So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking Him, “Lord, has the time come for You to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be My witnesses, telling people about Me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”Acts 1:6-8
“Not by might nor by power but by My Spirit says the LORD.”Zechariah 4:6
It could read “Not by might nor by power, nor the flesh of man but by My Spirit”, says the LORD.
God intended to be Israel’s King. Israel was to be different from the nations around about in that their Creator God would lead them and guide them. They did not need a king as the nations had them. In the same way God didn’t recognise the child of Abraham’s flesh so too He opposed the Israelites asking for a king. Some think that the book of Judges is presupposing Kingship and a kingdom for Israel. I don’t think that is what is meant at all. I think rather the continued refrain through the book of Judges – “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes” – is not meant to give the request for a king legitimacy. Rather the idea is stated clearly that there was pattern occurring. The israelites were given a ruler in the form of a judge and while they followed the ways of God they were blessed. But as they began to prosper and become strong they became proud and didn’t follow the Lord’s principles. They did evil in the sight of the LORD and God used the kingdoms of the earth to defeat them to teach them a lesson. God was actively involved in using foreign kings and nations against them. The original intention was that God at work in Israel was to show all people on earth that God was present and leading the nation He had chosen to be His own. When they responded to God’s presence and His commandments things went well for them. When they didn’t the results were disastrous. The intention of the book of Judges was to point out clearly the folly of the Israel’s way and truth of God’s Word and principles.
The book of Samuel records the beginnings of Kingdom of Israel (and Judah). Although God made prophetic statements about the Israelites asking for a king it does not make it God’s intention. God is simply stating what they will do. He sees the way their heart is turning and He knows the end result. They want to be a nation like the nations around them, led by a king. The very thing they were not meant to be, the fact that they had no king was supposed to be clearly evidence that God was in their midst and leading them. If they did chose a king they were to make sure he was not a foreigner, but one of the people of God. Notice related to the parable of the trees that the trees themselves approached in the olive tree, fig tree and vine asking them to rule over them. Just as God advised them they were to select their king from within Israel. But then the wild brambles become involved, those who aren’t part of the three “trees” which symbolise Israel. If Israel want a king to rule over them like the nations have, then God will use the wild brambles, the nations to discipline them. (viz Deut 28:36). When the Israelites lost sight of the Lord and sinned against Him he used the nations to rule them. When they saw the pattern of kings and kingdoms in their encounter with nations (e.g. Nahash King of Ammon – 1 Sam 12:12) they wanted a king to rule over them. God’s interpretation of their action was that they had rejected Him. They were to be a kingdom of priests and a holy people with God as their King, but they rejected Him in favour of the model of the nations. They were be a kingdom of priests with no one lording it over another. But God told them “in asking for a king and rejecting Me you will be subject to all the excesses of human institutions. Human kingdoms are only as good as the quality of the king you have. (1 Sam 8:11, 18-22a). It was such foolishness for the Israelites to reject God and settle for a human king to go before them and fight their battles for them. Especially when time and time again they had seen what happened when God fought for them. But like many people today, they opt for the trappings of a human institution they can see rather than God whom they cant see. The difficulty is always the challenge of walking by faith and trusting in what you cannot see.
God therefore tells Samuel to grant their request. Again that is not legitimising the request for a king and the associated kingdom. As we see in the Abraham story, God will allow something even when He knows it is not for our benefit; when we ask for it long enough and often enough He will grant it. It is the Balaam example all over again. When we pester the Lord for something to which He has already said no, BE CAREFUL, He may well give it to us. The resultant pattern of the Books of 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings make it clear to us. Basically they repeat the pattern we saw in the book of Judges, only this time it is not the Israelites themselves doing the wrong, it is the king whom they have requested. From that point on in the Kingdom of Israel, the people’s plight is governed by the virtue and character of their king. This is exactly what God told them in 1 Samuel 8. The very thing that God Himself predicted would happen to them.
Once again we see God’s intention was not fulfilled because the people or the individual (Abraham) chose to take matters into their own hands. Thus God refused to answer them. But I sense some of you saying, hang on Ian. God blessed Israel and showered gold and riches on them, He extended their boundaries under David and Solomon to the point of the peak of the Kingdom of Israel’s power under Solomon. So doesn’t all that show that God was blessing Israel, thus vindicating the notion of Kingdom? How can you say that God did not intend for the Kingdom of Israel to exist in the first place? Furthermore, if that was the case what is the Kingdom that God is referring to? If it is not the kingdom of Israel what is it? It all seems so confusing. God still blesses. It is His nature to bless. He will grant our wrong request at times in order to teach us a lesson. Even though Ishmael was a child of Abraham’s flesh God still promised to bless him. Even though Israel chose a model opposed to God’s plan of rule for them He will still work out His purposes. It is not that God makes His plan B successful. He will still work to bring about His ultimate purpose. Ah but what is His ultimate purpose if it is not the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel. This is the very question the disciples were asking Jesus in the passage before us. They were asking for the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel. God never intended the Kingdom of Israel to be the focus at all.
In the next Gem all will revealed. I hear your plea but I will give you another couple of days to ponder it for yourself.
Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon Earth.John Wesley
There’s nothing more dangerous to the kingdom of darkness than a believer with the Word of God in their mouth.Joyce Meyer
The kingdom of God is not in the future, it is now – it’s like time travel, except that the future is brought into the present.Tim Keller
If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.C S Lewis