1 Samuel 10:25
Sermon preached on November 30, 2008 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2008. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.
Recently I talked to Doug about coaching. I've found that coaching today is quite a bit different than when I played hockey. Doug has coaching meetings. I don't think our coaches ever had meetings together. Doug even has a book on coaching—I don't know for sure but I think it teaches people how to coach properly, giving them hints and advice on how to do it. If my memory is correct, Doug even had to take a test on it and give his philosophy of coaching.
When I played hockey our coaches never had any training. I think the criteria was that if you wanted to coach you could do it. Now don't get me wrong, some of my coaches were great. But others were terrible. I've had coaches that would berate and belittle players in front of everyone. They'd lose their temper and throw things at you. They'd go up one side of you and down the other. But that was just the ordinary coaches. It actually got worse when you tried out for the all star team. I don't know how they picked the coaches for the all-star teams but whatever criteria they used wasn't good. Actually, they'd have two or three coaches for the all-star teams and sometimes I think they fed off each other in some of the bad things they did. You know how some people are bad by themselves but if you put them with someone else it's like they'll bring out the worst in each other. That's what some of our all-star coaches were like.
For example, I wasn't one of the top players. I was usually good enough to make the all-star team, but I would have been among the bottom-half of the players on the all-star team. Sometimes I would be involved in some of the trials that they had to determine who would make the team and who would be cut. I remember one particular test that they subjected us to near the end of one practice. We were all tired, almost completely worn out but one of the coaches stood in the center of the face-off circle to the right of the net, and six or seven of us were ordered to skate around the face-off circle. He was in the middle of it and we were skating around him in a circle. We were all going on the same direction and he proceeded to throw pucks at us. Hockey pucks are really hard and if you get hit with one it really hurts. We had our hockey outfits on, shin pads, pants, and shoulder and elbow pads, and it was okay if you got hit in one of the protected areas. But if you got hit in an unprotected area—it really hurt. He was throwing these pucks at us as hard as he could (or so it seemed). If he thought you were going too slow he'd throw a puck at you. The idea was that it was an incentive to get you to go faster. It worked for awhile. But after awhile we were all getting very tired. But he kept throwing the pucks. And the idea was that if you stopped and gave up, you'd be cut from the team. That's how they were eliminating players. But we all wanted to make the team so we all kept skating as long as we could. I remember one guy actually got physically sick, and very skated over to the boards and was throwing up leaning over the boards. That's how hard they were on us.
But even worse was when they encouraged dirty hockey. There were the times during a game when our coach would tell one of our weaker players to try to provoke the best player on the other team into a fight. I've often heard coaches tell a player on our team to go out and try to take out the best player on the other team. They'd say, (and I quote)
"I want you to hit him really good. Don't hurt him—just make sure he doesn't get up."
It was awful. Some of them didn't know a thing about good coaching. I wish they had had some training. They really should have had a book about good coaching. It would have been so good.
What we see from our text is that
when God gave Israel a king He also gave them a book on good kingship.
The kings of Israel were never allowed to rule as they saw fit. They were all accountable to God and to the people. We read, (1 Samuel 10:25)
"Samuel explained to the people
the regulations of the kingship.
He wrote them down on a scroll
and deposited it before the LORD."
This was a document that prescribed how the kingship in Israel would function. The king was supposed to rule according to God's regulations.
One of the important things to note from our text is that although the people intended to reject God from being their king (1 Samuel 8), God had no intention of surrendering his claim on His people. God was still going to rule over His people. The only thing that changed was that He was now going to do it through a king, rather than through a judge or prophet or priest. God gave the people a king, but God made it clear that he was not to be a king like the kings of the other nations. He was under God and was to rule according to God's instructions. If the king was faithful to God, God would be with him and through Him God would deliver the people.
Saul is proclaimed king. And then what happens? Does Saul give a speech and take supreme control? No. Not at all. We read,
"Then Samuel dismissed the people,
each to his own home."
Woodhouse writes, (p. 188)
"Saul's first act as the king of Israel was an act of obedience to the prophet Samuel! From this moment on it was clear who was really in charge in Israel. Even Saul submitted to the prophet. That is the 'justice' of this kingdom: the king must submit to the prophet. In other words, king or no king, God will rule his people (and now their king) by his word."
This is confirmed in the very next chapter. When Saul hears about the threat to Jabesh Gilead, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him and he took a pair of oxen, cut them into pieces and sent the pieces by messengers throughout Israel proclaiming,
"This is what will be done
to the oxen of anyone
who does not follow Saul and Samuel."
Saul did not summon Israel on his own authority, but of his authority and God's.
Thus we see that in a certain sense, our text is central in 1 Samuel. It's not only central historically, in that Israel is here given a king and a new era begins—but central in that two of the great theological themes of 1 Samuel are evident here—that of God's Kingship and the necessity of the people living according to His commands. God is still the King over Israel. Not only that, but the king that is given to the people is clearly under God and must rule according to God's instructions.
Now we aren't told the regulations of the kingship that were given here but they were undoubtedly very similar to the regulations for kingship that were given by Moses in Deuteronomy 17:14-20. There Moses said to the people,
"When you enter the land
the LORD your God is giving you
and have taken possession of it
and settled in it, and you say,
Let us set a king over us
like all the nations around us,
be sure to appoint over you
the king the LORD your God chooses.
He must be from among your own brothers.
Do not place a foreigner over you,
one who is not a brother Israelite.
The king, moreover, must not acquire
great numbers of horses for himself
or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them,
for the LORD has told you,
You are not to go back that way again.
He must not take many wives,
or his heart will be led astray.
He must not accumulate
large amounts of silver and gold.
When he takes the throne of his kingdom,
he is to write for himself
on a scroll a copy of this law,
taken from that of the priests, who are Levites.
It is to be with him, and he is to read it
all the days of his life so that he may
learn to revere the LORD his God
and follow carefully all the words of this law
and these decrees and not consider himself
better than his brothers and turn
from the law to the right or to the left.
Then he and his descendants will reign a long time
over his kingdom in Israel."
The regulations in 1 Samuel were probably similar to that. If we were to speculate on what else was added, the context suggests that one of the things that the kings were to do was to protect and deliver the people of Israel. In chapter 9:16, when the Lord spoke to Samuel about Saul, He said,
"about this time tomorrow
I will send you a man
from the land of Benjamin.
Anoint him leader over my people Israel;
he will deliver my people
from the hand of the Philistines.
I have looked upon my people,
for their cry has reached me."
In the next chapter we see that the first initiative as king was to rescue the city of Jabesh Gilead from the Ammonites. After the deliverance of Jabesh Gilead, Samuel said to the people, (1 Samuel 11:14-15)
"Come, let us go to Gilgal
and there reaffirm the kingship.
So all the people went to Gilgal
and confirmed Saul as king
in the presence of the LORD."
At the beginning of the kingship in Israel there's a strong connection between the king and the protection and deliverance of God's people.
There are great lessons for us here.
First of all, the great principle that is clear here is that Israel's government was under God's authority. The king was to rule under God. He was responsible to God.
What we should understand is that this principle applies to every government.
Every government owes allegiance and obedience to God.
It applies to our country. Our country has an obligation to the true God.
There are some objections that people raise against that.
They may say,
"But that just concerned Israel. Israel was a theocracy. Today we're not governed like that. We're not under God. We have separation of the church and state. That's in our constitution. Our country is and should be 'religion neutral'."
But one of the things that the Bible makes clear is that all governments owe allegiance to God. Pharaoh had a similar argument to the one I just stated when Moses demanded that he let the Israelites go. Pharaoh said, (Exodus 5:2)
"Who is the LORD,
that I should obey him and let Israel go?
I do not know the LORD
and I will not let Israel go."
But Pharaoh found out that He had an obligation to obey the true God. God was not only the ruler of Israel, but also of Egypt.
We see this principle taught as well in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. They were sinful and wicked. God destroyed them. They may have thought that they owed no obligation or allegiance to God, but they were wrong.
We see the same principle taught in the book of Daniel. In Daniel 4:30-32 King Nebuchadnezzar walked on the roof of his palace in Babylon and said,
"Is not this the great Babylon
I have built as the royal residence,
by my mighty power
and for the glory of my majesty?"
The words were still on his lips when a voice from heaven said,
"This is what is decreed for you,
Your royal authority
has been taken from you.
You will be driven away from people
and will live with the wild animals;
you will eat grass like cattle.
Seven times will pass by for you
until you acknowledge
that the Most High is sovereign
over the kingdoms of men
and gives them to anyone he wishes."
King Nebuchadnezzar had an obligation to acknowledge God and rule according to His commands. When he failed to do it, God brought it to his attention in a very forceful way.
Later in Daniel King Belshazzar held a great banquet and used the goblets from the temple in Jerusalem to praise the gods of silver and gold. Then he saw the hand write on a wall. He was terrified and wondered what it meant. Daniel was called to explain it to him. Daniel rebuked him because Belshazzar knew what happened to his father Nebuchadnezzar but did not take heed to it. Daniel said, (Daniel 5:25-28)
"But you did not honor
the God who holds in his hand
your life and all your ways.
Therefore he sent the hand
that wrote the inscription.
This is the inscription that was written:
MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN.
This is what these words mean:
Mene: God has numbered the days
of your reign and brought it to an end.
Tekel: You have been weighed
on the scales and found wanting.
Peres: Your kingdom is divided
and given to the Medes and Persians."
Today in our country we are told that there's a separation of church and state. Some people interpret that to mean that the government is completely independent—that it isn't answerable to any religion or any God and that it shouldn't be.
You Christians shouldn't buy into that. Our government is responsible to God. Every government is.
The second great lesson we see here is that
governments are called to be God's servants, called to rule righteously, doing good to their people.
Saul was called to serve the people under God's directions. A very solemn procedure took place with Samuel doing three things. First he announced to the people the rules of kingship. Second, he wrote them down. Third, he laid them before the Lord.
At the very beginning of the kingship, Samuel showed that the kingship was not between two parties, the king and the people, but between three, between the king, the people, and God. Eve more importantly, God showed that He was the primary party. This was not an agreement between equals. No. God ruled. Israel's king was under God. He was to serve the people.
God gave directions about what the king was supposed to do, how he was to be obedient to God and serve, deliver, and protect the people. It was a contrast to what God warned them about in chapter 8. God warned the people that the king would oppress them. He would, (1 Samuel 8:11f)
"take your sons and make them serve
with his chariots and horses…
he will take your daughters
to be perfumers, cooks and bakers…
he will take a tenth of your grain
and of your vintage…
your menservants and maidservants
and the best of your cattle and donkeys
he will take for his own use.
He will take a tenth of your flocks,
and you yourselves will become his slaves."
You see the theme there. The king would want to take, take, take. He would try to rule inappropriately. But the rules for kingship as given by God would forbid that. John Woodhouse writes, (1 Samuel, p. 188)
"a king in Israel was not to be like all the nations. He was not to take, take, take, and was to reign only under the Lord his God, keeping and doing all the works of his law."
We see these principles in the New Testament in Romans 13:1-6. It reads,
"Everyone must submit
to the governing authorities,
for there is no authority except from God,
and those that exist are instituted by God.
So then, the one who resists the authority
is opposing God's command,
and those who oppose it will
bring judgment on themselves.
For rulers are not a terror
to good conduct, but to bad.
Do you want to be unafraid of the authority?
Do good and you will have its approval.
For government is God's servant
to you for good.
But if you do wrong, be afraid,
because it does not carry the sword for no reason.
For government is God's servant,
an avenger that brings wrath
on the one who does wrong.
Therefore, you must submit,
not only because of wrath,
but also because of your conscience.
And for this reason you pay taxes,
since the authorities are God's public servants,
continually attending to these tasks."
The principles laid out show clearly that governments are called to be God's servants. They are called to rule righteously, promoting good conduct and prohibiting and punishing bad.
Some politicians like Vice-President Elect Biden and GOP presidential candidate Giuliani have both said that they're personally opposed to abortion, but that they support a woman's right to get an abortion. Now I'm not sure that they'd say this, but it seems that they're implying that government has no legitimate authority to take away this fundamental right from a woman. Here's what Giuliani said, (http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/seattlepolitics/archives/111687.asp)
"Where I stand on abortion is, I oppose it. I don't like it. I hate it. I think abortion is something that, as a personal matter, I would advise somebody against."
"However, I believe in a woman's right to choose. I think you have to ultimately… have to leave that to a disagreement of conscience and you have to respect the choice that somebody makes."
But that's not so. Governments have a duty to do what is right according to God's Word—even if their people want them to act differently.
John M. Frame writes, (Toward a Theology of the State, WTJ 51:2 [Fall 1989] p. 199-226)
"If a family is to profess Christ as Lord, its government must do the same. If a tribe or nation is to profess Christ as Lord, its government, the state, must do the same.""A non-Christian family-state should also profess its religious commitment. For there is no neutrality, for states any more than for individuals. Those who are not for Christ are against him. A non-Christian state is, of necessity, committed to something other than the God of Scripture, and in honesty it ought to confess that fact."
Nations and governments cannot be neutral. In Matthew 12:30 Jesus said,
"He who is not with me is against me,
and he who does not gather with me scatters."
That applies to nations as well as individuals. Jesus is the
"King of Kings and Lord of Lords."
That's not just a title. Revelation 19 uses it in the context of the kings of the earth gathering together to do battle against Him, not acknowledging His right to rule them with an 'iron scepter'. It shows that kings and lords have a duty and obligation to serve and honor Him. Nations who do not are His enemies. We see an example of this in Psalm 2. We read,
"The kings of the earth take their stand
and the rulers gather together
against the Lord
and against his Anointed One.
'Let us break their chains,' they say,
'and throw off their fetters.'"
Governments need to do what is right. They need to promote what is right. They need to outlaw abortion. They need to outlaw homosexuality. They need to outlaw what is sin and promote what is righteous. Governments are not just between the people and the government—God is involved as the principle party and the rule. Governments owe allegiance to God and His commands.
The third lesson we should learn from our text is that
no one is above the law.
One of the deadliest errors that a person can have is to believe that they're special and that the rules that apply to ordinary people don't apply to them.
Some people believe that's what brought down the Nixon Presidency. They suggest that Nixon thought he was above the law.
Another example is Frank Lloyd-Wright, the greatest American architect. He believed that he was special and that ordinary rules didn't apply to him. For example, even though he was married, he started seeing another woman, who was also married. He didn't even try to keep it a secret, but flaunted it. They even traveled to Europe together and lived together like man and wife. Some people who knew Wright said that he thought that the normal rules of morality didn't apply to him. He was special, a great artist, and above the rules. But that was not so. Like so many instances where people flaunt God's laws—this one too ended very tragically.
In his great novel, Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky deals with the same theme. The murderer believed that humanity could be divided into two categories—the supermen, people like Napoleon and Newton, who because of their great intellectual or historical superiority, can claim the right to overstep conventional morality, in order to help them accomplish their great mission—and the lice, who contribute little, if anything to the progress of mankind, and who are therefore bound to legal and moral conventions.
Such thoughts are deadly. Don't ever think that you're special and allowed to commit certain sins. Don't ever think that God's commandments apply to others but not to you. Any such thinking will destroy you. Always be aware that God's commandments and regulations are your guide to holiness. They apply to you. They apply to everyone.
The last thing we should see from this is
how wonderful Jesus is.
Samuel told the people the rules for kingship and wrote down. But every king of Israel and Judah failed to live up to them. Everyone of them failed to completely protect and deliver God's people.
But with Jesus it was different. Jesus was given rules for kingship over His people. His people were lost in sin. Jesus could have ruled over them as He will rule over the lost—forever keeping them where they belong. But there was another way—He could save His people and rule over them gloriously, majestically, triumphantly, in great joy. But it involved great cost. The rules of kingship were that He had to come to this earth, take our nature upon Himself, live a perfect life, take our sins upon Him, and suffer and die for our sins and rise again for our justification. He did it. He did it all perfectly. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. For you Christians, what a privilege it is to serve Him. Do it and do it well. For those of you who are not Christians, there's only one ruler worth serving—our great God, through Jesus Christ. He is the only One who will not let you down, not fail you, not leave you in misery. Go to Him and ask Him to save you, to rule you, to bring you to glory.