Summary: We need to be careful of what we ask for. When we ask for things of this world we just might get them. But, if we place God first we will have live that are truly touched and blessed.
I remember one Sunday several years ago, just a couple of years after I went into the ministry. It had been raining non-stop for a couple of days. I was appointed, at that time, in farm country. Those folks are always praying for rain. My phone had rung all morning with people calling to tell me about this member or that member who wouldn’t be coming to church that morning. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to come. They couldn’t come. They lived on the opposite side of any one of several creeks in the area and most of those creeks had risen out of their banks. The bridges that crossed those creeks were made of wood and when a creek with a wooden bridge floods, the bridges will sometimes float away. And the rains continued to fall. It gave a very literal meaning to the old cliché, “If the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise.”
As I opened the service that morning with a very small crowd, I said in jest, “Whoever of you has been praying for rain can stop now, your prayer has been answered abundantly.”
At times we are tempted to pray for things and yet we don’t stop to think through the things that we are praying for. I have always been told that we should never pray for patience because if we do, God will test that patience. If you believe that, it too shows we have to be careful what we ask for. All too often we don’t think through the things that we ask for. We ask for things we think we need and we think we want, without thinking through the potential repercussions of such a request. In other words, all too often, we think we know best, we think we know better than God. In every case, we are wrong.
The Israelites were in that mode in this morning’s lesson. If you think about it, it is not hard to see what they must have felt like. Enemies were all around them and they had no clear visible leader, at least not a military one. They must have felt threatened and without question they were very insecure. For those of us who need to feel organized, they looked out at the Philistines and saw organization and then looked at themselves and they were scared. What they wanted was to feel safe and secure and they believed that would come from having a clear, visible leader. It wasn’t that God wasn’t doing the job, it was that they wanted something more than a God they couldn’t see.
Any time we humans feel a need in our lives, our natural reaction is to try to take matters in our own hands. And, that is just what the Israelites wanted to do. They felt much safer when they looked at the world and saw a real-live breathing human being in control. Throughout the history of the creation we humans have looked past God for worldly answer to solve all of our problems.
If we look at the Biblical witness we can see that again and again, even before this story. Adam and Eve didn’t trust God. Instead they wanted to be like God. In the story of Abraham and Sarah, Abraham, not once but twice, when threatened tried to pass Sarah off as his sister instead of his wife. He took matters into his own hands and as a result he experienced some pretty disastrous results.
Later, after God has led the Israelites out of bondage, when Moses, the recognized leader isn’t there, the people stop trusting in God and begin to look with longing back to the leadership of Pharaoh, the same guy who oppressed them. We are always looking for ways to take control of things ourselves. We don’t want to let God be in charge.
In our lesson, the Israelites wanted and asked for a king to be placed over them. Samuel tries to persuade them against it, but they wouldn’t listen to him. They wanted what they perceived was safety and security and were perfectly willing to sacrifice to get it. They were placing their trust in the things of the world.
We often want something in life, something more than what we have. It could be power, money, things or even security and order. And, it is interesting what we will do or what we will sacrifice in order to get what we want.
The emperor Nero searched for happiness in the things of this world. He reveled in earthly possessions and set his heart on them. From his splendid throne as the ruler of the Roman Empire, he commanded that gorgeous porches a mile long be built around the palace. The ceiling of his banquet hall was equipped at great expense with hidden showers that lightly sprayed perfume upon all who came to visit him. His crown alone was worth more than a half million dollars. His mules were shod in silver. Whenever he traveled, a thousand chariots accompanied him, and he refused to sear the same garment twice no matter how costly or beautiful it was. Taxing the people unmercifully, he was able to pay extravagant sums of money to anyone who could devise new methods of entertaining him. Yet with all his riches and splendor he was a peevish, gloomy, dissatisfied man. The immense wealth he had amassed could not satisfy him Placing the importance of his life with the things of the world, he would never find satisfaction and Nero died at his own hand.