We Want a King
We left off in the story with the people longing to be with God again, after a 20-year pause. So, they got rid of their idols and followed God. And timed passed.
1 Samuel 8:1–9 || 1 When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges over Israel. 2 His firstborn son’s name was Joel and his second was Abijah. They were judges in Beer-sheba. 3 However, his sons did not walk in his ways—they turned toward dishonest profit, took bribes, and perverted justice. 4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and went to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Therefore, appoint a king to judge us the same as all the other nations have.” 6 When they said, “Give us a king to judge us,” Samuel considered their demand wrong, so he prayed to the Lord. 7 But the Lord told him, “Listen to the people and everything they say to you. They have not rejected you; they have rejected me as their king. 8 They are doing the same thing to you that they have done to me, since the day I brought them out of Egypt until this day, abandoning me and worshiping other gods. 9 Listen to them, but solemnly warn them and tell them about the customary rights of the king who will reign over them.” [CSB]
I want us to grab a few lessons from this passage.
1. Just because you follow God does not guarantee that your children will.
- We saw this with Adam & Eve with Cain & Able
- We saw this with Eli and his sons Hophni & Phinehas
- We now see it with Samuel and his boys
Each person is responsible for their own faith and obedience to God. You cannot make your kids follow and love God. There is no magic formula that you can follow that will guarantee that your children will love and honor God: go to service every Sunday, study and read the Bible daily, give 10% to God. While we must be careful to make sure we are living for God and pointing out kids to him, the rest is in God’s hands.
In the case of Samuel’s sons, they were greedy – taking bribes and perverting justice. They certainly were not living out the “love your neighbor as yourself” parts of the law!
2. Trusting others more than God is idolatry.
Going back to Samuel, the people have requested a king. Samuel talks to God and God says to tell the people what a king will demand of them. Samuel does this, and the people reply:
1 Samuel 8:19–20 || 19 The people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We must have a king over us. 20 Then we’ll be like all the other nations: our king will judge us, go out before us, and fight our battles.” [CSB]
There are several troubling statements made:
- We must have a king (they already have one)
- We will be like the other nations (God called them to be different)
- Our king will:
- Judge us
- Go before us
- Fight for us
Though the Israelites had given up their made-made idols, they are now making a man into an idol. We have a human that will do what God is supposed to do for us! God said that they were rejecting God to follow other idols. In this case, it is a position/man called a king.
- It was God who gave them the law and promised to judge them by that law.
- It was God who went before them in the cloud of pillar and fire and led them both through the wilderness and into the promised land
- It was God who gave them victory over Pharaoh and his armies, and over Jericho and the Amorites and so many others, including a victories in their lifetime!
The people were rejecting the work that God has done and wanted to have a physical, earthly ruler like the other nations around them. In doing so they were proving that, though they longed for God, they really did not understand all that God wanted to provide for them.
1 Samuel 10:17–19 || 17 Samuel summoned the people to the Lord at Mizpah 18 and said to the Israelites, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I brought Israel out of Egypt, and I rescued you from the power of the Egyptians and all the kingdoms that were oppressing you.’ 19 But today you have rejected your God, who saves you from all your troubles and afflictions. You said to him, ‘You must set a king over us.’” [CSB]
I think this is where you and I can also struggle. We have a God that will judge us, that wants to lead us and that does fight for us… and yet I know in my life, I can often ignore him. Why do we hesitate to run to him to fight our battles? Why do we struggle allowing him to lead? We have the privilege of having God as our good king!
The issue was one of faith and idolatry, not so much as it was of the kingship. How can I say that? Well, God said that they had rejected Him and turned to idols. [1 Samuel 8:8]
But there is a lot more than that.
1 Samuel 8:21–22 || 21 Samuel listened to all the people’s words and then repeated them to the Lord. 22 “Listen to them,” the Lord told Samuel. “Appoint a king for them.” [CSB]
IF having a king was a sin, God would NOT have permitted it! While it seems like this request for a king is an unexpected twist, we need to go back in the narrative to see that God planned on Israel having a king all along!
3. Kingship was God’s idea.
This is the nation Israel we are talking about here. With whom did God enter a relationship with that become the father of the nation of Israel?
And the promise God made we refer to as the “Abrahamic Covenant” – or the contract/agreement between God and Abraham. God first make stated this agreement in Genesis chapter 12, when Abram was 75 years old.
24 years later, when Abram was 99 years old, God had still not given them a son through Sarai, but he was about to, and God reaffirmed his agreement with Abram in Genesis 17 :
Genesis 17:1–6 || 1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him, saying, “I am God Almighty. Live in my presence and be blameless. 2 I will set up my covenant between me and you, and I will multiply you greatly.” 3 Then Abram fell facedown and God spoke with him: 4 “As for me, here is my covenant with you: You will become the father of many nations. 5 Your name will no longer be Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I will make you the father of many nations. 6 I will make you extremely fruitful and will make nations and kings come from you. [CSB]
Genesis 17:15–16 || 15 God said to Abraham, “As for your wife Sarai, do not call her Sarai, for Sarah will be her name. 16 I will bless her; indeed, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she will produce nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” [CSB]
Wait a minute! You mean, God planned for this all along? Well, when we study the bible it is very bad practice to base a belief or doctrine on only one verse. The rest of scripture needs to also affirm that truth.
So, Abraham had a son called Isaac, and Isaac had a son named…
When Jacob was old and about to die, he called his sons into the room to bless them.
Genesis 49:1–2 || 1 Then Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather around, and I will tell you what will happen to you in the days to come. 2 Come together and listen, sons of Jacob; listen to your father Israel: [CSB]
When he gets to his son Judah, he says this:
Genesis 49:10 || 10 The scepter will not depart from Judah or the staff from between his feet until he whose right it is comes and the obedience of the peoples belongs to him. [CSB]
The scepter is a sign of kingship. It is what King Artaxerxes had to offer to Esther when she entered his presence without an invitation, or she could have been killed. It is also spoken of about God and his kingdom:
Psalm 45:6 || 6 Your throne, God, is forever and ever; the scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of justice. [CSB]
Now, it is important to note that the Gen 49 passage is talking about a descendant of Judah and pointing to something bigger – the Messiah, but that is for another week!
Saul is not from the tribe of Judah; Saul is from the tribe of Benjamin – the one that is the smallest because the Israelites almost wiped them all off the face of the earth at the end of the Judges!
Perhaps that reference with the scepter is a bit too cryptic for your liking, and you prefer to have something a bit more concrete? Yeah, me too. The next great leader of Israel is...
Moses led the people out of Egypt and to the foot of Mount Sinai where God made a new covenant with him. Then, God gave Moses the law that would govern how the Israelites were to live.
In Deuteronomy 6 we have the Shema:
Deuteronomy 6:4–9 || 4 “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. 7 Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates. [CSB]
Then, of course, Moses continues to spell out the laws they were to remember. Last week we even looked at one of the “pauses” in the list of laws:
Deuteronomy 10:12 || 12 “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you except to fear the Lord your God by walking in all his ways, to love him, and to worship the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul? [CSB]
Moses then gives the people laws about sacrifices, false prophets, forbidden practices, tithing, canceling debts, release of slaves, festivals like Passover, appointing judges, NOT having idols (like Asherah, etc), and THEN we come to this passage:
Deuteronomy 17:14–20 || 14 “When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, take possession of it, live in it, and say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations around me,’ 15 you are to appoint over you the king the Lord your God chooses. Appoint a king from your brothers. You are not to set a foreigner over you, or one who is not of your people. 16 However, he must not acquire many horses for himself or send the people back to Egypt to acquire many horses, for the Lord has told you, ‘You are never to go back that way again.’ 17 He must not acquire many wives for himself so that his heart won’t go astray. He must not acquire very large amounts of silver and gold for himself. 18 When he is seated on his royal throne, he is to write a copy of this instruction for himself on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. 19 It is to remain with him, and he is to read from it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to observe all the words of this instruction, and to do these statutes. 20 Then his heart will not be exalted above his countrymen, he will not turn from this command to the right or the left, and he and his sons will continue reigning many years in Israel. [CSB]
OK, so that is crystal clear! WHEN you enter the land and say, “we want a king like the nations around us”… then do these things.
God handpicked the first king.
God has someone in mind to be king, and the story of Saul is a great story! God picked him out in response to the people.
- In chapter 10, Samuel anoints Saul as king in a private ceremony.
- God gives enough signs to prove that it is from Him
- The Saul is anointed in a public ceremony
Saul is appointed king. Some people say, “long live the king” and others mock their new king. Then, Saul goes back to his father’s house and does what he did before, like nothing has changed.
The Ammonites attack he town of Jabesh-gilead. Saul hears the report and it filled with the anger of God, and God uses Saul as his representation! He empowers Saul to lead and defeat the armies of the Ammonites. Saul and the Israelites win the battle, Saul gives credit to God and the people actually accept Saul as king.
1 Samuel 11:14–15 || 14 Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let’s go to Gilgal, so we can renew the kingship there.” 15 So all the people went to Gilgal, and there in the Lord’s presence they made Saul king. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings in the Lord’s presence, and Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly. [CSB]
I share this part of the story because I want to make sure we see the other bookend of the “we want a king” part of the story in Samuel. Samuel then calls all the people to himself and he gives an account of what God had done in the past and the way that the people have treated God with contempt. He gives this summary:
1 Samuel 12:12–15 || 12 But when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites was coming against you, you said to me, ‘No, we must have a king reign over us’—even though the Lord your God is your king. 13 “Now here is the king you’ve chosen, the one you requested. Look, this is the king the Lord has placed over you. 14 If you fear the Lord, worship and obey him, and if you don’t rebel against the Lord’s command, then both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God. 15 However, if you disobey the Lord and rebel against his command, the Lord’s hand will be against you as it was against your ancestors. [CSB]
There is that phrase again! If you fear Yahweh, he will bless you. If not, his hand will be against you.
Let’s take a step back a minute. The people turned from idols and worshipped God. The people have been following Samuel and obeying him and God. There is a lot of good that has been going on. Then, they mess up and request a king.
And God gives them one. Why?
He knew they would ask, we clearly pointed that out through Abraham, Jacob and Moses. And it is apparent that he planned on allowing them this request.
Is it possible that God will even use our rebellion and lack of faith to accomplish his kingdom purposes?
After all, it is not the kingdom of Israel that is eternal, it is the kingdom of God that will reign forever. It is not the scepter of man that will endure, but the scepter of God that is just and powerful.
However, the all-powerful King of Kings has not deterred from his original mission, nor from his covenant promise! He still desires to bless the nation of Israel and to be with them. Let’s finish up our chapter:
1 Samuel 12:20–25 || 20 Samuel replied, “Don’t be afraid. Even though you have committed all this evil, don’t turn away from following the Lord. Instead, worship the Lord with all your heart. 21 Don’t turn away to follow worthless things that can’t profit or rescue you; they are worthless. 22 The Lord will not abandon his people, because of his great name and because he has determined to make you his own people. 23 “As for me, I vow that I will not sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you. I will teach you the good and right way. 24 Above all, fear the Lord and worship him faithfully with all your heart; consider the great things he has done for you. 25 However, if you continue to do what is evil, both you and your king will be swept away.” [CSB]
God is amazingly committed to us. For the sake of his great name he will continue to pursue us in love. It is not a “reckless love of God” but a determined commitment to love us in spite of our inability to completely grasp how much he loves us. He still desires to have us as his people and to use us to bring glory to his name.
“All of creation exists to declare the supremacy of God”
That is where we started our journey with the story of God, and we see that God has not given up on his creation, and it even using our rebellion to help us better understand his greatness.
Having a king was not a sin. God planned for it, and if the people had memorized God’s law they would have known about the passage regarding how they will select kings and such. It was, and always is, the heart condition. It is harder to live a life of faith – to trust a God you cannot see more than a person you can see. Yet, we see God working all around us.
So, how do we keep our eyes fixes on God as our king? Is there a way to make it easier for us to allow God to judge us, lead us and fight for us?
NOTE: Samuel reminded them of the activity of God as a way to show them how they have seen God and know they can trust him.
24 Above all, fear the Lord and worship him faithfully with all your heart; consider the great things he has done for you.
“Consider the great things he has done for you” is a great reminder!
HOMEWORK: each day, send a text, post on social media, or write in a journal, one great thing that God has done for you and what it teaches you about him – his leadership, protection, character, actions, etc.
We just finished “Thanksgiving” – and what a great time to consider the great things God has done for us! By remembering God’s great work in us and around us we can “see” him and know him better. This helps us to live a life of faith, trusting him to fight for us and to lead us.
However, the kingship is NOT just about Saul… God also is using this time to point to another kingdom and another king – which we are reminded of at Christmas. So, our story will continue next week with the coming of The King of all kings.