10 So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. 11 He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. 12 And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15 He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. 16 He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
(1 Samuel 8:10-18)
In today’s passage, Samuel relays all the words from God to the people about how the king they were asking for would act. It had always been God’s plan to appoint a king over Israel [Genesis 17:6, 16; 35:11]. But the people were impatient. They wanted a king before they were ready for one. And they wanted a king for the wrong reasons – to be like the nations around them.
God is going to let them have the king they wanted. He will be a man of their choosing, not God’s. And therefore, he will not be the kind of ruler God would have provided for them.
But in the process, God will teach the people a lesson about true leadership and, more importantly, about His leadership. So in today’s passage, God forwarned the people about how their king will behave, giving them a chance to change their minds.
Once Israel has the king they want, life will never be the same. Under God’s system of judges, there was no standing army to maintain or royal palace to support. There were no advisors to be paid or staff to be hired. The entire system was informal and inexpensive.
But a king requires support. He will need a standing army which in turn needs supplies. The men for the army and their supplies will have to come from the people. The king will conscript their sons into his army and their daughters will become his servants. The best of the people’s fields, vineyards, and orchards will have to be given to support the government.
The people will have to give up some of their male and female servants and animals to the king. They will have to give up a tenth of their flocks. Overall, the nation would have to make a big sacrifice to have a king that was like the kings of other nations.
Notice how many times God tells the people that their king will “take” but never once tells them that he will “give”.
Human leaders take. They don’t give. Outwardly they may appear to be working for the people’s best interests. But underlying their decisions is a need to secure their own current administration and future legacy.
Contrast that with God. God leads by giving. He gave His only Son so that those who believe in Him would have eternal life [John 3:16]. Jesus Himself did not come to be served but to serve [Matthew 20:28].
The people of Israel thought that having a big government would provide them with certain benefits. And it would. It would protect them from foreign invasion and it would provide a public display of power. But all that comes at a cost. In the end, the king would not serve them; they would be his slaves.
People today still think that our problems could be solved through human leadership rather than turning to the Lord [1 Samuel 8:7]. We think that a certain political candidate, if elected, will be the solution to our problems. But that never happens. Our problems don’t go away. They only multiply no matter who is in office.
God is the only answer to our problems. He is our king. He is not a taker but a giver.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.