One of the central stories of the Bible is about a family-nation chosen by God to live under His direct rule and leadership. The people of Israel were divinely selected to be citizens of God’s kingdom. He was to be their Lord and King. But during difficult times, the chosen people chose to risk the downside of a leader they could see rather than be at the mercy of an invisible King.
Even though Israel had seen God miraculously rescue them from Egypt, and even though they had seen Him provide for and protect them as they made their way to the Promised Land, they concluded that they needed a change in leadership.
After 400 years marked by violence, enemy invasions, and societal anarchy, the Bible says, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).
Rather than turn to the Lord, Israel asked the prophet Samuel for a king. But they went beyond that and insisted that this leader should be like the rulers of “all the nations” around them (1 Samuel 8:5,20). They wanted someone who would hear their requests, lead their battles, and give them security in the presence of their enemies.
Through Samuel, the Lord warned His people that putting their trust in a human sovereign would lead to disappointment. He specifically warned them that a king would tax the work of their hands and conscript their sons and daughters for his own service (vv.10–18).
Yet Israel insisted on a king. So God gave them their request—the impressive-looking but ultimately disappointing King Saul. What Israel learned the hard way is what every generation since has found. As Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
By contrast, the Bible offers a Messiah and King who has the uncorrupted power and authority to do what no other leader could ever provide.
Protection and Provision. Nations spend enormous sums of money building military forces and defense systems to protect their borders and interests. But no human defense is impenetrable. History tells of the rise and fall of nations and empires who once felt they were immortal.
The only reliable defense is found in the King anticipated by the prophet Isaiah. Recall his words:
f the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever (Isaiah 9:7).
As the story of the Bible unfolds, this Messiah-Savior turns out to be the same one who stood before a governor named Pilate and said that He was a king. According to the gospel of Matthew, “The governor asked Him, saying, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ Jesus said to him, ‘It is as you say’” (Matthew 27:11).
In the hours that followed that profound statement, this King did what no mere governor could ever do. Jesus voluntarily allowed Himself to be tortured and crucified for our sins. Then, according to the New Testament witnesses, three days later He turned that terrible tragedy into the foundation for the security, satisfaction, and significance that our hearts long for. With His resurrection, Jesus conquered death itself.
Life, Liberty, and Happiness. The United States’ Declaration of Independence declares that all people “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The vision of those founding fathers was that government should uphold and protect those rights.
Even these lofty and noble goals, however, fall short of what our hearts ultimately yearn for. Jesus told His disciples:
You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Matthew 20:25–28).
Think of it! This King of kings “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Since Jesus’ day, kings, governments, and empires have come and gone. But the King who set Himself apart from all other kings by dying in our place remains. Jesus is the only One with the power and authority to meet our deepest needs. He alone can provide the protection and liberty that satisfies us both now and forever. He alone has the ability to fulfill our highest hopes.