I Samuel 8. We Want a King.
Key Notes: Israel did not follow Samuel. The king was a political solution to a spiritual problem. The burden of monarchy. When is the problem spiritual and when not?
As powerful as he was, Samuel did not satisfy Israel’s need for leadership.
7:1 The worship system was in disarray. The ark of the covenant was separated from the tabernacle. The high priest was dead. Samuel was the only unctioning priest (7:9–10,17): his father, Elkanah, was from the tribe of Levi.
7:3–14 Samuel saw the distress of Israel and commanded them to forsake their idols and serve the Lord. He called a national assembly for prayer, confession and fasting. The Philistines saw this as an occasion to hit Israel when it was weak. The attack failed and the hand of God restrained the Philistines as long as Samuel was judge.
7:15–17 Samuel ran a small circuit from his home in Ramah to Bethel and nearby Gilgal and to Mizpeh, east of Jordan near the Brook Jabok.
8:l-9 When he was old, Samuel made his sons judges, but they took bribes and were not to be trusted. They were working in Beersheba, away from Samuel. The elders then came to Samuel and demanded a king. Samuel prayed, and God said that he should do as they asked. They had not rejected Samuel, but God from being King over them. They were treating Samuel as they had treated God since the day He led them out of Egypt. But Samuel must warn them of the ways of kings.
8:10–18 Samuel laid out the burdens of having a king:
*Your sons will be his soldiers, his blacksmiths and farmers.
*Your daughters will be his perfumers and bakers.
*Your best fields will be given to his servants.
*He will take a tithe of your crops to give it to his officers and servants. (Does the priest get another tithe? Not likely. The ministry will suffer.)
*He will take your servants will be his servants, and the best of your oxen and asses.
*You will be his slaves.
*You will cry out because of your king, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.
Severe economic demands were put on Israel during the reign of Solomon. IK.4:1–28; 9:15–21; 10:14–22
8:19–22 Israel responded: We want a king to fight our battles, like all the nations.
Samuel sent them home.
The problem was that Israel was chronically at war, and prone to lose in war. The tribes were anarchic. "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes." (Judg.21:25). ( See the last four chapters of Judges). Further, Samuel's sons could not be trusted to carry on as judges.
The nub of the problem was Israel's relapses. In the decades of the Judges Israel forsook God about eight times and each time they were subjugated by surrounding nations. Israel would return to the Lord and God would provide deliverance at the hand of a judge. The solution to this recurrent problem? Stay with the Lord! But they could not. Think of another solution. Let us see visible power. Make us like everybody else.
That is a secular solution to a spiritual problem. Not God as King; give us a human king. We cannot follow the Lord. We have to have someone we can see. They ignored the spiritual problem and demanded a political solution. Having a king was not in itself wrong. Moses has made provision for a king in the Law. (Deut.17:14–20). Israel's insistence on a king at this time reflects their poor spiritual condition. ISam.8:7
How was Israel supposed to behave? They were to teach the Law to their children and do the Law themselves; observe the festivals of the Lord; do good, love mercy and walk humbly with God. And God promised to give them the desires of their heart. They would be "the head and not the tail" (Deut.28:13); they would be prosperous and win over their enemies.
Samuel was powerful. He was at the same time
Military commander 7:9
But he did not have the clout of a king. He evidently lacked the charisma, good looks, and personal magnetism that Israel wanted. He was not gifted enough to be the focal point of the nation.
What did Israel stand to lose? With central government, the strength of the tribes was greatly diminished. The ownership of land and the agricultural economy was drastically altered. Money (tithes) normally given to the tabernacle went to the palace. The kings became tyrants.
People do not tolerate freedom very well. The Grand Inquisitor’s speech in Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Caramels” is a biting indictment of human weakness and the preference for slavery over freedom.
We often seek secular solutions to spiritual problems.
"I don't need God; I need pills."
"My children are getting in trouble. I will send them to another school."
"We don't have enough money. I'll have to take another job."
Christians are also accused of the reverse, of using spiritual solutions to secular problems:
"I won't take my child to the doctor; we will just pray."
"I don't need health insurance; the Lord will keep us healthy."
"I can cross the highway without looking because the Lord will protect me."
How do we as individuals avoid these mistakes? How are we to think? The trouble is that the area of the secular is increasing. Secularists believe that they will eventually make God disappear. If Hannah were alive today, would she be praying, or taking fertility pills?
What do we really need? A continuous flow of the Holy Spirit's life into ours and all the help we can get from our fellow human beings. Always go to the Lord first, whatever your need.