I think about the people of Israel during the time of Jesus, and, as you remember on Palm Sunday, they were expecting the Messiah to be a spiritual leader but also a military and political leader. Maybe someone will finally be able to get rid of Rome once and for all. If anybody could, certainly the Messiah would be able to. I am not an expert on popular Jewish culture of the first century, but I wonder if part of that came from passages like we find in Zechariah 6.
Zec 6:12 And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD:
Zec 6:13 Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.
I think that as you read this, it could certainly be taken as political. The Branch seems to stand out as the Messiah and according to the commentary of John Gill, the Targum affirms this reading. Beyond that, He is going to build the Temple and sit on the throne. In order to do that, you need some form of political power. An iterant preacher and carpenter by trade did not seem to fit the job description. An average person would not have the authority to do these things.
However, when He was finally marching into Jerusalem, it seemed to be the time. Maybe He was finally going to grab all of this political power that the people of Israel had been waiting for. He had supernatural power, and He seemed to fit some of what the people wanted. Maybe He could take the political part as well.
Jesus did indeed build the Temple, and He does sit on the throne. It might not have been what the people were expecting, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
I am finding Hosea to be incredibly relevant to the world today, and chapter 10 begins with a discussion of the moral situation that the Israelites are finding themselves in.
Hos 10:1 Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself: according to the multitude of his fruit he hath increased the altars; according to the goodness of his land they have made goodly images.
Hos 10:2 Their heart is divided; now shall they be found faulty: he shall break down their altars, he shall spoil their images.
Hos 10:3 For now they shall say, We have no king, because we feared not the LORD; what then should a king do to us?
Hos 10:4 They have spoken words, swearing falsely in making a covenant: thus judgment springeth up as hemlock in the furrows of the field.
It is interesting to think about this. In verse one, we have Israel thinking about how all of this great stuff that happened to them and obviously taking credit for it. That never goes well in the Bible when people start to take credit for what God has done.
In verse two, they are going to be found deficient, so everything is going to fall apart, and verse three is where we really see the world coming today. What good is all the authority in the world if we are not in a right relationship with God?
It makes me think about the fact that nothing can replace God. Certainly the people of Israel could put someone in charge. That is not the question. The question is what a king could possibly do in that situation.
For me, I think that we are quick to try to put ourselves in the place of God. Kind of like Israel at the beginning of this chapter, we think that everything comes from our own efforts. However, we end up in a situation where we don’t know where to turn because we have wandered away from God.
The people of Israel always seemed to want a king, but at this point in Hosea, it doesn’t even seem like they want that. Whatever they possibly could want on earth simply isn’t satisfying. For you or I it might be something different that we really think will make us happy, but when we get there, we don’t know where to turn.
It seems to me that all things on earth are insufficient to bring us the satisfaction that we can only get through God.
In Isaiah 32, we hear about a king who is going to make everything different.
Isa 32:1 Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment.
Isa 32:2 And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.
Isa 32:3 And the eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken.
I have to assume that the King we are referring to here is none other than Jesus Christ Himself. He is the only King that can rule in absolute righteousness. It is interesting in verse three and the verses after it that I didn’t provide for you here that people are going to pay attention to this leader.
Why would they pay attention to this leader?
Perhaps you could make the argument that because ruling in righteousness would be a lot different than many if not all of the governments around the world, people pay attention because it is so much different. They have all of the problems, corruption, scandals and other issues that plague the political process not only here in the United States but also all over the world. What if we had a ruler who was able to truly reign in righteousness? That would be some government.
For an immediate application though we can think about letting God reign in our lives right now. If He could have this much impact on the entire world, what could He do with one individual life? If we follow the leadership of our gracious King, we can do great things. It isn’t very hard to find testimonies online of people who God was able to use in remarkable ways. It was because they allowed God to be the King in their lives.
Just like I posited that people might pay attention to our righteous King in the political sense, people would also notice the difference in the lives of individuals who are surrendered to the King. I think that should be what we are aiming for. We are the meant to bring the light of Jesus Christ to the world, and that makes us different. Why don’t we demonstrate that?
In Psalms 67, we read about how great it would be to have God ruling the world from the literal throne here on earth, and even though I know some people are probably already thinking, “Separation of church and state!” at least hear me out for the rest of this article.
Psa 67:1 To the chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm or Song. God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us; Selah.
Psa 67:2 That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations.
Psa 67:3 Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.
Psa 67:4 O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth. Selah.
Psa 67:5 Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.
Psa 67:6 Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us.
Psa 67:7 God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.
Now, notice that we are dealing with a definite presupposition here. In this situation, if God was literally on earth running the government, these are some of the results we would see. They are entirely consistent with the character of God.
For one thing, He would be a righteous judge. The point that He is fair and just is emphasized numerous times throughout the Bible, and it would be a major improvement over what we have right now. Honestly, you hear about our justice system here in America, and it is definitely not always fair or just. I’m sure that the rest of the world is similar. With God in charge, we would have a fair judge.
Also, God would be good for the people. He would bless them. Again, we see a lot of blessings from God all throughout the Bible when people follow His way. Think about the promises at the end of Deuteronomy. The people of Israel could have blessings, or they could have curses. It really depended on how they followed God. This verse seems to be making a similar point.
Let me tell you, even if these were the only two benefits of having God govern the entire earth, they are definitely steps in the right direction as compared to where we are now. There is no world leader who is perfect, but we do serve God who is.
1 Samuel 12 essentially outlines the problem with putting our faith in worldly things.
On one hand, having a government is not a bad thing. Under the judges and even under Moses, there was a definite sense that Israel had some type of governmental structure. However, the difference lies in the fact that God put the first system in place.
At this point, the people of Israel were saying that they wanted something different than what God had put in place.
1Sa 12:12 And when ye saw that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon came against you, ye said unto me, Nay; but a king shall reign over us: when the LORD your God was your king.
They did not want to have God as their King anymore. They wanted a literal human king like every other country in the world. Wouldn’t you think that having a perfect King who had proved himself over and over again would be better than the alternative?
Getting back to my first point, the government was not the problem. Samuel even said that, despite the fact that the people should not have said they didn’t want God, this system could be successful.
1Sa 12:14 If ye will fear the LORD, and serve him, and obey his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then shall both ye and also the king that reigneth over you continue following the LORD your God:
1Sa 12:15 But if ye will not obey the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then shall the hand of the LORD be against you, as it was against your fathers.
If everyone involved followed God, there’d be no problem. That makes a lot of sense. After all, we are each told to follow God, and if you scale that up to all of society, it follows that everyone should follow God.
I think that the major application from this passage reemphasizes that God should be the ultimate authority in our lives. Even if society uses different standards for measurement, God is our ultimate bottom line for truth.
Because Easter is coming up, 1 Samuel 11 made me think about what type of king Israel wanted.
In this chapter, the people were in trouble, but Saul was able to rally 300,000 people from around the country to come and militarily defeat the Ammonites. After seeing his potential, here is what the people of Israel said.
1Sa 11:12 And the people said unto Samuel, Who is he that said, Shall Saul reign over us? bring the men, that we may put them to death.
The people could literally not believe that some people would oppose Saul as king of Israel. Why did they love him? They loved him because he was able to free them from oppression.
Wait a minute. By whose will did they actually win the battle? It wasn’t because of Saul. It was because of this physical deliverance that the people were loyal to him.
Now, let’s look at the ultimate King and what kind of deliverance He was going to bring.
Luk 19:37 And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen;
Luk 19:38 Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.
Luk 19:39 And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples.
Luk 19:40 And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.
Luk 19:41 And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,
Here we have a King that everyone was expecting to throw out the Roman Empire. In a way, they expected Jesus to do what Saul had done. Perform some military conquest, and then you can be our King.
We can come to this conclusion from the fact that they were praising Him for his works. Of course, His works were great, but at this point, He had not even done His most amazing deed.
I think that is why Jesus was crying at what would seem to be a very happy moment. The people of Israel had no idea what He was about to do and why. They didn’t realize that they needed a lot more than just an earthly king.
Like I mentioned yesterday, God allowed the Israelites to have a king, but it was not what He had ultimately planned for Israel. This point comes through very clearly in 1 Samuel 10.
In this passage, we see the coronation of Saul. However, here is what Samuel said to call the people together.
1Sa 10:18 And said unto the children of Israel, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all kingdoms, and of them that oppressed you:
1Sa 10:19 And ye have this day rejected your God, who himself saved you out of all your adversities and your tribulations; and ye have said unto him, Nay, but set a king over us. Now therefore present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes, and by your thousands.
God is pretty much saying that even though He did so much for Israel, they had rejected Him. Although this hasn’t necessarily been said yet, a verse from Jeremiah essentially sums up the relationship between God and Israel from God’s perspective.
Jer 32:38 And they shall be my people, and I will be their God:
The people did not understand that this relationship went both ways. They could not throw God to the side. God would be there and take care of them, but they needed to submit to God’s direction. They wanted all of the benefits without having to give anything. If this were a human friendship or relationship, we would say that it was unfair. Both parties should be valued by the other. God obviously loves and values humanity, but humanity does not always value Him.
The Israelites were just like that. They wanted a king to be a human figurehead like all the other nations had. If only they realized that what they had was so much better than what the world had to offer.
Today, in 1 Samuel 9, we meet one of the more well-known figures in the history of Israel. Saul was directly chosen by God to be the first king of Israel. God told Samuel ahead of time that a man would come in to visit him, and that man was to be named king.
1Sa 9:16 To morrow about this time I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be captain over my people Israel, that he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines: for I have looked upon my people, because their cry is come unto me.
It is interesting that Saul did not come looking to be king of Israel. He came looking for his father’s donkeys that had wandered away.
I think that that is often how God plans on using us. He chooses people for who they are. It was clear that God does not necessarily want to have a king in Israel. However, he did choose Saul to lead the people. Even though Saul certainly made some bad decisions later in life, he was the man who had been chosen.
Think about all of the other reluctant leaders. We read about Gideon not too long ago. He was not seeking out a leadership position, but God specifically chose him. Obviously, the power was from God, but He worked through Gideon.
Another great example is Esther. She wasn’t necessarily looking to be the spokesperson for the Jewish nation, but God put her in the right place at the right time to be an advocate. He was able to use her as well.
I think this is what people don’t realize today. We all think that we need to be someone amazing to be used by God. That is simply not true. God will use whoever is willing to be used.
It didn’t matter who they were before. Obviously repentance and forgiveness are vital if we want to be used by God, and we need to be a living sacrifice. However, never think that you are too small to be used by God. It is God’s power that matters anyway.
Rom 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.