This morning, we’re continuing our series entitled, “Unexpected” where we are going to recall the truly unexpected ways in which God worked in the past and some of the unexpected places and times where He showed up.
These reminders of God’s faithfulness and miraculous power and authority will serve to encourage us in our present and give us hope toward our future.
Today, we celebrate the birth of American Independence! On this day in 1776, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence officially breaking the political ties between the 13 colonies of America and Great Britain.
We are truly blessed to dwell in a nation that grants us such incredible freedom, one that acknowledged from the beginning the true source of our rights, our Creator, God.
Within that Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson penned in a few simple words a powerful reality. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”
Unlike most legal documents of today, the founding document that this new government would be formed upon was a simple four pages in length. Although several amendments have been made to it, our nation still exists as a constitutional republic to this day with those simple pages as our foundation.
Jacob Shallus wrote in a single sentence the entire purpose and function of our government. “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
A union of people establishing a government to ensure justice, peace, safety, welfare, and freedom for themselves and the generations to follow them.
Now before we start setting off fireworks, yelling “‘Merica”, waving our flags, and singing patriotic songs together, let’s get back to what all of this has to do with God working in unexpected ways.
Governments are instituted among men by deriving their powers from the consent of the governed.
A government only exists because individuals choose to subject themselves under the authority of other people. The only reason that any government can exist and function is a result of the people being governed submitting to the overseeing government.
God is a god of order and not of chaos. Both in Heaven and on earth, there is a hierarchy of authority. We are always both under the authority of others and also in authority over others in some way. This is by God’s design. In fact, Heaven, itself, is a kingdom and has a form of government. God’s word even teaches us to:
1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
Now just because God establishes a governing authority, that doesn’t mean that it is godly. That doesn’t mean that all governing authorities are going to rule righteously or administer justice. This only means that God has a purpose and a plan for establishing it.
As those in Bible Study have learned, God would raise up nations around Israel and Judah as mere tools of His discipline when they were in rebellion and in sin against God. That doesn’t make those other governments right, nor anything that they did right, it just means that God has an ultimate plan to restore and redeem His people and used them for this purpose.
We love to boast in the greatness of our God to deliver Israel from the oppression of the Egyptians and to lead them into the promised land and to overcome their enemies who were in possession of it.
However, had God not raised up a hard-hearted pharaoh into a place of governmental authority, the Israelites would have remained in Egypt and entirely missed out on God’s actual promise that He made to Abram. It wasn’t that pharaoh was right for how he treated God’s people and it wasn’t that God sinned by putting him in that position of authority. This is yet another unexpected way in which God works.
What it was then and what it usually is even for us still today is this. God has a plan and a purpose to do good. However, we are stubborn and like to take the path of least resistance and greatest comfort. It usually takes the tools of discipline and hardship and persecution before we get up off of our butts and start heading where we are supposed to go and doing what we are supposed to do? AMEN?
We are God’s children. Those of us who have raised children know full well that sometimes it isn’t the promise of good things that motivate our children to get the hard work done. It is usually the real threat of discipline that our children put us in the place of requiring before they get moving. It’s no different for us!
Check out Proverbs 3 and Hebrews 12 about this very matter. It doesn’t feel loving at the time, but it is one of God’s greatest expressions of love to do whatever it takes for us to reach our full potential and to not miss out on His incredible blessings and fulfilled promises.
Here is another unexpected way in which God chose to work in regard to governmental authority. It is so incredibly unexpected that the King of kings and Lord of lords, the sovereign God of all of the universe, would choose to step aside and allow mankind to reject His kingship and replace Him with a human king.
It is certainly not His plan, absolutely not His purpose, but it is exactly what happened.
We learned last week about God’s promise to bless Abram and to make not only his descendants a great nation, but also that he would be the father of many nations. We’re going to skip a few generations of God fulfilling that promise for time’s sake. We have Abram, renamed to Abraham, his son Isaac, then his son Jacob renamed to Israel. His twelve sons became the twelve tribes of the nation called by his name, Israel.
God was always the leader of this nation. He chose men and women (Deborah) to be the physical leaders, but it was He who guided and directed them. When the people followed that leader, the entire nation was blessed. This is because they were ultimately following God’s lead.
When they went their own way either due to a lack of a leader, having an ungodly leader, or because they simply wouldn’t listen to the godly leader, they suffered terribly.
Israel was a theocracy. There was no voting process and no say of the people in who would lead them. They didn’t create their own laws, God gave them the law. They didn’t choose the consequences for breaking the law, God did. God, Himself, lead the nation by appointing and anointing a man or woman to speak and work through.
God initially chose Joseph (one of Israel’s sons), then 400 years later Moses, then Joshua, then after some time a series of twelve different judges. This period of judges leading ends with this simple statement:
In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.
It doesn’t take a political science major to come to the conclusion that when everyone in a nation does what they think is right, it is not good. Without organization and a leader, chaos and disorder is sure to follow which never lead to God’s blessing. It is the unity of God’s people through which His blessing rests.
1 How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!
3…For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore.
Unity is a choice. Where most human governmental authorities rule by force and fear across the world today, God lead by choice. We always have the choice of following Jesus and coming under the covering and protection and blessing of His authority or walking our own way and doing what is right in our own eyes. This choice comes with consequences, but it is still a choice.
Following this period, a priest named Eli lead the nation, then a prophet named Samuel, then God does another totally unexpected act…
1 Samuel 8
1 When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders. 2 The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. 3 But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.
4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”
6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”
10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” (Do they seriously not know their own history and the impossible victories that THE LORD had won for them as HE fought their battles as their KING?!?!)
21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. 22 The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”
God worked in a very unexpected way… God said, “Listen to them and give them a king.”
God essentially said, “Give the people what they want.” God essentially said, “I’ll step aside as their king. I, the God of all of the universe, the very Creator of these people, the one who reigns sovereign over all things, will step down from leadership of the people whom I chose to be my own from among all the nations. They can exchange me for a man.”
God gave them the king that they were looking for. He chose a youthful, strong man; the most handsome in all of Israel. He was a head taller than anyone else. God sent Samuel to anoint Saul as the first human king of Israel, not the first king whom was God, but the first human king.
1 Samuel 10:9-11
9 As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day. 10 When he and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he joined in their prophesying. 11 When all those who had formerly known him saw him prophesying with the prophets, they asked each other, “What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?”
Even in their sin and rebellion, God chose to anoint Saul with His very Presence through the Holy Spirit. God equipped Saul to lead God’s people.
God may have swapped authority, but He was still sovereign and He would not completely abandon His people nor the promises that He made to them. They rejected God, God would never completely reject them. They were faithless, but God is faithful.
1 Samuel 10:17-24
17 Samuel summoned the people of Israel to the Lord at Mizpah 18 and said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you.’ 19 But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your disasters and calamities. And you have said, ‘No, appoint a king over us.’ So now present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and clans.”
20 When Samuel had all Israel come forward by tribes, the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. 21 Then he brought forward the tribe of Benjamin, clan by clan, and Matri’s clan was taken. Finally Saul son of Kish was taken. But when they looked for him, he was not to be found. 22 So they inquired further of the Lord, “Has the man come here yet?”
And the Lord said, “Yes, he has hidden himself among the supplies.” (You just can’t hide from God!)
23 They ran and brought him out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others. 24 Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the man the Lord has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.”
Then the people shouted, “Long live the king!”
Can you imagine how God must have felt to hear His own people shouting “Long live the king!” about this same person that God had to tell them where he was hiding? “Long live the king!” Not God, but Saul, their king. What a heart-breaking and cringy moment in Israel’s history…
When God gives us what we want, it’s not always a good thing. It’s absolutely NOT an indication that it is God’s will when we finally receive what we ask for! What an unexpected way for God to work!
Now long story short, God did what God is faithful to do. God cooperated with His people and redeemed their sin and rebellion. He chose to work through this lineage of human kings and Jesus was born through the bloodline of the second human king of Israel, David. Jesus, the rightful King of kings whose Kingdom reigns forever!
With God, there is always a way! He is a pioneer and is able to lower mountains, raise up valleys, smooth out the rough ground, and straighten the crooked paths. He is able to part rivers and seas enabling you to walk straight through even floodwaters on dry ground. He is a way maker!
The question is never really what God is able to do. Nothing is impossible for our great God!
The question this morning is, “Who is our king?” Who or what is sitting on the throne of our lives? Whomever or whatever that may be is what we voluntarily choose to submit ourselves to. That throne belongs to none other than Jesus.
Submitting to anyone or anything other than Him is sin. We’re missing it, we’re settling for less than the best.
34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Today is a day to declare our independence! Today is a day of freedom! True and complete freedom!
Enough is enough! It’s time to send out the declaration of our independence to the tyrant of our lives that has enslaved us. It’s time to proclaim freedom from our captivity!
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
It’s time to live life to its abundant fullness, to walk in complete liberty as a free people as we pursue happiness from the only true source of joy – God, Himself, our Creator!
Jesus, set us free! The throne of our lives is Yours forever! Forgive us for replacing You with lesser things, but today is a new day and a new start of the rest of our lives! We are honored and thrilled to be citizens of Your kingdom where freedom reigns!