When God's people grew weary of the judges, they demanded a king. So why did God grant their request? They were essentially rejecting him and his ways.
Why didn't he forsake them? We'll find out the answers today on Truth for Life as we step into a study of 1st and 2nd Samuel with Alistair Begg. We're going to read from the Bible in the Old Testament in 1st Samuel and chapter 8. And I encourage you, if you're able, to follow along as I read for Samuel and chapter 8. When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel.
The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second Abijah. They were judges in Beersheba. Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain.
They took bribes and perverted justice. Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, Behold, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations. But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed to the Lord, and the Lord said to Samuel, Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they're also doing to you.
Now then obey their voice. Only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them. So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. 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. 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. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and all of orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. 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.
He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 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. But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel, and they said, No, but there shall be a king over us, that we may also be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles. And when Samuel adhered all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, Obey their voice and make them a king. Samuel then said to the men of Israel, Go, every man, to his city.
Amen. Well, 1 Samuel chapter 8—I hope you've been reading it in prospect for our study. If you have, then perhaps you did what I did this week. And that is, after I'd read it a couple of times, I found myself turning to the 12th chapter of Romans, because of the word that Paul gives there to his readers concerning the danger of being swallowed up by the surrounding culture. And as I often do, I went to the Living Bible just for the freshness of the paraphrase that Kenneth Taylor gave us. And in the verse, which we know routinely as, Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed, or don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold as Phillips, Taylor paraphrases it, Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think. Now, Paul writes that because he understood the pressure in first-century Rome to accommodate themselves—for the believers to accommodate themselves—to the lifestyle and the values of a surrounding culture.
We, of course, face the same challenge, not in Rome but in 21st century Cleveland. And therefore, we are not to be surprised that when we go back to the 11th century BC, the same warning is actually being sounded, in this case, by the prophet and the judge Samuel. And I hope that that will become apparent as we look at the chapter.
In chapter 7, we were introduced to leadership, if you like, at its best. Samuel, you will recall, had preached to the people. He had preached repentance, and they had repented. And Samuel had been praying for the people and with the people, and the Philistine forces had been vanquished without lifting up any armaments to defend or to attack. And then a stone of remembrance was set up—this memorial stone—so that it would be there for time immemorial.
This Ebenezer stone, or the accumulation of stones, marked God's goodness to them. And the chapter ended with, if you like, a job well done. You remember that at the very beginning of the chapter, it says that the ark had been in Kyriath Geron for a matter of some twenty years before Samuel steps forward. Twenty years is a relatively long time. And it's certainly a generation, isn't it?
So you've got a whole generation of silence. What was Samuel doing? I think he was walking on the pathway of steady obedience. When we come to chapter 8, the story has advanced again significantly, because Samuel is no longer in his middle years, but now Samuel has become old. And the story told for us in this way advances. Now, I've broken the chapter down under four headings for myself. And the first one is this—time for a change. Time for a change. It's time for a change, at least that's what the elders of Israel have determined. You'll see that in verse 4. Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Rama and said to him, Behold, you are old. So what you discover is that there are a number of factors which contribute to this desire for a king. And the first of these, as you see, is that Samuel became old.
And, of course, this is what happens. People become old. Leaders who led in their earlier years and were faithful in their middle years eventually become old. And the real challenge, of course, in becoming old is that age brings with it not only advantages but also disadvantages.
It brings with it the benefit of experience, which at least counts for something. But it also brings with it the danger that we become old and cold and settled in our ways. And so it's vitally important that we learn to live to a good old age, which is, of course, the title of Derek Prime's book, which I commend to you.
Let me just give you a little piece from his introduction. Old age may alarm us. It can bring humiliating experiences. Some of its limitations take away our natural dignity. Worse still is the daunting possibility of dementia, even to the point where we may not remember our own name. But while there may be a bad old age when we feel weighed down with the years, there is also a good old age to which we may aspire. And every period of life has its appointed benefits and excellence, as Solomon says in the Proverbs. Of course, it's quite salutary, isn't it? I walked down the stairs with somebody earlier today, and I wouldn't ever say who it was, but I said to myself, he's moving much more slowly than before.
And then I said to myself, you're not moving that fast yourself. Now, Samuel is old, and transitions like this are important. It's interesting that Samuel's life is actually marked by long periods of silence and then moments where he comes to the fore. He couldn't ever come to the fore in such usefulness were it not for the fact that the long periods of silence were marked by steady faithfulness. You see, what most of us do in the humdrum nature of our lives, in the private personal way, in the routine activities that are our days, those are the things that make us.
Those are the things that make us. And certainly true of Samuel. So Samuel was old. They came to him, verse 5, and they said to him, Behold, you are old. Look, you're old.
To which he might say, Oh, really? I didn't realize that at all. So the first thing was that Samuel was old. Second thing was that his succession plan was bad.
His succession plan was bad. Although the priesthood was hereditary, the appointing of judges was not. So the priest like Eli would be followed by his sons as he was. In the case of Samuel, though, each judge was appointed individually. But Samuel, you will notice from verse 1, made his sons judges over Israel. And it was a bad plan. They worked in Beersheba, which is a significant way to the south of where he was. They were, if you like, a long way from his ability to observe them. And in many ways, they were a long way from his ability to influence them. That is not to safeguard his integrity. It's just to acknowledge the fact. I mean, 50 miles may not seem a long way for us.
You could just go down to Akron in probably 50 minutes. But on a donkey or walking, Beersheba was a long way away. And they were greedy. They were on the take. They were interested in money. They were susceptible to bribes. And they were involved in corruption. You see why it's building for a time for change. Samuel's old. His succession plan is bad.
And, in fact, his succession plan failed. Because you will notice that it says his sons did not walk in his ways. Now, notice that the his is not capitalized. It's not referring to God's ways. They actually were God's ways, but it is pointing out the distinction. And I think an important distinction between himself and Eli. Eli was somehow or another in this transition to his boys. He had a measure of responsibility in it, in a way that Samuel doesn't appear to. His ways were clear. They would have been clear to his boys. He administered justice, and Joel and Abijah perverted justice.
And as a result, the peace and the security, the prosperity that Israel had known, is clearly not guaranteed in going forward. And so these factors lead to the request in verse 4 of the elders. All the elders of Israel gathered together and said, Here's what we want you to do, Samuel.
Appoint a king to rule over us just like everybody else. You see, that's in verse 5. Now, a little background on this is not only helpful, it is important. Remember, we said when we began 1 Samuel that, apart from the wonderful little book of Ruth in between Judges and Samuel, Samuel moves from the last verse of Judges essentially to the first verse of 1 Samuel. And we said that because of the refrain which runs through the book of Judges.
For example, you need to turn to all of these, but I'll tell you where they are. The sixth verse of Judges 17, In those days there was no king in Israel, everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Chapter 18 begins, In those days there was no king in Israel.
Nineteen, in those days there was no king in Israel. You go on and on, 21 and verse 25, In those days there was no king in Israel, everyone did what was right in his own eyes. So it was a kind of system whereby God directly appointed a judge, and that judge ruled. And when you read Judges, you realize that it would go along fairly well for a while, and then the whole thing would collapse. And so the notion that is in the minds of these elders is an understandable notion.
Why don't we put in place something that will be far more beneficial? And the idea was that a dynastic monarchy would then solve their problems, secure and establish a solid foundation on which they could go forward. Now, we should note that it wasn't wrong for them, wasn't wrong for Israel, to have a king. In fact, Moses had anticipated this day. And if you follow this up on your own by turning to Deuteronomy chapter 17, you will realize why I say that. This is Moses speaking to the people. Deuteronomy 17 verse 14, he says, When you come to the land, that's the promised land, that the Lord your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it, and then say, I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me. You may indeed set a king over you, whom the Lord your God will choose. So, in other words, in the Pentateuch, in the first five books, Moses has already anticipated this day. When you read on in 17 of Deuteronomy, you realize that God prescribes the exact nature and way in which this kingly rule would be put in place. And in the book of Judges, there are a couple of moments where it tatters on the brink, if you like, of establishing a monarchy. After Gideon's success, the people come to Gideon, and the men of Israel said to Gideon, Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also. Well, of course, that's not how the judges worked, right?
Because it wasn't hereditary. So what did they actually say? They said, Become the king. Become the king. You've saved us from the hand of Midian.
Wrong. He was involved in the great victory as a result of God's great intervention. Is he how quickly people go to a man, to the leader, the pastor, whatever it is? Put now your trust in princes, put now your trust in chariots, put now your trust in men, trust in God. So what is the response of Gideon? He says, I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you. The Lord will rule over you. In other words, Yahweh is the king. He's the king. The fight that I was used in this way is a testimony to God's grace and goodness. But he's the king.
So we're not going to do this. Tragically, as you read on in the story, Gideon, who had a number of wives, had a son by one of his concubines. The son's name was Abimelech. And when you read the story of Abimelech, you read that it is the story of Abimelech who has certainly said, Well, I'm going to do what my father said he wasn't going to do. And as you read that story for yourself, you will discover that it ended up in absolute disaster. It was short-lived and wonderfully so. That's the context.
Time for a change. Now, when you go on to verses 6 to 9, I wrote down quite simply what you have there. That is Samuel's reaction and Yahweh's response. Samuel's reaction and Yahweh's response. They came and said, Give us a king. Verse 6, But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, Give us a king to judge us. Well, understandably so.
I'm sure there was a personal element in this, right? He has been the judge of the people. He's done his best.
Chapter 7 has really been quite terrific. It's gone in his resume. And he's gone home to Rama, and he's communed with God there. And now these years have advanced, and he's become old.
And so they've decided it's time for a change. Well, it displeased him. That was his reaction. You will notice that his counteraction was to pray. There's a little challenge in that.
At least I took it as a challenge. I remember when we studied Nehemiah, that we pointed the same thing out that when Nehemiah heard the news that had come out of Jerusalem concerning the destruction and chaos that was there, it says of Nehemiah that he sat down and he wept. But then it says, And then he prayed to God and fasted for many days. So his reaction was to weep.
His counteraction was to pray. Here's the challenge. I'm good at weeping.
I'm not real good at praying. Here's the challenge. When something displeases me, and that's my reaction, what's my counteraction?
What's yours? Do you have the same tendency that I have that when I am displeased by something, I just want to tell everybody how displeased I am, instead of doing what Samuel does? It's a challenge. Samuel says, Lord—and this is my own paraphrase, it's not here—Lord, you're going to have to do something about this, or things are going to get really out of hand. It's great how we try and tell God who rules the universe how he ought to do his job. And so the reaction of Samuel is then followed by the response of the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from becoming a king over them.
Give them a king. Verse 7. Verse 8.
Obey them. Verse 9. Now, presumably, I'd like to have been around when this happened, because Samuel must have been absolutely crushed by this. He could never have anticipated that this would be the response. He was displeased. He'd fulfilled the role of judge.
He knew the history of the people. And now he goes to God, and he tells him, and God says, No, that's not what I want you to do. Go ahead and give them a king. They're not rejecting you. They're rejecting me as their king. They've done this from the very beginning. You'll notice there in the text, from the day I brought them out of Egypt until this very day, they've been behaving like this, leaving me for other gods, and now they're doing it to you.
Well, of course, the history of the people just fulfills that—I mean, confirms that, doesn't it? Moses goes up on the mountain. He's up there for a wee while. The people say, I don't know where God is. I don't know if he's speaking to us. I don't know what he's doing. Aaron, why don't we have something a little more exciting?
Do you have any ideas? He said, well, we could make something, that we could make a God we could see, rather than a God we can't see. People tell me all the time, if I could only see God, then I would believe.
It's not true. Let's have a God that we can see. You have gods that you can see. They're not worth believing. You can't trust them.
No. And so what do they do? And Moses comes down, and they're all dancing around.
It's quite remarkable. See, the judges had been put in place to exercise leadership under the priority and the absolute authority of God the Lord as king. And now God says to Samuel, let them have their king, and then warn them about the kind of justice they can expect. They want a king like all the other nations have a king?
Make sure you let them know that there will be a price to pay. When you read on in this story, wonderfully in chapter 12, we discover that God does not forsake his people even though they are seeking to reject him. Again, we can just pause for a moment in application. Isn't it wonderful that a God who saves us keeps us, that the good work that he begins in us he brings to completion at the day of Jesus Christ, that although we are by nature rebellious, though we often go our own way and wander off and come up with our own stupid ideas and live with the implications of that, God, because of the God that he is, is the God who actually restores even the years that the locusts have eaten, as he says in the prophets. And that's about to be discovered by these people. There is clearly a price to pay for rejecting God, but he never forsakes his covenant to his people. You're listening to Truth for Life. That's Alistair Begg with a message titled, Give Us a King.
We'll hear the conclusion tomorrow. It's dangerous to ask God for something you want if you're not sure that it's pleasing to him, but it's easy to do, especially if we don't know what the Bible teaches. That's why our mission here at Truth for Life is to teach the Bible with clarity and relevance every single day. We do that trusting that, as we do, God will use the teaching of his word to bring unbelievers to faith, to build up believers in their faith, and to encourage local churches to faithfully follow Jesus. We hope that is a mission that resonates with you, and if so, we'd like to ask you to make today the day that you join our team of Truth Partners. Truth Partners are generous listeners like you who pray for this ministry and give consistently to help cover the cost of producing this daily program. Your monthly giving allows us to tell the world about God and his plan for salvation. So give us a call at 888-588-7884, or you can easily sign up through our app or online at truthforlife.org slash Truth Partner. Be sure to request the Grumbler's Guide to Giving Thanks when you sign up to become a Truth Partner or when you give a donation at truthforlife.org slash donate. I'm Bob Lapine, thanks for listening. Tomorrow we'll find out why getting exactly what you want is sometimes actually a punishment. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
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