You may know of a song by a, we’ll say relatively successful band called the Rolling Stones which has a chorus that goes like this: “You can’t always get what you want, you can’t always get what you want, yeah you can’t always get what you want but if you try sometimes, you just might find…you get what need.”
It’s pretty cool lyric, except for one problem, it makes the supreme assumption of human history, and that is this: We know what we need. Look at what it says: “if you try sometimes, you’ll get what you need.” In other words, receiving what we need is directly linked to our effort.
Why? Why do we think this? Here’s the irony; because that’s what we want. If what we really need, somehow relies on our own efforts, then we get to ultimately be in control of what we need. But the Bible says the exact opposite. The gospel is considered foolishness precisely because it’s central message is that actually, what (or more to the point who) we need is absolutely and totally beyond our control.
Back in the book of Samuel, God’s covenant people come before Samuel and ask for a King. But it’s never just that simple is it? The original reason for them asking might surprise us:
1 Samuel 8:1-5 When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges for Israel. 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 walk in 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 walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”
They come to Samuel originally because they recognise, that something is badly wrong, what they have got at the moment is not sustainable essentially because of sin. I cannot overstate how important it is that they have just enough insight to recognise the problem exists but not enough to solve it. Bad leadership is always easier to diagnose that good leadership, it’s a lot like good cooking, when it’s there you just whoof the food down, but when it’s not, wow boy do you notice.
The Israelite’s recognise the problem and them immediately go on to suggest a solution which pays more attention to everyone else around them than it does to the covenant God that they are in relationship to.
1 Samuel 8:5-8 They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”
As important as recognising any problem or sin is, to move forward in addressing it without the focus on God is just another form of idolatry.
Here’s the takeaway; compared to God, we are so limited in our perspective that the worst thing he can do for us is to give us what we want on a whim.
1 Samuel 8:9-20 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.” (If you read the rest of the chapter you’ll know that it’s nothing good.)
Here’s something scary bit: let’s fast forward 1000 or so years, do you think they learned anything?
John 6:14-15 After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
They still haven’s learned that the king they want, is NOT the king they need.
Praise God that he does not give us what we want, but what we need.
What Christians celebrate as Palm Sunday is not just the announcement of Jesus’s Kingship, but the Nature of it. As usual of course, the scriptures have a big clue hundreds of years before hand (after the ‘kings they wanted’ had led God’s people into disarray):
Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Just read Mark 11:4-8 if you want the New Testament version.
Rome’s emperors rode in on great and noble steeds, but Jesus rides in not even on a donkey but a juvenile donkey. That’s the Glory of Christ, on the one hand it is not that A lord needs it but that THE Lord needs it and yet he needs what? The most humble and gentle beast of burden imaginable.
We want a tyrant, we want someone to just run in and fix everything that’s gone wrong but we want that, precisely because we have completely forgotten that if God did what we wanted him to, to just get rid of all evil….he would have to start by destroying us, Instead he takes sin upon himself and let’s himself be destroyed. He could throw the live grenade back over the fence, instead he chooses to dive on it.
I don’t know about you, but that is the Savior I need. But the funny thing is that the more I realise that, the more he’s also the Savior I want.
You can’t always get what you want, but if trust in him, you just might find; you get what you need