Torah reading: Numbers 16 – 18
Haftorah reading: I Samuel 11:14 – 12:22
The Torah reading this week narrates the rebellion of Korach and his followers against the leadership of Moses. In keeping with that account, the Haftorah reflects the same theme albeit in terms of the whole congregation of Israel. It is especially interesting that it is Samuel, a descendant of Korach, who deals with the present situation in a vastly different manner than his ancestor.
From Israel’s earliest days, God had always provided the nation with a righteous leader – either a prophet or a judge, and it was God’s intent to continue to do so. He reserved the position of King for Himself and rightly so. Samuel understood this well and the thought of any ‘king’ over Israel other than the Holy One Himself was totally outside of Samuel’s understanding and thinking.
But the people wanted a king; they wanted to be like the other nations, not unique in their national character. Samuel the prophet inquired of the LORD who allowed him to anoint Saul as king over Israel.
So all the people went to Gilgal. There they made Saul king before the LORD in Gilgal; and there they slaughtered feast peace-offerings before the LORD; and there Saul, as well as all the men of Israel, rejoiced exceedingly. I Sam. 11:15)
Over and over again, Samuel instructed the people that such a king must be different than the kings of other nations. He himself must be subservient to God’s laws and be careful to promote God’s honor rather than his own. He must be a servant to the people, not a master who rules arbitrarily. He must guide Israel in the ways of the LORD. Saul did well as king for awhile, but the end of his story is tragic.
Samuel continually pleaded, argued and instructed the people to follow the LORD and to live according to His ways, but over and over again, they sought their own will and went astray.
Hidden in this account is a principle that we do well to learn. Anytime we pursue and actively ‘make happen’ something that is not God’s will for us, tragedy of one sort or another follows. I am reminded of a verse in the psalms: He gave them their request but sent a wasting disease with it. (Psalm 106:15) When the children of Israel were in the desert, they frequently complained and begged Moses – and God – for what they did not have. Their complaining was so persistent that at one point, God granted their request for meat by sending quail into the camp. However, their reaction was not to thank God but to eat gluttonously until they made themselves sick. It is that picture that I believe the psalmist had in mind when he penned psalm 106.
What does that say to us today?
We do not always know what to ask God for. Truth be told, we may well pray misguided prayers more often than not. We find it difficult to really trust that our Father in heaven does know what is best for us. We have our plans; we have our ideas. His plan is better every time.
Have you ever prayed and prayed and prayed for something in particular and after a while, God answers but once you have it, you think to yourself, ‘Why did I want this?’ It turns out not to be everything you thought it was going to be? That is what the psalmist meant when he said, ‘He gave them what they asked for but sent a wasting disease with it.’
God is not unkind or cruel to do so. He hears your petition and I believe He genuinely tries to get our attention, correct our thinking and steer us in a different direction. But we are a stubborn people. We get fixated on what we want and don’t hear that still small voice within saying, ‘Go this way instead. It’s better.’
So when we don’t listen, He sometimes answers but with the answer comes conditions or results that we didn’t expect. That’s exactly what happened when Israel demanded a king and it’s exactly what happens to us as well.
In Tune with Torah this week = Think back over your life. Can you think of times you prayed for something in particular and God didn’t give it to you? Later on, did you realize that your Father knew best and you wonder why you ever asked in the first place? It became so obvious that what you thought you wanted would have ended in disaster.
Perhaps now you’ve been praying a long time for something your heart is set on. Have you asked the LORD: Is this Your best for me? If not, please change my heart and re-focus my attention.