Live a Gratifying, Happy Life-starting today!

There are many things that we do for the purpose of self-gratification. In fact by nature, every thing that we do is purposed toward some type of self-gratification. We can observe the stages of life in our modern context. Babies cry to be fed. Toddlers begin to develop some personal preferences, and it’s obvious. They cry about everything when they don’t get their way. Children are easily annoyed by toddlers and they don’t like to share toys because it is their gratification that matters. With pre-teens and teenagers, life seems to be more about finding the right place socially; we want to be accepted by peers and acceptable in the eyes of the world. People come out of this stage at different times depending on whether they decide to continue their education, start careers, or be lazy because adulting is too difficult. Young adults, this is my generation, are trying to establish themselves by starting families, becoming homeowners, choosing trades, and becoming successful. Median adults have, for the most part, found their niche. They are raising their children and teaching them the things they believe to be important. They are preparing for their future so that they might have comfortable retirements and try to leave inheritances for their children. Senior adults find a comfortable place to retire, if they get to retire, and live out the remainder of their days trying to enjoy themselves and their families and trying to stay healthy as long as possible.

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As young people, we consider everything that we hope our lives will be full of and as old men and women, we look back on the lives that we have lived, and it all just seems kind-of pointless. It just seems like the world, and everything it claims to offer for our gratification, is only keeping us busy until we die. The world does such a great job at keeping us busy that most people don’t recognize this until those final moments.

The people of Israel have requested a king according to Deuteronomy 16-17. God has instructed Samuel to grant their request even though Samuel does not like it. Samuel is about to tell the people about the procedure of the human king who will reign in Israel.

1 Samuel 8:10-22

So Samuel spoke all the words of the Lord to the people who had asked of him a king. He said, 

“This will be the procedure of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots. He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and of fifties, and some to do his plowing and to reap his harvest and to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will also take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and your vineyards and your olive groves and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your seed and of your vineyards and give to his officers and to his servants. He will also take your male servants and your female servants and your best young men and your donkeys and use them for his work. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his servants. Then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, “No, but there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

Now after Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the Lord’s hearing. The Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to their voice and appoint them a king.” So Samuel said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.”

Samuel spoke the words of the Lord (v. 10)

So Samuel spoke all the words of the Lord to the people who had asked of him a king.

Here, in a moment, we are going to see Samuel describing something different from what Deuteronomy prescribes for the future king. In fact, what Samuel describes is going to be exactly the opposite of the instructions that the Bible he had at the time gives. Scripture clarifies, here, that Samuel is, indeed, speaking the words of the Lord. In our study of 1 Samuel up to this point, we have already learned that God raised up Samuel to do all that is in His heart and His mind (2:35) and that God was with Samuel and let none of his words fail (3:19). So, when Samuel speaks the words of the Lord, as the Old Testament Prophet, according to God, Samuel is not wrong. Samuel is declaring the way that things will be. The king that the Israelites are requesting will be the opposite sort of king than is prescribed under God’s Law. God is declaring it beforehand and Samuel’s words cannot fail because God would not let them. This matter has been decided.

Saul would represent the people (v. 11-18)

“This will be the procedure of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots. He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and of fifties, and some to do his plowing and to reap his harvest and to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will also take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and your vineyards and your olive groves and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your seed and of your vineyards and give to his officers and to his servants. He will also take your male servants and your female servants and your best young men and your donkeys and use them for his work. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his servants…

What Samuel says, here, is different from the instructions given to the nation of Israel in Deuteronomy 17:14-20,

“When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,’ you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman. Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never again return that way.’ He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself. Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll ain the presence of the Levitical priests. It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel.”

It has been God’s plan from, at the latest, Deuteronomy to have for Himself a king over Israel who would be a man after His own heart.

Saul, the name of the man who would be anointed by God as king over Israel (c.f. 10:1), means “the requested one.” As Samuel, here, predicts what kind of king Saul will be, we learn the purpose for which God will anoint Saul. He will anoint Saul according to the request of the people, which He planned beforehand. Saul will not be a king after God’s own heart, and the people will realize that the filling of their preferences, their being gratified, isn’t the best thing for them. God isn’t merely working things together in order for people to get what they think they want. He works things together in such a way that we see what we need and then He provides according to the everlasting need of His people- not according to our wants, our requests, our dreams, or what we would like to see happen. God isn’t working things together for our gratification but, instead, for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). There is a difference.

Saul would fail in the same way that the priests and judges did. He would represent people rather than God. Early on, we know that even the kingly office would be insufficient to deliver God’s people if occupied by anyone less that God. From the outset of the time of the kings, we see that Saul will operate in a way that is contrary to God’s Law. This was decided by God and declared by Samuel even before Saul was even known by Samuel or by the elders of Israel. David, who will be a type of Christ, will be a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14), as opposed to Saul.

…Then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

God would choose and anoint Saul (10:1), and God will instruct Samuel to appoint the king over the people (v. 22). What, then, does it mean that this king is also chosen by the people of Israel for themselves? The word “chosen” (בחרתם) refers to the will or preference of someone. This simply means that God will anoint and Samuel will appoint this king based on the preferences of the people. This king, given according to the preferences of the people, will cause the people to cry out. God, through this first king, will show people that what they want is not necessarily what they need. We learn that the things we want or the things we think we need in this life are not necessarily the things that are good for us. We choose based on our preferences. Those things we choose usually end up disappointing us eventually.

The reality of narcigesis (v. 19-22)

Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, “No, but there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

I guess these Israelites are unaware of everything that God has done throughout the history of Israel. Do they not recall God defeating Israel before the Philistines? Do they not recall God symbolically destroying the false god, Dagon, and oppressing the Philistines? Do they not recall that it was God who returned the Ark of the Covenant? Do they not recall that God defeated Israel again? Do they not recall that it was God who gave Israel victory at the appointed time? Here, they want a human king who will judge them and fight their battles- as if a human king could possibly pull off everything they witnessed God work together leading up to this moment?

The people were using God’s instruction in Deuteronomy to pursue some selfish gains. They wanted gratification. They read God’s Law as if it was all about them and their own progress. At least, this is how they tried to use God’s word. What they meant selfishly, God meant and declared beforehand for His own glory as Christ’s throne is being established within His creation.

The role of the king presented, here, as one who judges the people rightly and gives his people victory, is a picture of who Christ is and who only Christ can be. Only, Christ doesn’t necessarily fight our battles. He gives real and true victory to His people for their good. It is why He must be the only one to sit on His throne, which is being prepared within His creation through the kingly office we see described in this text.

There is a mistake we, like the Israelites, often make. We recognize the plan of God, but try to twist it to make it our own. This is called narcigesis (or reading ourselves into the text). If Christ alone can and will judge His people and give His people true and lasting victory, why do we invest our lives in so much other stuff at Christ’s expense- as if an education or a career or a home-ownership or a comfortable retirement can actually make us mature and complete and give us lasting victory. These are lesser things that we have elevated to the place of God. There is a reason God’s first command to His people (whom He has already delivered) is,

“You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).

Let us strive to simply follow Christ. We are His subjects. He is the king of kings. The plan of God is not something on which I can build a kingdom for myself.

Does it bother anyone else that there are so many people in the world misrepresenting God’s word and giving people a false Gospel? It really bothers me. I have shared about how, early in my ministry, my vision was entirely unbiblical. Everything I planned to do was self-promoting. Instead of strictly teaching what God has given in His own word, I tried to be profound. Though I gained plenty of followers doing that, my trying to say something that no one had ever heard before caused me to fail in teaching God’s word alone. Over the course of my ministry, God basically humbled me. He is still doing so. I started simply preaching through God’s word, working diligently to be sure that I present it correctly and apply it rightly. My personal ministry has more reach now than it ever has in the past, but no one knows my name. It’s a fairly recent development (within the last two years), but I am okay with that. In fact, I prefer it.

Now after Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the Lord’s hearing. The Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to their voice and appoint them a king.” So Samuel said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.”

This was God’s plan. He had already instructed Samuel to do this, even before explaining what kind of king the people would have (8:9). God had already determined this. He works things together in such a way that we see what we need and then He provides according to the everlasting need of His people- not according to our wants, our requests, our dreams, or what we would like to see happen. Like with the Israelites, if God does grant us anything according to our preferences, it is likely that He is working that together to show us (if we are His people) how vain self-gratification is. God isn’t working things together for our gratification but, instead, for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Again, there is a difference.

When local churches mishandle God’s word or have self-centered, prosperity, or works-based teaching, they mean it selfishly. People are so good at reading themselves into God’s word when, in actuality, the word testifies about Christ, not them. Most often, they are seeking the gratification of experience or accomplishment. We get so addicted to experience and accomplishment whether through work or education or religion or significant relationships or riches. Though these things may gratify for a time, they will eventually let us down. We waste our lives when we are so concerned with these lesser things. God actually works things together for the good of those who love Him. If there is one message I wish I could just force the younger generations to hear (this includes my own generation), it would be this: Our experience and our personal accomplishments will eventually let us down. In that moment, we will wonder why we wasted our entire lives investing in lesser and temporary things. I would beg that we prioritize Christ and Christ’s body above everything else because it doesn’t merely gratify us. This thing is for our forever good.

If we take this text seriously, we see that God, who works all things together, means even the mishandling of His word for His own glory. It doesn’t persist without purpose. God is saving and sanctifying His people in the midst of false teaching and in spite of it. He is saving and sanctifying His people even though we invest in lesser things and in spite of our vain investment. May God receive all glory now as in the time of Samuel when Saul was about to be anointed as king.

The priorities we set reveal our gods. We either worship ourselves by investing in all of these temporary, lesser things because we want to live gratifying lives, or we worship God in seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). In His sermon on the mount, Jesus was explicit. No one can serve two masters. We will hate one and love the other (Matthew 6:24). Jesus is the only one who works for our good. Please stop neglecting Him and the gathering of His true church in pursuit of all these things you hope will gratify but will ultimately let you down.

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