Summary: Ancient Israel had a fatal flaw. They rejected God’s kingly rule over them and demanded an earthly king instead, so they could be “like the nations around us.” What followed? Personal and national disaster. As the Scriptures say, these things in the Bible “were written for our learning” (Romans 15:4), to help us not to make the same catastrophic mistakes. My prayer is that this message will help you to choose the correct kingship over your life.
And thus began the ruin of the nation of Israel more than 3,000 years ago. How? They chose to reject God’s rule over them. Instead of having God as their king, they asked for a human king, “like all the other nations have.” In verses 9-18 the prophet Samuel warned them of the disastrous consequences of their rejecting God’s rule in favor of man’s rule. But the people refused to listen to the prophet’s warning and continued to demand an earthly king, so they could “be like the nations around us.”
Long story short — God gave Israel king Saul first, then king David, then king Solomon. God’s rule and reign over His people was tragically replaced by the disobedient and ineffective Saul; the scheming adulterer David; and then Solomon, whose great wisdom did not prevent him from amassing to his own hurt great wealth and fame, along with 700 wives and 300 concubines! (1 Kings 11:1-4) Tragically, his foreign wives turned the king’s heart away from the Lord to other gods (vss. 3-4). After only 3 kings, Israel was already beginning its decline.
After Solomon the formerly unified kingdom of Israel was divided into the ten northern tribes called Israel and the two southern tribes called Judah. Every one of the next 19 kings of the northern kingdom of Israel was in one or more ways an evil king. Finally in the 8th century BC Israel went into the Assyrian Captivity, from which the nation never recovered to their former glory. More than a century later, the southern kingdom Judah also went into captivity in Babylon for 70 years. They did recover, but never to the former glory they had when the nation served the Lord God.
What contributed to Israel’s and Judah’s downfall? Centuries earlier, as we have read (above):
God wanted Israel to be a separate, distinct, holy people unto Him — “out of all nations you will be…a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” They failed God in this. God has the same desire for Christians today to be His chosen people, His holy nation, His special possession, whether they be ethnically Jew or Gentile. The apostle Peter wrote to all born-again believers in Jesus (2 Peter 1:2-3, 18-21; 2:3-7). He used words similar to those which God had once spoken to ancient Israel. The Lord's Church, wrote Peter, those “who believe” in Jesus as Lord and Savior, is called by God to be His “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession.” The Church, the body of Christ worldwide, those saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8), “once were not a people, but now…are the people of God.” And He wants to be King over His chosen people.
As we saw in our opening verses, ancient Israel demanded an earthly king. God said that by so doing they were rejecting Him and His Kingship over them, so that they could (tragically!) “be like all the other nations.” And that is the key takeaway for us today: Do not reject heavenly rule and choose the earth’s customs, values, and leaders who are steeped in those things rather than the things and ways of God. Let’s ponder this further from the Word of God.
Don’t water this down. God’s Word says to us that His Son Jesus is “Lord of all.” There is nothing in heaven or earth that is exempt from His Lordship. Nothing! No king, no president, no legislature, no court has the right to change the decrees laid out plainly by God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in the Word of God, the Bible. A recent case in point (2021) in America: the new president in his first two weeks signed executive orders (1) anti-biblically increasing the likelihood of the execution of innocent unborn babies and (2) again anti-biblically, strengthening “transgender” rights — a subject Jesus dealt with clearly and decisively (see Matthew 19:4-5).
How much authority has God the Father given to His Son Jesus? “ALL authority”! And where has God decreed that Jesus shall exercise that “all” authority? — “In heaven and on earth.” I appeal to my fellow followers of the Lord Jesus Christ: Don’t “be like the nations around us.” The Lord’s Church is His “holy nation.” The secular nations around us are not to be influencing us. By contrast, we are to influence them! Christ’s servants are to go forth into this world’s nations as His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) and as what Jesus told us we are: “the salt of the earth [and] the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-14).
Jesus said that His followers are “in the world … but not of the world” (John 17:11, 14). Revelation 18 speaks of this evil, corrupt world’s systems, typified by “Babylon.” God’s command to His people is to come out of her, not to become like her. Yes, as Jesus said, He has sent us physically, geographically, “into the world” (John 17:18) to be His ambassadors. But while physically in this world, He requires that we be “not of” it. That is, spiritually we “come out” of everything that is Babylonishly evil, wicked, and opposed to the sovereign Lordship of Jesus Christ and the clear instruction of His Word.
It is not possible to befriend the world and its ways. As God’s Word says (James 4:4), “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” Strong words! But they are God’s Word! His holy nation, His chosen people the Church (Jew and Gentile believers alike) is NOT to be “like the nations around us.” If you have come to God’s salvation through Jesus Christ (John 14:6), then God is your Father. And Jesus is not only your Savior, but He’s also your “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16; see also 17:14).
One of the trumped-up accusations against the first-century Christians was: “They are all guilty of treason against Caesar, for they profess allegiance to another king, named Jesus.” Yes, they did honor Jesus as king. I must point out that they were not rioters, not insurrectionists, not wanton law-breakers. They simply did not confess Caesar as their king, but rather the Lord Jesus Christ. They served a king, yes. The King they answered to was not the Roman king, but the Son of God, Jesus Christ. And so should we, avoiding at all costs the temptation to reject the Lord’s kingly rule.
God has elevated His Son Jesus to the place of highest honor, decreeing that every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11). Millions will do so willingly, joyfully in this life and will reap the rewards of eternal life with the Lord. Sadly, many millions of others will reject the Lord and His offer of salvation. And after their time on earth they too will face the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ. But unlike the saved, the God- and Christ-rejecters will hear His ominous words: “Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons” (Matthew 25:41, NLT).
Will you follow ancient Israel’s disastrous path? Will you reject God and His heavenly rule, so that you can follow the world’s ways and be “like the nations around us”? Or will you look to Jesus as Thomas did and cry out to Him: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28), receiving Him personally as your Savior and living your life honoring Him always as “King of king and Lord of lords? Choose wisely. Your eternity depends on it.
Postscript…a final appeal:
1) Perhaps you’re a born-again believer and this message has struck your heart with conviction. Maybe you’re sensing that you’ve let the world and its ways get too strong a grip on you. What better time than right now to take a few minutes in prayer with Jesus and, if needed, repent of removing Him from the center of your life. He’ll forgive you and will happily resume full Lordship in your life.
2) If you’re realizing that you’ve never in a sincere, personal way received Jesus into your life as your own Lord and Savior, these next few minutes can change your life for time and eternity. I encourage you to allow the late, respected evangelist Billy’s Graham webpage guide you in a prayer of salvation that will bring you into the family of God and assure you of a joyous eternity with Him. Please go to Billy Graham’s prayer-for-salvation page here. You’ll be blessed that you did!
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©2021, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons &
Bible Studies by
Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.