Jesus, a Different Kind of King
July 16, 2021
By Mattanah DeWitt
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 follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” 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. 1 Samuel 8:4-7 NIV
The prophet Samuel had a special connection with God. A revered leader among the Israelites, he listened to God, and God spoke to him and through him in powerful ways. As he grew older, his sons began to take on his responsibilities, yet they didn’t have the character to sustain the tasks before them.
When the elders of Israel came to Samuel with a complaint about his sons, these leaders were right to identify the inconsistencies between Samuel’s ways and his sons’ ways. But their suggested solution to this problem saddened the heart of God.
What I love about stories like this one is the way it points to Jesus. Every story in the Bible, every era of history that we learn about in scripture, every virtuous and villainous character, every chain of events, is interwoven to lead us to one person: Jesus, our King.
That’s what the people wanted, a king. I think we all do—the concept, anyway. Someone to give us a sense of belonging, meaning, protection, peace, prosperity. But the elders specifically wanted a king like “all the other nations” had.
I believe that when they asked this, God may have in disappointment and exasperation responded, “Oh, but I have so much better for you! You don’t even know what you’re asking for.”
What they wanted was a shadow of the real thing, a counterfeit version of what God was desiring and preparing for them: the kind of ruler and king who would give instead of take, who would seek to serve instead of be served, who would lead with love rather than manipulate through fear.
We were only ever meant to know what it’s like to live under the reign of the one true, eternal King Jesus.
Today, we may not ask God for an earthly king to rule over us; we may ask him for something “like that person over there has,” similar to the elders who asked for a king like “that nation over there has.” We may ask for something we think will fix the problems in our lives or fill the gap in some way—something to lean on, something that gives us a sense of strength.
When the elders of Israel sought to meet their own need, to fill the gap, through means other than God’s plan, it was a rejection of him. And God identifies it as such when he tells Samuel, “They have not rejected you, they have rejected me.” And he feels it.
Even in this rejection and God’s subsequent response to the elders’ demand, the stage is being set for a new King and a new kingdom. When this King finally does come, his rule is not what the disciples expect. They want the kind of king that the elders of Israel, all those years ago, had wanted—a conquering king. Only this time, God in his mercy doesn’t give them what they think they want. He sends them a servant to walk among them and be their master, to spit in the dirt and rub it in their eyes so they could see again, to say controversial things about eating his body and drinking his blood, to warn them that he must suffer and then demonstrate silently the truth of that statement, to model what it looks like to live surrendered to the will of the Father, and to promise that they would inherit a kingdom that didn’t look on the surface to offer a fate better than the one they already knew.
But oh, it was so much better. It is so much better. He, this King, is so much better. Both his kingdom and his kindness know no end. There is no one better to rule us. In the thousands of years since these stories have taken place, the word of God that brought us to this point has proven to be true, and the word of God that will bring us into the complete fulfillment of the promised eternal kingdom will also prove to be true.
Until that time, we are reminded that our King and his kingdom hold the highest authority in heaven and on earth, here and now. Let us guard our lives against all counterfeit authorities and their empty promises to provide what we need outside of Jesus. He is our source. He is our shepherd. He is our King.