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)
Yesterday we saw that Samuel was saddened when the elders came to him and asked him to appoint a king for them. He realized that they were making a big mistake – they weren’t satisfied with what God had provided for them. They instead wanted what the world had. That is never a good decision and Samuel knew it.
Samuel was the spiritual leader of Israel. Yet he was not qualified to grant the elders’ request. It was not for him to decide what type of leadership Israel should have. And he knew that. Faced with this grave situation, Samuel did the only thing he could. He prayed to the Lord.
It’s interesting that we don’t read that the elders ever prayed about their request. As we’ve learned, this was a period in Israel’s history when people did not have a relationship God. They were doing whatever they wanted to do [Judges 21:25]. They did not seek God and His wisdom.
Many decisions we make in life are minor and have no spiritual consequences like what to eat for dinner or what color to paint our bedroom. But there are also times in life when we are confronted with a situation that does have spiritual consequences. In those cases, we don’t have the capacity to decide as we can’t see the future. Nor do we have the jurisdiction to decide. Such decisions belong to God and we need to seek His guidance on such matters.
This is where many of us go wrong. Of course those who don’t even believe in God never approach Him for direction for their lives. This is understandable. But many people who claim to be (and who likely are) part of God’s eternal family also rarely, if ever, seek His wisdom.
Instead we rely on our own understanding, which is certainly heavily influenced by the world’s values. Or we seek the advice of friends or famous people who know no more than we do, if that much. This is sad because God will grant wisdom to anyone who asks [Proverbs 2:6; James 1:5].
Knowing when to seek God’s wisdom is easy. If the decision we face has spiritual consequences, then we should leave the decision up to Him. Samuel could have decided for or against the elders’ request on his own. But he knew this decision was too big for him and that the spiritual health of the people was at stake. So he turned it over to God.
Also notice that if Samuel had made the decision on his own he would have been in trouble either way. If he had granted the elders’ request he would have become an accomplice to the problems that he knew were certain to ensue from having a human king. If, on the other hand, he would have opposed the request, he would be inviting accusations of being self-serving especially considering his previously ill-advised decision to grant his sons judgeships.
Some dilemmas we face in life are too big for us. Some decisions affect our own spiritual well-being or the spiritual well-being of others. In these cases, its best to turn them over to God as He knows the best way to handle the situation. And, as we’ll see tomorrow, His way is not always the obvious way.
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