One Tuesday in November…
After Tuesday night’s election, there were various reactions to the results. Although it was actually before any polls closed, one example of a response is this tweet from someone I follow on Twitter (and who follows me):
A US Veteran said he felt betrayed by people voting for Obama. I could say the same thing about Christians voting for Romney! #Compromise
I suspect most of us here would not agree with my Twitter friend (while respecting his right to come to a different conclusion than us). However, given his support for Obama, I was a little surprised when, early in the morning on Thursday after the election, he tweeted this:
America! Since God has given you what you wanted, don’t be surprised when He gives you what YOU deserve!
I told him, “I’m getting a 1 Samuel 8 vibe…” and he responded, “Stop looking at my notes bro! Lol!” 🙂
Getting What We Want
Well, let’s go ahead and see what my Twitter friends notes say, and then chat more about what perspective we should have for this election. It’s a bit of a long read, but well worth it:
[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the "extras" that come out in the audio. (Sadly, there were technical issues and the audio has distortion to a point of being unlistenable.) All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]
8 When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. 2 The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. 3 Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice.
4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah 5 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.” 6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD. 7 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. 8 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. 9 Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”
10 So Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking for a king from him. 11 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. 12 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. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15 He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. 16 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. 17 He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 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.”
19 But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20 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.” 21 And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the LORD. 22 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” (1 Samuel 8:1—22).
Now, before we dig in I want to give a very important caveat. Although most people here know I was hoping for a different outcome last Tuesday, I purposely did not endorse either candidate from this pulpit. Even now I am not saying that Obama being elected is an ominous sign. I may personally feel that way, but ultimately only God knows if it was for good or for bad. However, considering the inspiration for this sermon was the less-than-positive tweet of one of his supporters, and because the talk will be more meaningful assuming the latter, that will be our hypothetical stance.1
As we do that, let’s not forget that many Christians have an opposite view…so as our concerned supplications rise to the Lord, they are intermingled with their praises. For now, only God knows for sure which one is warranted…and regardless of our feelings:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
Regardless of our feelings, pray for Obama and his administration.
Now back to 1 Samuel 8.
First, a legitimate reason…
First, please notice that although God makes it clear that in demanding a king the Israelites were rejecting Him, the people did have a legitimate reason to hope for a change. Samuel may have been a man of God, but his sons…who Samuel made judges over Israel…were not. “They took bribes and perverted judgment.”
Throughout our history, America has also taken bribes and perverted judgment, so it is understandable that many people might look to a political messiah who promises them fair treatment. Whether accusations that they have voted ignorantly are true or not, it is unfair (and un-Christian in my view) to say that everyone who voted for Obama is stupid and/or lazy and/or doing so for freebies. Let’s not forget that there are historical and current wrongs that honest people can disagree about the solution for. Unlike the time before Israel’s first king, we do not have a prophet of God to tell us what the best solution actually is.
Second, God ultimately gives you what you want…
The second thing I want us to take from our long selection in Samuel is that God ultimately gives us what we want. Even though our Lord had every reason to take it all personally and force the Jews to remain in a theocracy, “…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.'”
This whole scenario reminds me of three times in Romans where God says he “gave them up”…the first being in Romans 1:18-25:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
What God really wanted should have been obvious to the Israelites before they made their request…but “their foolish hearts” longed for a king…”they became futile in their thinking”…and God “gave them up” to their desire.
Third, God always gives us plenty of evidence and warning…
Third…and this is reiterated in the quote from Romans 1…God always gives plenty of warning. Notice after God acquiesces to Israel’s demands, he still tells Samuel to “solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” One more chance for them to be more like Nineveh in Jonah’s day instead of…well…like Israel in almost all its history.
I don’t know about you, but I think Samuel did a mighty fine job of laying out what would happen…”But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel.”
“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.”
They were rejecting the God like no other for a king like every other.
They were rejecting being God’s nation to be like every nation.
And God gave them what they wanted.
Why are we afraid?
And considering that Obama won both the Electoral College and the popular vote, my Twitter friend is correct…God has given America what we, corporately, want.
Not only that, but we do not “Put not [our] trust in princes, [nor] in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation” (Psalm 146:3), because “[Our] help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2)…
So, why are so many of us Christians worried…even afraid…of what the next four years are going to be like…and beyond?
I suppose, in great measure, it is because we have appreciated the blessings the first couple hundred years of the United States have given us…and we suspect that we owe it to God. Thus, Jeremiah 18:7-10 becomes applicable:
7 If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8 and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. 9 And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10 and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it.
But, some might argue, being worried when God is control is un-Christian…where is our trust?!
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:4-7, emphasis mine).
Being anxious is a lack of faith! How can we worry and claim to follow a Lord who is in control?:
For instance, we know from Daniel 2:21:
21 He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;
A God who sets up kings surely sets up presidents too…and Paul also reminded us that:
…there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God (Romans 13:1, in part)
Paul tells us not to be anxious about anything and that all authorities that exist have been instituted by God…and Daniel notes that our Lord sets up kings…
So, why do we worry?
Because as much as we know from Scripture how bad things have to be before the Lord returns, nobody in their right mind wants to live through it (or have their children and grandchildren live through it)—even if it is what we, as a nation or world, wanted—even if it is what we, as a nation or world, deserve. I may appreciate the benefits of exercise, but that doesn’t mean I look forward to the pain.
Also, along with Paul’s advice to not be anxious and to pray to God…we can find Jesus understanding our normal worries when we face the potential of the end times:
“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34-36, emphasis mine).
I don’t know about you, but I really do pray that Augie will escape all the “things that are going to take place” even though I look forward to the Second Coming. Any sane person would prefer a Jonah/Nineveh type respite from God’s wrath than to be joyous at the prospect of mass suffering in the world…especially by their loved ones. Being called a masochist is not a compliment.
Not to mention…I don’t know about you…but I missed something in Samuel’s words until I was reviewing them again yesterday:
18 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 (1 Samuel 8:18).
Although we know God always listens to the prayers of His spiritual Israel…and that “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16b, KJV,).
Although we know that God will listen to the prayers of the saints…
If…as a nation…we got what we want against God’s advice…then there is a really good chance when we…as a nation…cry out, He will not answer us. As Proverbs 1:24-28 says:
24 Because I have called and you refused to listen,
have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded,
25 because you have ignored all my counsel
and would have none of my reproof,
26 I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when terror strikes you,
27 when terror strikes you like a storm
and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
when distress and anguish come upon you.
28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
they will seek me diligently but will not find me.
And that potential…my friends…is terribly frightening to me…
Lord of Lords
Having been this honest about my personal feelings…and suspecting I am not the only one experiencing these concerns…I do want to end on some positive notes.
First, we could be wrong. Looking back at the reference in Jeremiah, maybe this past election was a sign of God’s good intent. Maybe the Christians who voted for Obama have it right, and those of us who voted for Romney had it wrong—you have admit it was suboptimal that “our” candidate was a prominent member of a church that falsely claims to be Christian and is actively working to be accepted into the orthodox Christian fold. Especially when choosing between the “lesser of two evils” we should always allow some room for us to be mistaken when other Christian brothers and sisters disagree.
Second, no matter what earthly rulers exist, Revelation reminds us that there is ultimately only one Lord of Lords:
They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful (Revelation 17:14).
The more our governments realize who is Lord of lords and King of kings…the less likely they will make war on the Lamb and get the guaranteed and disastrous result.
And finally…just as when I climb on my rower, exercycle, or bicycle I know that the pain will end…even if this election is somehow the beginning of a painful period of end of all things…compared to eternity…we only have “minutes” before…
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Or, more simply in Jesus’ own words:
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also (John 14:3).
Yes, I believe we have great reason to worry…and when we do…let’s pray…and let’s encourage one another with these words:
Jesus is coming back for us!
1 After preaching this sermon, it turns out that the first tweet I shared by my Twitter friend does not completely reflect his views and he did not vote for Obama in the 2012 presidential election.