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Trading the Divine for a Deceit

June 20, 2016

“And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.”
1 Samuel 8:7-8

God compares the Israelites demand for a king with their idolatry throughout the wandering in the wilderness and during the era of the judges. The nature of this idolatry is seen when the Israelites tell Samuel why they desire a king. They wanted to be like the people around them. They wanted to have the leadership, security and success they saw in the nations around them and that they imagined came from having a strong king to lead them (1 Samuel 8:19-20). They rejected God for a dream of having the same prosperity and power as the nations around them.

The king given to Israel soon began to reflect the idolatry of the Israelites. He prefered the favor of the people, the spoils of war and the noteriety of having conquered mighty kings to obedience. When confronted by Samuel for his failure to destroy all the Amelekites and all their possessions Saul protested that the people saved the best of the flocks to make sacrifice to God. Samuel’s response cuts through the blameshifting and false piety. “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.” “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” (1 Samuel 15:22-23) God is not worshiped by self-serving religiosity. God is not pleased by partial obedience gilded with piety. Pious rebellion and stubborn disobedience are idolatrous. Persistent, willful disobedience is the worship of something else above God. Stubborn disobedience is idolatry because it rejects the good commands of God, it refuses to trust the care of God and it relies on some other thing (whether it be a statue, a person or a plan) to provide that which God has promised to give. Saul rejected the God who made him king to seek influence and fame.

Idolatry is more than praying to a spirit or making offerings to a statue. The book of 1 Samuel reveals reliance on human wisdom and the world’s methods is another form of idolatry. Reliance on other means stops trusting the powerful God to fulfill His promises and trusts the practices of the unsaved to satisfy one’s desires. Idolatry turns aside from the One who is powerful to keep all His promises to pursue a powerless fraud. In the end the idolator is left with a figment- an unreasonable facsimile of the promises of God. Instead of eternal joy, the idolator darts from one fleeting happiness to another. Instead of the peace of God, the idolator soothes his stress with unsatisfying entertainments. Instead of eternal treasure, the idolator is weighed down with the riches of this world. All the world promises is but a cheap imitation of that which God provides.


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