1 Samuel 8:1-22
8 When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders.[a] 2 The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. 3 But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice. 4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead[b] us, such as all the other nations have.” 6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.” 10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle[c] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 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.” 19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” 21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. 22 The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.” Then Samuel said to the Israelites, “Everyone go back to your own town.”
This chapter captures a hugely significant moment in Israel’s history from God’s own perspective. Israel is choosing a human king instead of having their God as their king. From God’s perspective he is willing to let them have their way, but he sees it as a rejection of his own leadership and a road towards future trouble for his people.
I can see where the Israelites are coming from. Samuel has for the most part done a wonderful job leading Israel as a Priest. He has been full of the Spirit of God and been obedient to God. He is now old and the Israelites are wondering who will next take up this priestly position, Samuel’s sons certainly are not a promising bunch.
I can think of some specific moments in my life where I was not happy about the present circumstances that I or my work organisation found itself in, I can think of moments where I did not like the direction leadership in church or work were going, I can pinpoint moments where I thought I could see the future clearly and it wasn’t looking good.
And I can see that too many times I was just like the Israelites; I took matters into my own hands and did not wait upon the Lord. The lesson for me is clear: when things are not going well or the future looks gloomy, do not be hasty in acting according to worldly wisdom. Cry out to the Lord, seek him out as King, and let him “lead me, go out before me, and fight my battles”.
Written by Andrew Mellor