Rev’d Jonathan Gale
1 Samuel 8: 4 – 20
4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, 5and said to him, ‘You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.’ 6But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to govern us.’ Samuel prayed to the Lord, 7and the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 8Just as they have done to me,* from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. 9Now then, listen to their voice; only—you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.’
10 So Samuel reported all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11He said, ‘These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; 12and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plough his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. 15He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. 16He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle* and donkeys, and put them to his work. 17He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.’
Israel’s Request for a King Granted
19 But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, ‘No! but we are determined to have a king over us, 20so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.’
John 18: 33 – 37
33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters* again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ 34Jesus answered, ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’ 35Pilate replied, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?’ 36Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’ 37Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’
The tendency not to listen to God, but rather to shut out God’s voice is ingrained in us all. What begins as a fresh and responsive faith can, if we’re not careful, calcify into a comfortable compromise where God knows his place.
The Israelites stubbornly rejected God’s theocracy and want a human king to rule over them. Samuel’s nose is put out of joint over this as he takes this as a personal rejection.
God says, don’t worry, it’s not you they are rejecting. It’s me they don’t want interfering in their lives.
When Jesus is before Pontius Pilate he cuts the conversation short because he knows it’s not Pilate who is putting him to death, it is the Jewish authorities.
He ends the conversation with a comment that is directed more at the Jews than at Pilate: Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’
Jesus has a healthy scepticism about human nature. In John 2 we read 23While He was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the signs He was doing and believed in His name. 24But Jesus did not entrust Himself to them, for He knew all men. 25He did not need any testimony about man, for He knew what was in a man.…
And in John 5 39 ‘You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. 40Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. 41I do not accept glory from human beings.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’
What is it that inoculates us against listening to God?
What is it that can make us sit in church year after year and yet firmly not allow God to change us?
What is it that makes us assert our religious ideas (especially focussing on what other people should be doing) as opposed to asking God what God wants us to change in our lives?
- Well, our human nature, for a start. What Paul refers to as “the flesh” (sometimes translated as ‘the old nature’) is not in the process of being crucified with Christ – which it should be. There is no resurrection without crucifixion.
- At the heart of it all is a rebellious and unteachable spirit.
- Possibly it’s a case of self-protection or a lack of trust because we’ve been hurt before.
There can be any number of reasons.
There’s a story of a man with a chip on his shoulder who thought women were out to do him down, steal his job; generally take advantage of him.
One summer’s day he was driving down a twisting country road with the window wound down. He was enjoying himself as his ute was stable on metal roads and could handle speed.
As he approached the end of a straight stretch of road a woman in a smart car approached, wound down her window and yelled, “Pig!”
Our man was so incensed he turned the air blue swearing at her. At that he rounded a bend and smashed into a large pig standing in the middle of the road.
Hanging on to the way we are is detrimental to our health. When we put our pride in our pockets, refuse to entertain any chips on the shoulder and submit to God’s Spirit – which is always going to effect change in us – we grow into the image of Christ.
Sometimes that change is painful. There is nothing quite so daunting as facing the truth about ourselves. In the end, however, it is so worth it because the reward is the life of Christ!
Jesus says, Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’
And in conclusion, belonging to the truth brings with it a joy, a peace, a love, a hope (all those Advent themes) that more than make up for the small sacrifices we feel we make as Christians.