In 1 Samuel 8, we transition to the Israeli people’s request for a human king:
As Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons to be judges over Israel. 2 Joel and Abijah, his oldest sons, held court in Beersheba. 3 But they were not like their father, for they were greedy for money. They accepted bribes and perverted justice.
Now, remember that we discussed this subtheme throughout Samuel of father/son relationships and leadership. Several examples are given, including this one of Samuel and his sons Joel and Abijah, of Godly fathers whose sons don’t obey God’s commands. One generation prior, we saw a similar pattern with Eli and his sons.
4 Finally, all the elders of Israel met at Ramah to discuss the matter with Samuel. 5 “Look,” they told him, “you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.”
This is probably the single saddest sentence in all of 1 Samuel. You see, the people of Israel are driven to this request because they are suffering under injustice from bad judges (Joel and Abijah). Judges that Samuel could have done something about because they were his own sons! It makes me wonder how many things are adversely affected in life because we don’t take the time to disciple, train, or discipline our own children. This needs to be a major focus of our lives!
Now, of course, at some point, our kids are going to grow up, make their own decisions and do whatever they’re going to do, but I can’t escape this theme that when fathers didn’t raise their children as they should have, it put the entire nation of Israel in a bad place, to the point where they were even tempted to want things that God didn’t want for them.
Keep in mind, it wasn’t a bad thing for them to want a human king – in fact it’s written in their constitution (Deuteronomy 17:14-22). But, unlike the kings of their neighboring nations, God intended for the king of Israel to be a fellow servant to and appointed by God. This is a HUGE difference in leadership.
Believe it or not, this applies to our day to day lives, too.
Too often we want what other people have (house, job, perfect marriage) regardless of if it’s what God wants for us at the time. What we NEED is what God wants to give us, but so many times we just see the outward appearance of what we think others have, and we long for it.
But, just like to the Israelites, God is in the habit of showing us our needs, allowing us to take our own path, and then giving us an alternative.
6 Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance. 7 “Do everything they say to you,” the Lord replied, “for they are rejecting me, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer.8 Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. 9 Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.”
10 So Samuel passed on the Lord’s warning to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 “This is how a king will reign over you,” Samuel said. “The king will draft your sons and assign them to his chariots and his charioteers, making them run before his chariots. 12 Some will be generals and captains in his army, some will be forced to plow in his fields and harvest his crops, and some will make his weapons and chariot equipment. 13 The king will take your daughters from you and force them to cook and bake and make perfumes for him. 14 He will take away the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his own officials. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and your grape harvest and distribute it among his officers and attendants. 16 He will take your male and female slaves and demand the finest of your cattle and donkeys for his own use. 17 He will demand a tenth of your flocks, and you will be his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will beg for relief from this king you are demanding, but then the Lord will not help you.”
19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel’s warning. “Even so, we still want a king,” they said. 20 “We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will judge us and lead us into battle.”
21 So Samuel repeated to the Lord what the people had said, 22 and the Lord replied, “Do as they say, and give them a king.” Then Samuel agreed and sent the people home.
Next time, we’ll talk about the type of king that the people want, compared to what God has in mind for them.
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