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)
Samuel was not in a position to grant the elders’ request. This was a decision that only God could make. So Samuel took the matter to God in prayer, as we read yesterday. And God’s decision was for Samuel to obey the voice of the people. God decided to give Israel the king they wanted even though, as we’ll see, this was not what they needed.
But notice that it wasn’t just the elders who wanted a king. The elders were the ones who approached Samuel. But they apparently did so at the behest of the people they represented. This was a grass roots movement. It wasn’t just a few old men who wanted to get rid of Samuel. It was pretty much everyone.
Samuel was displeased with their request because he knew that the people were making a big mistake in requesting a king [1 Samuel 8:6]. Having been the leader of Israel for a few decades, he apparently thought that he had not done a good job of leading if, after all that time, the people were making such a sinful request.
But God consoles Samuel and lets him know that the people had not rejected him, but they had rejected God from being king over them. Samuel need not feel that he was a failure or had let God down. After all, this was nothing new. From the day God brought them up out of Egypt they had forsaken God.
When Moses was up on Mount Sinai longer than they expected, the people decided to make a golden calf and declare it their god [Exodus 32:1-6]. Shortly thereafter when they heard about the Canaanites in the Promised Land, they turned against Moses and Aaron and refused to go into the land [Numbers 14:1-4].
Despite all the good things God had done for Israel , they kept turning away from Him in favor of other gods [Numbers 14:11]. All the efforts of leaders like Moses and Samuel to lead the people to God were not always successful.
Even though the people did not want Samuel’s leadership, God told Samuel not to take it personally. Nor should we.
When Christians try to talk to others about Jesus we will often be rejected. When we try to set an example through out lifestyle we will often be ignored or even ridiculed. But we should not take such responses personally. For it is not us they are rejecting, ignoring, or ridiculing. It is God.
In fact, we should be glad and not discouraged or ashamed if we are insulted because of our faith [1 Peter 4:14,16]. Such afflictions are momentary and will result in eternal glory [2 Corinthians 4:17].
As long as we are doing and saying what God wants us to do and say we should not be discouraged when people don’t respond or, worse, respond harshly. For it is not our message that they are rejecting but God’s. For this reason it is very important that we do and say only those things that God wants us to do and say. And to do that we need to know our Bibles.
We need to know correct doctrine. We need to know the kind of life God wants us to live and then we must live it. We cannot have secret sins that will someday get exposed. We have to walk the talk. As long as we are doing that, we can have confidence that we are accurately representing God on this earth and that any rejection of us is really a rejection of Him [Psalm 69:9].
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