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The study of 1 Samuel 8 provides great insight into why God’s people end up living in a less than ideal situation.
What about your life? Have you somehow compromised? Have you insisted on something and found out (or just now finding it out) that what you thought would be better became a cause for more concern?
The elders came to Samuel and requested a change of government. They now wanted a king. There were several reasons behind their request.
Samuel was getting old. They were thinking of the future (8:5).
Samuel’s sons were carrying on in a very disappointing way (1 Samuel 8:1-3). They actually stated this to Samuel (8:5). They didn’t want a repeat of Eli.
They wanted to be like other nations (8:20). They were missing out on something.
“But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD” (1 Samuel 8:6).
Samuel was very disappointed with their request. There was probably a combination of reasons why this so disappointed him.
Remorse over his sons’ disobedience. This could have been a personal sadness. Parents rejoice over their children’s godly choices and grieve over their evil choices. (More on parenting)
Sad reflections on his hard labor. Every man cares about his work. Samuel hoped his sons would succeed him but had to agree that they were unfit for the job. He knew of the tragedy with Eli’s sons. Is his poor parenting part of the overall problem?
Grieved over the hardness of their hearts. It is likely that Samuel was thinking of the consequences this approach would bring. The people were not seeking God. They did not understand how faithful and caring God was. They were stepping into a deeper mess.
Samuel rightly handled his disappointment. We all will face disappointment but oftentimes wrongly respond to it. He simply went to the Lord and talked with Him.
If we are going to have this kind of response, it is imperative that we first set up a regular habit of going to God otherwise in difficult times we will not approach the Lord. The Lord also had His response to this situation.
“And the LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. “Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day--in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods--so they are doing to you also” (1 Samuel 8:7-8).
The Lord first tells Samuel that the people have not rejected Samuel but Himself. They have turned aside and rejected the Lord. We do not know whether Samuel found comfort in this. It does help him get perspective on this issue. Many a time a child or church leaders make irresponsible decisions. We might feel all out of sorts, but we should instead the larger picture. It is not personal against you as much as against the Lord. God’s perspective helps us keep our hearts tender to Him so that we can be patient as He is.
Check out our Digital Old Testament Library for a huge collection of resources on 1 Samuel and all of the Old Testament!
Why is it, though, that the Lord actually states that they have rejected Him from being king over them? This sounds as if the Israelites have greatly sinned in this matter.
God views Himself as king and their request to have a king like others shows that they have rejected the Lord as their king. By the word ‘rejected’ God holds them accountable to the knowledge that He is their king. They should have appropriately responded to that fact.
The Lord discusses this matter with a historical perspective. He identifies their request with what happened in the wilderness, “They have forsaken Me and served other gods...”
There is one matter, though, that needs to be carefully thought through. In the Law the Lord speaks of the Israelites adoption of a king. Read the following passage and reflect from these verses whether it was okay or not to ask to have a king.
“When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,’ you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman. “Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never again return that way.’ “Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself."
“Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. “And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left; in order that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel.” (Deuteronomy 17:14-20).
Do they not possess the land now? Are they not now stating that they would have a king like all the other nations? Why does the Lord consider this so wrong?
There are three associated answers to this question.
They were requesting a king rather than waiting for God’s appointed one. The passage does not say that they can demand a king.
The king they asked for was not the king that God wanted to set over them. He had such great plans but they would not wait. They wanted a king that would operate like the world despite all the costs.
Perhaps most importantly, they were rejecting the Lord as their king. They were distancing themselves from the Lord. He did much for them but that was history. They entered a new generation and now could care for themselves. They rejected God’s unique way of caring for them.
Scriptures typically quoted from the New American Standard Bible unless noted:
(C) Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1988