"Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will perish.” 1 Samuel 12:25 (NIV UK, emphasis added)
This is the final word in perhaps one of the greatest closing speeches that has ever been delivered. Israel stands indicted for rejecting the LORD as king and asking for a human one. Samuel establishes his own bona fides, over a lifetime of service, showing that what he says is not motivated by selfish ambition. He then reminds Israel of God’s proven historic and continuing goodness to them and shows his imminent power in a spectacular sign that could not be ignored. The LORD is the true king of the universe, and Israel’s request for a human, rather than divine, king was an evil turn – and the people recognise this too late.
Treason. There is no defence. Guilty.
Nevertheless, in the same way that God takes evil and turns it to good, he will in fact use human kings for something that Samuel or any other prophet could never do: the kings will share in the corporate life of their people. Samuel could advise (or rebuke) Israel and he could be their advocate but, like a lawyer with their client, all he had at the end of the day were his words. He was set apart from the people. When a defendant is sent down, however invested they are in the case and how hard they have worked, the lawyer steps away. The king and his people would stand or die as one.
This would, of course, in the short term, turn out as much a curse as a blessing. Throughout this period of Israel’s history, we see kings falling short to a greater or lesser extent and the people experiencing the consequences. And yet… And yet…
It is for this very reason that Jesus, more than our teacher (or even lawyer), must be our King. He himself takes the consequence for our own persistent evil; but we live with him forever because of his goodness. It is why he came as a human at Christmas. It is why it matters he lived the perfectly obedient life that we all fall short of.
How can it ever be right or fair that grace is extended to us undeserving? One answer is that, if Jesus is our king, he does not stand apart from us – we are united with him. His victory is ours.