OTE 12: THE MONARCHY

JUDGES 21:25

OCTOBER 4, 2015

Rev. Dr. Richard Meyer

(Play Audio)

 

            I have an electronic book reader. Its a Kindle and I spend time on the Amazon web site, perusing books. It saves a lot of gas going to Barnes & Noble. One of the books I came across was written by Lee Euler titled The Missing Ingredient.  Its only fifty-five pages long, and originally sold for $26.95. Fifty-five pages for $26.95 seems pretty steep to me, and though published in 2007, its already out of print, but you can buy it used for $44.95 today, or just a little over 80 cents a page.  The cover of the book reads, The Missing Ingredient for Good Health A Nutritional Breakthrough.

            I didnt buy the book because I read the reviews. They were not glowing, but if you want to ask me after worship what the missing ingredient is that Euler claims can prevent a slew of nasty health problems, I will tell you. That way you can put the money you saved on the book in the offering plate next Sunday.

            The author of Judges, the book we studied last week in our Old Testament Essentials sermon series, ends his book, by pointing to a missing ingredient during the period of Judges, an ingredient, in his opinion, that could have kept the Israelites from a slew of nasty problems. Listen to his exact words.  Its the last verse in his book.  Judges 21:25.

 

            In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes.

 

            After spending twenty-one chapters describing a three hundred year period of spiritual confusion, moral depravity and political fragmentation, the narrator of the book points to a monarchy as the solution to Israels problems. If they only had a king to keep them on the straight and narrow, they wouldnt have fallen into the patterns that they did.

            Of course, the hope or expectation that Israel would eventually be ruled by a  king actually begins back in Genesis when God tells Abraham that kings will come from you (Genesis 17:6). Moses, in Deuteronomy 17, even gave laws that would regulate future kings and queens. Having a monarchy was a long held expectation in Israel, and today we turn to the establishment of the monarchy, the twelfth Old Testament Essential in our overview of the Hebrew scriptures.

            Though Israel had many kings over the years, only three of them ruled a united kingdom. After the reign of Solomon, Israel split between north and south, both of which were ruled by kings and queens, but today, we will only look at the three kings that ruled Israel before the split. Those three well nickname the reject, the lover, and the wise guy.

            First, the reject, Saul, the first king of Israel. Do you remember the old nursery rhyme, Old King Cole was a merry old soul, a merry old soul was he? He called for his pipe, and he called for his bowl and he called for his fiddlers three?  Well, King Saul was anything but merry. Saul was a troubled figure. If he lived today, he would have spent a lot of time on a psychiatrists couch.

             Turn with me to his coronation, to I Samuel 10:20 on page 221 if you are using the pew bible. 

 

            Then Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. He brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its families, and the family of the Matrites was taken by lot. Finally he brought the family of the Matrites near man by man, and Saul the son of Kish was taken by lot. But when they sought him, he could not be found. So they inquired of the again of the Lord, Did the man come here? and the Lord said, See, he has hidden himself among the baggage. Then the real and brought him from there. When he took his stand among the people, he was head and shoulders taller than any of them. Samuel said to all the people, Do you see the one whose the Lord has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people. And all the people shouted, Long live the king!

 

            Some are of the opinion that Sauls hiding among the baggage, is an example of his humility. Some believe it was something Saul and Samuel orchestrated together to build drama. Most of the commentators, however, are of the opinion that humility or a flair for the dramatic had nothing to do with it. They contend terror had gripped Saul. He wondered from day one if he were up to the challenge. What happened at the end of the coronation, only fed that fear. Look at what comes next.

 

            Samuel told the people the rights and duties of the kingship; and he wrote them in a book and laid it up before the Lord. Then Samuel sent all the people back to their homes. Saul also went to his home at Gibeah, and with him went warriors whose hearts God had touched. But some worthless fellows said, How can this man save us? The despised him and brought him no present. But he held his peace.

 

            His own personal doubts, and those negative, critical outside voices, would eventually get the better of Saul, and after making some poor choices, God withdrew Gods support of him. Five chapters later we read these words. I Samuel 15:26

 

            Samuel said to Saul, I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel. As Samuel turned to go away, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and tore it. And Samuel said to him, The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this very day, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you.

 

            Ouch. It will be years until this new king, this neighbor of his, takes power. Saul held onto the throne as long as he could and refused to give it up, but eventually he died at the hands of the Philistines. Old King Cole may have been a merry old soul, but not Saul. He was a troubled and tragic figure in the history of Israel.

            Saul was followed by the lover, King David. David was the eighth son of a man named Jesse. Being number eight he was no doubt on the receiving end of secondhand clothes, secondhand chores, and secondhand significance. All that changed when the prophet Samuel was directed by God to visit the little town of Bethlehem.

            As the story unfolds in I Samuel 16, Samuel arrives at Jesses house and greets sons number one through seven. When Samuel sees Eliab, the eldest son, he thinks, Surely the Lords anointed stands here before the Lord. We gather from that statement that Eliab is one impressive guy. Hes president of his fraternity, is captain of the lacrosse team, and drives around in a Cadillac Escalade.  John Ortberg, a presbyterian pastor with a great sense of humor, suggests that Eliab in Hebrew probably means You Da Man.  For years other people looked at him and said, You da man!  Now Samuel looks him up and down and says, Thats right.  You da man!

            God, however, looks at Eliab and says, He not da man.

            I Samuel 16:7 is one of the great verses of the Bible. Listen to it as I read it.

 

            But the Lord said to Samuel, Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.

 

            Sauls stature had impressed the people.  He looked like a King. Brad Pitt, Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Tom Sellect in their prime. David, however, was a scrawny teenager when Samuel met him, but it turns out he would have a heart for the job and a great heart for God.

            Ill cut to the chase. David loved God and God loved David and God blessed him mightily.  Of course, he wasnt perfect. If I were to ask you to complete the sentence, David and …” how would you complete it? Israels greatest king has long been associated with two names. First, came David and Goliath, and then came David and Bathsheba. Those two encounters represent the two greatest tests of Davids life. He passed the first one, but flunked the second one.

            Turn with me to Psalm 51, on page 452 of your pew bible. It was written by David after his affair with Bathsheba was exposed. In fact, look at the notation at the beginning of the Psalm, To the leader: A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

 

            Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;

            According to your abundant mercy blot out my transgression.

            Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

            For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me

            Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

            Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.

         

          God did not cast David away. In fact, God granted David a dynasty that would last forever. Jesus, is a part of his bloodline, but we wonder why? Why did God cast Saul away and not David?  After all, they both sinned. They both perpetrated great harm toward others. Temper Longman III, whose book we are using as a basis of this sermon series says, it had to do with Davids willingness to repent. Nothing was more important to David than his relationship with God.

            Thats important to remember.  Christians dont stop sinning after they give their lives to Christ. Hopefully, they dont stop repenting either.

            An adult Sunday School class was discussing the importance of repentance. The teacher asked what it meant, the different people offered different ideas. As the class discussed the matter of true repentance they came to general agreement. They agreed that repentance consisted of at least two acts. First, it's feeling sorry for what you've done wrong. Second, it's a promise that you can and will do better in the future.

            Tanya Washington, the teacher, let the class mull over their consensus for a few moments. Then she announced rather sternly, "Well, I for one disagree totally with this kind of thinking about repentance. I've been repenting like that all of my life but it never seems to do me any good. I don't think it's done all of you much good either. Here we all say we feel sorry for our sins and promise that we can and will do better but who does any better? I don't, for one. It seems to me that my promises are just like so much straw in the wind. I say I can and will do better but I don't. That's made me think about this repentance business in a new way. What's the point of promising we can do better all the time when we don't do it anyway? This year I decided that I'm not going to promise that I can do better. This year I'm going to confess to God that I can't do any better. I've said, 'I can,' for years but I don't. So why not just tell God, 'I can't.' I can't do better Lord. That's why I come to you. I don't have the power to remake myself but you have the power to remake me as a new person. "This year I'm just going to say to God, 'I can't.' I'm going to ask God to do for me what I can't do for myself.

            Thats what David does.  Create in me a clean heart, O God because I cant do it myself.

            Finally, we have the wise guy, Solomon. Look with me at I Kings 3:5 on page 266 of your pew bible.  Shortly after Davids death, Solomon took the throne, and after taking the throne God asked Solomon a question.  Listen to it. 

 

            At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, Ask what I should give you.  Skipping to verse nine we have Solomons answer. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil

 

            Solomon certainly demonstrated great wisdom during his life. He shared a lot of that wisdom in the Book of Proverbs.  While David gave us the bulk of the Book of Psalms, Israels hymnbook, Solomon gave us the bulk of the Book of Proverbs, Israels book of wisdom. God also directed Solomon to build the temple, and his reign was characterized by wealth and glory that far exceeded that of his father David.

            There was one major problem. There was one place where Solomon was more foolish than wise. He married outside of Israel.  He married women from Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidon and from among the Hittites, even though God had told him not to marry outside of Israel, because of the danger of his wives turning his heart to other gods. But he didnt listen. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines.

            The lesson from Solomons life? Even the most spiritually mature among us are vulnerable to a fall, and ironically, he begins the Book of Proverbs by warning young men to avoid romantic connections that will lead them away from a healthy relationship with God.  Unfortunately, Solomon did not follow his own advice.

            Reflecting back on the three kings, it turns out the missing ingredient in all of Israels problems was not the monarchy. The missing ingredient was obedience to God. And the question is, are still missing it today?  Amen.