With the ark returned, the people were victorious again. But once again, it didn’t take long for the people to turn from God and follow another path. And this one is more parallel to our sinful path today and so easier for us to understand. We don’t have false gods and idols that we turn to instead of God, but we quickly turn away from God’s leadership and to leaders of our own choosing or even creation. And like the Israelites of long ago, it is God we reject when we do so.
The people, devoid of official judges for too long, ask to be like the cultures around them and have a king to lead them. This is not God’s will – His plan is that He leads us – but He allows it to teach us a lesson. In fact, too often God gives us just what we want so that we might learn to take what He offers instead. Saul is handsome, tall, a leader to look at, but as we will see, he is not a leader in truth. Samuel’s warnings of what a king will mean for his people will all come true in Saul’s leadership. Saul will conscript their sons to fight his wars, using them as cannon fodder. He will enslave their children not conscripted. He will give his attendants the best of everything while taxing his people mercilessly. And when they cry out to God for help, He will not listen.
When we turn away from God’s plan and God’s leadership, we pay a steep price. No matter how attractive or acceptable the alternative, if it is not God’s plan, it will fail and lead to our ruin.