“… they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.” 1 Samuel 8:7
I’ve done it. If you’re a parent you’ve probably done it too.
I’m talking about giving in —Saying yes to appease the incessant petition of a child, giving in to that cookie before dinner to avert a tantrum, allowing the extra half-hour of television to forestall the bedtime tug-of-war, forking out change for a soda simply because we’re too exhausted to muster up a firm no —all the while knowing we are allowing our child to have something that is not in his or her best interest.
Clearly, there a chink in our parental armor, but that really isn’t a profound revelation is it? After all we are human parents and by our very nature prone to weak knees and soft backbones. Consistency does not run in our veins. Steadfastness is not part of our DNA. So an occasional “whatever” against our better judgment is inevitable.
What about God the Father? Scripture tells us that His character is without flaw. He is the Rock of Ages, steadfast and never changing. He is subject to no one and wants for nothing. His nerves do not get frazzled. His patience is endless, His wisdom infinite, and His love absolutely perfect.
So… does God ever give in to our petitions knowing that the outcome will not be in our best interest? And if He did, what would compel Him to do so?
Consider the case of Saul, first King of Israel. The children of Israel petitioned God for a king (Well, technically they put the prophet Samuel up to it). Why? In a nutshell, they were tired of walking by faith. They were not satisfied to be the Beloved of Yahweh, the Eternal King. They longed to be like the pagan cultures around them with their physical kings and tangible kingdoms. Despite Jehovah’s faithful provision, countless supernatural acts on their behalf, and endless mercy they were willing to relinquish the extraordinary to be…. well, like everyone else.
King Saul was the ‘cookie’ that Israel begged for. And herein lies the mystery: even knowing the pain that would come of it, God gave them what they asked for. Now if you have been taught as many of us were, that an open door = confirmation of God’s will, this is a somewhat disconcerting thought. The implication here is that God may actually give us what we ask for, even if it is not in our best interest or His perfect will for our lives. Israel was headed down a rough road and God knew it, but He allowed it to teach them to desire Him and His kingdom above all else.
How then should we pray if we truly want God’s best plan for our lives? First we need to be mindful of the difference between petitioning and begging. Israel literally begged for something that God had already made clear was not His plan for them. And, if we are being honest, God’s will is never really hidden from us if we are truly listening.
Israel’s story reminds us that we must choose to allow God to reign over our lives. Faith in His plan over our own will always be required. If He is truly King of our hearts our lives will likely be different from those who are not His children.
Even Jesus had to choose His Father’s will. The key to avoiding the mistake Israel made is found in His prayer from Gethsemane in which, after petitioning the Father with His own request, He sincerely added “yet not my will, but yours be done“. (Luke 22:42)