Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The King After God: Chosen From Above

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The day the elders came to the Prophet Samuel and demanded for Israel's very first king never took God by surprise. He knew it would come even before His children ever stepped into the Promised Land. In Deuteronomy 17:14, God foretold, “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….’” Notice that God introduced His announcement with a “when,” not an “if ever.” To God, the coming of the people’s king was inevitable.And so, in order for them to maintain their Israelite identity and not be like their neighbors in adopting their method of appointing their leader, God instituted His standard for Israel to implement.

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The king must be the one whom God chooses: “be sure to appoint over you the king the Lord your God chooses”  (Deuteronomy 17:15). From being the first and only Theocratic Head of His people, God was not about to relinquish His rule to some flesh and blood bound to corruption following some leadership style substandard to His and subject to the limitations of the physical environment and the decisions of every human being sharing the world around. God the Creator and the One who sees all from above knows the origin and destination of all things; He therefore knows which way is the best to take in a life that to us is a maze of traps, errors, and regret. That’s the general consideration.

Now, because His people’s insistence of adopting the carnal model of leadership requires them to physically see to identify themselves with their leader, God must appoint a physical representation of Himself and arm this agent with authority to rule. It was therefore essential for God find “a man after his own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14) to lead His people as He expected, in largely His terms. For this, God “changed Saul’s heart” (10:9) and gave him His heart, a heart inclined to obey.

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The very reason why God laid down the ground rules for His people in choosing a king is to ensure that all variables have been aligned and streamlined for His chosen one to emerge. It was then appropriate for the Israelites to have brought their demand for a king to the Prophet Samuel. In 1 Samuel 8:4 to 5 it says that “all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel” and said to him, “appoint a king to lead us.” It was, however, very ironic that they came to the Prophet Samuel in full confidence knowing he perfectly knew the will of God but would not accept any other result from the Divine but the satisfaction of their demand for a king.

He must be an Israelite: “He must be from among your own brothers. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not a brother Israelite” (Deuteronomy 17:15b). An essential stipulation adopted by most cultures is that a king must come from the same people he must rule. This regulation facilitates the implementation of the prior in that God’s chosen king can only come from among the Israelites.
During this period, the monarchial government system had become so ubiquitous that it seeped into and modified the cultural fabric of many people, including the Israelites. Later on, God’s Spirit would adopt the concept of the king in presenting His promise of the Messiah. The prophet-for-hire Balaam, in Numbers 24:7, in attempted to bring down a curse on the Israelites, was instead compelled to prophesy about the people’s “king” who “will be greater than Agag.”

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Apparently the Amalekites were among the most feared people in the region where the Israelites traversed. “Agag” may have probably been a title of the kings these people had, similar to the “Caesar” of the Romans who came much later. It can be recalled that the Amalekite king whom Saul captured alive in 1 Samuel 15:8 was named Agag.

Moses’ prophecy in Deuteronomy 33:5 picturing Him as “king in Jeshurun” was an embryonic allusion to Jesus Christ. Later in King David’s life, God Himself foretold of the “offspring to succeed” him (2 Samuel 7:12), the one who would “come from [his] own body” (Ibid.), whose kingdom He would establish forever (verses 12 to 13). Around two thousand years later, Jesus came. Though He walked the earth, not yet as King but as a servant to die for the sins of many, He did not deny the fact that He was the King of the Jews (Matthew 11:27; Mark 15:2,12; Luke 23:3; John 18:33-37).

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“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2). Before Pontius Pilate ever asked the question, King Herod early in his reign shuddered on the throne he usurped when the Parthian magi came to him with the question,  "Do you know where the real King of the Jews is?--'Cause according to our calculations, you ain't!"

The mandate to choose the king from among the people was almost observed without partiality. After the death of Solomon, however, a fourth king arose in Israel whose parentage was not of pure Israelite origin. Cited in 1 Kings 14:21 and 31, Rehoboam was born of a mother named Naamah, “an Ammonite,” apparently one of the hundreds of foreign wives loved by his father Solomon (11:1). If the modern Jewish standard of determining pedigree can be applied with Rehoboam, it may yield that this king was not Israelite. During Rehoboam’s reign occurred the most ominous episode in Israelite history: the split of the kingdom. Three days after being crowned king, he decreed a more stringent policy on the political opponents of his father Solomon than accept their plea of conciliation and understanding (1 Kings 12:1-15). The result was a civil war leading to a secession of ten tribes, altogether establishing themselves as the independent Northern Kingdom (verses 16 to 17, verse 21); Rehoboam was left with the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (verses 17, 21, and 23), as the Southern Kingdom.

It was also during Rehoboam’s reign when Jerusalem succumbed to a raid successfully launched by the Pharaoh Shishak of Egypt. In 1 Kings 14:26 it says that Shishak “carried off the treasures of the temple of the Lord and the treasures of the royal palace [of Solomon], [taking] everything, including all the gold shields Solomon had made.” In all the seventeen years he ruled in Jerusalem (verse 21), he adulterated Jehovic worship with pagan Ammonite “sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and every spreading tree” (verse 23), male prostitutes, and all other practices “of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites” (verse 24).

[Yep. More to come.]

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