Nov 05 - Afraid Of Missing Out

Afraid Of Missing Out

1 Samuel 8

November 5, 2017

 

AFRAID OF MISSING OUT

1 Samuel 8

November 5, 2017

 

By and large, most humans would like to be free to do as they please.   But generally, there are a number of factors that will keep them from doing so. 

 

1. There are rules that are imposed on us by our physical limitations.  I’ll never be able to slam-dunk a basketball. 

 

There are limitations to how fast a human can run.  Back in 2009, Usain Bolt topped out at 44.72 km/h, the fasted speed on record.  In that race he ran the 100 m at 37.58 km/hr. 

 

A black bear can run as fast as 53 km/hr., a grizzly bear up to 56 km/hr.   Yeah, they’d catch Usain. 

 

2. Then there are rules external to ourselves that limit what we can do. 

 

There are rules of engagement. 

Rules of attraction. 

Grammatical rules. 

Rules of parliament. 

Rules of etiquette. 

Rules of acquisition. 

Rules of the road. 

Rules of professional conduct.

Rules of interference. 

The rule of thumb.

There are Roberts rules of order. 

Game rules in sports. 

 

Some of these rules may be put in place to control us to our own detriment – possibly in a totalitarian state – some are there to safeguard us and others.  Here’s just one example.

 

Of course we can choose to ignore external rules.  However, there are usually methods in place to encourage us not to do so.  In the case of speed limits, there may be speed bumps, road side radar, and speeding fines that double in construction and school zones.

 

The Bible is full of external rules, such as the 10 commandments.  By the way, some people think of God’s will only in terms of prohibitions – don’t do this, don’t do that - the “thou shalt nots”. 

 

But the reality is that the most important rules that God sets for our lives have to do with commissions, things that we ought to do, the “thou shall’s” – be kind, forgive, show compassion, work for justice, treat your spouse right – and so on.

 

3. There are also rules that are internal  - inside of us - that will affect our behaviour.

 

These are personal convictions.  For example, you might feel that you personally could never fight in a war, or you may be convicted that you have to enlist to make the world a better and safer place for others. 

 

[Regardless of their personal conviction, however, most people do not have an issue when it comes to honouring those who were killed or injured serving their country as well as those who are currently serving on Remembrance Day, which is this coming Saturday (Nov 11th).]  ??

 

When we transgress our personal beliefs, ethics and morals, we experience a sense of guilt, which is kind of like an internal check or compass that encourages us not to do what we believe to be wrong. 

 

While some people beat themselves up over stuff that either isn’t their fault or that isn’t really wrong, there is a healthy guilt, which indicates when someone has erred in some way ethically, morally or relationally.  Healthy guilt is like pain, because it serves as an indicator that something is wrong. 

 

Our conscience prods our hearts and minds so that we stop harming ourselves or others.  It is designed to warn our souls of impending danger: “Stop.  Go back.  Don’t do this again.  Correct the situation.” 

 

Sometimes there is an overlap between rules that are external and those that are internal to us.  There may be an inner resonance that makes us realize that an external rule jives with our own conscience.  

 

However, even when external rules and internal conviction are in harmony, we often still don’t do them because there is another force called “desire” or “craving” or “appetites” that pull us in another direction.  

 

Desires may include such things as

  • being greedy for possessions or money,

  • overeating,

  • being lazy,

  • shopping

  • needing to be in control,

  • having status,

  • being accepted,

  • indulging in fun, alcohol, pleasure or sex,

  • thrill seeking, … the list goes on and on.

 

And so we can make decisions that we know are stupid or irresponsible or unhealthy or hurtful or ungodly –

  • decisions that will hurt us or someone else in some way,

  • decisions which will end up causing us or others problems,

  • decisions which will invariably end in conflict,

  • decisions that will dishonour God in some way or another. 

 

Today’s story is about a group of people, actually the leaders or elders of a nation, who made a bad decision based on their desire to be just like the other nations around them. 

 

We are dealing with a time before the monarchy in Israel.  During this time, God raised up individuals who were called judges for two reasons:

 

First, they would rally Israel when there was a threat from other nations and lead them into battle

 

Second, they would decide how disputes would be handled.  No jury, no attorneys – individuals would present their case and then the judge would make a ruling.

 

The judge I want us to think about today is called Samuel (Schamu-el), whose mother had brought him to serve at the Tabernacle und the high priest and judge Eli

 

After Eli’s death, Samuel had become the judge over Israel.  Like his mentor Eli, Samuel was cursed with two rotten sons, whose names in Hebrew were Yoel and Abiyah.  And like Eli, Samuel had a blind spot when it came to his sons and ended up appointing them as his co-judges.

 

What is unusual about this, is that up to this point, it was God who had called judges to their office and the previous judges were all from different families and clans.  Samuel changed this by appointing and installing his sons himself

 

This led to the unfortunate event I want us to look at today, because Samuel’s sons, Yoel and Abiyah, were corrupt.  They could be bribed, bought to pervert the course of justice.  The rich would go free, the poor would be convicted, regardless of who was guilty and who wasn’t. 

 

Samuel, had not so much as taken a dime from the people of Israel for his services as judge (1 Sam 12:3-4).  But his sons were profiting from their position.  And apparently Samuel did nothing to try to correct this situation, even though he must have heard the people complaining about his sons. 

 

So we pick up the story in v.4 of 1 Samuel 8. 

 

… All the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah.  They said to him, "Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways.  Now appoint for us a king to judge us, such as all the other nations have."                                                          1 Samuel 8:4-5

 

The transition from the old order of the judges to the new order of the monarchy in Israel was an extremely painful experience for Samuel, because he was asked to pack it in because he was old. 

 

Instead of asking for a king who would, in essence, replace Samuel, the elders of the various tribes could have told Samuel to seek God’s help in finding a godly co-judge to replace his sons and to become the primary judge after Samuel’s death. 

 

In essence they told him in no uncertain terms that he, personally, was not wanted anymore even though Samuel had served self-sacrificially and with distinction for a very long time (1 Sam 7:2). 

 

6 But when they said, "Give us a king to judge us," this displeased Samuel [typical understatement - he must have been royally ticked].  And Samuel prayed to YHWH.  7 And YHWH told him: "Obey all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me from being king over them.  8 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.  9 Now, obey what they say; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do." 

 

In essence God was telling Samuel that the request by the elders was personal.  Yes, they rejected Samuel, but more significantly, they rejected God as their ruler. 

 

They rejected God and his love for them because they no longer wanted to be different from the other nations, but exactly the same.  It was as if they were worshipping foreign gods and goddesses.

 

This was such an important point, it is reiterated twice more in 1 Samuel, in chapters 10 and 12.

 

Today you have rejected your God, who saves you out of all your calamities and distresses, and you have said, 'Set a king over us.'                                               1 Samuel 10:19

 

… you said to me, 'No, we want a king to rule over us' - even though YHWH your God was your king.                                                                                         1 Samuel 12:12

 

God’s kingship simply wasn’t good enough any longer.   The leaders of Israel ignored God’s goodness that had evidenced itself in the past as he sent judge after judge to help them.  Instead, they would rather have a fallible mortal rule over.

 

In 1979, during Bob Dylan’s overtly Christian phase, he wrote a song called “You’ve gotta serve somebody.”  In it he gives a list of what individuals live for:

 

  • power,

  • gambling,

  • dancing,

  • sports,

  • status,

  • music,

  • drugs,

  • sex,

  • career,

  • education,

  • titles,

  • laziness,

  • money, and

  • spirituality.  

 

In the refrain he says:  “It may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve SOMEBODY.

 

Dilan’s point was obvious.  Everyone, but everyone has to make a choice whether or not they will serve God. 

 

For some reason, John Lennon was really upset about this song.  In response he wrote, “Serve yourself,” a song filled with obscenities stating that all religious belief leads to violence and therefore you should only serve yourself since no one else will.  In essence John Lennon replied to Dylan that, since there is no God, you better put yourself on the throne – you better be the king of your life.

 

Lennon is right in thinking that unquestioning religious fervour can lead to violence.  We are reminded of that again with terror attacks in Germany, France, Spain, Somalia, Egypt, Syria, or Afghanistan.   

 

So far in 2017, there were 1,747 Islamic attacks in 57 countries, in which 12,438 people were killed and 12,427 injured.

 

Religion, like politics, can always be perverted. 

 

Nevertheless, I still think that Bob Dylan was right.  Even if people are not aware of it, every person who ever lived has to make a choice for or against God – a choice which becomes evident in who or what they serve. 

 

God’s response to Israel’s rejection of his rule indicates that God will not force himself on anyone.  He gives everyone the choice to either seek or forsake him, to walk with him or walk away from him, to serve another person, their own desires, possessions, or God. 

 

God gives each one of us the freedom to make bad and selfish choices.  In the case of Israel, God knew that human rulers, human kings, would be corrupted by the power they possess. 

 

10 Samuel told all the words of YHWH to the people who were asking him for a king.  11 He said, "This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots, to be his horsemen and run in front of his chariots.  12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 

 

13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.  14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants.  15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants.  16 He will take your male and female slaves, the best of your young men and your donkeys for his own use.  17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 

 

Notice what God is telling the nation of Israel.  The kings will be much a hundred times – a thousand times - worse than Samuel’s sons ever could be.   If they think that the corrupt nature of those judges was bad, just wait until they experience what a corrupt sovereign whose word was law could do to them.  And this is followed with a final warning:

 

18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen for yourselves, but YHWH will not answer you in that day." 

 

The Law of Moses states in Deut 17:14-20, that a king of the nation of Israel is not to accumulate possessions, wives, and wealth.  The passage goes on that a king is to read the Law of Moses every day and carefully follow all it says.  Further, he is to be humble and not think that he’s better than anyone else

 

None of Israel’s kings, not even king David, lived up to that ideal.  Every king exacted lots of taxes, every king became extremely wealthy, everyone accumulated possessions and wives, everyone thought that they were special.  Power corrupts.

 

[This portion of scripture reminds me of a fable attributed to Aesop (c. 600 BC), about a group of frogs who repeatedly demanded a king from Zeus.  Zeus first threw a long into their pond to be their king, but the frogs were not satisfied and wanted a living king.  Zeus then sends them a stork to be their king,[1] but the stork began to eat them. 

 

The frogs called out to Zeus to save them but he refused, telling them they now had what they wanted and would have to face the consequences. 

 

The moral of the fable can be worded a couple of ways:

 

  • Be careful what you wish for.  That lottery win might actually ruin your life.
  • Bad consequences will follow bad decisions.  You made your bed and now you have to lie in it. 
  • Dictatorships, like absolute monarchies, usually do NOT work for the best interest of the people.

 

God was right up front with the people of Israel.  You do this, you reject me as your ruler, you make a mere human your king, then be aware that you will suffer the consequences.

 

By the way, all political structures and systems suffer from the same problem: the human nature of those in power.  Capitalism is a system where man exploits man.  In communism the reverse was supposed to be true, but as it turns out, it still meant that humans exploited other humans.   

 

Cynics have explained every form of government with cows.  You’re probably familiar with some if not all of these.

 

Communism: You own two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a place with everyone else’s cows.  You take care of the cows.  The government takes all milk and gives you back enough to survive.  You steal back as much milk as you can and sell it on the black market.   

 

Capitalism:  You own two cows.  You sell one and buy a bull.

 

Monarchy:  You own two cows.  The king takes one, and you have to give him 80% of the milk from the other.

 

By the way, if you’re politically correct, you never own two cows.  Instead you are associated with two bovines of a non-specific gender

 

The whole premise of democracy is that humans are inherently corrupt and greedy, so the common people need to be protected as much as possible from the ruling elite. 

 

But even in democracies, because the primary goal of any political party is to stay in power, not to actually do what’s right, election promises are somewhat of a sham.

 

Some of you may remember back to 1993 when the Reform Party members advocated cuts to MP’s gold-plated pensions.  52 Reform MP’s opted out of it in protest.  Ironically, all of them opted back into the pensions after a short time, with the notable exception of Preston Manning and one other Reform Party MP.  

 

Maybe you will remember the election promises of the liberal party prior to the 2015 national elections.  Senate reform.  Free votes in parliament.[2]  Cutting taxes and curbing government spending.  Election reform.  More open and transparent government.  Revamping Bill C-51 because of all the potential problems associated with it.  Extra funding for public transport.  Decreased annual deficits.   

 

None of that has materialized, in fact, the very opposite has been true.  Bill C-51 was passed un-amended.  Deficits are rising.  No meaningful senate and election reforms took place.  You get the picture. 

 

And it isn’t that the Liberal party is in any way different from any other political party when it comes to honouring its election promises.

 

Human nature is prone to corruption – and politicians will always be tempted to leave their personal convictions behind in order to be re-elected or move beyond being a sidelined backbencher.

 

So it wasn’t as if the leaders, the elders, of Israel weren’t warned about the consequences of having a king.  So we continue to read in 1 Sam 8:19

 

19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel.  "No!" they said. "There will be a king over us, 20 so that we will be like all the other nations, with a king to judge us and to go out before us and fight our battles."  21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before YHWH.  22 YHWH answered, "Listen to them and give them a king."

 

This is the second time that the elders of Israel told Samuel that they wanted a king because they wanted to be like the nations that surrounded them.  They had no desire to be God’s chosen people any longer.  They no longer needed judges who are appointed by God.  It was OK to bypass Samuel in favour of those who would take advantage of them. 

 

So the elders of the nation of Israel wanted their nation to be more like the kingdoms surrounding them.  I pondered the reason for this desire to be out from under God’s rule ... what is the root cause?  I thought that maybe it had to do with the underlying worry that being under God’s rule will may mean missing out on what others are enjoying.

 

  • What potential benefits are we missing out on with God and not a human king to rule over us? 

  • Will that give us greater freedom? 

  • Will it make our courts more liberal? 

  • Will the king take responsibility for potentially bad choices?

  • Will it make my life easier? 

  • What are other people (nations) doing and experiencing and enjoying that I’m not? 

 

The problem was that NOT having kings was actually to the benefit of the nation.  Being a monarchy didn’t bring with it any true bonus points, but many, many negative ones. 

 

But Christians can get FOMO as well.  They can ask themselves:

 

  • If I follow God’s rule, His will, then what desires will I not be able to fulfill? 

  • Will the selfish and self-centered choices I want to make be frowned upon by God? 

  • Are the retaliatory or hurtful words I want to say not OK with him?   

 

Back in 2010, a book came out called “Almost Christian:  What the faith of our teenagers is telling the American church”.

 

In the book, the author writes about the fact that most youth in churches actually believe a mutated form of Christianity. 

 

God is no longer the unimaginably awesome creator of the universe, but is reduced to a divine therapist whose only concern is to have people feel good and be happy.  God is a safe God because he would never ask for any kind of sacrifice or risk. 

 

According to the author or the book, the result is that most teens in The Western church are indifferent and inarticulate about their faith.  There simply isn’t enough for them to be passionate about. 

 

Further, this kind of faith has been modeled to them by adult Christians, in particular their own parents, who basically live self-serving lives where faith in God has little significant impact.  The parents and their youth are in fact pagan Christians

 

Maybe that is one of the main reasons why people don’t want God to be the king of their lives.  They only want to worship God as long as he doesn’t impact the way that they live
 

One of the most common concepts that Jesus spoke about was “the Kingdom of God,” the place where God is king, where God’s rule is established.

 

Over and over again, Jesus taught his followers about the nature of God’s Kingdom, God’s rule: 

 

  • Repent (turn around) for the kingdom of God is near (Mark 1:15). - Get right with God, because God’s rule will soon be initiated.

  • [If I cast out demons using God’s finger, then God’s Kingdom has come upon you (Luke 11:20).]  Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:21)]. - God’s rule, his kingdom begins within us.

  • Pray:  Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matt 6:10). - May your rule, O God, be manifested perfectly in my own life and in the lives of others who follow you.

  • Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness ....  Instead of being so concerned about externals, I need to be concerned the most about seeking to have God’s rule and his will established in my life.

  • Not everyone will enter the Kingdom of God, but only the one who does the will of my heavenly Father.

  • Only the one born of water and Spirit can enter the kingdom of God.

  • Jesus: I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God (Luke 4:43).

 

Looking back on history today, whenever we speak or think of the good news, it is very likely revolving around what the death of Jesus accomplished for us and for humanity in general.  

 

But many of these passages are speaking of a good news that was proclaimed prior the suffering and death of Jesus.   

 

Jesus preached the good news of God’s kingdom and he sent out his followers, his students to proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom, years before his death.[3]  

 

Jesus called his own message about the KG “good news”[4] (Luke 4:43) and, quoting from Isaiah 61:1, he said that he has come to proclaim the good news to the poor.

 

So what did they speak about?  What was so good about the message about God’s rule, God’s kingdom?  (That God’s Messiah would return soon and inaugurate the rule of God on earth?)

 

Getting back to the point Jesus made about the fact that the Kingdom of God, the rule of God, can already be a present reality when God is made the ruler of our lives.  In order to take that step, trust is needed.  Without trust, there will be all kinds of reasons to deny God access into our lives and hearts.

 

WHY I DON’T WANT GOD TO RULE MY LIFE:

 

Most people reject God, not because there is no evidence for his existence, but because they don’t want to be miss out - FOMO. 

 

They don’t trust that God always has their best interests in mind. 

 

Those who don’t make God king, don’t want to live in a universe governed by God because that would mean that God could interfere in the choices they make – he would be, to quote Al Gore – “an inconvenient truth.” 

 

It is a great solace to some, that they won’t be judged for their lies, greed, cowardice and betrayals.  If you really want badly enough not to believe, you will find a way not to.  God may be the king of the universe, but he will not be the king of your life.

 

Having God as king means adopting an internal set of standards to live by.  You make a decision about your sexual standards before you’re in the back seat of a car. 

 

Having God as king means that it is more important to us to please him than to be popular or have our self-esteem determined by doing things others tell us to do.  If we don’t, we will be very apt to do nearly anything a group of our friends tell us to do in order to feel accepted. 

 

Having God as King means that we recognize that happiness is a decision about enjoying the moment, not something to be achieved by increasing our money, possessions, leisure or pleasure. 

 

Having God as king is practicing our ability of self-discipline.  It is putting important decisions on hold, praying about them, thinking them through, and asking ourselves whether or not this is really something we should be doing or buying or saying. 

 

Those who have God as king learn to say “no” to themselves.  They learn to delay gratification.  Otherwise they will continue to serve their emotions and feelings and desires. 

 

Having God as King means that we try to live a balanced life

 

Most of us have a hard time to do it all on any given day – exercise, have a quiet time, keep the house clean, mow the yard, run the kids to sports, date our mate, work and balance the cheque book.  But we can shoot for a weekly balance. 

 

And that means learning to say “no” to interruptions, to the temptation to procrastinate, to others pushing their agenda on us.  It is being able to connect with God despite our business because we have learned to set priorities. 

 

Having God as King means getting beyond our tendency to be self-centered and make all of our decisions based on what we want.  If we don’t get beyond ourselves we will never know what it means to have God as King.  History is full of stories of people who made it big but failed to make it good. 

 

In our journey with God, money tends to be the final frontier, the last thing we actually give over to him, because it most closely represents the seat of our priorities and it has the power to control our destinies.  Some people call God their king, but really they are addicted to and serve money. 

 

Having God as king, means accepting the forgiveness he offers so that we can overcome the guilt associated with having done something wrong.   It means confessing what we have done wrong, determining with the help of God to do better, apologize or make restitution where possible, and accept that justice has been served and that we can be forgiven through what God has done on our behalf through Jesus Christ.  When God is King and we accept forgiveness, then we move on, without constantly beating ourselves up. 

 

Having God as king means we invest time with our Creator because this simple action will help to bring direction and inner strength and change. 

 

And so, like the Israelites, each and every one of us will need to come to a point of decision.  Who will be King of our lives?  Will it be God?  Or will it be ourselves, our desires, money, power, entertainment, our career?  Who will we serve?  Will we be self-serving or, as Jesus said, will we serve God by showing compassion for those who have the least?

 

To paraphrase Joshua’s words to the Israelites:

 

 If you think that serving God isn’t desirable, that’s up to you.  Today, choose for yourself someone or something else to serve – to be your King.  But as for me and my household, we will serve God – he will be our king.   

Compare Joshua 24:15

 

Some people think that they only have to make that decision once in their lives.  I made a choice for God when I was 8 years old.  That’s wonderful, but putting God in control of our lives is a daily decision.  It is something that we have to decide on every day.  God is giving us that same challenge every day.  “This day, today, make a choice.  Choose a king for yourself.”  Figure out who will be in charge of your life.

 

IS GOD IN CHARGE OF MY LIFE?

IF NOT, WHAT IS THE REASON?

IS IT TIME TO MAKE A DECISION ABOUT REMOVING WHAT’S TAKEN HIS PLACE?

 

[1] Originally a water snake.

[2] Of course that does not include liberal platform issues, the budget, or anything to do with the Charter.

[3] Luke 9:2 - He sent them out to proclaim the KG and to heal the sick.  Matt 10:7; Luke 10:9 - Go preach this message, ‘the KG is near.’ 

[4] Luke 4:43; 8:1; cf. Matt 4:23; 9:35; - I must preach the good news of the KG