“That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.” (1 Samuel 8:20 KJV)
I think this was the tipping point for the people of Israel in God’s sight. Obviously, as God points out to Samuel, they are not rejecting Samuel, but in effect rejecting God. Notice how this verse ends, “…fight our battles.” This is not just a tragic lack of faith in God combined with a request for a king. The icing on the cake here is the specific request for someone else to fight their battles. They are requesting the creation of a state that has an increased sphere of responsibility to handle what was once handled by faith. Talk about something that needs very little interpretation! We can see this clearly in politics today. Any time that you become either so specialized in your task or so unwilling to deal with a set of issues that you are willing to let the state increase it’s presence to handle things, you have just checked your own liberty at the door. The idea of there being a real freedom in the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17) is only novel to those who think that freedom is an ancient and inefficient way of handling what a well managed program could be taking care of. While the request to have someone handle the military operations for them may on the surface appear to be a request based in cowardice, it is more fundamentally a request that reflects the need to move on with other aspects of society and let the administration of the country be centralized and specialized.
I think the request for a king was only surpassed by the profoundness of what was included in David’s words to Goliath. “And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:47 KJV) Can you believe what David just said? Right in the middle of a battle line that had been drawn but not crossed for at least a month because no one (including the new king) had the courage to step out and deal with the issue at hand. “…the battle is the Lord’s…”! Right in front of the state run military that was designed to take care of these operations so the rest of society could proceed with other endeavors. Sometimes it takes a situation that reminds us of our smallness to see the necessity of what God had originally planned for us and how futile our reorganization of the society and management of the new priorities has really brought us to. When we forget God’s order and begin to re-order the size of the state to take on responsibilities that are outside of the original plan, we begin to fear things that we would otherwise never have feared (see Matthew 6:25-33). We begin to regard man’s law as the more present battle that the principalities outside of our flesh that are the real instigators of the fight (see Ephesians 6:12). I think God says it best in His reminder to Isaiah, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9 KJV) Perhaps in our quest to build a state so well managed and so much like those around us we should remember the size of the things that God has all ready built.
“Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” (Isaiah 66:1,2 KJV)