God has always been King.

This entry is part 1 of 20 in the series Virtue and Vice: Lessons from the Kings

On Wednesday nights, I will be leading my church through a series entitled “Virtue and Vice: Lessons from the Kings.” In this study, we will examine the kings of Israel, one by one. For this post, we will begin to lay the foundation for this study by examining God as King. After that, we will see His expectations for Israel’s kings in Deut 17:14–20.  Thereafter, our study will begin with Saul and end with Israel’s anticipation of the greatest King of all, our Lord Jesus Christ.

In response to Israel’s asking Samuel for a king, God told Samuel that Israel had rejected Him as King (1 Sam 8:7; cf. Judg 8:22–23; 1 Sam 10:19; 12:12). Israel had no formal, human king up to this point in her history. God had been her King.

Consider a few points as to the nature of His rule as King…1

  • God had always ruled as King over all beings, places, and things (1 Chron 29:12; Ps 103:19). His kingship is eternal (Ps 29:10; 145:13; Jer 10:10), and His creation carries on mostly by providence (Ps 148:8) but by occasional miracles as well (Dan 6:27; cf. Ps 135:6–9).
  • God may be internally accepted and verbally acknowledged as King (cf. Ps 44:4; 74:12; 84:2–3), but the existence of His kingship and kingdom does not depend upon the assent of men (cf. Ps 75:4–7). It is not that His kingdom lives in them but that they live within His kingdom (and hopefully happily so).
  • The kingdom of Israel and the church of Christ fall within this overarching universal kingdom of God.
  • Like His Father (1 Tim 1:17), the Son is over eternity (Isa 9:6) and is the great Administrator of this kingdom (Col 1:17; Heb 1:2), upholding all things by the power of His word (Heb 1:3; cf. Col 1:17). He shares the Father’s throne even now (Rev 3:21).

A Point of Application

Just as God identified Himself as Israel’s King then, so also King Jesus shares the throne with the Father even now. Let us take hope in what we see of Him with the eyes of our hearts and not repeat Israel’s mistake of putting our ultimate trust in someone we can presently see. No other king or ruler will do, and we will see our Lord soon!

  1. For this section, see Alva J. McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom (Winona Lake, IN; BMH Books, 1974), 22–36. []

Kingship in the OT Before Saul – God’s people need a perfect King.

This entry is part 2 of 20 in the series Virtue and Vice: Lessons from the Kings

Last week, we looked at how God is King over all. For human kings, consider how the concept of kingship played out before the kingship was formally installed for Israel.

  • At creation, Adam was given the dominion mandate to rule (Gen 1:26, 28). “Have dominion” is the same verb as “rule” (rdh) that is used of the Messiah in Ps 110:2.
  • After the fall, God restrained sin through His Spirit until His patience ran out and sent the Noahic flood (Gen 6:3).
  • After the flood, patriarchs functioned as local kings (e.g., Gen 14:17–24; Job 1:1–5; 42:7–9). God ruled by restraint again as well, but primarily through “ministers of God” (Rom 13:6) who had the right to kill those who had wrongfully killed others (Gen 9:6; cf. Rom 13:1–7).
  • After Israel’s bondage in Egypt, Moses was not a king but functioned as one in that “this man God sent…as ruler” over Israel to rescue her from Egypt and take her to the border of the Promised Land (Acts 7:35; cf. Exod 2:14). Joshua carried on the role of Moses after Moses’ death (Deut 31:14; Josh 1:5).
  • In the time of the judges, men were raised upon on occasion to provide relief from Israel’s enemies. However, they were neither kings nor increasingly righteous as the generations went by (Judg 8:23; 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25).

As repeatedly and increasingly disappointing as it was for the world and this period of history for Israel, God was providentially preserving the line of Judah for King Jesus to come (cf. Gen 49:10; Ruth 1:1; 4:18–22). Up this to this point in redemptive history is an obvious truth that we see as well today—no earthly ruler will ever rule as Jesus does and will in time to come. Only He is the perfect King who can perfectly lead God’s people.

Requirements for Israel’s Kings in the Mosaic Law

This entry is part 3 of 20 in the series Virtue and Vice: Lessons from the Kings

God anticipated Israel’s desire to be like the nations and would allow them to have a king in time (Deut 17:14–15). The requirements for this king were…

  1. The king had to be chosen by God (Deut 17:15).
  2. The king had to be an Israelite (Deut 17:15)
  3. The king needed to trust in God and not in resources such as horses (Deut 17:16).
  4. The king was not to acquire many wives for himself and thereby stray from God’s ideal for marriage (cf. Gen 2:24) and worship false gods (Deut 17:17; e.g., see Solomon in 1 Kgs 11:3–4). Such marriages were likely with foreign and idolatrous wives, made for political purposes.
  5. The king was to trust in God and not to greedily accumulate silver and gold and trust in earthly riches (Deut 17:17).
  6. The king was to somehow copy the Law, to be approved by the priests (Deut 17:18; cf. 1:5; 4:44; 27:3, 8, 26; 29:21, 29; 30:10; 31). This copy would be his guide for a humble, obedient, and consequently blessed rule over his fellow Israelites (Deut 17:19–20).

Underlined above, whether kings or not, we, too, must trust in God for His protection, seek His ideal for marriage (or any good thing He gives us), and trust in Him for His provision. We must follow His Word, humbly obey Him, and be grateful for whatever blessings come our way.

Of Whining and Warning: How Israel Got a King

This entry is part 4 of 20 in the series Virtue and Vice: Lessons from the Kings

In the previous posts in this series, we have seen God as King, the concept of kingship before kings, and what the Law said about kings. Now we can tape a step closer to looking at the kings themselves by looking at the backstory to how Israel came about getting her first king.

In rejecting Samuel’s wayward sons (1 Sam 8:1–3), Israel clamored for a king, which was idolatrous in the eyes of God (1 Sam 8:4–8). Samuel gave the Lord’s warning to Israel that a king would take the best of Israel’s children, land, crops, servants, animals, and thereby oppress the nation (1 Sam 8:9–18). Israel persisted in her rejection of God as king, however (1 Sam 8:19–22)

Though the above is a terribly brief run through 1 Sam 8, we can learn at least three lessons from this situation:

  • First, poor leadership can provoke a people to put up with an even worse solution.
  • Second, replacing someone known for evil with someone whose evil is not yet known is still no substitute for God.
  • Third, given the requirements for a king in Deut 17:14–20 and the warning of 1 Sam 8:10–18, we see what will be a lesson from the life of every king – no king would ever be better than the greater King to come. May we place our hope and trust in Him!

Lessons from Saul: Part 1

This entry is part 5 of 20 in the series Virtue and Vice: Lessons from the Kings

This post begins a brief look at Saul and some practical lessons we can learn from his record in Scripture.

In looking for his father’s donkeys (1 Sam 9:3–14), he found a kingdom instead (1 Sam 9:15–27). He was anointed, confirmed through signs, and prophesied by the Spirit (1 Sam 10:1–16).

In the greater context of Scripture, Saul was from Benjamin and not Judah who would ultimately hold the scepter (Gen 49:10; 1 Chron 8:1–40; 9:35–44; cf. 8:33; 9:39). Saul was denied the kingdom twice (1 Sam 13, 15) and was torn from the kingdom for this disobedience and consulting a witch (1 Chron 10:13–14). After his initial instances of disobedience and David’s anointing by Samuel, stories involving both Saul and David implied that David was obviously the better of the two. Whereas Saul was rejected as king, lost the Spirit, and tormented by an evil spirit, David was anointed as king, had the Spirit, and calmed Saul through his music (1 Sam 16:1–23). Whereas Saul stood back and watched, David went out and slew Goliath (1 Sam 17:1–58).

It seemed that Israel got what she wanted—a king right then and there. He was even handsome, tall, and from a wealthy family (1 Sam 9:1–2). However, Israel’s timing was not God’s timing, and God had another man who would replace a disobedient Saul in time—someone after His own heart, better than Saul, and not evaluated by the standards of men (1 Sam 13:14; 15:28; 16:7).

Lessons from Saul

First, don’t demand something from God before He means to give it. You might get something you don’t want. Israel could have had a good David without having had a wicked Saul.

Second, don’t ruin a good thing when you have it. Saul just had to obey, and God would have blessed him and the kingdom. But he didn’t, and his rule became a mess.

Third, expect the unexpected. Neither Saul nor David were vying for a throne. Saul was looking for donkeys, and David was tending his sheep. But God made kings out of both.

Lessons from Saul: Part 2

This entry is part 6 of 20 in the series Virtue and Vice: Lessons from the Kings

Continuing a look at Saul, for all of Saul’s faults, he was certainly courageous. Notice these examples:

  • After being announced as king, Saul routed the Ammonites by the Spirit of God working in him to rally Israel against them. Saul was confirmed and celebrated as king in Gilgal (1 Sam 11:1–15).
  • His son Jonathan overtook a garrison, leading to Philistine confusion and Israeli momentum, which Saul gladly joined (1 Sam 14:1–23).
  • Despite having an army whose weaponry consisted of farming implements (13:15b–22), Saul fought hard with strong men to secure many victories for Israel (14:47–52).
  • David’s lament for Saul and Jonathan called them mighty, swift, and strong (2 Sam 1:19, 23, 25)

Lessons from King Saul

From the above, we can learn many things, but here are at least two lessons we can learn from the courage of King Saul:  

First, Saul’s experience of the Spirit was notably different than ours today, but the Spirit still had a sanctifying effect when He was at work in him. For whatever sinful habits we have, if the Spirit is at work in us, we will bear fruit to some degree. But note—that does not mean that success in men’s eyes can ever justify somebody’s glaring sins.

Second, if Jephthah and Samson made it into the Hall of Faith despite their sins (Heb 11:32), perhaps Saul had faith as well. Whereas Samson’s life ended with a prayer (Judg 16:28–30), however, Saul’s life ended in judgment with God as his enemy after consulting a witch (1 Sam 28:15–19; 1 Chron 10:13–14). Who knows if we shall meet him in heaven one day?

Lessons from Saul: Part 3

This entry is part 7 of 20 in the series Virtue and Vice: Lessons from the Kings

Now that Saul was king, Samuel admonished Israel one last time to be a faithful nation with a faithful king (1 Sam 12:1–25). However, Saul was like the judges, foolish, and often faithless.

Saul was sometimes like the judges.
Saul was timid like Gideon (Judg 6–9 with 1 Sam 10:17–27), rash like Jephthah (Judg 11 with 1 Sam 14:14–26), and lost the Spirit and died by suicide like Samson (Judg 16 with 1 Sam 16:14; 31).

Saul was sometimes foolish.
Saul ordered his men not to eat after a minor victory, resulting in Israel’s overall victory not being what it could have been (1 Sam 14:24–46).

Saul was often disobedient.
Saul offered Samuel’s sacrifice and was told his kingdom would not continue as a result (13:1–15a). He disobeyed Samuel’s command to destroy everything and everyone among the Amelekites, and his kingdom was again rejected (1 Sam 15:1–34; cf. 15:10, 26, 28, 35). Saul became increasingly aggressive towards David and increasingly sinful in his actions and turned to a witch in the end (1 Sam 18:6–16; 19:8–24; 22:6–23; 23:1–14, 15–29; 24:1–22; 26:1–25; 28:14–25).

Lessons from King Saul

First, Saul feared the worst and hastily offered Samuel’s sacrifice. Obedience to God’s Word is always better than taking matters into one’s own hands, even when under pressure (cf. 1 Sam 13).

Second, Saul’s spoils of war were to have been destroyed. God did not need them for a sacrifice. There is no such thing as well-intended disobedience (cf. 1 Sam 15).

Third, Saul was a sinner, as were all the kings. Nobody but the Son of God can be a king who brings about a kingdom that looks like Revelation 21–22.

Lessons from Saul: Part 4

This entry is part 8 of 20 in the series Virtue and Vice: Lessons from the Kings

In this fourth post on Saul, we see that Saul became increasingly aggressive towards David and increasingly sinful in his actions.

  • Saul’s jealousy moved him to try to spear David twice (1 Sam 18:6–16; cf. 18:15).
  • Saul let David marry Michal for the price of 100 Philistine foreskins, hoping he would be killed along the way (1 Sam 18:17–30; cf. 18:29–30).
  • Saul broke his oath to not kill David and tried to spear him again, take him from his bed, and catch him at Ramah where God had him prophesy instead (1 Sam 19:1–24).
  • Saul had all priests, people, and livestock killed at Nob because of their help to David (1 Sam 22:6–23; cf. 21:1–9).
  • Saul continually searched in vain for David (1 Sam 23:1–14).
  • Jonathan spoke peace and covenanted with David again at Horesh. Then in Maon, Saul sought David, was on the other side of mountain, and almost caught him (1 Sam 23:15–29).
  • David repaid Saul’s evil with good by sparing his life on multiple occasions (1 Sam 24:1–22; 26:1–25).
  • Only when David went to Gath and was out of Saul’s reach did Saul pursue him no longer (1 Sam 27:1–12).
  • Saul consulted a witch (1 Sam 28:14–25).

Lessons from King Saul

First, Saul was ruthless and irrational in pursuing David in order to retain his kingdom. Jealousy can lead a man to become exceedingly and tyrannically wicked.

Second, David could have killed Saul multiple times and was almost killed himself multiple times. But, God had promised Him a kingdom, and David knew not to take the matter into his own hands. God is always faithful to His promises.

Third, Jonathan reminded David of his coming kingdom. Sometimes God uses others to encourage us in difficult times.

Lessons from Saul: Part 5

This entry is part 9 of 20 in the series Virtue and Vice: Lessons from the Kings

With one last look at Saul, these notes are somewhat scattered and more or less center on the death of Saul. His death seemed to be foreshadowed, was prophesied, took place, and was given a commentary after the fact.

  • David spared Nabal at Abigail’s request, but God killed him ten days later. Perhaps Nabal foreshadows Saul, especially in view of Abigail’s speech (1 Sam 25:26, 28–31).
  • Samuel rebuked Saul for his use of a witch to call him up and foretold the death of Saul and his sons to be the next day (1 Sam 28:15–25).
  • At Gilboa (cf. 1 Sam 28:4), Saul, his sons, his armor-bearer, and all his men died on the same day. Cities were abandoned, and the bodies of Saul and his sons were desecrated, recovered, burned, and buried (1 Sam 31:1–13). This record is repeated in 1 Chron 10:1–12.
  • 1 Chron 10:13–14 comments that this death and loss of the kingdom was for his disobedience and seeking guidance from a medium.

Lessons from King Saul

Saul was impatient for a sacrifice and eventually consulted a witch. He died soon after the second of these sins. The first and third of this saying came true in his life: “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.” “Evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse” (2 Tim 3:13), and “An evil man is ensnared in his transgression” (Prov 29:6).

If David was anointed in 1022 BC and became king after Saul’s death in 1010 BC, he waited 12 years for his kingdom. Sometimes God has us wait for good things. For Saul, “One’s pride will bring him low,” and for David, “but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor” (Prov 29:23).

Virtue and Vice: Lessons from the Kings: David, Part 1

This entry is part 10 of 20 in the series Virtue and Vice: Lessons from the Kings

The life of David is covered in 1 Sam 16–31,  2 Sam 1–24, 1 Kgs 1–2, and 1 Chron 11–29, 61 chapters in all, which is over 5% of the Bible’s 1,189 chapters. Add his 73 psalms to this number (now 134 chapters), and David is the author or focus of 11.3% of the Bible’s chapters. Likewise, Moses is the author and focus of 188 chapters, 15.8% of the Bible’s chapters.  Only Jesus enjoys more of a focus in the Bible as it is Him to whom the OT points (in part through the life of David) and about Him that the NT records, explains, and anticipates.

In covering many themes from David’s life, the first we will explore is David’s Succession to King Saul (1 Sam 16–31). Though anointed but not yet king, David served and then ran from Saul. Others accepted David as king, including Saul’s son Jonathan.

Within 1 Sam 16–31, we see the sub-theme that David was better than Saul. David was shown to be, as God said to Saul, “better than you” (1 Sam 15:28; cf. 13:14; 16:7; 24:71; 28:17), meaning one who had a heart to obey the Lord. Though chosen by Samuel to replace Saul as king (1 Sam 16:1–13), David found himself under Saul for a time, showing him to be better than his predecessor in multiple ways:

  1. He had the Spirit and calmed Saul’s harmful spirit (1 Sam 16:13–23).
  2. He fought Goliath while Saul watched on (1 Sam 17:1–58).
  3. Saul tried to kill David, but the Lord made David successful (1 Sam 18:6–16).
  4. Though Saul married off Merab and tried to kill off David by having him kill Philistines, David persevered and married Michal (1 Sam 18:17–30).
  5. David repaid Saul’s evil with good by sparing his life in a cave in Engedi, took only a part of his robe, and swore that he would not cut off Saul’s offspring. Saul left (1 Sam 24:1–22).
  6. pursued again by Saul, David took his spear and water jug, returned to his camp, and spoke with Saul from a distance. Saul acknowledged his sin and left (1 Sam 26:1–25).
  7. While willing to fight and keep his alliance with Achish, David was providentially hindered from fighting Saul by the mistrust of the Philistines and having to rescue his people and possessions from the Amalekites who attacked Ziklag in his absence (1 Sam 28:1–30:31). It was here that many men joined to David (1 Chron 12:1–22).

From these examples, we learn some easily stated yet invaluable lessons from David:

  1. God knows our hearts.
  2. God rewards those who set their hearts after His own.
  3. We express a heart matched to His own through faithfulness to Him.

May we keep these truths in mind and live as David did, one whose faithfulness stemmed from a heart that followed after God’s own.