23 July 2019

1 Samuel 8

When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders. The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.
So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”
But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. 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. 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. 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 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.”

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.’ (verse 7)

It’s likely that you’ve heard a story or two about children, in their young adult years, who reject their parents. Generally, it causes us to shake our heads and feel sadness for the parents. Having loved, nurtured and sacrificed they are left dejected and heart-broken. How much more so when we hear these chilling words in 1 Samuel 8:7. The people of Israel rejecting God as their king; who as their King rescued them out of Egypt, who lead, guided, protected and nurtured in the wilderness; who delivered them into the promised land; who sent judge after judge to rescue them from the surrounding nations and who consistently protected them from their fiercest enemies in the land. God’s children reject God as King.

The rejection is a travesty, but what heightens this tragedy is that they are asking for a replacement king, ‘like the nations’. Their rejection reveals the heart of the matter. They want what God has given but they don’t want him as King, they don’t want Him to guide them or rule them. They would prefer a king like the nations, whom they expect to be able to handle better than living under God.

God in His grace, before giving them a king, warns them of what a king like the nations would be like. And the defining characteristic of such a king would be ‘taker’. He will take their sons and daughters and make them servants. He will take the best fields and take the best fruits. He will take their livestock and flocks, and chillingly, God says, ‘you will become his slaves.’ A king like the nations will take, take, take! You would expect any sane minded person to change their mind after such a warning, but sane is not what we’re dealing with here, rather it is sin. The sin of independence and self-rule. The sad conclusion is that God will now grant their request.

Reading this passage may incline us to think we would have chosen differently to Israel but the truth is the scriptures and our own experience say otherwise. Which is what makes God sending Jesus as king that much more profound. He came not as a king who would take but give. He gave up his throne in heaven to come as a man. He gave Himself of service to people. He gave His life in death so that we can have life. He gives us abundant life through the Spirit and he has promised to give us an inheritance in Heaven. Jesus the King gives, gives, gives!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, giver of life in all creation, thank You for giving us Your Son. Thank You for His life, death, and resurrection for us. Thank You that we have a king, ‘unlike the nations’, who deals with us in grace, love and compassion. Forgive us when we desire to be led by men rather than You, help us by Your spirit to rejoice in You as king, and help us to honour You as king. For Your glory sake. Amen.