1 Samuel 8: 1-8
When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders. The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.
So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, ‘You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.’
But when they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.
I have a confession to make to you. I like the X Factor. Well actually I only watch the first few weeks of the X factor because I especially enjoy the audition stage when you see and hear the really bad people who think they’re amazing and witness the disgusted look on their faces when the judges tell them that maybe they’re really not as good as they think they are.
But then there’s those people who actually are amazingly talented but no one has ever really noticed them. They come on stage all full of humility, we’re not expecting much and then they totally blow us away. Suddenly they find themselves plucked from their everyday lives of working in Tescos or being a plumber or a binman, and they’re put in front of millions of people and they just shine - and everybody loves that they’re just normal and the fact that they’re just like us.
Today we’re going to start looking at how a young ordinary shepherd boy called David was plucked from his life of obscurity and monotony and thrust into the limelight of Israel’s history, where he would become the greatest King the nation of Israel ever had. If there was a show 3000 years ago called X Factor Israel or Israel’s Got Talent, David would have arrived looking very ordinary and unimpressive with his shepherds staff and sling and no one would have known the greatness which was standing before them.
Today we’re looking at 1 Sam 8 to get some background to the story.
God had chosen Israel out of all the nations to be his own special people, set apart, a people who would know him as their King, would follow his Law, and be different from all the nations around them in their lifestyle and their worship. But over time there was this gradual slide away from God towards disobedience and compromise and sin. And eventually the people reached the stage where they came to the prophet Samuel and said: ‘We know that God’s meant to be our King but we want to be like all the other nations and have a real human king – someone who looks impressive and can lead us into victory in battle.’
How often the church does exactly the same thing.
We want to reach people for Jesus, we want the world to find us attractive, and so we think the best way to get the respect of society is just to copy them. To either do exactly what they do or else do a similar thing only we Christianise it.
We take on secular business leadership styles rather than Kingdom leadership principles, we try to be seeker sensitive which in many cases means we just water everything down, we compromise our true values and make our beliefs nice and vague and wishy washy so no one gets offended by us, we just try to make our faith as palatable as possible and think that this is what will win people.
And what happens is that the world looks at us and thinks we’re a joke. We’re like and old man trying to act cool and hip – it’s just embarrassing.
We don’t make a difference in this world by trying to be like the world – we make a difference by being different. By living according to a whole different set of values, principles and standards to the world around us. We belong to God’s Kingdom and His Kingdom turns the values of every other Kingdom upside down.
Every time Israel tried to be just like the nations around them they ended up in captivity and exile.
As God's people we must be different. Not for the sake of being weirdos. But be willing to have people look at us and shake their heads. Be prepared to be misunderstood. Be prepared for people to ask questions about why you live like you do. And don’t water it down. Don’t be a Bible-basher, but just be normal and talk to people about what you believe and think and why you do what you do. They may not agree with everything, but they’ll probably respect you.