The Real Issue

It’s easy for me to be hard on the Israelites. I mean, they’re kinda like the byword for “awful people who are terrible at serving God basically always” in Christian circles. They worked pretty hard for that status it seems, too. 

When I peruse the Old Testament stories (as I’m increasingly addicted to doing), I just wait for them to show up and ruin everything. God humbles the Pharaoh and delivers millions? Yeah, but they’ll freak out when they hit water, completely forgetting those ten crazy events He just did. God provides food and water in the desert? Yeah, but like…Egypt had leeks and onions and stuff, so. God sends a prophet to warn them about impending doom? Nah, let’s just lock the guy up because “he keeps being so negative” and we’re about positivity. 

I’m in 1 Samuel 8 in my dark o’thirty reading time. It’s that chapter where the Israelites demand a king. See, Samuel has brought such peace and stability to Israel, it’s almost like they’re bored. Apparently Samuel didn’t take Eli’s experience to heart, and his sons are very unlike Samuel and very like Hophni and Phineas. The Israelites then take this opportunity to propose a revamp of the entire government. Still, they betray themselves: they say, ‘give us a king so that we may be like the other nations.’

When I first read this, my mind went the predictable and extremely important route: it’s like nationalistic peer pressure. They want to lose their holy abnormality and become like the very nations who should actually be inspired to be like the Israelites instead. Help me be different, Lord, because that’s the point. 

But that’s not where my mind went this morning. Demanding a king is frustrating, even insulting, but like…what’s Israel’s deal? Why do they always do this? More specifically, why is God and His goodness never enough for them? Why must they always demand something else? It’s not even something more sometimes; it’s just something else

I’d like to blame others for why I resonate with this struggle so much; their complaining brainwashes me! I wish. Even if their complaining makes mine worse, I was a complainer far before. 

Let your conduct be without covetousness. Be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you. So we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, I will not fear. What can man do to me? Hebrews 13:5-6.

Godliness with contentment is great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6.

That last verse is swiftly followed by the assertion that if we have food and clothes, we should be content. Sounds a bit dramatic, right?

The root of all of Israel’s issues was, yes, sin; but I’d condense it into discontent. Ungratefulness. Just as it can be a habitual turning of the mind, so can gratefulness. I haven’t mastered it myself, but I’ve met it mastered in others. The kind of other where complaining isn’t a strained silence but a genuine posture of the heart. 

Lord Jesus, please help me to be content where I am, with what I have, and with what I’m doing.