“Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you.” – Judges 8:22-23
The mark of a truly great man or woman of God is not one who has many followers but one who directs many to follow Christ, even as they themselves follow Him. Oh, how often do we see men building their own kingdoms at the expense of God’s? How often do we see men heaping followers after themselves. Platform seekers, head counters, prestige hungry, attention greedy, desirous of vain glory. Brothers and sisters, it ought not to be so among those claiming to be of God. Jesus taught to choose the lowest seat, to esteem others better then self, to choose to be servant of all, and if the Lord exult you in this life then so be it, but if He choose to wait until the life to come to do so, then that’s all the better.
We love the sermons about how Saul stood head and shoulders above the rest, about how the crown chased after David, and how wisdom befell Solomon. We love the stories of the kings but we forget the sad truth that laid the foundation for their being. The fact that Israel refused to let God be King over them personally and ever sought to follow a man.
You see God did not desire for Israel to have an earthly King. God instituted a series of Judges over Israel, from which we get the book of Judges. These were prophets, warriors, deliverers, protectors, enforcers, and ministers of God to the people. They were servants of God for the people from among the people in times of distress and need, meant to point their hearts and minds ever back toward God, their true King.
You see, at this time the heathen nations of the earth served and even worshiped men as King, but Israel (an archetype for the church) was meant to be different from the world. They were to serve and worship God as King. Yet they were ever seeking to be like the world and follow after men rather then God. Even the men and women that God raised up to minister to them and their needs in times of trouble such as Gideon became their object of idolatry as they tried to make him their King. Gideon, being a true man of God with fear, reverence, and humility, refused to let this happen, but how often does it still happen in the church today? After all, that’s how most ministries, movements, and denominations are built.
People of God, we ought not to follow after personalities or people. We ought to follow after God personally, He alone is our King and if it’s one thing we can learn from the history of Israel, it’s that even good kings eventually get replaced by bad ones and corruption sets in because all kingship outside of God’s Kingship is idolatry. The church was never meant to follow men, they were meant to follow God Himself. Only the weak, prideful, and rebellious insist on doing so through men of stature, title, prestige, and pomp and just like Israel who insisted on having an earthly king to follow, (though it may start off well) it was always to their spiritual demise in the end.
Yes God still sends judges; servants of truth, deliverance, and protection for the flock, but these are only pasturers (from whence we get the word pastor), hired hands of the shepherd. The flock is not theirs, they do not lead it, they only feed it. Less they lead it away from the true shepherd and invoke His wrath. Which was the reoccurring fate that Israel gained for itself for seeking to follow after men like the world did, and the church in general to this day does the same.
The book of judges ends with one of the saddest verses in the bible. After being told repeatedly that God was their King, and the people continuously refusing to submit to Him but rather seeking to fit in and be like others, insisted on following a man. So that finally God was grieved enough, stepped back, and gave them exactly what they wanted. You can not reject God (or His Words) to follow a man, and not expect Him to depart. You can’t serve two masters. There is only one King, one authority, one truth, reject it and you reject Him, which means that He is no longer your King. And so for all it’s redemptions, victories, and struggles, the book of Judges ends with these heartbreaking words:
“In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” – Judges 21:25
“Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord. And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not be King over them.” – 1 Samuel 8:4-7
(Read the rest of 1 Samuel chapter 4 to see the curse that God pronounced over Israel for demanding that they be allowed to follow a man and how perfectly it parallels those among the church who do the same)
“Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” – 1 Corinthians 1:12-13
“Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” – Ephesians 4:3-6
“And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.” – John 19:14-15