Scripture Text – 1 Samuel 7-11
For centuries, the people of Israel had looked to Jehovah as their King, but then they came to a point where they asked the Lord to give them a king just like the other nations. It was a critical time in the history of Israel, and it took the prayers and guidance of Samuel to bring them safely through this dangerous time of transition.
Seeking The Lord – Continued
Please read 1 Samuel 8:1-22 to get the background for this section.
Asking for a king (1 Samuel 8:1-9) – continued. When the elders asked to have a king “like all the nations,” they were forgetting that Israel’s strength was to be unlike the other nations. The Israelites were God’s covenant people and He was their King. The glory of God dwelt in their midst and the law of God was their wisdom. (See Exodus 19:3–6; 33:15–16; Leviticus 18:30; 20:26 and Numbers 23:9.) But the elders were more concerned about national security and protection from the enemies around them. The Philistines were still a powerful nation, and the Ammonites were also a continual threat (1 Samuel 12:12). Israel had no standing army and no king to lead it. The elders forgot that it was the Lord who was Israel’s King and who gave her army the ability to defeat the enemy. How easily they forgot all the past victories that Jehovah had won for them.
Samuel was a man of spiritual insight and he knew that this demand for a king was evidence of spiritual decay among the leaders. They weren’t rejecting him; they were rejecting God, and this grieved Samuel’s heart as he prayed to the Lord for wisdom. This wasn’t the first time the people had rejected their Lord. At Sinai, their request was “Make us gods that shall go before us.” – Exodus 32:1. Then after their humiliating failure at Kadesh Barnea, they said, “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.” – Numbers 14:4. Whenever leadership in a church decays spiritually, that church becomes more like the world and uses the world’s methods and resources to try to do God’s work. The Jewish leaders in Samuel’s day had no faith that God could defeat their enemies and protect His people, so they chose to lean on the arm of natural man.
God is never surprised by what His people do, nor is He at a loss to know what He should do. “The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart to all generations.” – Psalm 33:10-11. There is every evidence in the Pentateuch that Israel would one day have a king. God promised Abraham, Sarah, and Jacob that kings would be among their descendants (Genesis 17:6, 16; 35:11), and Jacob had named Judah as the kingly tribe (Genesis 49:10). Moses prepared the nation for a king when he spoke to the new generation preparing to enter the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 17:14–20).
It wasn’t Israel’s request for a king that was their greatest sin; it was their insisting that God give them a king immediately. The Lord had a king in mind for them, David the son of Jesse, but it wasn’t the appropriate time for him to appear. So, the Lord gave them their request by appointing Saul to be king, and He used Saul to chasten the nation and prepare them for David, the man of His choice. The fact that Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin and not from Judah is evidence enough that he was never expected to establish a dynasty in Israel. “I gave you a king in My anger, And took him away in My wrath.” – Hosea 13:11. The greatest judgment God can give us is to let us have our own way. “And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.” – Psalm 106:15. However, the Lord wanted His people to go into this new venture with their eyes open, so He commanded Samuel to tell them what it would cost them to have a king.
Paying for a king (1 Samuel 8:10-22). What’s true of individuals is true of nations: you take what you want from life and you pay for it. Under the kingship of Jehovah God, the nation had security and sufficiency as long as they obeyed His commandments, and His demands were not unreasonable or wearisome. To obey God’s covenant meant to live a happy life as the Lord gave you all that you needed and more. But the key word in Samuel’s speech is take, not give. The king and his court had to be supported, so he would take their sons and daughters, their property, their harvests, their flocks and herds. Their choice young men would serve in the army as well as in the king’s fields. Their daughters would cook and bake for the king. He would take their property and part of their harvest in order to feed the officials and servants in the royal household. While these things weren’t too evident under Saul and David, they were certainly obvious under Solomon (1 Kings 4:7–28). The day would come when the people would cry out for relief from the heavy yoke Solomon and future kings would put on them just to maintain the glory of their kingdom (see Jeremiah 22:13–17).
In spite of these warnings, the people insisted that God give them a king. Pleasing the Lord wasn’t the thing uppermost in their minds; what they wanted was what they assumed to be a guaranteed protection against their enemies. They wanted someone to judge them and fight their battles, someone they could see and follow. They found it too demanding to trust an invisible God and obey His wonderful commandments. In spite of all the Lord had done for Israel from the call of Abraham to the conquest of the Promised Land, they turned their back on Almighty God and chose to have a frail and flawed man to rule over them.
To Be Continued