Give Us A King—The Search for a Champion
In 2019 we see the thirst for a champion reflected in every type of media outlet. Whether that champion is an athlete being paid multi-millions to represent a team, a power-house entertainer, actor, a YouTube gamer, reality TV star, etc., there is a craving inside us to look for someone to rally behind. It seems to fill a void in our lives that, at times, even becomes idolatrous. Bonnie Tyler's song "Holding out for a Hero" comes to mind:
Where have all the good men gone
And where are all the gods?
Where's the streetwise Hercules to fight the rising odds?
Isn't there a white knight upon a fiery steed?
Late at night I toss and I turn
And I dream of what I need
I need a hero
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night
He's gotta be strong
And he's gotta be fast
And he's gotta be fresh from the fight
I need a hero
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the morning light
He's gotta be sure
And it's gotta be soon
And he's gotta be larger than life!
Larger than life
In many areas of life, we are looking for a "larger than life" "hero," a "god," small "g" to cheer for, rely on, save the day. This includes the arena of politics. It seems that we that believe if we pick the right "champion" and put him or her in office, that it will solve all our problems.
Perhaps our greatest Founding Father, George Washington, was the hero-general in the Revolutionary War. What was his hero's reward? America's first presidency. Several times, in fact, America has rewarded its war heroes with the office of President.
Most recently, in America's political history, we have searched for champions from a particular party, from a specific race, particular sex, or walk of life. The modern-day call for a political champion sounds like this: if we had a Republican President, a Democratic President, a young president, a successful businessman as President, a black President, a female President, someone outside the established political machine as President, etc.—all of our problems would be solved.
The champion premise is a faulty and idolatrous premise and is as old as the Bible. It's as old as King Saul. God had established a system of Judges to rule over Israel, but the people wanted something else. They saw that the other nations had a champion, a king, and demanded a king for themselves.
This is a crucial point and one of the most essential points in this book. God wanted leadership for Israel that reflected His views and His priorities. Israel wanted to set up a champion, a king, someone that they could more easily look to as the answer to their needs. This is a crucial point because there are so many Christian leaders, nationally, even globally recognized leaders that have proclaimed that President Trump was chosen by God. The two Scriptures below seem to give credence to this mistaken notion:
Psalm 75:6-7 (KJV) For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.
Romans 13:1 (KJV) Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
At first glance, these Scriptures seem to prove the claim that President Trump was chosen by God. I won't get into it here, but if that is true, then President Obama was also chosen by God, and I have heard no such claim by the leaders that I am referencing. We need only to look a little further into Scripture to see that God doesn't always put leaders in place because they reflect His character or His will. In the case of King Saul, Israel wanted a King, and God didn't. But because of the condition of the hearts of the people of Israel, Saul was allowed to become king.
1 Samuel Chapter 8 and 1 Sam 10:17-19 go into great detail to show that not only did God not want a king for Israel, but that He allowed it because of their stubbornness. The idolatrous nature of their choice is also evident in that they wanted a king to "judge us and go out before us and fight our battles." The chapter also details that God told Israel that there would also be negative consequences for their choice. The most severe consequence listed was that Israel would "cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the LORD will not hear you in that day."
1 Sam 8:1-22
Now it came to pass when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice. Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, "Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations." But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to judge us." So Samuel prayed to the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, "Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, 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 to this day—with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also. "Now therefore, heed their voice. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them." So Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who asked him for a king. And he said, "This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. "He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. "He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. "And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. "He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. "And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. "He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. "And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the LORD will not hear you in that day." Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, "No, but we will have a king over us, "that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles." And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he repeated them in the hearing of the LORD. So the LORD said to Samuel, "Heed their voice, and make them a king." And Samuel said to the men of Israel, "Every man go to his city."
1 Sam 10:17-19
Then Samuel called the people together to the LORD at Mizpah, and said to the children of Israel, "Thus says the LORD God of Israel: 'I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all kingdoms and from those who oppressed you.' "But you have today rejected your God, who Himself saved you from all your adversities and your tribulations; and you have said to Him, 'No, set a king over us!' Now therefore, present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes and by your clans."
It is interesting to note that the person that God selected be king was someone who would meet the aesthetic, superficial qualities that Israel would want in a king. From the outside, Saul looked like a king:
1 Sam 9:2 (KJV) And he had a choice and handsome son whose name was Saul. There was not a more handsome person than he among the children of Israel. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.
When God rejected Saul as king over Israel, it again was clear that God's most desired characteristics in the nation's leader were internal qualities, heart issues. We see the most concrete evidence of that in God's choice of David, as Israel's new kin. God referred to David in 1 Sam 13:14, as "a man after his own heart." 1 Sam 16 further points out that God doesn't choose champions in the way men do, specifically by outward appearance.
1 Samuel 13:14 (KJV) But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee.
1 Sam 16:1 (KJV) Now the LORD said to Samuel, "How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons."
1 Sam 16:7 (KJV) But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
Sadly, in America, we have reached a place in time where character and heart issues are not the most important quality in selecting someone to fill the highest office of our land. We only care about someone "who will fight our battles." Since character is not king, the selection of a champion has devolved to who can win any number of “our” battles: the battle to cut taxes, strengthen the military, stop abortion, preserve abortion, stop "the immigrant hordes", fight for LGBTQ rights, fight for traditional family values , fight for healthcare, fight for local jobs, etc. Whatever champion seems to stand up for the battles we deem the most important is who we support, morals be damned. It's a terrible state.
If there were consequences for Israel's choosing of a leader whose external portrayal of strength was greater than the strength of his character, what makes us think America will be any different? God told Israel, "And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the LORD will not hear you in that day." I believe the cries of regret have already begun to ring out in America over the choice that it made in President Trump, and it's not over.
With Saul, we've seen that it has long been the nature of man to choose a leader based on his external characteristics. How long, however, will leaders in the body of Christ follow the example of the world, and hold onto the notion that God is more interested in our President's external characteristics like false bravado, moxie, the embrace of nationalism and American superiority and the freedom to speak one's mind more than the heart qualities that God values. It is an indictment upon the body of Christ just as it was on the children of Israel. It is unfortunate, but not without remedy. We still have the power to choose our leaders and that choice was given to us by God, not made by God.
The question is, will the leaders of the body of Christ make the same mistake in the 2020 election and knowingly choose external qualities over internal qualities as it endorses a candidate for President? Will they continue to be mesmerized by the great bellowing from behind a façade like in the Wizard of Oz, not realizing that behind the façade is a man pretending to be much greater than he really is? Is there no leader in the body of Christ willing to say no to external characteristics and demand a leader, a political champion, whose strength is based on his internal qualities, even dare I say, his open reliance upon God?
Proverbs 29:2 (KJV)
When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.
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