What started out as a look at King David turned into a study of all the kings of Israel and Judah. I’d like to back up now and see how Israel ended up with an earthly king in the first place.
While the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness, Moses served as their leader and judge. Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, seeing how Moses was constantly swamped with matters people brought before him, gave him some good advice: “Select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. They should always be available to solve the people’s common disputes, but have them bring the major cases to you. Let the leaders decide the smaller matters themselves” (Exodus 18:21-22a, NLT).
And that was how things were done. But once the twelve tribes of Israel had settled into the “Promised Land” and divided it into the individual tribes’ own territories, there was no central government or leader. Eventually Samuel set up a sort of circuit court and judged cases himself. How do we know this? First Samuel 7:15-16 tells us, “Samuel continued as Israel’s judge for the rest of his life. Each year he traveled around, setting up his court first at Bethel, then at Gilgal, and then at Mizpah. He judged the people of Israel at each of these places.” (To learn more about Samuel’s special birth and early life, read First Samuel 1-3.)
Samuel and other judges also served as military leaders on many occasions. Deborah – see Judges 4 and 5 – was both a prophet and a judge and led Israel to a great victory over Jabin, a Canaanite king in Hazor. Over and over we see the pattern: Israel ignored God’s commands and He allowed them to be oppressed by a pagan power; then a judge would arise to help God’s people.
The last chapter of the Book of Judges ends on this sad note: “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25).
“Israel had no king.” No, they had never had an earthly king as their leader, but more importantly, their behavior was a clear indicator that God was not respected as their Righteous King and Ruler.
If you read First Samuel 4-6, you see how Israel carried the Ark of the Lord into battle and it was subsequently captured by the Philistines. The Lord sent such a severe plague on the Philistines that they sent the Ark back to Israel. But the Israelites were still terrified of these enemies.
“Then Samuel said to all the people of Israel, ‘If you are really serious about wanting to return to the Lord, get rid of your foreign gods and your images of Ashtoreth. Determine to obey only the Lord; then He will rescue you from the Philistines.’ So the Israelites got rid of their images of Baal and Ashtoreth and worshiped only the Lord. Then Samuel told them, ‘Gather all of Israel to Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you’” (I Samuel 7:3-5).
“If you are really serious about… the Lord, get rid of your foreign gods and your images…” Folks, you can wear out the church doors and ALTAR, but until you ALTER your behavior, there’s no inward change.
Almost every sitcom on TV has one central subject: illicit sex. If you’re watching it, you, my friend, are inviting a foreign god – the enemy – into your household. What about the books and magazines you read? What you look at on the internet? If you wouldn’t be comfortable with Jesus sitting down beside you and looking at it with you, then you shouldn’t be looking yourself.
Besides, if you’re His, He’s not only beside you, He’s within you in the form of His Holy Spirit. “If you are really serious about… the Lord…,” live like it – in private and in public.
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates