What do the Israelites, King Saul, and personal desire have to do with dating? Thank you for asking!
To set the stage, I came across the following quote:
Israel’s first venture into monarchy was a disappointment. God had always intended to give Israel a king. Israel’s sin was in demanding a king from the wrong motives, in looking for that king from the wrong tribe, and in demanding a king before it was God’s time to give them one.
The Israelites got tired of living under a theocracy. Having the invisible God as their “king” was so different than the surrounding countries. Their kings were physically present, visible, and tangible. They led their armies, lived in palaces, and could be readily accessible. In essence, “We want to be like them so we fit in!”
According to Genesis 49:8-12 and Deuteronomy 17:14-20, God always planned to give the Israelites—the entire world—a king. Eventually, the King of kings, Jesus Himself! So, the Israelites’ desire for a monarchy wasn’t a sinful desire. The sin was in motives, place, identity, and timing.
I find four relevant parallels between this story and the dating scene.
Almost anyone can rattle off several Bible verses to support his or her desire to be married, find a spouse, have the desires of the heart satisfied, etc. To their point, God does say, “It is not good that man should be alone” [Genesis 2:18]. To challenge that argument, God said that when there was only one man in the entire world. Now there are approximately 7.8 billion people worldwide. We can hardly be considered “alone.”
Even the verse, “Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart” [Psalm 37:4], is often misquoted. This verse does not guarantee all human desires will be fulfilled. Secondly, God is not a cosmic vending machine who operates according to how happy we try to make Him. Contrarily, when we “delight” ourselves in Him, we surrender ourselves to His perfect will. In that state, our hearts desire more of Him—and that prayer He always grants!
Aside from looking for Scriptural promises to “find someone,” we do know God instituted the family, sex, companionship, reproduction, etc. His desire is to grant wholesome fulfillment in all He provides. Again, that is not a pledge that everyone will find that special “someone.” But it is comforting to know the relational concept is within His overall plan.
Let’s look at the four areas of dating: motives, place, identity, and timing. Though God may bring that “someone” along, it is wise to resist the urge to act like the Israelites and take matters into your own hands.
What are your motives for dating? God confirmed Israel’s wrong motives for wanting a human king: “They have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them” [1 Samuel 8:7]. Sometimes prayers are not answered due to wrong motives. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” [James 4:3]. Are you seeking God’s perfect will or are you impatient, desperate, or lonely? Could your desires be driven by an uncontrolled libido? Contrary to all the romantic movies, Jesus confirmed marriage does not last forever [Matthew 22:30]. It is part of the overall earthly experience designed to help mold us into His image [Romans 8:29]. Yes, marriage is fantastic and I’m not downplaying it in the least. However, my hope is to encourage a deeper self-assessment to see if your motives align with “iron sharpens iron” [Proverbs 27:17] in the ultimate pursuit of becoming more like Christ.
Where are you looking? God said His king would come from the tribe of Judah. The Israelites mistakenly chose Saul from the tribe of Benjamin. If you believe in God’s sovereignty, then if you’re being who He created you to be, doing what He created you to do, and doing it where He wants you to be, then you can trust Him to intersect your life with that special “someone” at the place and time of His choosing. He orchestrates everything. Every good and perfect gift comes from Him [James 1:17]. If your focus is on online dating, attending events simply to see who attends, or dropping hints to every eligible person you meet, you may want to question your motives. However, if your focus is to please God, allow Him to transform you into His likeness, and honor Him in all you say and do, then you can trust Him to meet your needs how, where, and when He chooses.
Who are you looking for? Is it just anyone or someone in particular? Saul was tall and handsome [1 Samuel 9:2], yet David was a man after God’s own heart [1 Samuel 13:14]. Sadly, impatience, desperation, loneliness, uncontrolled libido, and myopic focus on physical attraction often lead to foolish, sinful, and abusive outcomes. All throughout Scripture, we find God dealing in specificity and the small details of life. Sadly, instead of trusting Him with our specific “help-meet” needs, we help Him along by settling in expectations or for less than what we think we deserve (See Matched 4 Life). We may temporarily meet our wants but our true needs remain unfulfilled. God knows you better than you know yourself. He can be trusted to give you what you need (not want) when you need it for your good and His glory. Let Him identify your journey as well as who He brings or does not bring into it.
Are you willing to wait for God’s best? Or is some biological, physiological clock urging your desires? Again, all throughout Scriptures, we are told to wait on God, to involve Him in all decisions, to trust Him with the outcomes. His clock is not set on earth time. His ways, thoughts, and time schedule are far superior to ours [Isaiah 55:8-9]. He is not bound or restricted by earthly desires, wants, or preferences. Only His perfect will in all things matters. Sure, He allows His permissive will—and from personal experience, I can attest His perfect will is far better! “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” [Psalm 27:14]. “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” [Psalm 37:7]. “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” [Isaiah 40:31]. He fulfills all things in the “fulness of time” [Galatians 4:4]. Trust Him with your timer.
Life is about choices. God grants the freewill to decide on our own and try to fulfill our hearts’ desires in our own wisdom and strength or to trust Him wholeheartedly, not relying on our own understanding [Proverbs 3:5]. When we acknowledge Him and involve Him in our decisions—especially those regarding dating and marriage—He promised to direct us [Proverbs 3:6]. Although He promised to meet our true needs [Philippians 4:19], sometimes He even blows away our wants [1 Corinthians 2:9]. The secret is leaving the choice to Him.
Hopefully, the choice will not be rushing or settling for a Saul but waiting for God’s David.