The Manner of the King

W.W. Fereday

From "God's Emergency Man"

Why did it not occur to the elders of Israel that as Samuel's sons had proved a disappointment to them, the King might be no better? Is a change of government, whether in times ancient or modern, a necessary cure for every ill? Why turn from flesh in one form to flesh in another? Are we not sometimes as foolish as they when difficulties arise? "It is better to trust in Jehovah than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in Jehovah than to put confidence in princes" (Psalm 118:8-9). Hath both reader and writer learned this simple lesson?

In answer to Samuel's prayer, Jehovah laid before him the true nature of the people's demand. It was not so much the rejection of Samuel and his sons as the rejection of Jehovah Himself. The people had grown weary of the theocracy. The wonderful privilege of being in direct relationship with God, and of being under His direct rule was nothing in their eyes, and they were willing to have done with it, and copy the practice of the nations. In like manner has the Church long lost the sense of the exceeding blessedness of union with the invisible Head in heaven, and of the guidance and control of the invisible Spirit in God's house on earth. Hence the insistence on all hands upon the necessity for a clergy, chairmen, and others to take visible control amongst God's people.

Jehovah said unto Samuel, "Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken Me and served other gods, so do they also unto thee" (1 Sam. 8:7-8). Jehovah thus shows that the demand for a king was but the climax of centuries of discontent with the position in which His grace had set them. They appear to have been confronted at the time with the threat of an Ammonite invasion (chap. 12:12). Forgetting altogether the lesson of Ebenezer (chap. 7:12), they turn, not to God, but to the arm of flesh. We observe something similar in Judges 11. 'There also the Ammonites were assailing them, and in their distress they turned to Jephthah for aid. When will men - when will we-learn to turn to God alone in the difficulties and perils of life?

"Like all the nations" (verse 1) were really painful words from the lips of Jehovah's chosen people. It was their glory, could they have appreciated it, that they were not like the nations? Remember what Balaam said concerning them in the first of his four parables. "It is a people that shall dwell alone; and shall not be reckoned among the nations " (Num. 23:9, R.V.). The people of God have always found it difficult to maintain the position of separation to God. The Church has failed as singly in this as Israel. What is now called Christendom is a sorry compound of Paganism, Judaism, and Christianity. The arrangements and practices of the religious mass are modelled after the world's pattern, and are as unlike the charming simplicity of the days of the Apostles as they could possibly be. Happy are they, however few and humble, who have learned the true nature and character of the Church of God and who seek to walk apart from all that is of the world, the flesh, and the devil. How blessed it will be at the last if the Lord is able to say to any of us, "Thou hast kept My word, and hast not denied My name" (Rev. 3:8).

In answer to the people's demand for a king, Samuel gave them Jehovah's message, wherein is set forth in vivid terms what man in power is. There is monotony in the six times repeated words 'he will take." Their sons would be required for the army, their daughters must become his cooks, the produce of their fields and of their flocks would be demanded for the king's support, and so on. It could scarcely be otherwise. How else could the dignity and majesty of the Kingdom be maintained? In the highest days of Israel's prosperity this became intolerable. Accordingly we hear them saying to the son of Solomon, "thy father made our yoke grievous ' (I Kings xii. 4). The greater the glory of the Kingdom, the greater the burden upon the people of necessity.

It is refreshing to turn from the description of man's king in I Samuel 8 to the gracious words of God's king in Psalm 132. Speaking of Zion He says, "I will abundantly bless her provision, I will satisfy her poor with bread.' In the day of John 6. He gave them a taste of this. Seeing the famished multitudes around Him, He opened His bountiful hand, and with five barley loaves and two small fishes, He satisfied the need of five thousand men besides women and children, with twelve baskets full of fragments left over. Do we wonder that the people sought to take Him by force, and make Him King? How delightful for men, after ages of kingly rapacity and oppression, to have found One Who could be a giver to His people. But neither from men nor from Satan would the Christ of God receive the Kingdom; from the hand of God alone will He take it. Then will commence that long era of prosperity and peace which so filled the mind and heart of the writer of Psalm 72 and which constrained him to conclude with an outburst of praise: 'Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, Who only doeth wondrous things. And blessed be His glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen, and Amen" (Psalm 72:18-19). No wonder he added, "the prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended.' From the standpoint of an earthly saint, what could he ask beyond this?