In the world,
independence is everything. At any given moment, I would say that there are at
least a half a dozen countries or peoples somewhere in the world in a struggle
for their independence. These people feel as if they are under the oppression
of another nation or people who do not have their best interests in mind. They
feel as if they and their resources are being used for the benefit of those
that rule over them. They seek to be free from this control so that they can
make their own decisions.
Even here in the United States, we at least see this sentiment.I believe that there is an underlying and perpetual movement in the state of Texas to secede from the Union and make themselves an independent nation. We even see this on the local level, but in a slightly different way. Some years ago, there was a somewhat significant movement by many people here in the northern part of Wisconsin and those of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to break away from our respective states and form a 51st state in the United States. It was to be called the state of Superior.
The End of the
Pursuit for Independence
relatively few may be actually serious in these examples with our states, there
is at least a measure of legitimacy to most movements for independence in our
world. Had I been alive and living in America during the time of our own
struggle for Independence from King George of England some 250 years ago, I
imagine that I would have been a supporter of it. And it is true that we in the
Northwoods we sometimes are obliged to live under certain laws that are of no
value to us, but only benefit the larger population areas of the southern part
of the state.
But you see,
this thirst for independence can never be completely quenched. Had the movement
to form a state of Superior been successful several years ago, by now it may
have been that the people of the U.P. would be feeling somewhat oppressed by us
in the new southern part of the state—those of us from Northern Wisconsin. We
know that the “yoopers” do have a
culture and an economy that is distinct from here in Wisconsin in some ways,
and sooner or later those distinctions would start to cause difficulties.
would not even stop there, since the final drive of the thirst for independence
ultimately becomes personal. The truth is, we do not want anyone telling us
what to do. Not our parents, not our teachers, not our bosses, not the
Often our response is nothing more than that single word.
The end of the matter is that actually, we do not even want God to tell us what to do.
the Garden of Eden and at Babel
You can see
that all this talk of independence is more confusing than what often appears on
the surface. While the drive for independence is important in our present world
and in many present political circumstances, if carried to the extreme, it can
also have detrimental consequences. In fact, this quest for independence was
first awakened within us by the very first enticement by Satan in the Garden of
Satan said to
Eve, “You will be like God” (Genesis 3:5). The essence of Satan’s temptation
was that Adam and Eve would not need God to tell them what to do, since they
could act according to their own wisdom. They would be independent from God.
This was also
the failure at Babel. The purpose of their tower was not for an observatory. It
was not an overt altar to a false god, as is sometimes taught. The statement of
the people concerning it was to “make a name for [them]selves, so that [they]
would not be scattered abroad, over the face of the earth” (Genesis 11:4).
This resolve for the people to remain concentrated in one area and not to be scattered was their decision—not God’s. Quite to the contrary, God had given men the commission to “fill the earth.” He wanted men and women to spread out over the face of the globe to the places that he had created for them. The people at Babel instead wanted to make their own name great. They wanted to make their own choices apart from God. They wanted independence from God.
for Ancient Israel
continue through the pages of the Bible—stories of people and nations who did
not like the idea of living under the direction of God. The early Israelites
did not like the arrangement that God had made for them by sending them
prophets to speak his word. They instead wanted to have a king—one of their own
so that they could govern themselves.
This was not
what God had wanted for them at that time. God viewed himself as the one who was
the sovereign over his people, but now they had turned away from him. God told
Samuel the prophet, “They have rejected me from being king over them” (1 Samuel
This was when
Saul was made king over Israel. Even though this story is based in history and
is political in nature, it is also a personal one—at least, that is how I want
you to think of it. Think of it in an allegorical sense, for what happened to
the nation Israel about three thousand years ago is in some ways analogous to
what happens to us today when we decide that we want to rule our own lives
instead of letting God rule us.
Israel wanted a
king. They saw that the other nations around them had kings, and they wished to
be like them. If the nations could rule themselves, why could not they?
Up until that
time, the Israelites received their directions through the prophets of God. A
prophet of God in those days was more than someone who sometimes told them
about future events. That was actually one of their minor roles.
The main occupation of a prophet was simply to tell the people what God was saying to them. Samuel was the prophet of the Lord at that time, giving to them the word of God. And now the nation of Israel was saying that they did not want the word of God. They wanted to rule themselves. Saul became their king.
A King Like the
For a time,
Saul seemed as if he would be a good king. Things went well. He was a very
humble man when he was first chosen to be their sovereign. When Samuel told him
that he was to become king, his response was, “Am I not a Benjamite, of the
smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the least of all the families
of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then do you speak to me in this way? (1 Samuel
quickly began to change. He began to let his position fill him with pride so
that he felt independent of needing to consult God about his actions. At one
particular point, Samuel told him, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept
the commandment of the Lord your God…the Lord would have established your
kingdom over Israel forever, but now your kingdom will not endure.” (1 Samuel
to Saul is similar to all who decide that their own way can take precedence
over God’s way. It begins all fine and we accept things gratefully and humbly.
But soon we find ourselves using our judgment in ways that demonstrates that we
have been removed from God’s input in our lives. We become proud in our
independence from God.
After the words of Samuel above, the prophet continues speaking to Saul: “The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after his own heart, and the Lord will appoint him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” (1 Samuel 13:14 NAS)
That man who is
described as being one with a heart like God was David. Neither was this man
perfect, as we well know, but he was one who stayed sensitive to the fact that
he was under the authority of God. When he did something that was outside of
God’s way, he repented.
The line of
earthly kings who would rule in Israel passed from Saul to David. This is
perhaps significant in itself, but the most important part about this is that
the eternal king, Jesus Christ, arose from the lineage of David, instead of
that of Saul.
Paul combined two separate Old Testament verses
and used them to quote the words of God, saying: “I have found David…a
man after my heart who will do all my will. Of this man’s offspring God has
brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised” (Acts 13:22-23 ESV).
From this event, the human aspect of the Kingdom of God became possible. When Jesus, the creator of all that there is, came to live with us as a human, he introduced to us the Kingdom of God. He also made it possible for us, as humans, to become part of that kingdom. The Kingdom of God is unlike any kingdom or government that we see on earth; unlike any government that is ruled by men and women. The Kingdom of God is ruled by God.
trial of Jesus, Pilate tried to confirm if Jesus actually considered himself a
king. To this, Jesus responded, “You say that I am a king. For this reason I
was born and have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who
belongs to the truth listens to My voice” (John 18:37 BSB).
In the mystery
of the incarnation, God was made to be man in order to redeem us. I will not go
into all of the details at this point of why this was necessary, and there is
much about it that no one understands, but this is the reality as given to us
It is because
of Jesus, coming from the line of David and at the same time being the eternal
Lord and King, that we are able to say that the kingdom of David will endure
forever. It is not that David himself will reign as king forever, but the One
who came from his line. It is Jesus Christ who is the ultimate fulfillment of
this prophecy of an eternal king.
The Apostle Paul put it this way: “David, after he served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers, and underwent decay (to put it graphically). But He, whom God raised from the dead (speaking of Jesus) did not undergo decay. Therefore, let it be known to you brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.” (Acts 13:36-38 NAS)
This is where
this history becomes relevant to us. This is where it becomes personal. This is
where our natural drive for independence, if we allow it to remain unchecked,
reaches a level that can become detrimental to our souls.
For each one of
us, there is an undeniable appeal to Satan’s words in the Garden of Eden. “You
shall become like God.” We all want to be our own authority. None of us like
someone else telling us what we should do. We want to run our own lives. We want
to become like God in this respect.
But God is
telling us that should we choose that path, it will lead us to eventual ruin.
Like King Saul, for a time we may not notice a great deal of difference in our
lives. Gradually however, we will find that our own quest for personal
independence will lead us further and further into destruction.
If we allow it to, we will seek our independence even from God.
This week we
will celebrate our independence as a nation and our freedom.
Today I would
instead like to celebrate our dependence, and our true freedom in Jesus Christ.
At one time,
when Jesus was speaking to some people of Israel, he told them that once they
came to know the truth of who he was, they would be free.
“You shall know
the truth, and the truth will set you free,” Jesus told them.
The Jews took
offense at these words. “We are Abraham’s offspring and have never been
enslaved to anyone,” they answered him. “How is it that you say, ‘You shall
were depending upon their heritage for their understanding of what it meant to
live in freedom. Conveniently forgetting the four hundred years that the
Israelites were enslaved in Egypt, plus numerous other times when their people
had been slaves, they pridefully looked upon themselves as if they had never
known bondage. Never mind the fact that they were at that moment under Roman
occupation in their own land. How was it that Jesus could be so brash to say to
them, “You shall become free?”
But slavery to other nations was not even the point of what Jesus was making. Even if they indeed had never been enslaved as a people, they would not know true freedom without Jesus Christ. They would be enslaved to sin.
We may not
appeal to our ethnic heritage for our claim of knowing what it is to live in
freedom, as did the Jewish people of Jesus’ day. We instead celebrate our
national heritage. “We are Americans,” we say. “We have never been enslaved by
anyone.” At least we say this if we are Americans of European descent. Our own
history tells us that other ethnic groups have indeed actually experienced
But even that is not the heart of the matter. The message of Jesus to every one of us is the same as it was to these Jews, our personal ethnic group does not matter. “Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin…If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:34,36 NAS).
That freedom can only come by acknowledging our dependence upon Jesus Christ. That is why today, instead of celebrating our independence, I would like to celebrate our dependence. Without Christ, we are all held in bondage. It is only with Christ in us can those bonds be broken, and can we walk in freedom.
will not involve fireworks. We are not going to organize a parade and throw
candy. Our celebration involves a special meal. It is the Lord’s meal. It is
the meal that has been ordained by Jesus Christ that we do in remembrance of
him. We call this meal by various names in our churches: Holy Communion, The
Eucharist, The Lord’s Supper…there are others.
We may draw
some meaning to this meal and understand some of its significance, but there
actually is no man, no denomination, no creed who is able to say that they
understand completely the deep meanings of the Lord’s table. We are simply
commanded to do it in remembrance of the life and work of Jesus Christ.
That is why we
invite all who know Jesus as their live to join in this celebration. For those
of you, our guests who believe in Jesus as your only means of salvation, we
welcome you to join in with us. Who goes to a family meal and is not invited to
eat? This meal is for all the family of God, redeemed by the blood of Jesus.
It is a holy
celebration, sanctified by God, so we are not to do this lightly and without
thought. The Apostle Paul tells us that should we partake of the Lord’s Supper
in a lighthearted and unthinking manner, the consequences can be quite severe
He says, “Let a
man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For
he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgement to himself, if he does not
judge the body rightly” (1 Corinthians 11:28-29 NAS).
Because of this
I urge you, as did Paul, to examine yourselves, and let us celebrate our
dependence on Him.