The Manner of the King
William Trew, Cardiff
In our last article we considered the character of the rule of Saul, and showed that he exemplified a principle of human rule, which, when established in authority in the hearts of the people of God. involves the complete repudiation of God's will.
We have to consider now the disastrous results of this for God’s people, as these are illustrated in the history of Israel, “written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come.” (I Cor. 10. 11 R.V.)
1 The Enslavement of the People.
God was careful to make self-deception, on the part of the elders of the people, almost impossible. He instructed Samuel to make known to them “the manner of the king” of their own choosing, that they might make their final choice in the clearest light possible (ch. 8. 7-9). Warned that they were courting a despotism, the yoke of which would become intolerable, and the shackles of which they would be unable to break (ch. 8. 10-18), they yet were adamant, and the people whose King was Jehovah, rejected His rule of blessing and peace, and deliberately placed themselves under the yoke of bondage (ch.8:l9-20)
Ideally, the king in Israel was set in responsibility as the leader of the people of God, to act among them as the Minister and Viceroy of God, and to guide the steps of the people in the ways of God for His pleasure and praise. David was such a ruler and guide; but Saul was of a different type, and the consequences of his misrule could not be other than disastrous.
The principle illustrated above is applied by the apostle in 1 Peter 5. 1—4. Overseers are the gifts of the ascended Lord to the assembly, qualified by the Holy Spirit for their work of leadership; and are responsible to God for the administration of His rule among the saints, to guide their steps in His ways, themselves walking therein as governed by the Word of God; the living embodiment in character and walk of all that God desires every saint to be. The overseer, therefore, must not be selfwilled (Titus 1. 7) If there was no possibility of this, there would be no necessity for the exhortation. Yet in how many instances there has been, in fact on the part of leaders, an exercise of selfwill, a repudiation of the Will of God; a directing of the steps of saints into ways that are contrary to the Word; and a consequent enslavement of God's people to human rule. Out of this has risen the Nicolaitane “rule over the people” to which we referred in our last article, the fully ripe fruit of which is seen in popery, and the evil principle of which is exemplified in other centres than Rome, and in other systems than the papacy. Wherever the consciences of the people of God are not governed by the word of God, and they are hindered from doing what they have learned to be the Will of the Lord because of human rules there is the rule of Saul with all its terrible results.
2. Robbed of their Inheritance.
Amongst those who seceded from the sphere of Saul’s rule and came to David in Adullam, was “everyone that was in distress, and everyone that was in debt, and everyone that was discontented.” (I Sam. 22. 2).
We may ask, “Why had they been reduced to such straits, so that they were now bankrupt and bitter of soul?” The answer is found in 1 Sam. 8. 10—18. They had been robbed of their inheritance, upon the possession of which their wealth depended. In the kingdom of Saul, and in that which answers to it today, poverty abounds. Only where the rule of God is acknowledged is there an abundance of wealth (1 Chron. 28. 14—18; 29. I—9), out of which saints of God in spiritual exercise, can give to God for the servicing of His Sanctuary. What a mine of spiritual treasure is the sacred scriptures! But this wealth is made available to us only when our hearts set a true value upon it, and when we seek it that we might use it for God.
“My son, if thou wilt receive My words, and hide My commandments with thee, ... if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding: if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasure; then shall thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God” (Prov. 2. 1-6). Alas! how many of God's children are found where human rule has displaced the rule of God: His word is neglected; and truth revealed in the Scriptures is not obeyed. The inevitable result is spiritual poverty; the people of God have been robbed of their inheritance as far as their present enjoyment of it is concerned. Spiritually wealthy we can never be, unless the Word is made our constant study, and is authoritative for every step of the path as we journey to our Heavenly Home
We have only space left to draw attention to one other disastrous result for the people of God, of Saul's misrule
3. The Destruction of the Priesthood.
“When Saul enquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets” (1 Sam. 28. 6). By his massacre of the priestly family, (ch. 22), Saul cut off with a violent hand all that yet linked him with God and the Sanctuary. Long before, for all practical purposes, he had lost Samuel because of his strong rebellion against God and his disobedience to the command of God (ch. 15. 35). Now he has reached almost the end of the road to complete ruin. Without guidance from God, his only resource is the witch of Endor. How dark is the path that turns away from God! How benighted the soul when priestly communion is destroyed and God is silent, so that there is not a ray of Divine light to provide guidance for the path! Such was Saul now. Where David was, it was very happily different. With the remnant of the people of God who had escaped out of the sphere of Saul’s rule, was the King with the Will of God for the government of God's people; the Prophet with the mind of God for the guidance of their steps in every fresh circumstances as it developed; and the Priest with the Ephod, to maintain the people of God in priestly communion with God. In devoted submission to the Lordship of Christ—though but a remnant, and the place of meeting “a cave of Adullam”—saints may still know the blessedness of this. But nothing of this can be found in the Kingdom of Saul, for submission to human rule, involving, as it does, the rejection of the rule of God, must result in the enfeebling of priestly powers, and the destruction of priestly communion and sanctuary service.
“Unto Thee will I cry, O Lord my rock; be not silent to me: lest, if Thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit. Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry unto Thee, when I lift up my hands towards the speaking place of Thy sanctuary.” (Psa. 28. 1—2).