1 When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. 2 The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. 3 Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice. 4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah 5 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.” 6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 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. 8 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. 9 Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”
(1 Samuel 8:1-9)
In yesterday’s study we saw the elders of Israel confront Samuel about the immoral and illegal behavior of his sons, who Samuel had appointed to leadership positions. This was the right thing for them to do. But as is common in the Bible, people don’t always do the exact right thing and today’s passage is another example of that.
In addition to confronting Samuel about his sons, they tell Samuel that they think he is old and won’t be around much longer. So they ask him to appoint for them a king to judge them.
Samuel was old and his sons were corrupt. The elders were therefore concerned about the future leadership of Israel. Samuel was going to die soon (or so they thought) and they were afraid that his sons were going to inherit Samuel’s position as judge over the entire nation. But their thinking was flawed.
The elders seem to have forgotten that judgeships were not inherited. God raised up a judge of His own choosing at the appropriate time. There was no dynasty in place. Joel and Abijah should never have been made judges, as we learned. And it is certain that had they outlived their father, God would not have allowed them to continue in their current capacity as judges in Beersheba.
Notice that what the elders are proposing is worse than the situation they are trying to rectify. They wanted a king to rule over them. They wanted a monarchy in place of the current system of judges. But in a monarchy, a king or queen’s son or daughter takes over upon their death, no matter how good or evil or competent or incompetent that son or daughter is.
The elders wanted to replace a system in which God appointed qualified leaders, like Samuel, with a dynasty in which leadership would be inherited with no guarantee that the new leader would be any good. They wanted to replace a system that was not broken by one that was sure to be worse than what they had.
The system they had was working just fine, despite Samuel’s mistake of appointing his sons to judgeships and their corruption. As we’ll see as we continue our study, it wasn’t Joel and Abijah’s behavior that was driving the elders to make this request. They were just using it as an excuse.
Israel had it good. But they didn’t know it. They let a short-term and easily fixable problem direct their future. They didn’t think their request through to understand the ramifications. Moreover, they didn’t see the benefit of God’s way of doing things. Nor did they seek His advice – they approached the problem with only human thinking.
How often do we do this ourselves. Life has many problems. But sometimes we think they are bigger than they really are so we make drastic changes to address them when a simple change would do. And as a result, we take our life down a course that is much more difficult that it would have been had be not done so.
God has our best interests in mind. The best course of action is to do things His way.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.