This week we finished Judges, Ruth and entered 1 Samuel up to the reign of Saul (from Judges 14 to 1 Samuel 12).
How many of you were a little disgusted with the end of Judges? In those days Israel had no king and everyone did what was right in his own eyes. But didn’t Ruth’s story bring a smile? The beautiful way God worked through that crisis to bring blessings is so encouraging. And then in 1 Samuel, the whole story of the life of Samuel, from his mother’s prayers to his powerful prophetic leadership of Israel, didn’t you appreciate how God used Samuel to unify the nation of Israel and turn them from idolatry, at least for a while. Then, after Samuel’s sons became corrupt leaders, the people wanted a king, like the nations around them. Samuel is grieved, but God says, “It is not you they are rejecting, but Me as their king. This is just what Israel has been doing all along.” 1 Samuel 8:7-8.
Let’s not forget our focus as we read the Bible together this year. We are seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness. This is our seeking mission, being embedded in us through hearing God’s voice throughout His word. This year’s reading through the Bible together is a seeking God’s kingdom exploration adventure! God is our king! We are His people, the sheep of His pasture. We live under His rule and authority, whether we are aware of it or not. We are blessed people to be aware of God as our Lord and king. Staying in that focus is the first part of our mission as individuals and as a church.
Israel demonstrates for us what happens when God’s people do not follow God as their king, but, instead, look for leadership INSIDE the box, so to speak. Here we see that God is willing to give them what they are asking for, even as He warns them that it won’t work out the way they think it will or want it to. 1 Samuel chapters 8 &12 make that clear. The end of Judges gives us this repeated statement: In those day’s Israel had no king, and everyone did what was right in his own eyes. This statement says more than what’s on the surface. This did not simply mean that Israel didn’t have an earthly king, though at that time, they didn’t. This statement runs deeper than that. It tells me that Israel was not seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. In fact, they were not seeking God as king, period. At least not as a whole nation. Their idea of righteousness was whatever was right in their own eyes! Does that sound at all familiar to anyone? What is the standard of right and wrong today? A nation cut off from God will always be a nation that does what is right in their own eyes. How on earth did same sex marriage ever find a respectable place in our legal system as a human right? Why can’t body parts tell you what gender a person is so that they can tell which restroom to go to? How did abortion of unborn babies become a world wide epidemic? Talk about human rights. What right dies the unborn child have? Who is right in this whole issue? Where do you go to know what is right? Where is the standard to know this? People are willing to fight over what they think is right or wrong, but the bigger issue is again: where is the standard and authority for what these things? Is there a purpose and plan for our lives, or are we simply to make up the rules as we go? Is popular culture or democratic legislation the source of truth on right and wrong?
Here’s the deal: Without God’s rule and righteousness, when God is not King, we find ourselves among the blind who are leading the blind. Humanity becomes like dust in the wind, blown about by every wind of teaching and the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. That’s what Paul said.
Thank God for the little book that follows the book of Judges. The beautiful story of Ruth comes along and reveals that in the time of the Judges there were bright places of faith among those in Israel. In fact, Ruth reveals the coming king of Israel that God himself selects, anoints and inaugurates over Israel. His name occurs as the very last word in the book: David. David serves as the man after God’s own heart, and shepherds the nation of Israel as their king who loves and trusts in the Lord, God, the Kings of kings and Lord of lords. David, while not perfect, was devoted to God’s rule and righteousness. He did, imperfectly though it be, seek first the kingdom of God. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of RIGHTEOUSNESS for His name’s sake. David knew and followed the God of righteousness. Even after his sin with Bathsheba David wrote: Psalm 51:10-15. He is the king who sang songs to God the righteous King and by God’s grace, he left us a large collection of his songs to God, or about God, in the Psalms. About 73 of the 150 Psalms in our Bibles are attributed to David.
What we discover about God’s righteousness as we read through the Bible is this: (are you ready?) First, we never live up to it, but, second, we CAN receive it from God by trusting in Him and seeking Him with all our hearts.
Seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness is not something we arrive at and then move on to something else. THERE IS NO SOMETHING ELSE! Moving on to something else is the problem! That is what Israel did when they fell! It’s what David did on that rooftop when he looked down at Bathsheba bathing. It’s what Adam and Eve did in the garden when they ate for forbidden fruit. It’s what Cain did that drove him to kill his brother. It’s what almost everyone did before the flood. It’s what Israel did with the golden calf. It’s what Moses did at the rock that God told him to speak to. It’s what generation after generation did in the period of the Judges.
All these moved on to something else! And that something else became their downfall.
We don’t ever arrive in this flesh as we reach upward to God in this journey of life. Seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness is our entire life’s purpose. It is what you are made for. It is the adventure of faith, hope and love that God works through to prepare us for His ultimate glory in eternity. There, you and I, when we stand in God’s very presence, will receive the crown of righteousness! That which we have lived our lives for. That which Jesus left glory and came here to die so you and I might have it! I hope and pray that one day when I die, and it won’t be that much longer now, unless Jesus comes back first, my hope and prayer is this. I will have lived my life so that it can honestly and truly be said of me: “He sought first God’s kingdom and righteousness.”