In 1 Samuel 8, the Israelites approach Samuel and express their desire to have an earthly king. The problem with this is that God was their king and they wanted a human king instead so that they could be like all of the other nations.
God will allow for the Israelites to get the king that they want. But not without warning them first. Samuel is called to tell the Israelites of what the consequences will be. They want a king because they think it’ll be good for the land but it’ll be much worse.
1 Samuel 8:10-11:
So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. 11 He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots.
There will be things that the people will have to give up. They didn’t have a king and so they weren’t beholden to an earthly leader. And that will change with a king.
There’s irony. They want a king who is a military leader. But part of the cost of that is that their men are going to be drafted into the army and have to fight.
12 And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots.
So vast numbers of men are going to be part of this Israelite military.
Everyone will be subjects of the king
13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants.
So with a king, not only will the people be giving of themselves. They will also be sacrificing some of their land.
15 He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. 16 He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.
God will take a tenth of their grain. They hadn’t been paying taxes, but now they’re going to start. And as the history of Israel unfolds in the Bible, the tax become crippling on the Israelites.
They think wanting a king will bring security, it won’t. They think it’ll bring prosperity, it’s going to bring them the opposite. Because they’re turning away from the security of the true king.
You can see that it’s getting worse and worse.
Have you ever advised someone and there was just overwhelming reasons not to do something and they did it anyway…and it was a terrible idea?
We’ve all seen that with loved ones. We’ve all probably also been guilty of that at some point. Taking what was wise and sensible and running straight the other direction.
The text says to the people and you shall be his slaves.
The people are selling their collective souls for relief. And they don’t need to! They don’t need to do this. They have God!
And so do we. And yet we so often look to things besides God for our relief, for our joy, for our pleasure and fulfillment.
Don’t look to earthly kings when we have a heavenly king. Verse 18:
18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
That’s not to say that the Lord will stop being the Lord of Israel or that he will stop caring about his people. But the text is warning the people that they will face struggles for choosing this route. They haven’t brought it on themselves yet. Because of his grace, God is giving them a warning. He’s saying the bad things that will happen.
And they don’t listen to that. It says something pretty profound about the sinfulness of our heart. We can be warned and told about how unwise something is and that it will have terrible consequences and still choose it.
And that’s not just to hammer the Israelites. We do things like that all the time. When there’s every reason to believe God or to listen to God, when we know that it’s his wisdom and will for us to do one thing and yet we say “I want my own king.”
Often for us, the king we want is ourselves. We want to be on the throne of our lives. We want to say “My kingdom come, my will be done.”
Don’t look to earthly kings when you have a heavenly king. And don’t look to yourself when we have the true king. So God tells Samuel to give the people what they want. And I think God does that sometimes in our own lives.
Just like how parents can sometimes do that when a child wants to do something unwise. A child not wanting to bring a coat and then being cold. Facing the natural consequences of a decision.
God isn’t haphazard with this. He’s not being caddy with them. He’s giving the people what they want. You want a king, here’s your king. You want to live a life that’s focused on you, you want to focus on what brings you pleasure, you want to just focus on making money, fine. You might even have some success in another area that you follow, at least for a season.
But going against God will never ultimately lead to peace and fruitfulness.
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes:
God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.”
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