Israel Demanded a King 1 Samuel 8
1 Samuel 8:1-3 NLTse As Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons to be judges over Israel. (2) Joel and Abijah, his oldest sons, held court in Beersheba. (3) But they were not like their father, for they were greedy for money. They accepted bribes and perverted justice.
This part of the story always made me wonder why Samuel’s sons turned out to be like Eli’s sons. I always wondered why, and what the spiritual lesson behind it is. Since this is the introduction to a new chapter, the rule of introductions tells us, the chapter will help explain the answer, and we should look back at how the previous chapter ended.
Chapter seven ended by telling us how Samuel traveled all around the country setting up court to judge matters between people in Israel. That tells us a few details. Samuel didn’t spend enough time at home to properly raise his children. It also tells us, no matter what kind of relationship people have with God, if father don’t spend time with their kids, anything can happen. We should be aware, the devil will not take a vacation just because you aren’t home. Those few verses showed, Samuel was more dedicated to Israel than to his family. It also shows how little support Samuel received in return.
We can see how a number of factors effected that particular situation. There were both inside and outside influences Samuel should have dwelt with. But how could a man of God make such a major mistake with his sons? It happens more often than we think.
When we do what Moses taught Israel to do, look back, we see some interesting details in Egypt. Why didn’t God have any trouble getting millions of animals and insects to listen, but people who should have been thankful, people who should have given their lives to God, decided to ignore Him. Which brings up the question, how do we worship God?
In the previous chapter, we’ve seen how God used thunder to give Israel a victory over the Philistines. When most people look at God using elements, like the sun, rain, lightening, thunder, and other natural powers, we tend to think, that’s what God does, and give it little more thought. We are used to people calling it, natural disasters, or something along those terms. The enemy has a plan to hide the fact, God is still alive and in control of every element, every molecule, and atom in this world.
Yesterday I saw huge clouds all over the sky stop. They weren’t moving at all. I didn’t even see shifts in their shapes you normally see on the edge of clouds as they move with the upper winds. I looked at one cloud, more than a square mile, and several hundred feet high just standing still. It had to get there somehow. Something had to move it. And something had to stop it. I’ve seen the calculations to design brakes. Like brakes used in a car. The short story is, the calculations deal with energy and heat. Any type of energy can be converted into a value relating to heat, sometimes known as a calorie, but more often using the value of Btu’s. Not to get too in depth, but think of the energy God had to exert to stop one cloud. Then look at the horizon. Now think of the energy involved to make those clouds travel at thirty miles per hour.
One time I saw a plane flying at a very high altitude. The plane must have been going at least 300 miles per hour. Clouds at the same altitude kept up with that plane. It took about five minutes to see the plane putting any kind of distance between itself and that cloud.
We have no idea how much energy God puts into this planet everyday. But look around. You can see God’s energy at work all around you, all the time. It becomes so natural, we rarely notice. I just looked outside to see rapidly moving clouds at three different layers, traveling at three different speeds. Who divides the atmosphere and winds into different layers, and how does He do it? Have you ever seen clouds at different levels traveling in different directions? I know weathermen try to explain it. But how do we know they are right? All I know is, they are drawing attention away from God.
I wish I could explain it. But what kind of Bible Study would that be? We would be straying very far away from the rules of context we’ve learned in this series of books. And we don’t want to do that. We would also be straying away from God. That would be another example of men relying on themselves, instead of their Father and Creator.
We also have to ask, how much control does the devil have over nature? I’ve seen people trying to explain that topic. They want to appear to have all the answers. But do they? When we look at Samuel’s sons, how much control did Samuel have? How much control did God have? How much control did the devil have? And how much control, or influence did the people in Israel have over Samuel’s sons?
Israel Asked for a King
1 Samuel 8:4-9 NLTse Finally, all the elders of Israel met at Ramah to discuss the matter with Samuel. (5) “Look,” they told him, “you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.” (6) Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the LORD for guidance. (7) “Do everything they say to you,” the LORD replied, “for it is me they are rejecting, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. (8) Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. (9) Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.”
On the surface, this seems like a normal request. Samuel was a great leader. People knew how dedicated and reliable he was. They couldn’t have thought of a better man to lead and judge Israel. But Samuel’s sons were a different matter. Samuel’s sons were corrupt judges, taking bribes, and distorting judgment for monetary gains. The last people Israel wanted to lead them after Samuel was gone, were his sons. So the elders got together behind Samuel’s back, and made a decision. They wanted a king, someone new to lead them.
At first this looks like an open and shut case. But who made the decision, Samuel’s sons would lead Israel after Samuel died? Did anyone bother to consult God on the issue? It seems the elders had their own process to follow. They got together, discussed the situation, came up with a plan, then asked Samuel to initiate their plans. Sounds exactly the way the world operates today. But is that the right way to do things? Who was the corrupt party, or parties in this story? It seems those elders dropped the ball when it came to Samuel’s sons. Samuel didn’t record a word about any of those elders lending him a hand, or helping to raise his sons. All of a sudden, the elders showed up with a request.
Israel wanted to be like other nations. What did that mean? Most other countries followed different gods. Those other gods didn’t seem to tinker in business matters like God did. Those other nations had man made laws and regulations which were easily amended to allow for exceptions to the rules. More often than not, those exceptions were designed explicitly for rich and powerful people. And who was asking Samuel for a king? The elders who controlled the religion and for the most part, Israel’s economy. God originally designed the promised land so religion, or keeping God’s Commandments, was directly linked to the economy. If they kept God’s Commandments, Israel would be blessed, and protected. It seemed like a simple plan, but required a degree of effort many in Israel refused to comply with. It seemed to them, a corrupt economy would fetch higher profits. Isn’t that the way big business still thinks today?
This is a sort of paradox. On one hand, the elders were trying to avoid corruption, while on the other hand, they are inviting, or opening doors for a higher level of corruption. Like most religious leaders, they think if they can get a king appointed, that king would be thankful. In return, the king would grant them special favors and privileges. In other words, those elders were smart enough to know, they couldn’t control God, but they stood a pretty good chance of controlling a king. And when it came to the blame game, the elders, and everyone in Israel had a king to blame if things didn’t work out as planned. A quick review of Israel’s history in Kings and Chronicles shows, the country went the way of the king. When the king was bad, sin ran rampantly throughout the country. When the king was good, a certain amount of reform swept through the country.
We’ve seen how Samuel was rejected by Israel long before this idea cropped into their heads. No one bothered to ask Samuel if they should, or shouldn’t attack the Philistines when the Ark was captured. Israel thought, all they needed was the Ark, and God was in their control. That plan didn’t work.
Then they heard silence for twenty years. I think most Christians think God is silent today. Of course those people insist, we are in the last days. They are quick to point out world events, and tell people exactly where those events were predicted in books like Daniel and Revelation. They claim, this or that prophecy is being fulfilled in front of our eyes. And they tell us exactly where we are on God’s timeline. Mix in a little scripture with a lot of publicity from this world, and that’s all you seem to need to be a prophet these days. Ask them to show you exactly how they study scripture and what kind of answer will they give you? None at all. Not a single reply.
I’ve been discussing Bible Study methods with some people claiming to be world authorities on prophecy today. They claim to know all the truth, but are incapable of explaining a single step in the process they use to study scripture. If I were to open a window, or unlock a door, I would be able to explain the step by step process to anyone. I could tell you how to turn the latch on a window and lift it up. Or unlock the window and turn the crank to open it. If there were two locks to open, I’d be able to relate that information. The same with opening a door. If all you had to do was turn the knob to open it, I could tell you. If you needed a key, I could provide one. If the door required two keys, there would be no problem explaining that. Opening windows and doors are easy to explain. Having a simple process to open them should not make it impossible to explain. But that is what all those prophets claim. Their study process is so simple, they cannot explain how to do it. I find that hard to believe. I will say, if no process exists, there is nothing to explain.
I also find this strange to write about Israel’s request for a king in an election year. Especially this election year. I cannot remember two worst choices for president. Trump and Clinton are, well less than perfect choices. What I can’t stand is people pushing me to make a decision. I would never vote for either one of them, unless God directed me. Is that to hard to understand?
I don’t want to begin ranting about what is wrong with either candidate, but the fact is, democracy takes God out of the picture every time we choose new leaders from local, up to federal positions. Does anyone pray before they vote? Does anyone receive and answer when they tell God to choose between this person, and that person? Then people wonder why they don’t hear God. Do they expect to hear an answer while trying to back God into a corner?
That’s what Israel tried to do since arriving in the promised land, paint God into a corner. Israel wanted to do things their way, and they wanted to be blessed. They thought, God had no other choice but to protect His chosen people. Then they thought, God had no other choice than to protect His Ark. God defended His Ark, but not in a way anyone expected to see.
God has a funny way of letting people have their way. God let Israel have a king. God told Samuel, “Do everything they say to you.” God knew when He wasn’t appreciated, or wanted. God knew, after a few years, people would finally cry out to Him for help again.
Warning About a King
1 Samuel 8:10-22 NLTse So Samuel passed on the LORD’s warning to the people who were asking him for a king. (11) “This is how a king will reign over you,” Samuel said. “The king will draft your sons and assign them to his chariots and his charioteers, making them run before his chariots. (12) Some will be generals and captains in his army, some will be forced to plow in his fields and harvest his crops, and some will make his weapons and chariot equipment. (13) The king will take your daughters from you and force them to cook and bake and make perfumes for him. (14) He will take away the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his own officials. (15) He will take a tenth of your grain and your grape harvest and distribute it among his officers and attendants. (16) He will take your male and female slaves and demand the finest of your cattle and donkeys for his own use. (17) He will demand a tenth of your flocks, and you will be his slaves. (18) When that day comes, you will beg for relief from this king you are demanding, but then the LORD will not help you.” (19) But the people refused to listen to Samuel’s warning. “Even so, we still want a king,” they said. (20) “We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will judge us and lead us into battle.” (21) So Samuel repeated to the LORD what the people had said, (22) and the LORD replied, “Do as they say, and give them a king.” Then Samuel agreed and sent the people home.
When we look at how governments treat people today, it seems God didn’t tell Israel one tenth of the problems. If government only took one tenth of our income, most of us would be dancing in the streets. Some people pay close to one tenth on sales tax, or state income tax. On top of that pile on a long list of other taxes. Federal income tax is often twice, or three times what God warned about. So why do people still insist on keeping God out of politics? I have no idea why.
We still see countries drafting people into armies. Here in the US, we have a volunteer army. But that could change at any moment. We don’t have forced labor in fields, but after taxes, many people feel like slaves to the government. Especially with payments to the national health care system that seem more like car, or house mortgage payments.
The government does control all the land. Between the government and banks, few people actually own their own land. After the mortgage is paid, there are still properly taxes. Many homes, businesses, and farms fall to the tax collector, and are sold of as tax foreclosures. Seems government missed a few chapters Moses wrote about the Jubilee years.
I think we are, or should be way past the point to beg God for relief from the king. But people want to cling onto that last hope, the next president will fix everything. Isn’t that what they promise during election campaigns? Don’t all of them break the promises they made? But people still want to believe, democracy is better than serving God. Having freedom to make our own choices is better than being tied down by Ten Commandments.