“But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” So Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.” 1 Sam. 8:6-7
I’ve been reading through the book of 1st Samuel in the Old Testament. There are amazing accounts of the events regarding people such as Hannah (Samuel’s mother), Eli the priest and his wicked sons, Saul and his son Jonathan, and many others. It was hard to find the one topic to drill down into, so I had to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
I want to remind you that the Old Testament is very relevant to our lives today because these events were intended to teach us and instruct us. Although the cultures were different, these people were the same as us and had similar feelings, emotions and situations to deal with. We have an advantage because we have the knowledge of Jesus and the New Testament. Through the blood of Jesus, we now have access into the presence of God the father, as well as the Holy Spirit. Remember though, these Old Testament people were just like us and we can learn much from their experiences.
“For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” Romans 15:4
Remember too that it is the same Lord who was dealing with the people of old; He has not changed and we can learn much about His nature from these accounts.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” Hebrews 13:7
One thing that stood out to me as I was reading was the request of the Israelites for a king. Maybe it was because of the fact that at the time of writing this, the U.S. is in the middle of the presidential election, with debates and posturing being done by the candidates. I remembered that during a previous election time, Ron Paul, one of the candidates who apparently had some knowledge of the Bible, mentioned the warning that God gave the people after they requested a king, essentially that the king would burden them with heavy taxation. Dr. Paul suggested that any government of men would do the same and that this taxation would only get worse and typically results in the destruction of the nation. (Much of Dr. Paul’s libertarian platform was centered on the reduction of the government. Of course, he didn’t get elected.) Here’s the warning from 1 Samuel:
“Now therefore heed their voice. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them. So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who asked him for a king. And he said, ‘This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you. He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. And he will take your male servants, your female servants, and your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your sheep; and you will be his servants. And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day.’” 1 Sam. 8:10-18
So, we should not be surprised at the situation of our current nation and government; it is to be expected. I am not surprised that any attempts to limit the power and extent of the government have failed.
There are some issues here regarding our current government situation that I want to discuss, but first, I want to look at why the people of Israel requested a king. What motivated them? Why would they choose to reject the government system that God had established, with His protection and influence, and rather have a king who would have a heavy burden put on them?
Let’s look closer at God’s system of government. For one thing, God was protecting them from their enemies (this is what governments do). He gave them victory, in many cases, with little effort needed from the men of Israel. Instead, God would cause the enemy to be confused or fearful and they would retreat.
“Now as Samuel was offing up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel. But the Lord thundered with a loud thunder upon the Philistines that day, and so confused them that they were overcome before Israel.” 1 Samuel 7:10
So God was giving them protection from their surrounding enemies, without the need for them to establish a large and well equipped army.
In addition to this, after the exodus from Egypt, God has established judges over the people of Israel starting with Moses, up until the time of Samuel. The judges were representative of God, so they were also prophets, like Samuel. God, through His judge/prophet, was making sure that justice was being done in the nation of Israel. He was dealing with corruption and crime. He was deciding correctly and righteously when there was a difference between people. The people knew that they would be brought to the judge/prophet and that God would deal with them fairly and righteously. There was no hiding or getting around the correct judgments that were being executed by men like Samuel that God had established. This was the Lord’s system of government.
It would appear that the decision to request a king was based on their desire to have the new king become their judge. When they made the request, they mentioned the change of the process of justice, requesting that a king would now judge them rather than a judge/prophet as appointed by God.
“Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” 1 Sam. 8:5
The elders of Israel also mentioned that the son’s of Samuel, who were now being set up as judges, were not adhering to the righteous ways of Samuel:
“Now it came to pass when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel…..But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice. Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him ‘Look, you are old, and your sons don’t walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.’” 1 Sam. 8:1-5
Although the condition of the sons of Samuel was a serious issue, it was not a reason to reject God as judge. They should have been requesting that Samuel either deal with his son’s or have God appoint a new judge/prophet. I’m sure the Lord would have been more than happy to correct this situation.
They used the problem with Samuel’s son’s as an excuse to request a king as a judge. So, what was their real motive? Again, why would they want to forfeit God’s involvement and establish a king as a judge, who is a mere man, and who would take so much from them, as God had warned them?
Here is a hint about what might have been their motive (this happened many years before the request for a king, when Samuel was younger):
“Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, ‘If you return to the Lord, with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths from among you, and prepare your hearts for the Lord, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.’” 1 Sam. 7:3
I believe that the underlying motive for the people to request a king was that they did not want to deal with their flesh. They did not want to remove the idols from their lives. They did not want to serve the Lord only. They did not want to deal with the sin in their lives that resulted from their hearts being set on worldly things, and not focused on pleasing the Lord. It was easier for them to look to a new king, similar to what the surrounding nations were doing.
In other words, they wanted their cake, and eat it too. They couldn’t have both. They wanted to be protected from their enemies and have justice in their midst, and also wanted to keep their idols and feed their flesh, having their hearts torn between the Lord and their worldly desires.
This is the main lesson to be learned from this account in 1 Samuel. There are times when we, as a nation or as individuals, need to humble ourselves before the Lord, when we need to allow Him to show us the idols in our lives so we can tear them down and remove them, when we need to deal with our flesh and our sins and restore Him as the only Lord and Master, and allow Him to judge us righteously, when we need to make sure that we serve Him only. This would bring about the true healing in the land and in our lives. This would bring about justice. This would protect us from our enemies.
Instead of focusing on changing our heart, we look to a man or to men, thinking we can get justice from them, thinking that we can get protection from them. Even when the Lord warned the people of Israel about how bad the situation would get, they still wanted the king.
“Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel and they said, ‘No, but we will have a king over us.’” 1 Sam. 8:19
The Israelites believed the lie that they didn’t need the Lord’s protection or justice, that they could get what they needed from a king, just like the other nations were doing. It’s interesting that we have similar thoughts regarding other people in the world (we believe the same lie). We look at their lives and think that they have it all together and are happy and safe, but the reality is that it’s all a façade. The truth is that people have all the same issues and problems that we do, if not more, they just are able to cover them up so the outside world doesn’t see them.
The bottom line is that it is very difficult for us to turn inward, looking at ourselves, and deal with the heart issues that are the root of the problem. Many of us would rather look to a man for help than to humble ourselves and pour out our hearts before God, and make the necessary changes to our heart and lives, putting to death the deep rooted areas of our carnal nature. Instead of going directly to the Lord, we look to counselors, or doctors, or pastors, or whoever we think can give us an answer or a quick fix to our problems. Any good Christian pastor, counselor or doctor will direct you to the Lord anyway, so why not just go there in the first place?
As a nation, we look to the government for a solution. We think that by changing the laws or by electing the right person into office, we can solve the problems we have, but this is never the case. Real and lasting changes can only take place in people’s hearts; changing the government will not bring about the needed change.
Obviously, we don’t have the same opportunity that the Israelites had with the Lord raising up judges and prophets to be involved directly with the people of our nation, and I am not suggesting that we somehow attempt to bring this about. Unfortunately, we must live with the systems of government that are in place in this world.
We need to recognize that as Christians we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom and we are awaiting the return of our King, the Lord Jesus Christ. His return, which could be very soon, will establish a new system where He is judge and protector. I anxiously await His return!
We also need to recognize that our nation has drifted away from the moral and ethical standards of a Christian nation and has therefore come under the judgment of God. The real need for this nation to be healed is for individuals to humbly turn to God in repentance. I believe that for the majority of people in our country the opportunity for repentance and change of heart has passed, but God is greater and we should continue to pray for revival. Regardless, no matter who is elected into the office of the president of the U.S. we will not have a solution to the root problems that have plagued our nation. Unfortunately, things will only get worse.
I want to emphasize here that for the child of God this worsening of our nation is not a problem. We are not a part of this earthly kingdom that is collapsing. We are a part of a heavenly kingdom that will soon be brought here, destroying the old and making a new heaven and new earth in accordance with God’s prophecy. Jesus will be the king.
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” 1 Peter 3:10-13
Even now, we understand that as we turn to the Lord, He will heal us, He will set us free from bondage, He will teach us truth, He will transform our minds.
“Nevertheless, when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Cor. 3:16-18
Don’t be tempted to look to man or to man’s systems for the answer to our problems, but keep your face like flint set on the future hope that we have in Christ Jesus.
“Therefore do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” 2 Cor. 4:16 to 5:1
In summary, the people of Israel asked for a king because they didn’t want to remove the idols from their lives, and they wanted to continue to entertain their fleshly passions that conflicted with the Lord’s service. The people of Israel ignored the warning from the Lord regarding the establishment of a king and the associated governing system, and pushed to have a king anyway. We can learn from this the following: 1) Governments are not the solution for the problems of our societies. 2) Rather than looking to man or man’s ways for solving our problems, we should look to God. 3) Humility and repentance are the real solution for the root cause of our problems. Until we as individuals humble ourselves, remove our fleshly idols, and allow the Lord to transform us we will not have true peace and justice in our nations. 4) As Christians we have a hope beyond this world of a righteous society ruled by the Lord Jesus in a new heaven and new earth. For this hope we patiently endure.