Every form of transportation encompasses a person who is responsible for leading and guiding the vehicle to its destination. One example of that is the captain of a ship. The captain of a ship is the individual who serves as the guide or director of the ship’s course.
In 1888, a Victorian poem was published by English poet William Ernest Henley. The poem was entitled, ‘Invictus’ which was a short poem that centered upon the idea that humanity can determine its own fate. If you use your imagination, you might see the imagery of a captain and his ship. Here are the lines from the actual poem:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Henley’s overarching point of this poem was to enforce the notion that he as a human being could not only decide his path in life but that he could also live as a god unto himself. Phrases such as, “my unconquerable soul.” , “My head is bloody, but unbowed.” , and “I am the captain of my soul.” point to the very message that Henley believed in complete autonomy. This poem symbolizes both pride and a refusal to bow to any authority other than himself.
It is this sort of mentality that has increased in rapidity as the decades have passed. Daily, we are seeing more examples of generations which have rejected the notion of submitting to God only to rise in the exaltation of themselves. This poem and those who reflect such a disposition are exemplifying ‘secular humanism.’ The secular humanist is an individual who has adamantly denied the very deity and authority of God. Instead, they live within the confines of leading their own lives out of their own wisdom.
In 1 Samuel Chapter 8, the account of Israel demanding a King to rule over them is given to Samuel. Samuel was a judge, a prophet, and a priest who was given the task of prophesying to the nation of Israel. In verses 4-5 it says:
(ESV) “Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.”
After this demand was given, Samuel was distraught and began to seek the Lord about what to do. God gives an answer as to what Samuel should do:
(ESV) “And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”
If you read further in this chapter between verses 10-18, you will see that Samuel warns Israel against having a King and that the King who will rule over them will essentially cause their ruin. However, the children of Israel continue with their demand, and Samuel obeys the Lord by establishing a King. The King established was none other than King Saul. King Saul was a corrupt, disobedient, and unrighteous leader who inflicted pain upon Israel throughout his reign.
The point that should be raised from this scripture is that Israel as a nation sought their own destiny. In the early history of Israel, God had actually ruled as it was originally designed to be. However, at a later point, idolatry and disobedience unto God began to be the culture of Israel. This, of course, began to anger God to the point where God eventually gives those in Israel what they desire. Israel desired a King to rule over them, as opposed to God being their King.
Basically, as verse 7 says, the people of Israel were rejecting God with their demand for a King. How often do we reject God by seeking to live our lives in total autonomy? Just as the William Ernest Henley’s poem suggested that he himself could chart his own course in life, there are many who attempt to do the same with how they live daily.
The great thing about God is that He provides free-will for all of us. God is a God who allows us to choose the paths that we want to take in life. However, God desires that we not only include Him in our lives but that we submit ourselves unto Him. By relinquishing our pride and surrendering unto God, we are giving room for God to show us a better and more stable path of living.
Going back to the scripture, there are two fundamental mistakes that the children of Israel made:
1. Israel rejected God as their King – The biggest mistake that the children of Israel made was to reject God only to ask for another King. In doing so, God hands them over to King Saul who brought chaos and bad leadership over the children of Israel. There are many examples of those who have rejected God and instead have chosen to either elevate themselves as a god or have chosen others to be their god. Attempting to be your own god is a dangerous venture. Every single time that you and I remove God from our lives, we are open to not only His judgment but the negative consequences that come with it.
2. Israel believed that their path of choice was the best option – Just like Henley suggested that the path of his choosing was what he felt best, the children of Israel believed that selecting a King to rule over them would yield prosperity. However, history tells us that instead of prosperity, the children of Israel suffered greatly under King Saul. Even in our own time today, there are many who have bought into the lie that their own way of living is more suitable. If you were to look at the condition of our world society, it has declined morally and in many other facets, because humanity has chosen its own way rather than God’s way of righteousness.
The overall message regarding our lives is that we are always in a better position when we are surrendered under the hand of God almighty. You cannot take the lead of your own life without negative consequences. It is the person who vehemently rejects God in their pride, who eventually experiences the trouble that comes with idolatry and a refusal to submit unto the leadership of God.
The very first step is to accept Jesus Christ in the pardon of your sins. If you don’t know Christ as your Lord & Savior, then you have an opportunity to start the process of obedience. God desires that we know him through Jesus Christ, and He wants us to choose His ways. Free-will is indeed a gift that God has given, but it is the man or woman who decides to allow God to lead them and guide them who is wise.