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)
Over the past few days we’ve been studying a passage in which Israel’s elders (local magistrates) approach Samuel and asked him to appoint a king over them instead. They tried to give the impression that they were motivated by Samuel’s age and his son’s corrupt practices. But the truth is they wanted to be like other nations [1 Samuel 8:5]. They didn’t appreciate God’s plan for the leadership of Israel.
As we’ll see in tomorrow’s study, they are not simply seeking to fire Samuel as their judge. They are seeking to fire God as their king, whether they realized it or not.
Their request displeased Samuel. Notice that Samuel wasn’t upset when they called him “old”. Nor was he upset when they rejected his sons. He was upset when they said “Give us a king to judge us.”
Samuel wasn’t concerned about what others thought of him. He was concerned about the hearts of those seeking this change in government. Their faith was not grounded in God who, up until this point, had been leading the nation.
Samuel saw the request of the elders for what it was: ungodly idolatry. Wanting to be like other people, especially those who are not part of God’s family is idolatry – it places those people above God. Rather than wanting to be like others, we should want to be like Jesus. This is God’s desire and plan for all His children [Romans 8:29].
I’m sure it didn’t help that Samuel had been leading these people for many years. He had taught them and had been their mediator with God. Yet after all his hard work, they still didn’t get it. They had no faith in God. They wanted to be like the world. And this saddened Samuel.
I’m sure many of us can relate. Perhaps we’ve been praying for a loved one to come to Christ. Or perhaps our own children are not walking with Him. Or maybe we’ve tried to be a light in our workplace – standing out by behaving differently than those around us – hoping that someone would notice and be interested in learning more about Jesus.
We make a lot of sacrifices and put in a lot of time into the lives of others. But sometimes they reject God, despite our efforts. That can certainly be demoralizing.
Jesus Himself became emotional when He looked over Jerusalem, knowing that the people of Israel would reject Him. He knew the ramifications of their decision. And it understandably distressed Him [Luke 19:41-44].
We must remember that all we, as God’s children, can do is plant seeds; we cannot force anyone to believe [1 Corinthians 3:6-8]. We cannot force anyone to put their faith in Jesus if they don’t want to.
Rather we must live in a way that brings God honor [1 Samuel 2:30]. In so doing, our lives will be a light to those around us, who are living in spiritual darkness [Matthew 5:16]. Most people will reject that light and will instead choose the ways of the world, which leads to hell [Matthew 7:13-14].
That should make us sad.
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