Thursday, April 4, 2024

           In the Old Testament, Israel longed for a king.  The nation wanted a king so badly that it approached Samuel and essentially said, “You are too old and your sons are too wicked to lead us.  Give us a king like all the other nations have.”  Samuel was not happy about this demand.  So, he prayed.  We read, “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’” (1 Samuel 8:6-8).  God said that Israel was not rejecting Samuel; the nation was rejecting Him as their King and LORD.  It is not a stretch to say that Israel preferred a human ruler to the LORD who had led them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land.  By their own words, this was the choice they made. 
            God’s plan had always been for Israel to be a different and distinct nation—not like all the rest.  His plan was for Israel to be a light to the world and the nations that surrounded them.  However, it was not long before Israel rejected God and His plans with a desire to be like everybody else.  There is a lesson for us to see.  It can be easy to want to fit in or be like the crowd.  There is huge pressure to conform to whatever may be happening in culture, community, classrooms or the circles where we find ourselves.  Kids and teens face pressure to conform.  Employees may find rewards and benefits from being part of a company’s culture and values and not rocking any boats.  Some find it easier to stay quiet and below the radar than to speak out.  We probably all have moments where we ducked away from God instead of courageously and individually standing up for Him or His ways.
            Consider what Israel longed for—to be like the other nations more than a desire to remain unreservedly devoted to the Lord who had freed them and graciously blessed them.  We learn from Israel to live unashamedly for the Lord.  Faith often requires that we stand for truth, goodness, righteousness and the authority of God’s Word.  Such a stand is not always easy—indeed it can be difficult and taxing.  God warned Israel what would happen if they persisted in their desire for a king (see 1 Samuel 8).  Often, we fail to recognize the consequences that come from conforming to culture.  Compromises and accommodations almost always come with cost.  We can easily lose our witness and our walk can be marred and scarred.  We often find ourselves at moments of decision where we can choose to walk with Christ or the crowd.  We can decide to stand for Christ or simply lose ourselves in a crowd of conformity.  We cannot claim the Bible as our authority but then turn from it when the heat is on or we would simply prefer to do something else or something different. 
            Paul wrote in Philippians that we are to shine like stars in the sky on a dark night (Philippians 2:15).  But, in the next verse, we learn from Paul that we can only shine for the Lord when we “hold firmly to the Word of life” (Philippians 2:16).  Scripture matters and serves as our standard, measure and guide.  To stand for the Lord, we have to know and embrace His Word.  We choose the clear teaching of His ways above the ways of accommodation, expediency or just fitting into the crowd.  Be bold today.  Be a witness for Christ and His ways.  Live for Christ and dare to swim against popular currents.  Choose the ways of the Lord above the ways of the world.  Make the hard but right choices rather than the easy surrender to the wrong choices.  And when you do, hold on to this promise found in Philippians 4:7, “and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”   Remember you can share our worship any time at  Have a great Thursday!  We’ll see you Sunday!

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