Have you ever been in this conversation? “Can I go here or do this?” “No.” “PLEASE! Everyone else is doing it!” “If everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you?” Frown, “no, but…” I have been on both sides of this argument, as a child and now as a parent. Why do we desire to be like everyone else or do what everyone else is doing? There’s a strong pull to conform. My parents would try to explain that I was not to do what everyone else was doing; I had parents that cared and desired to keep me safe, and more importantly a God that had higher standards. In our passage today we see the same conversation taking place between God’s people and Samuel. They wanted a king, just like everyone else around them. What could be wrong in wanting to be like everyone else?
For thirty-plus years, the Israelites had followed the leadership of Samuel. But now Samuel had aged and would soon be passing from this world. As a result, the Israelites craved to establish a monarchy, the rule of a king just “like all the nations.” Ever since the days of Moses, they had lived under a theocracy, the rule and reign of God Himself. Under Moses’ leadership, the Israelites had made a covenant, an agreement with the Lord. The terms of the agreement stipulated that the Lord was to be the Savior and Deliverer, the Protector and Provider of Israel. And all the Israelites had to do was obey the Lord, keep His commandments. But now, after centuries of looking around at other nations and observing them, the Israelites began to covet the form of government adopted by them. They desired a king just “like all the nations.” They wanted to break their covenant with God and make an agreement with a man. They wanted this man to be just like the kings of most other nations: an attractive man, a charismatic leader, a man who would agree to rule over them and become their savior and deliverer, protector and provider.
How often do we choose to reject God’s leadership to follow a man, a cultural system, the world’s ideas or even our own ideas?
It wasn’t Israel’s request for a king that was their greatest problem; it was their insisting that God give them a king immediately.
Saying “now” to God can be just as wrong as saying “no” to God.
There is a big difference between asking God for help and demanding how He must help.
For example, how many people ask God to help them win the lottery? What about the consequences if God said yes? People who win the lottery are miserable and call it a curse!
Or how about relationships? Perhaps you are attracted to someone and you are asking God, please let it work out. What if God says yes, and it turns out to be a bad relationship? And you miss out on a better relationship God had in mind for you?
What if God says yes to your wrong request? It could be the worst judgement God could give is saying yes to a wrong request.
What if God says no because you must face the consequences?
The people rejected God to trust someone else. We do the same thing today, thinking a person can meet our needs better than God. John Calvin writes in The Institutes, “that man’s mind is a perpetual factory of idols.”
A king is not necessarily the solution to all their problems. In fact, in his view, a king is just the beginning of a completely new set of problems!
Samuel proceeds to explain the reality of having a king. At least ten times in these verses he mentions, “He will take.” What a difference between a man king and God as king. Man takes but God gives. “The good shepherd gives his life for his sheep.” “God so loved the world that He gave.” Samuel warns the people what the kings would take from them. He is trying to show them there is a high price to getting their own way.
- He will take your sons into the army.
- He will take your sons to run in front of his chariots.
- He will take others to plow his ground and reap his harvest
- He will take others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots.
- He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.
- He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants.
- He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants.
- He will take your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use.
- He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves.
That’s a lot of taking!
With the northern and southern kingdoms, Israel ended up having 41 kings over 450 years. Only eleven of them followed the Lord and seven of these eleven forgot the Lord toward the end of their reigns. The spiritual rebellion of the kings paved the way for their captivity and defeat. There is a high price in getting your own way!
It’s clear in the Pentateuch (1st 5 books of the Bible) that Israel would one day have a king. God promised Abraham, Sarah, and Jacob that kings would be among their descendants (Gen. 17:6, 16; 35:11), and Jacob had named Judah as the kingly tribe (49:10). Moses prepared the nation for a king when he spoke to the new generation preparing to enter the Promised Land (Deut. 17:14-20).
The Lord had an ultimate king in mind for them, it was Jesus. He was the complete fulfillment of the verses above, He would not take many wives, not take much gold and silver, He would follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow brothers and sisters.
Jesus would take the form of servant, emptying himself of His glory and be born in a manger. Foxes have dens and birds have nests but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. He would take the sins of the world upon himself. He would take the wounds we deserved so that we would be healed.
When Pontius Pilate asked the people, “what shall I do with your king?” They replied, “Take him away! Crucify him!”
The people rejected their king. What about us?
Who is King in your life?
- Is it you?
- Is it money?
- Is it power?
- Is it entertainment?
- It is your family?
- It is your job?
May we see that Jesus is our king. He’s our leader.