Samuel continued as Israel’s leader all the days of his life. From year to year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah, judging Israel in all those places. But he always went back to Ramah, where his home was, and there he also held court for Israel. And he built an altar there to the Lord. I Samuel 7:15-17
The people of Israel were being oppressed by their enemies. God was disciplining his people so He allowed this oppression. Their disobedience and lack of faith brought judgment but they thought it was because they didn’t have a human king. Their enemies had human kings after all so why couldn’t they? They went to Samuel and asked for a king to lead them. Samuel was not pleased with this idea. Maybe he thought the people were rejecting his leadership. As he prayed to God about this new problem, God said “…it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king” (I Samuel 8:7b). Again. They were rejecting God again –as they had many times before.
I imagine God frowning and heaving a sigh as he told Samuel that He would give the people what they wanted. A human king. Second best. A distant second at that.
As a kid did you ever want something so badly that you could hardly wait until you got it? Maybe you saved your allowance for a month or two until you could go buy it. Maybe you worked odd jobs around the neighborhood, or sold lemonade in your front yard. You did this because you thought it was the best, it was going to be the most fun, the top of the line. Or maybe it was because everybody else had one. In any case it was the best – right up until 30 minutes after you got it. That’s about when you lost interest or it got broken.
As adults we pursue the next electronic gadget, whether hand held or hanging against the wall in the living room. We pursue the next rung up the ladder, the next accomplishment, the next raise, the next recognition, award or accolade. We pursue these things in the misguided belief that they make life better, more satisfying, more fulfilling. No they really don’t. Like the toy you wanted as a child, these things leave you disappointed, empty and unfulfilled. You settled for second best.
What is this fascination with second best? Why can’t we let God give us the BEST? Or maybe He already has. What about that incredibly talented daughter? Or the loving faithful spouse? How about the love shared by an extended family engaged in loving banter or playing games and sharing secrets and hugs? It’s not the stranger who might recognize something you accomplished that really matters in the scheme of things. It’s the relationship you have with God that matters most. It’s faith in God that gets you from here to eternity. The love you share with your family and those you choose as family are the sweetest blessings of this life. That’s the real treasure. Not the ones with dollar signs, or pretty gold seals, nor is it the sound of the applause of strangers. If you have ears that really hear and eyes that really see, you know this is true. Hug your family, pray for them and care for them. And may God always help you resist the distraction of second best.