The Disney classic The Lion King tells the story of young, ambitious Simba, a lion cub who dreams big dreams. Simba foolishly thinks that when he becomes the king of the land, it will be the answer to his problems. Becoming the king will be the fulfillment of all of his young, ego-driven potential:
I’m gonna be a mighty king, so enemies beware
I’m gonna be the main event like no king was before
I’m brushing up on looking down, I’m working on my roar!
Oh I just can’t WAIT to be king!
The reality is much different, of course. Being the king of ornery animals who are stubborn, duplicitous, uncaring, and in some cases downright EVIL is not the majestic existence he dreamt of as a young lion. Simba quickly learns that kingship is filled with tragedy and sober responsibility.
In 1 Samuel 8, a major change happened in the way Israel was run. Up to this point, they had been ruled by wise judges and prophets who leaned very heavily on God for instructions on how to lead and manage the people. But then came the time when the prophet Samuel was about to die, and his sons proved to be of no use to the nation. In addition, the other nations had KINGS. This turned the heads of the Israelites. Why can’t we have a king? they ask.
1 Samuel 8 (Common English Bible)
4 So all the Israelite elders got together and went to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “Listen. You are old now, and your sons don’t follow in your footsteps. So appoint us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.” 6 It seemed very bad to Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us,” so he prayed to the Lord.
7 The Lord answered Samuel, “Comply with the people’s request—everything they ask of you—because they haven’t rejected you. No, they’ve rejected me as king over them. 8 They are doing to you only what they’ve been doing to me from the day I brought them out of Egypt to this very minute, abandoning me and worshipping other gods.
This is a heartbreaking moment. If you remember your Old Testament history, what follows next is the ultimate downfall of Israel. The fact that these people, who had been loved, nurtured, and saved by God, are now rejecting him is unfathomable.
Or is it? Do we ever reject God in favor of a “king” we have put in God’s place of authority?
9 So comply with their request, but give them a clear warning, telling them how the king will rule over them.”
10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 He will use them as his commanders of troops of one thousand and troops of fifty, or to do his plowing and his harvesting, or to make his weapons or parts for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, or bakers.
14 He will take your best fields, vineyards, and olive groves and give them to his servants. 15 He will give one-tenth of your grain and your vineyards to his officials and servants. 16 He will take your male and female servants, along with the best of your cattle and donkeys, and make them do his work. 17 He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and then you yourselves will become his slaves!
18 When that day comes, you will cry out because of the king you chose for yourselves, but on that day the Lord won’t answer you.”
God offered the Israelites a cautionary tale about the potential disruption and corruption earthy kings can bring to the nation. They ignored his warnings and pushed for a king instead…much to their peril.
Have we learned this yet?
The invitation today is to refocus our hearts on worshipping the true king, Jesus, and allow him to reign over our lives in every way. Earthly leaders will ALWAYS let their people down. Who is your King?
Look up, and you will see the Lord seated on the throne, right where he belongs.