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 the people of Israel demand to have a king rule over them because the nations around them had kings.
Up until this point the people of Israel lived freely without any centralized form of human government. Occasionally God raised up judges like Deborah, Gideon, and Samuel to addressed issues the nation was facing. These judges would communicate with God to get the perfect solution to their problems.
In this way the government of Israel was a theocracy. Their laws and direction came directly from God, who see all and knows all and who gives perfect guidance.
But the people of Israel were not content with this form of government. They didn’t want human leaders who were humble and who didn’t call attention to themselves. They wanted a leader like the nations around them had: who lived in opulence and who lead armies and who was well-known.
God told Samuel to obey their voice. He did this not because their request was good or right but because God knew they would not change their minds. If they did not get the king they wanted they might start a rebellion against Samuel and that might destroy the nation.
So God grants their request, even though He knows it is not in their best interests, in order to show them that what they desire is not good for them. In fact, He tells Samuel to solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.
Notice that Samuel was to “solemnly” warn the people. God knew this was not a good idea. He knew that it would not end well for the people of Israel.
God knows the hearts of men. He knows how human rulers are. He knows it now. He knew it back in Samuel’s day. God knew that the king who was going to rule over Israel was not going to be the leader the people needed. Yet He acquiesced and gave them what they wanted.
Israel had been rejecting God for years [1 Samuel 8:8]. This request for a king was more of the same. God was their king. But they were not satisfied with that arrangement.
Similarly today, Jesus is to be the Lord of our lives. But many people don’t allow Him to be. Of course, those who are not Christians don’t have Jesus as their Lord. But many born-again Christians do not allow Jesus to be the Lord of their life either. They allow their careers or spouses or reputation or money rule over them.
God will not stop us from doing this. He will let us go down such a path for the same reason He let ancient Israel have a king: to let us learn for ourselves that such decisions are not in our best interest.
Ideally we would learn the best way to live through Scripture and prayer. But we don’t. Rather than learn the easy way we have to learn the hard way – by getting what we want and experiencing the consequences.
To that end, God will let us have what we want in order to show us it is not what we need. The path to that realization will be much tougher than if we just do things God’s way from the start as Israel will find out when they get their king.
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