January 27, 2011: Leviticus 18:1-4; Numbers 23:9; Psalm 106:35; 1 Samuel 8:5; 19-20; Ezekiel 20:32; Deuteronomy 4:5-8, 20, 32-35 Devotional Sharing

Submitted by Richard Tay, Gracepoint Berkeley

1 Samuel 8:5, 19-20

The Israelites wanted a king so that they could be “like other nations.”  Reflect on the tragedy of this sentiment given the fact that their entire spiritual identity was that they were NOT like other nations, but a separated, a called out nation.  In what ways are today’s Christians similar to the Israelites in this respect?

The Israelites’ desire for a king is a tragedy considering their identity since having a king opposed God’s design for a community centered around God himself.  God was to be the king of the Israelites, but the Israelites essentially said that they wanted something else in order to be more like the other nations.  Instead of being the example that all other nations were to admire, the Israelites wanted to follow their neighbors.  Also, in giving in to their desire to be like the other nations, they gave up their distinctiveness as the people of God.  The things that exemplified their special identity were not treasured and honored as they should have been.  This shows that, in their hearts, they rejected their identity as a people of God with all its talk of being set apart, distinct and holy.  What they wanted was the things that other nations chased after.  There are many ways that today’s Christians similarly reject God’s design for their lives and follow the things that all other nations follow.  Christians, just like their neighbors, fear uncertainty and try to secure as much as they can for themselves and their families.  Christians today partake in secular culture and buy in to the same materialistic and hedonistic pursuits that characterize those who do not know God and have not received grace.  In so doing, they destroy the community that God created for them and develop inwardly bent hearts that were designed to embrace others.  They live their lives for temporary things despite being eternal beings and trade things that are most valuable like people and relationships for material things or worldly success.

What would it look like for a Christian today to embrace the identity of being “called out” and, therefore, different from the culture around him/her?

To embrace this identity, a Christian today would need to have clear conviction about his identity and be willing to deny the allure of fitting in with the rest of the people around him.  A Christian would need to be alert and self-controlled to keep proper perspective, and he would need to be aware of the negative influences in the culture.  This would force him to respond to his culture with wisdom, even to say no to things that may not be inherently bad, but inadvisable because of its negative effect.  In order to persevere in this stand against surrounding culture, a Christian would need a community of support committed to be people who were “called out”.

On what specific points would God want me to be set apart today from the culture around me?

God wants me to be set apart in my values and the way that I use my time and money.  Essentially, my life cannot be just about me and my family.  The culture of today would have me live selfishly, to focus on my career and to try to make a name for myself.  It would order my priorities such that my needs and desires are taken care of, then my family’s, then others’ needs, but especially those who might benefit me in the future.  This self-focused mentality is opposite of the life that God calls me to live.  I am supposed to be a blessing to others, to consider others’ needs before my own and to consider others better than myself as Christ modeled.

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