Wednesday, June 15, 2022
The people of Israel had become unsettled and dissatisfied with life. Samuel had been their ruler as a Judge from an early age. When he grew old, he appointed his sons Joel and Abijah to serve as judges. They were corrupt. They accepted bribes and sought dishonest gain, and they perverted justice. The people became disillusioned with their leadership. They asked Samuel to appoint a king over them so they could be like the other nations of the world.
At first Samuel took this personally. He thought the people were rejecting him. But God spoke to him and told him the truth.
The people were rejecting God. They were turning away from the One who had rescued them from the hands of the Egyptians, the Philistines, and all other enemies. They would rather live according to the standards of the world than under the supervision of the LORD. God would allow them to make such a choice, but not without fair warning of the consequences.
Through Samuel, God warned the people that a king will be committed to his own agenda and not the plan of God. A king will believe he is not accountable to anyone except himself and would dedicate himself to his own security and prosperity rather than the good of the people. He will take their sons and force them to be his servants to manage his own affairs. He will take their daughters and make them his servants to provide his own household with all the luxuries of life. He will tax the people excessively, taking the best of their crops to give to his attendants. He will take the best of their own servants, and along with the best of their cattle and flocks, he will make them his own. They will become so burdened under the taxation and demands of the king that they themselves will have to become his slaves just to survive. No longer will they be free to own land or build personal financial stability. They will instead totally become dependent upon their government to provide for them.
When the people heard this, they refused to believe it. They were convinced that they had made the right choice to desire a king, and they were going to save face at all costs by continuing to pursue one even though it was not what was best for them. So God directed Samuel to give them the desire of their heart. The people would have to learn the hard way. God led Samuel to a man named Saul. He would appeal to the people. He was a man of great physical stature – a head taller than any other person in the nation. He was without equal when compared to other people. God told Samuel that he would be the man that would deliver the nation from the bondage of the Philistines. For a time, Saul would listen to the LORD and would accomplish His purpose.
Imagine how hard that must have been for Samuel to say. He was announcing to Saul that the people had decided that a mere man could lead them better than the LORD. The desire of the people was no longer for the heavenly King but for an earthly king. They had become totally enamored with the idea that a man could provide them with the cultural, social, and financial benefits they longed for. They had become so blinded by the desires of the flesh that they were willing to sacrifice their trust in God for trust in a man.
When Samuel gives his farewell speech to the people after Saul has been anointed as king, he makes this statement – “Now here is the king you have chosen, the one you asked for; see, the LORD has set a king over you. If you fear the LORD and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the LORD your God—good! But if you do not obey the LORD, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your fathers.” God then gave them a sign that they had not done his will when they asked for a king, and the people finally admitted they had sinned. They were afraid. But Samuel assured them that if they and their king served the LORD, He would continue to bless them even though they had made the wrong choice. Then Samuel promised to pray for them.
The story of Israel and Saul is being lived out today. The desire of many Americans is turned to political leaders whom they believe will provide them with cultural, social, and financial benefits. Those desires have overwhelmed their desire to be faithful to God and His non-negotiable values. They have turned to trust in man and sacrificed their trust in God. Human leadership is not the answer. Our hope is not in government. Our hope is in the LORD. Our answer is in Jesus Christ.