-20 says:
“When you come to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ you may indeed set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.
“And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.”
(I realize this is for Israel, but this also applies for us to have leaders)
When in 1 Samuel 8:1-9, the people ask for a king, Samuel prays to God and God answers:
Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, 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, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”
Samuel obeys God and gives Israel some warnings specifically 1 Samuel 8:10-18
So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
and finally, Israel ignores Samuel’s warnings and gets a king anyway (1 Samuel 8:19-22)
But the people refused to obey 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, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey their voice and make them a king.” Samuel then said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.”
Yes, that was the whole chapter. I needed to have you read it to make the points I’m about to make.
The first point I want to make is that the desire of Israel for a king was rooted in not being able to see how God would provide. Samuel’s sons were corrupt – they were not like Samuel. So Israel justified their idea to have a king by not having faith in God, but in looking at the institutions established in other countries. You have to keep in mind that the other countries to which Israel was looking were not Godly – they were pagan at best and so wicked that God wanted them removed from the land.
In applying this personally, I can see where instead of keeping my relationship between God and myself, I have looked to other humans to step in and provide direction. I have looked to people instead of God whenever I could not see a way out. Specifically, and this one hurts, I have made areas of my life the responsibility of others, and then blamed them when things didn’t work out. I crowned them kings in my life in whatever area I had decided to turn over to them. OUCH! Even when it looked to me like there was no other way forward – did I go to God??? Not really. Instead I, like Israel, chose a king. And why not? Other people had a financial adviser, a spiritual adviser, a sponsor, a life coach, a workout coach, an insurance specialist, a business consultant, etc. I chose kings – who I surrendered authority to in many areas…
The second point is God was leading the people through a priest who served as judge. Instead of a priestly judge, Israel desired to be led by a (not-necessarily godly) king like everyone else: a king that would judge them and go out before them to fight their battles. God cuts to the chase when he tells Samuel “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, 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.” In other words: Asking for a king is being compared to serving other gods (if I’m reading it correctly – but please correct me in the comments if I am wrong). Serving and worshipping other gods is called idolatry and or harlotry depending on where you read about it and in what context.
I have to remember that Israel was not forbidden from having a king in Deuteronomy, just warned about having one in 1 Samuel. Having a king was gonna happen, in fact, Jesus is our King of the line of David. David was the replacement of Saul the first King (because of Saul’s rebellion), like Jesus is the replacement of David (the right heart and actions) – making a new and better King/Kingdom. Jesus is our king if we have chosen to accept God’s gift of salvation. He took the place of honor at God’s right hand, and he needs to be allowed preeminence in our lives, because he is worthy of our trust, allegiance and love.
There is a price for having a king. Sometimes the price may appear small. But in hindsight, the price for having a king is always high in comparison to just trusting in God and allowing him to rule in every area.
We have been commanded to make disciples – but let’s face it, in order to make disciples, we must have been discipled. In looking at the discipleship of Christ with his followers – they spent time with him, were taught one on one and in small groups, and sent out together to practice what they were taught. Jesus sought after God first thing in the morning – and I’m sure the disciples would have adopted his customs after his departure. The disciples didn’t have masters once Christ left – for he remained their teacher through the Holy Spirit (as he said about the Spirit: comforter, teacher, counselor). jump over to 1 John 2 and pay attention to this “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.” The whole point of discipleship is to arrive at a mature place where you become a fellow co-laborer for the Kingdom of Christ – not to be owned as a slave to the one who discipled you, not to bow down and serve the disciplier, but to co-labor as a fellow disciple producing more disciples. A mature believer can seek God, and can also hear from God. A mature believer doesn’t need someone to chew stuff up and turn it to mush so they can swallow it – a mature believer can eat meat and chew it up for others who may not be able to chew for themselves.
Today, I choose to renounce the ungodly kings in my life. I also choose to walk as I have been taught, no longer subject to others rule over me, but instead to answer the call of Jesus and be concerned with His opinions alone. I will not look to the world – just because it has kings, nor will I any longer accept the words of my Lord through the interpretation of another man. Today, I choose you Jesus – to be my King, and today I will seek your approval only.