Sometimes my prayers look like a laundry-list of to-dos. Like a 7-year-old who creates their Christmas wish-list in July, I stack request after request to God.
Mend. Heal. Redeem. Release. Forgive. Provide. Bring. Carry. Choose. Give. Fix. Help. Make. Do. Deliver. Keep. Surprise. Save. Free.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
But sometimes… all I hear is NO.
I was recently undone by a story in 1 Samuel about another wish-list… that didn’t go according to plan.
Israel demands a king. They see the encroaching neighbor nations and want a strong leader for battle.
God has the priest Samuel remind Israel of this bad decision:
God brought you from Egypt.
God delivered you from the hands of your enemies.
God freed you from your oppressors.
God rescued you from disasters.
Yet you still reject God as your king. This God isn’t good enough for you.
In God’s ever-loving kindness and long-suffering patience, God chooses a king to preside over them.
Saul is anointed as king by Samuel.
Samuel asks Israel if they see the anointed king, and since Saul is a head taller than all other men, of course they see him. He sticks out like a sore thumb from among his tribesmen. The God who listens provides a strong man to lead Israel into battle, per their request.
The name Saul means “asked for.” Just because the Israelites asked for a king, doesn’t mean God will leave them alone—a reminder that even our worst choices aren’t outside of God’s sovereignty.
Despite Israel’s ill-advised desire for a king, God handpicks a king who will carry the Spirit of God. In one encounter with God, Saul “will be changed into a different person” (10:6). Samuel directs both Saul, and perhaps the reader too, to “do whatever your hands finds to do, for God is with you” (7).
God ensures Saul is filled with God’s Spirit and surrounded by advisors “whose hearts God has touched” (10:26). Even though the Israelites insist on making the wrong choice, God will not let God’s people go. The Israelites will still be the people through whom God brings about redemption for the whole world.
While God won’t intervene in the wishes of man, God does intervene by changing Saul’s heart, flooding Saul with the Spirit of God, and going with him wherever he goes.
I’m reminded through this story about Israel’s impatience that God listens to our prayers… but may not follow our honey-do-list exactly. But the ways of God are greater than we could ever imagine.
God sees the full picture.
You are not alone.
God’s got this.
God gave the people everything they wanted, everything they asked for… but Saul didn’t turn out to be the wise, loving king they needed. Even David– anointed after Saul– had major character flaws. Soon the kingdom of Israel is in shambles– good kings, bad kings, righteous kings, evil kings, a divided kingdom that is whisked into exile and held under captivity.
Not exactly according to plan…
This reminds us that sometimes one of God’s most loving, kind gracious answers is simply “no.”
If you’re receiving a “no” in your life right now, it may be God’s way of loving you more than ever you knew possible.
God—You use everything to redeem—even the worst, most painful choices I’ve made. May I have the eyes to see the threads of redemption in the tapestry of my life. Teach me to trust in your sovereign hand even when my prayers seem to go unanswered. You have never left my side. Amen.
P.S. The online summer bible study through Scouting the Divine starts July 9th. Grab the Summer Bible Study Bundle. Join the private Facebook group. And get ready to experience God’s Word in a whole new way.