Growing up, I would often hear my Mom say, “be careful what you ask for.”
I never understood that; as a child I thought I knew EXACTLY what I wanted. As an adult, I understand this more.
Maybe because of my experiences, maybe just due to maturity, but I am more conscience of what I ask for and more aware of the consequences of my choices. But conscientiousness and awareness isn’t always enough to keep me from following my own selfish desires. It isn’t always enough to motivate me to leave the status quo and really pursue God.
If you’re honest, you could probably say the same of yourself.
And it was the same for the Israelites.
In 1 Samuel chapter 8, we learn that the elders got together and confronted Samuel. He was old and his sons didn’t follow his ways. The elders asked for a solution, a king, so they could be like everyone else. Notice scripture doesn’t say they asked for a “Godly” king, just a body that would fill the role. Matthew Henry puts it this way, they wanted a “king in a purple robe, with his guards and officers of state” to look great in front of others.
Samuel takes this request to God, then warned the Israelites:
A king will abuse his power, making you slaves and servants. He will take your sons, who are free-born and appoint them for himself. He will take your daughters and make them his cooks and bakers. He will steal your land for himself and his servants. He will take the best of your crops and livestock for himself. Then, when you can’t take anymore and cry out to God for help, God will not answer you.
He is telling the Israelites that if they insist on a king, it will be an end to the life of freedom they now enjoy. In other words, “Be careful what you ask for!”
Just like us, the Israelites hear but do not listen. Matthew Henry puts it this way: They were quite deaf to reason and blind to their own interest. They could not answer Samuel’s arguments against it, nor deny the force of them, and yet they grow more violent in their request, and more insolent. He goes on and calls their desires absurd.
I’ll admit some of my own requests and desires could be called absurd. Oh, but they sure don’t seem that way when I’m requesting and desiring them!
The Israelites certainly didn’t see their request as absurd either. They considered only the magnificence of a king and thought that would make them great, would make other nations respect them and even envy them. They were like children, refusing to weigh the consequences of their choices, even after they’re warned.
They’re like Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory:
“Don’t care how, I want it now!”
They get what they demand. God gives them up to their own hearts’ lusts, or desires, and gives them a king. /sigh/
How many times have we charged heaven for something we so desperately wanted, even convinced ourselves we needed, only to later reap severe consequences?
Remember, Veruca Salt was ambushed in the Nut Sorting Room by Wonka’s squirrels (ironically enough, one of which she had demanded her parents buy for her!). Then she was sent down the garbage chute, where Willy Wonka told them an incinerator awaited.
Veruca Salt’s experience is a comparable, although entertainingly fictional, picture of what we (and the Israelites) experience. She was in a euphoric world of chocolate with few rules, few restrictions. Yet she wants more. She doesn’t care about the consequences. She knows what she wants, and she demands it! In the same way, we’re often warned but don’t listen. We insist on our own way.
We cling to Matthew 7:7 “keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened for you.” We cling to it completely out of context, claiming it without understanding it.
We like the receiving what we ask for part, and we like the finding what we’re seeking part. But we don’t always like what’s on the other side of that door once it’s opened.
Often God warns us about the consequences of what we’re asking for, sometimes just tells us “no”. But, like children, we don’t like to be told no, so we continue asking, seeking, and knocking until the door is eventually opened. Then the metaphorical “squirrels” attack us, and we find ourselves heading down a path that ends in the ultimate “incinerator”.
Let’s leave our fictional world of Willy Wonka and come back to our story of the Israelites. They’ve been asking, seeking, and knocking. And they will soon be getting the king they so desperately desired; demanded.
Saul is a Benjamite, a handsome and tall man from a wealthy family. He is sent out in search of his father’s donkeys, and after searching for days he is ready to give up and go home.
His servant insists they continue and suggests they seek the help of a prophet. Saul agrees, and they end up running into this prophet, Samuel, on their way to town. God immediately confirms to Samuel that it is Saul who is to be the king.
Samuel assures Saul that the donkeys he is seeking have already been found, then he convinces him to stay overnight. The next morning, Samuel pours oil on Saul, anointing him, and prophesies over him. As Saul turns to leave, God changes his heart. The Spirit of God comes upon him and he even begins prophesying. Think about it: a man, on search of nothing more than donkeys, is suddenly anointed and prophesying!
Saul had to be a little freaked out after this experience, I certainly would have been! Can you imagine waking up the next morning, realizing this wasn’t a dream? This had actually happened!
As news begins to spread, people start talking and questioning, rumors are flying, gossip is flowing. Finally, Saul’s uncle approaches him and asks him about it.
1 Samuel 10:15-16
“Saul’s uncle said, “Tell me what Samuel said to you.” Saul replied, “He assured us that the donkeys had been found.” But he did not tell his uncle what Samuel had said about the kingship.
WHY? After having this incredible, almost unbelievable experience, why did Saul not tell his uncle all that happened? He surely had to know his uncle would eventually find out he was going to be king! So why didn’t he tell him?
Perhaps the fear of accepting all that happened was too much. Perhaps he thought if he denied it or refused to believe it or speak of it, it would just go away.
After all, he was just a regular guy on the hunt for some donkeys, he didn’t ask for or anticipate any of this. Status quo was good enough; the fear of stepping out was too much.
How many times have we found ourselves stuck in the status quo? We think everything is fine, overlooking or ignoring what we know needs to change. Knowing God has plans for us, knowing He has called us to make a change but too scared of the unknown to accept it?
The story gets better (or worse, depending on how you look at it!). Samuel obviously knows Saul is to be king, but he also knows these Israelites. So he summons all of the people to cast lots to choose the king. Saul was obviously selected, but when his name was called, he was nowhere to be found.
Saul had withdrawn. Maybe he hoped they’d choose someone else and he’d be off the hook. Maybe he wallowed in his seemingly unfitness of the position; he wasn’t trained for this. Maybe he feared the envy of his friends, family, and neighbors that had already been gossiping about him. Maybe he knew this position was the result of the sinful request of the Israelites. Maybe he feared failure. Whatever the reason, Saul allowed fear to cause his withdrawal from what God was calling him to do.
The NLT actually puts it this way:
1 Samuel 10:22b “And the LORD replied, “He is hiding among the baggage.”
We sit in a battered old suitcase, amongst old shabby garments, hoping to hide there and maintain our status quo. We somehow find comfort here and we don’t plan to ever come out or be found.
But what if God is calling you to unpack the suitcase, to clean and fold those old garments, to put them away? What if He is calling you to walk away from that baggage, never to look back. (Remember, Lot’s wife looked back and turned to a pillar of salt). What if God is asking you to step out of the status quo because he knows what’s on the other side of that door you’re knocking on?
Maybe we need to set aside what we think we want, what we demand, what we are seeking, and allow God to do whatever He wants in our lives. Sometimes we need to put the “Veruca Salt” in us to death, so to speak, and be more like Saul in this area.
Remember, Saul didn’t set out to become king; he only set out to find donkeys! Kingship was the furthest thing from his mind. But while he was asking, seeking, and knocking for a donkey, God made him KING.
What future awaits us if we’ll only step out in faith and allow God to take us away from seeking donkeys and trade our baggage for a crown!