The High Cost of Compromise and Conformity.
“But the people refused to listen to Samuel’s warning. ‘Even so, we still want a king,’ they said. ‘We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will govern us and lead us into battle.’” – 1 Samuel 8:19-20 NLT
Twenty years pass. The Ark, returned from the Philistines, remains at Kiriath-jearim instead of in the Tabernacle at Shiloh. The Philistines remained a constant threat during those years and the people began to long after the Lord. There seemed to be a growing interest in the things of God during those years and so Samuel calls the people to renew their dedication to God as the one true God. He calls them to return and repent. He demands that they get rid of all the other gods they have been worshiping and to direct their hearts toward God alone. The people obey. They remove the foreign gods. The confess their sins before God. Then God gives them a great victory over the Philistines. And He continues to suppress the Philistines all the days that Samuel judged the nation of Israel. Things seemed to be looking up. But there was still a heart problem going on in Israel. Things were not as they seemed. They may have gotten rid of their foreign gods on the surface, but they were still worshiping something other than God. They were still being influenced by the nations around them.
Years later, after Samuel had gotten old, the problem surfaces. For all their talk of serving God alone, the people finally come out and admit that they would really have a human king than a heavenly one. They demand that Samuel anoint a king over them. He is appalled. He can’t believe what he is hearing. After all these years and all that God had done for them, they are telling God they prefer someone else to lead them. Samuel attempts to talk them out of it, but the people refuse to listen. God tells Samuel what the problem is: “…it is me they are rejecting, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer” (1 Samuel 8:7 NLT). The people were rejecting God as their king. They wanted “a king like all the other nations have” (1 Samuel 8:5 NLT). They had looked around them and seen how the other nations lived. They had seen that they all had kings and were ruled by some human leader who judged them, led them, and fought their battles for them. The bottom line was that they wanted to be like all the other nations (1 Samuel 8:19). They wanted to conform to the world around them. They were tired of being different. They were not satisfied with having God as their king. They couldn’t see God. They had a hard time understanding God. He didn’t rule like the other kings. He didn’t lead like the other kings. Sure, He had given them victory over the Philistines, but that was not enough. The people were rejecting God. They may have gotten rid of their idols, but their hearts were far from God.
So God surprises Samuel by telling him to listen to the demands of the people. He instructs Samuel to do just what the people say. He agrees to give them a king, but warns them that there will be ramifications. He is going to give them a king “just like all the other nations” and it will not all be positive. They are going to get just what they asked for and more. But in spite of God’s warnings, the peoples’ demands grow stronger. They want a king. Which sets the stage for the appointment of Saul – “the most handsome man in Israel––head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the land” (1 Samuel 9:2 NLT). Tall, good looking, the epitome of a king, Saul had all the right qualifications. His dad was a “mighty man of valor.” He came from good stock. He looked the part. He was just the kind of man that any nation would want as their king. But there was something missing. A heart for God. The peoples’ rejection of God and demand for a king would result in a man ruling over them who shared their disdain for God. He would prove to be in love with himself and his own press clippings. He would prove to be a king who did not need God.
And it all began with a growing love affair with the world. They couldn’t keep their eyes off the world around them. They began to compromise and conform. They were not content being unique, set apart, a people committed to God and His ways. They wanted more. They saw what the rest of the world had and they wanted it. They took their eyes off God and their hearts followed. Their revival and repentance had turned to rejection. God alone was not enough. That is a danger we constantly face even as believers today. But He calls us to commitment not compromise. He calls us to be transformed, not conformed. He demands that we be unique, set apart, a people after His own heart. But the tug of the world is strong. The call to conform is powerful. But if listened to, it always costs dearly. As we will see in the life of Saul.
Father, the call to conform is strong. Give us the strength to reject that call and not You. Keep us focused on You and You alone. The world has nothing we need. It’s ways always prove themselves to be a disappointment. But You are always faithful and true. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men