…you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ when the LORD your God was your king. Now therefore, here is the king whom you have chosen and whom you have desired. And take note, the LORD has set a king over you.
God did not want His people to have a king. When He brought them out of Egypt, they had just spent 400 years living the horrors of serving a king. They knew how short a leap it is from king to despot, from ruler to oppressor. Beginning with Joseph, Pharaoh had taken 20% of everything in Egypt for himself. God brought His people out of that bondage and told them in the wilderness, “If you serve me, I will only demand 10% of your income.” God’s kingship was fair, just, and compassionate.
Yet, after all God had done, Israel still demanded a king. Samuel warned them of the cost of getting their desire. He warned them that God still wanted to lead them Himself, and by choosing a human king over God, they were sacrificing eternal security for some temporary fix to their problems.
There’s a lesson in this story for us as well. As Christians, we know the hardship of serving under Pharaoh, the weight of living under the power of sin and the world. Yet God, in His mercy, has delivered us from that bondage. He has offered to lead us, not just as a king, but as a loving Father.
Yet we have demanded a king. We have not been comfortable serving God directly, and have asked for our king to lead us. Our king? Religion. Religion takes the thinking out of following God. Instead of seeking Him and listening to Him, we just have to follow the rules. Instead of sitting at the feet of Christ and listening to His voice, we can listen to a sermon and just do as we’re told.
But what price have we paid for our king religion? We have sacrificed the power of the Holy Spirit. We have sacrificed the true power to change the world. We have given up the thrill of hearing His voice and knowing Him for ourselves. “Not true!” you say? Look at places in the world where religion does not yet rule. Look at house churches in China, or secret groups in Islamic countries. The power of the Holy Spirit to rock the world is alive in well in those places where religion does not dominate God’s people. In fact, in those places, religion is on the side of the state, persecuting and killing Christ’s followers.
It is always the end of religion. A king that demands more than we can pay, a leader that has become an oppressor. We have traded spiritual freedom for security, and have ended up with neither. We live in a world full of walking wounded, millions of victims of the king religion.
Christ still wants to be our king. He still wants to lead us as a loving Shepherd. If we choose to forsake our king religion and follow King Jesus, a new life of freedom is waiting for us.
Do we dare?