Looking at I Samuel 8 this morning, we recall that in the previous chapter a great revival broke out among the people of God! The story now fast-forwards to when Samuel is old and he appoints his sons as Israel’s leaders. [I don’t believe we were told in the text about Samuel’s wife or their two sons].
Unfortunately, his two sons — Joel and Abijah — followed the pattern of Eli’s two sons. “They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice” (v. 3).
Israel’s elders have to approach Samuel. They ask for a king as the other nations have, because Samuel’s sons do not follow Samuel’s “ways.” (v. 5). This displeases Samuel and he prays to the Lord.
The Lord tells Samuel to listen to the people, for “they have not rejected you but me as their king. They have a habit of forsaking me and serving other gods — their practice since I rescued them from Egypt. Warn them that a king will claim certain rights.”
Samuel lists the “rights” a king will claim — conscripting their sons to serve his chariots and horses, becoming commanders of Israel’s soldiers, plowing his ground and reaping his harvest, and making weapons of war and equipment for his chariots (vv. 11-12). He will also draft their daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers (v. 13). He’ll take the best of the fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. A tenth of your grain and vintage will be given to his officials. He will take for his own use your servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys (v. 16). He’ll take a tenth of your flocks “and you yourselves will become his slaves” (v. 17). Then the Lord says, “When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day” (v. 18).
The people insist on having a king — “We want a king over us. We want to be like the other nations and have a king who will fight our battles” (v. 20).
Samuel repeats all this to the Lord and the Lord tells him to listen to them and give them a king (v. 22). Then Samuel sent all of them home.
How fickle are the people of God! One moment they repent and experience
a great revival. The next minute they demand a king like the pagan nations around them. Samuel bears some guilt in this turn of events. He did not discipline his sons, but followed Eli’s example in allowing his sons to live ungodly lives.
Incredibly, the people of Israel no longer want the Lord to be their king! They want a human being to lead them. We see that the Lord acquiesces to their demand, telling Samuel that they have not rejected him but the Lord!
But no human ruler is perfect. And, although they are warned in specific terms of the claims that such a king will make on their families and property, they insist on having a human king to “fight our battles.”
My takeaway today: I can reject the Lord as my King, becoming persuaded by the world that He should be replaced as the ruler of my life. But there will be a price to be paid.