Read 1 Samuel 8:1-22
It is estimated that from the battle in chapter 7 until now approximately 20 more years have passed. Making Samuel at least in his fifties, possibly close to sixty. At any rate, the man is in a season of life when he needs to begin to delegate his workload. Samuel chose to appoint his two sons Joel and Abijah as judges in the area of Beersheba which is located in the southern territories and it appears that Samuel kept his office in the area of Ramah. Notice he did not make them high priests only God has the authority to do that. Samuels sons don’t appear to be as corrupt as Eli’s sons, they messed with the Lord’s sacrifices, however, they were corrupt judges non the less. Joel and Abijah would take bribes. They received money that swayed their judgment, they no longer judged their cases fairly and honestly.
Verse 4 tells us the elders of Israel got together, traveling to Ramah to meet with Samuel. The scripture written here reflects the heartbreak and focus of Samuel as he wrote these words. It’s almost as if you can feel his emotions welling up. Samuels sons were not the sole reason the elders were frustrated, but it seems to be the most disappointing aspect for Samuel.
The Israelites under Joel and Abijah were experiencing disunion and jealousy among the various tribes. Their authority was limited and not consistent. There was also a concern for Samuel’s age and the fact that he would not be able to lead them much longer and as far as they could tell the Lord has not raised up another high priest judge to take his place. On top of all this, they are beginning to receive threats of invasion from the Amorite king.
They want a king, they want one central form of government and they begin to make this known to Samuel because they trusted he would make the right decision for the people despite his personal interest or even personal feelings. The elders were not out of line to request a king according to Deut 17:14, it’s as though Moses predicted this would happen, more like the Lord knew this would happen and had Moses include it in his laws.
Naturally, Samuel was displeased with this request but as a prophet-seer, he did what we all should do when faced with stressful decisions, he turned to the Lord in prayer. I always find it interesting when the Lord answers us in a way we do not want to hear. I’m sure Samuel was not expecting the Lord to tell him to give the people a king. Samuel saw this request as a rejection and it was, it was a rejection of their invisible king, not Samuel. They used Samuel as the excuse, he was their scapegoat and that was painful, yet the Lord reassured Samuel that it wasn’t him they were rejecting.
God is not surprised by their rejections at all. He has dealt with it since he first placed his favor on them and led them out of Egypt. The Israelites have given the Lord one big long series of ingratitude and rebellion against Him and the people he provided as intercessors for Him. They did it to Moses, they did it to Aaron and now they are doing it to Samuel.
God told Samuel to give them what they wanted, but before doing so, give them a fair warning of the reality of how things will be. You see the grass on the other side is looking greener to them, but what they don’t realize is the grass is planted on a septic tank. Currently, they are under the rule of a God who loves them and makes their best interest His priority. The citizens are asking to be like all the other nations. Their current government allows them to make decisions based on God’s word, but they are asking for a change to their governmental structure, one that will make them depend on man-made systems and structures that deliberately take away their freedoms and liberty to follow and trust in the Lord.
They were willing to exchange their Republican freedom for that of a sovereign like those foreign kings who threaten to attack or like Pharoah who held them as slaves. It does not make sense that they would want to go back to that lifestyle after experiencing freedom.
Samuel paints a very vivid picture for the elders. He warns them of how it will be. Here is the thing, Samuel is telling them word for word what the Lord says will happen. This is prophecy, this isn’t just a warning, this is straight-up going to happen if they continue seeking an alternative form of government.
I’ll put it in more common wording for our modern American way of understanding. The people wanted a government that would take care of them, they wanted a better life and they didn’t want to depend on the Lord for it. So they started a campaign for a government that gave them free healthcare, free education, free food, free paychecks. Samuel then gave them a warning of what this would truly mean for them, warned them of what their lives will be like, not could, will be like.
Samuel began to point out some hard truths about their neighbors. Truths of how their citizens are at their disposal for court retainers, military positions. They would also be required to work for the government in any and all ways they appointed them from gardening their private estates to personal housekeeping, they could no longer choose their profession. Any and all property the citizens owned would be seized and deemed governmental property, they would no longer own their land or homes they would only rent if they are deemed worthy enough by the government. They will be forced to work without a fair wage or any wage at all.
He makes a special mention of the horrible treatment of women. Most ungodly nations do not honor women the way the Lord does. They will not be safe in their family homes because the government can come in and take them away to work as slaves in whatever position they decided on.
Basically, under this new form of government, you will have no life. Rejecting the rule of God in your life will leave you with no life. Vs. 18 says, on that day you will cry out because of the king you have chosen and the Lord will not hear you. Vs. 19 tells us nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. Saying, “Naah, we’d rather have a king rule over us. They would rather, willingly put themselves out of the Lord’s protection. They are choosing this. They would rather be judged by a man born to sin than the holy Lord.
They longed to be like other nations. How many times have I heard how other nations do this and do that. If you want to be like other nations go live in those nations. There is a reason other people run to our nation, yet people still keep crying out for our government to do things like other nations. Look at Israel’s history over this one decision. It’s a tragic story.