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Sunday, October 13, 2013

[Matt's Messages] Be Careful What You Ask For

“Be Careful What You Ask For”
A Heart for the Heart of God: The Message of 1 Samuel
October 13, 2013 :: 1 Samuel 8:1-22

When we left off last time in chapter 7, it ended on a high note.  The ark of the covenant had come back. The LORD had seen to that personally.  And Samuel had begun his nation-wide, successful prophetic ministry. The nation had followed Samuel’s spiritual leadership in national repentance, and the LORD had delivered them once again from their oppressors.

And we ended by singing, “Here I raise my Ebenezer,” my stone of help, because the LORD has taken care of us so far and will continue to do so as we trust in Him!

It would be nice if the book ended right there. It would have a pretty happy ending.

But it doesn’t, and chapter 8 flashes forward to a much later time after Samuel has grown old and it seems like he doesn’t have much time left to minister in Israel.

And the people of Israel who have loved Samuel’s leadership are beginning to worry about what will come next.

And their fear and worry and other heart-level problems will add up to them asking for (really demanding) a king. And they don’t ask well. ...

In fact, I’ve titled this message, “Be Careful What You Ask For.”

What’s the rest of that sentence?

“Be Careful What You Ask For” because you just might get it.

I think that’s a big part of the lesson God has to teach us from this passage today.

1 Samuel chapter 8, verse 1.

“When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges for Israel. 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 walk in 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 walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.’”

It’s sad that Samuel’s sons did not turn out well.

It’s sad that Samuel never had good role models for how to be a good dad.

Growing up with Eli as his example did not serve Samuel well.

So, when Samuel had gotten older and it was time soon for a leadership transition in Israel, it made sense, it was reasonable, that the people of Israel were concerned about who would lead them in the years to come.

Do you think it was a bad thing that they asked for a king?  V.4

“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 walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.’”

Was that a bad request?

Let me put it another way.  Did God think that a king was a bad idea?

No. God had actually said already in Deuteronomy that eventually, He would provide a king for Israel Himself.

We saw last year that the book of Judges said again and again, “There was no king in Israel so every man did was what right in his own eyes.”

God is not fundamentally opposed to kings.

But there was still a lot wrong with their request.  And Samuel felt it. V.6

“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.”
What was wrong with their request?

I can think of at least 4 things.

#1. THEY WANTED WHAT OTHERS HAD.

Notice that they don’t just ask for a king, they ask for a specific kind of king. V.5

“...now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”

They were jealous of the other nations.

They were afraid of the other nations. It seems that Israel was soon going to be under attack again, and they wanted a powerful ruler “such as all the other nations have.”

They were envious.

Do you see how that could make your prayer request illegitimate?

Be careful what you ask for if you are asking out of envy.

“Lord, I just want to get good grades, like so and so.”
“Father, could I have a hotrod like that guy has?”
“God, please give me a situation like my brother or sister has: a similar family or job or ministry role.”

We can so quickly fall into the sin of envious comparison.

In your mind, go back over your prayer requests in the last week and ask yourself if any of them have been motivated by envy, wanting what others have.

I know that some of mine were.

Sometimes, we need to repent of our requests.

Be careful what you ask for.

A second way that their request went wrong was that they didn’t want to be different.

#2. THEY DIDN’T WANT TO BE DIFFERENT.

They weren’t just jealous of something good that the other nations had, they wanted something that wasn’t going to be good for them.

They wanted something bad that the other nations had.

They wanted to be just like the other nations.

They wanted to be like the pagans!

They were so envious that they no longer wanted to be holy, distinct, different.

“...now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”

We want to be like them. We don’t want to have to do it this different way any longer.

They didn’t want a king after God’s own heart. They just wanted a king at any cost.

Be careful what you ask for if you are asking to be like everyone else.

Because God’s people are supposed to be different.

If the world is full of hate and anger, we are supposed to be full of love and gentleness.

If the world is full of greed and covetousness, we are supposed to be hard-workers and generous givers.

If the world is full of division and gossip and slander, we are suppose to be full of unity and togetherness and fellowship.

God’s people are supposed to be different.

Philippians 2 says that we are supposed to shine like stars in a dark universe.

We do things differently.

Now, that’s not always fun. In fact, it’s often not fun.

Who likes to be different? Who likes to stand out?

Most of us like to go with the flow.

I know that I do.

And it can invade my prayers.

Lord, why do I have to stand up and be different like this?

Can’t I just do whatever everyone else is doing?

Have you prayed something like that recently?

“Lord, this being holy hurts. I’m not sure I want do it any longer.

I’d rather get lazy than be a hard worker.
I’d rather sleep with and move in with my boyfriend than wait until marriage.
I’d rather steal from my employer than keep being filled with integrity.
I’d rather lie about my hours than to put down the truth.
I’d rather get that person back than wait for God’s justice.
I’d rather rant and rave on Facebook than to be careful with my tongue.

“Lord, would you bless one of those plans?”

“Please give me a king like all the other nations have!”

I don’t want to be different any longer.

Do you see how they were going wrong and how easy it is?

The third thing was the worst.

#3. THEY WERE REJECTING THE LORD.

Did you catch that in verse 7?

When the Lord answered Samuel?

“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.”

God is saying that they already had a king. The king was the LORD.

And He was enough.

But they couldn’t see Him.

And they weren’t trusting Him.

So they required that Samuel give them a king like as all the other nations had.

Now, two things about that.

First, take this to heart if you are speaking the Lord’s truth to someone and they reject it.  They aren’t rejecting you. They are rejecting the Lord.

So, if you share the gospel with someone and they don’t receive Christ, don’t take it personally.  They aren’t rejecting you, they are rejecting the Lord.

If you are preaching or counseling the Word out of love for someone and telling them what they need to hear, and they put up their hand and say, “Shut up,” remember that it is foremost the Lord who is being rejected.

That’s the only way to emotionally survive this kind of thing.

But secondly, see how logical yet wicked this thing is that they did.

It’s like the ark. They wanted the ark to be something they could see, that would they could wield, that had power, that they could trust in.

And they haven’t learned their lesson.

Now, they want a king that they can see, that they follow, that has power, that they can trust in.

They want a king, they don’t want the King of Kings.

They were rejecting the Lord.

How many times do we pray for something so that we won’t have to trust in the Lord any more?

James chapter 4 tells us what’s wrong with us.

“You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.  When you ask [be careful what you ask for], you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

Do you see the connection I’m making?

Sometimes we ask God for an idol!

“Lord, would you please give me an idol?”

“Lord, would you please give me a substitute for you, to take your place?”

It could be money. We think we’re asking for our daily needs, but at heart, we’re really asking for a trust fund that will make sure we’re comfortable forever.

It could be a well-functioning government.

It could be a new relationship.

We think that we’re asking for something good, but we’re really asking for a substitute god.

I’m sure that it seemed reasonable to the people of Israel.

Of course, we need a king! That’s exactly what we need.

Never mind that we have the Lord.  We want a king!

And the Lord knows that this has been their pattern all along. V.8

“...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. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.’

Be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it. V.10

“Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, ‘This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 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. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day.’”

You want a king like everybody else has, do you?

I’ll tell you what a king like that will do.  He will take.

He will take so much that you will cry out to the Lord as if he were your enemy, not your king!

And in that day, the LORD will not answer you your request.

Be careful what you ask for because the next time you might not get it.

With faith-filled obedience comes blessing.

But with un-trusting disobedience comes danger.

And here’s where they went wrong and stayed there.

#4. THEY INSISTED ON THEIR OWN WAY.

They demanded their own will.  V.19

“But the people refused to listen to Samuel. ‘No!’ they said. ‘We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.’”

They refused to listen. They insisted on their own way.

The King James says in v.19, “Nay; but we will have a king over us;

They wouldn’t take “No” for an answer.

It was “Not thy will but my will be done.”  The total opposite of the Lord’s prayer.

Do you see how dangerous that is?

But we do it all the time, don’t we?

“Not they will, Lord, but my will be done.”

I’m going to do it like Frank Sinatra–“my way.”

My way seems right.
My way seems best.
My way seems logical, reasonable, sensible, doable.

Your way, Lord, seems difficult and scary and illogical and hard.

And I’m not going to do it!

So, Lord, if you’ll bless my plan, then great.

But it’s my way or the highway.

Be careful what you ask for.

You just might get it.  V.21

“When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the LORD. The LORD answered, ‘Listen to them and give them a king.’ Then Samuel said to the men of Israel, ‘Everyone go back to his town.’”

Now, we know who that next king is going to be and what kind of a disappointment he will turn out to be.

But even if you’ve never read ahead, you can see that this answer to their request is at best, second-best.

And that’s what we’re going to see if we pray, insisting on our own way.

What a sad moment in the history of Israel.

It wasn’t wrong to ask Samuel for help, but it was disastrous to demand that the LORD give them a king like all the other nations.

It’s important for us to check our hearts as we bring our requests to God.

Be careful what you ask for.

Are we praying out of jealousy and envy?

“Lord, give me some of what they have.”

Are we praying out of a rejection of holiness?

“Lord, I’m tired of being different. Can’t we just go with the flow?”

Are we praying for a god-substitute?

“Lord, I don’t want you, I just want your gifts. I just want something I can trust in.”

Are we praying with a demand for our will to be done?

Or are we praying for the Lord’s will to be done?
To have what God wants us to have?
To be holy as He is holy, different as He is different? Refreshingly different!

Are we praying to have the Lord Himself and enjoy Him forever?

Let’s check our hearts and present our requests to God.

***

A Heart for the Heart of God

01. Hannah's Prayers
02. Those Who Honor Me I Will Honor
03. Speak, LORD, for Your Servant Is Listening
04. God In A Box
05. Who Can Stand in the Presence of the LORD, This Holy God?

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