The Lord told Samuel, “Listen to everything the people are saying to you. They haven’t rejected you; they’ve rejected me. They’re doing just what they’ve done since I took them out of Egypt—leaving me and serving other gods. Listen to them now, but be sure to warn them and tell them about the rights of a king.” [1 Samuel 8:7-9 (GW)]
Pilate saw that he was not getting anywhere. Instead, a riot was breaking out. So Pilate took some water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. He said, “I won’t be guilty of killing this man. Do what you want!” [Matthew 27:24 (GW)]
The Israelites were dissatisfied with Samuel’s sons as judges, and rightly so. Instead of asking God to solve their problem and trusting His solution, however, they decided to make their own plan and asked Samuel to appoint a king for them. While God was their true king, they wanted a flesh and blood ruler. Although amply warned by Samuel, they insisted in doing it their way and so God had Samuel appoint Saul as their king. Saul was just what the people wanted; he came from a good family, was tall and handsome, and even courageous. Unfortunately, he wasn’t a good leader or knowledgeable in spiritual matters. He had an inferiority complex and issues with impulse control, godly obedience, jealousy and selfishness.
If I’d been in God’s position, I might have responded to the Israelites with an ultimatum of “it’s my way or the highway” or, like Pilate, I might have washed my hands of the whole matter. “You reap what you sow,” or “You wanted him, now you’re stuck with him!” might have been my cold response when they encountered difficulties with their plan. I may have been tempted to turn away from those who’d turned from me and to stop listening to those who’d stopped listening to what I had to say.
Fortunately for the Israelites (and us), I’m not God and that’s not how God responded. He never gave up on his people and He gave them ample opportunity to correct their ways. Samuel continued to serve the Israelites as their prophet, priest and judge and David, a much better man, eventually became king. Prophets like Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah and Jeremiah continued to speak God’s word to his people, John the Baptist prepared the way and Jesus was offered as payment for our sins.
Mercifully, God doesn’t hold a grudge or respond in a snit when we ignore or disobey him. He didn’t abandon the Israelites and he won’t abandon us. When we reject Him, He doesn’t reject us; when we ignore Him, He doesn’t ignore us. When we take the wrong path, He continues to give us opportunities to turn back or to offer new and better paths along the way.
Thank you, God, for never giving up on your rebellious children.