Snapshots: Day 191
The Snapshot: “appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” (1 Sam 8:5) Being different, being a people who have to rely on faith, on the unseen, an unseen God who doesn’t just turn up when we call, all this is sometimes difficult. I say ‘sometimes’ because when we are out of sorts with God and He seems miles away, we struggle with these things, we struggle with being different from our unbelieving friends, we struggle with a God we cannot see and who isn’t there at our beck and call. Uncertainty – that was at the heart of Israel’s demand of Samuel: we want to be able to see our leader, we want to be like others. But you’re not – remember your history, remember how good God has been to you.
Further Consideration: At one point in one of his outpourings of anguish, Job declares, “When he passes me, I cannot see him; when he goes by, I cannot perceive him.” (Job 9:11) It’s an experience we all have from time to time. If there is some spiritual giant you know who denies this, they are being unreal. Every single believer will go through times of lacking the awareness that ‘He is here’, Immanuel, God with us, in the form of the Father & the Son in heaven, and the Spirit here with me this minute.
The truth is, of course, none of us can ‘see’ God. That is what faith is all about, the “assurance about what we do not see,” (Heb 11:1) so “anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists.” (v.6) It sounds pretty obvious doesn’t it, and yet I am sure that there are many people who pray because they have a superstitious fear that it’s what they ought to do, rather than pray because they know He is there listening.
But that is only one part of the story, this wanting a visible God. The other part is wanting a visible leader, one who we can clearly hear and see, and that then gets linked with the wanting not to be different. What would people at school or college or work think if I told them I pray and talk to an invisible God? I don’t like being different in their company – it’s all right when I’m on my own, but it’s hard to take the ridicule.
This is closely allied to the self-help culture of our day. You’ve only got to go into a big bookstore, or even go online to that well known online store, and type in ‘self-help’ under ‘books’, and you know this is true. For all these reasons, Israel asked for a king. All these things were true but they were prodded into the open by the fact that Samuel’s sons hadn’t been doing a good job as leaders (1 Sam 8:3). Now today many people have lost their confidence in our national leaders; it’s a common experience, but instead of wanting to get closer to God, Israel asked for a different sort of leader, one who would cause even more problems (see v.11-18). Out of the frying pan into the fire, we say. Silly stuff!