“Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
‘Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us.’ ”
When Israel demanded that they have a king so that they could be like the nations around them, they were at the time being guided by the wisdom of Samuel, who himself was in direct communication with divine power and being guided by the Holy Spirit.
Samuel was growing old, and his sons that he had appointed as judges, according to 1 Samuel 8:3, “did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice.”
As a result, “all the elders of Israel gathered together … and said to him [Samuel], ‘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’ ” (veres 4, 5).
Note that there was ostensibly a two-fold reason for their request. First, they did not think that there was anyone as capable as Samuel to replace him. Second, they wanted to be “like all the nations.”
Neither of these reasons was really justified. First, had they trusted fully in God, they would have trusted that He would supply capable and wise guidance after Samuel could no longer lead them. It had not been that long since the Lord removed the corrupt sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, from the scene. In addition, there were many other instances in which the Lord had interceded to correct the ill intentions of those working against His will. Surely they could remember the fate of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, or the affliction of Miriam, or the way the Lord thwarted the efforts of Balaam to curse their ancestors. They had both oral and written history of these evidences of God’s watch-care over them.
Second, the Lord had made it abundantly clear that they were to be guided by His chosen vessels. Experience should have made them realize that God is too wise to err and too good to withhold any good thing from them that walk uprightly. This is an instance in which the best thing that God wanted for His children—leadership and guidance by a wise and divinely inspired judge—was thwarted by their perverted idea of leadership. So, God allowed them the second best alternative—the desire of their misguided hearts.
Third, they had the wonderful promises that God had given them through Moses, recorded in Deuteronomy 7, particularly verses 6–9:
“ ‘For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.’ ”
What was actually occurring when the people made their demand for a king? Scripture tells us in 1 Samuel 8:7, “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.’ ”
This is not the only instance in which God’s people rejected God’s representatives and, in so doing, rejected Him. Take for example when, during their wilderness wanderings, the Israelites rose up against Moses, failing to recognize that Moses was merely executing the divine instructions he had received from the Lord. By rejecting his leading, they were in reality rejecting the Lord.
Very early in their wanderings, the Israelites began reviling Moses and Aaron, wanting to return to Egypt, their unbelief causing them to fear that they would die of starvation.
The full story is in Exodus 16. Shortly after the Lord had made possible their release from Egyptian slavery, enabled their safe crossing of the Red Sea, and sweetened the waters at Marah—three miracles that should have been sufficient to instill unshakable faith in God’s leading, protection, and provision—the children of Israel manifested a complete failure of trust.
“And the children of Israel said to them [Moses and Aaron], ‘Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger’ ” (Exodus 16:3).
Moses responded, “ ‘In the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord; for He hears your complaints against the Lord. But what are we, that you complain against us?’ … This shall be seen when the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening, and in the morning bread to the full; for the Lord hears your complaints which you make against Him. And what are we? Your complaints are not against us but against the Lord” (verses 7, 8).
In response, the Lord, yielding to their perverted appetites and unfounded fears, gave them what they wanted: “I have heard the complaints [murmurings] of the children of Israel. Speak to them, saying, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. And you shall know that I am the lord your God.’ So it was that quails came up at evening and covered the camp, and in the morning the dew lay all around the camp” (verses 12, 13).
Even as the miracles multiplied, the Israelites continued their murmuring. David wrote of their condition in Psalm 81:11–13: “But My people would not heed My voice, and Israel would have none of Me. So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels. Oh, that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways!”
Centuries later, when the One who had led them by the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night appeared in person, the situation was the same, so much so that Christ—that wise and mighty leader during their wilderness wanderings—exclaimed, “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! … He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me” (Luke 10:13, 16).
We are given examples of the continued rejection of the Author of our salvation throughout Scripture, but the most amazing examples are in the four gospels, when Christ was manifested in the flesh and giving irrefutable evidence of His divinity. Even after that most undeniable and indisputable miracle of Christ’s tenure on earth, the raising of Lazarus from the dead, the reaction of the religious leaders was not to embrace Jesus as the miracle-working Messiah, but rather to seek to kill not only the Miracle Worker but to kill the object of the miracle as well.
It is interesting to note that during the wilderness wanderings, the religious leaders, Moses and Aaron, were the faithful ones, while the masses were the doubters and unbelievers. By the time of Christ’s incarnation, the roles had reversed. The religious leaders, the scribes and the Pharisees, were the unbelievers and the common people were the ones who, at least at times, recognized Christ as the Messiah.
Is it possible today, as we near the meeting of time and eternity, that both the people and the religious leaders are rejecting Christ and His leadership by rejecting and persecuting those who choose to walk the narrow way? Prophecy predicts such.
“Never is the tempest-tried soul more dearly loved by his Saviour than when he is suffering reproach for the truth’s sake. When for the truth’s sake the believer stands at the bar of unrighteous tribunals, Christ stands by his side. All the reproaches that fall upon the human believer fall upon Christ in the person of His saints. ‘I will love him,’ said Christ, ‘and will manifest Myself to him’ (John 14:21). Christ is condemned over again in the person of His believing disciples.
“When for the truth’s sake the believer is incarcerated in prison walls, Christ manifests Himself to him, and ravishes his heart with His love. When he suffers death for the sake of Christ, Christ says to him, ‘They may kill the body, but they cannot hurt the soul’ (Matthew 10:28). ‘Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33). ‘They crucified Me, and if they put you to death, they crucify Me afresh in the person of My saints.’ ” Selected Messages, Book 3, 420, 421.
Persecution of Christ’s followers to the point of death is not the only way that Christ is rejected. Time and time again we are told in inspired writings of the rejection of Christ by the rejection of His representatives. Note this counsel we are lovingly given to provide reassurance to those who are experiencing rejection and disdain, even within their own family, often resulting, unfortunately, in dissuading the faithful one from following the path of truth and righteousness.
“Jesus says, ‘He that loveth father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me, is not worthy of Me. And he that taketh not up his cross and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me. He that findeth his life, shall lose it, and he that loseth his life for My sake shall find it’ (Matthew 10:37, 38). The words that Christ addressed to His disciples were addressed to us as well as to them. He presents before us the unwearied conflict that we must have on this earth as long as time shall last. We are to place no person before Christ in our affections. If a person who has been convicted by the Spirit of God smothers his convictions, and continues to trample underfoot the commandments of the Lord, and reject the truth of God simply because he sees it will bring disunion into his family relations, he shows that he loves the peace that is not of Christ, but of the world. He prefers to be in harmony with the world rather than to be in unity with Christ. But in order to have the peace of Christ, it is necessary to place Christ and His service first. Those who yield their convictions of truth to please father or mother, sister or brother, husband or wife or children, prove themselves unworthy of Christ. They do not discern His excellency, and therefore they shun the cross. But there is a cross to be lifted by every one who by faith accepts a crucified and risen Saviour.” The Bible Echo, March 19, 1894.
When we review the history of God’s people and their rejection of their divinely inspired leaders and prophets, we tend to shake our head in disbelief. We ask ourselves, “How could they have been so unbelieving?” Inspiration answers that question.
“I saw that many who profess to believe the truth for these last days think it strange that the children of Israel murmured as they journeyed; that after the wonderful dealings of God with them, they should be so ungrateful as to forget what He had done for them. Said the angel: ‘Ye have done worse than they.’ I saw that God has given His servants the truth so clear, so plain, that it cannot be resisted. Wherever they go, they have certain victory. Their enemies cannot get round the convincing truth. Light has been shed so clear that the servants of God can stand up anywhere and let truth, clear and connected, bear away the victory. This great blessing has not been prized, or even realized. If any trial arises, some begin to look back and think they have a hard time. Some of the professed servants of God do not know what purifying trials are. They sometimes make trials for themselves, imagine trials, and are so easily discouraged, so easily hurt, self-dignity is so quick to feel, that they injure themselves, injure others, and injure the cause. Satan magnifies their trials and puts thoughts into their minds that if given way to, will destroy their influence and usefulness.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 129.
Chapter 23 of Christ’s Object Lessons deals with the parable of the wicked vinedressers, who not only killed the servants which the Landowner sent to receive the fruit of the vineyard, but killed the Landowner’s Son as well. The point of the story is not necessarily the greed of the vinedressers, but rather their refusal to submit to the authority of the Landowner. That point is made clear in this statement from page 293: “Christ, the Beloved of God, came to assert the claims of the Owner of the vineyard; but the husbandmen treated Him with marked contempt, saying, We will not have this man to rule over us.”
Are we, in our self-indulgence, saying the same thing as the wicked vinedressers? The fate of those rebellious unbelievers is clear in the parable, and we have their example to show us the results of rebellion and unbelief.
Let us determine here and now that we will indeed let this Man rule over us, regardless of the attitude of family and friends, and obey His commandments, precepts, and testimonies so that our walk on the narrow way, rugged and trying though it may be, will result in the final victory that is promised to the trusting and faithful, who by faith, accept our crucified and risen Saviour.
All Bible quotes NKJV unless otherwise noted.
John R. Pearson is the office manager and a board member of Steps to Life. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.