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Give Us a King (1 Samuel 8)

Series: 1 Samuel (The Coming King)


  • Due to their wickedness, Israel has been oppressed repeatedly for a couple of hundred years. They cried for help and God sent a judge to rescue them. The judge would gather the tribes to battle against the enemy and dispense judgments.
  • Now: Samuel has been a righteous judge and prophet to the people his whole life. Israel has enjoyed peace from their enemies. Life was good. But now, two problems.
    • Samuel is old, he appointed his sons as judges, and they are very corrupt. 
    • It seems from chapter 11-12 that the Ammonites were a threat to Israel.
  • These problems haven’t gone away today.
    • We have a lot of light in our world, but for many segments of the population there is a lot of darkness. At times we find all sorts of corruption in our leaders. Often, they are never charged, but we know it exists.
    • Enemy people and enemy nations want to hurt us and take our people, possessions, land, and freedom. 
  • Where do we look when we see days like these? For action? Change? Rescue? Hope?
  • 1 Samuel 8 shows us where Israel looked for national revitalization. It continues to be where people look today. Though idols weren’t involved, God compared it to idolatry. Lessons abound for us as we seek national change and global hope. Read 8:1-9.


Give Us a King (1 Samuel 8:1-9)

  • The sons of Samuel are perverting justice, so they ask for a massive shift in government. Before, God appointed judges; now, they want a king. 
  • God had actually always spoken of a king in Israel’s past. 
    • Genesis 49:10 — kingship would not depart from Judah’s family until the nations served him.
    • Numbers 24:17  — a king will rise out of Israel to crush Moab.
    • 1 Samuel 2:10  — Hannah declared that God would give strength to his king. 
    • Deuteronomy 17:14-20  — God tells Israel that when they ask for a king like the nations have, they can have one. But, he must be a king that God chooses. Furthermore, God gives guidelines for that future king so he will fear God and not be a king like the kings of the nations.
  • This is challenging: God giving Israel a king was a very positive idea in the past, but he now compares it to idolatry but will give them a king regardless. So, why would God speak of kingship - not only of Christ’s kingship but of human kings - in such a positive way before, but now he is unhappy?
  • It is not that God is against government (they already have government - they have tribal leaders of 10’s, 100’s, 1000’s, and God has been appointing circuit judges for over 200 years). The key problem is their motive and reasoning behind wanting a king. We will consider this in a moment. Notice in 8:10-18 what this king will be like.


Your King Like the Nations Have (8:10-18)

  • Here is the quick summary of what God says.
    • He’ll take your sons for fighting.
    • He’ll take your daughters as servants.
    • He’ll take 1/10 of your crops and flocks.
    • He’ll take your servants to be his servants.
    • You will be his slaves. You will cry out for help, but you chose him, so the Lord won’t help you. Basically: you deserve what you vote for.
  • The injustice happening under Samuel’s sons was a problem. But this was clearly not the best solution. Their solution would create more problems. The king you want may not take secret bribes, but he’ll openly take the best of what you have. And yet, notice the response of the people in 8:19-22


The People Refused to Obey (8:19-22)

  • Their response? NO! They refused to obey Samuel’s voice. God will give them what they want, but they are disobeying the voice of God’s prophet in this pursuit. They don’t care about the consequences. They will have what they want. Notice why they want a king in verse 20:
    • That we may be like all the nations.
    • To judge us.
    • To go out before us and fight our battles.


They Have Rejected Me from Being King over Them

If God was okay with bringing a king in the past, why was he unhappy with Israel now? We have said that Samuel gives us a typological picture of how God brings his kingdom into a dark world where there is no king and all do what is right in their own eyes. The chief danger for Israel and for us is that we will be satisfied with a false substitute for God as king - a lesser salvation.


1 Samuel 8:7-8 shows God’s problem with their plan. They have rejected God from being king over them. There are a variety of ways that their choice of a king is a rejection of God that will not materialize until we meet Saul. But there are two key reasons in this text that explain why this is a rejection of God as king.


1. This rejects God as king because their true desire is to be like all the nations. 

  • Leviticus 20:26, “You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples that you should be mine.” Israel’s desire was the opposite of God’s covenant with them. God is holy and distinct. He wanted his people to be holy like him and to be his representatives to the nations. 
  • Israel’s desire is the exact opposite. We don’t want to trust you alone, we don’t want to be like you, we don’t want to represent you to the nations - we want to be like them. This was not an uncommon thing for Israel: it was the chief issue that led to their downfall. They always looked at what everyone else had and did. They didn’t like being different.
  • Do we ever struggle with that? It is high time that God’s people get used to being different from everyone else. You have probably experienced this too. I can’t tell you how many times I was made fun of in high school and college - at school, work, school clubs - for making decisions that centered my life on God. These decisions make us really different. We are citizens of and pledge allegiance to a different king and kingdom than the Americans around us.
  • One chief danger for us is that we end up thinking about, talking about, and doing politics like everyone else. We hear CNN and Fox News in the same way as everyone else. We vote the same as everyone else. We trust politicians like everyone else. We get really upset or really excited every 2 years like everyone else. Our chief interest ends up being in liberty and economics - not God’s standards and God’s justice - like everyone else. 
  • Let’s make no mistake: when we want to be like everyone else, when we do what everyone else does and talk like they do — we are rejecting God as our king.
  • Think about this from a positive perspective. Israel didn’t realize how good they had it since they were different from the nations. No nation had a God so close to them as Israel. No nation could call out to heaven and receive a thunderous response. Good news: we are so much better off not being and living like everyone else. We don’t have to be like everyone else. But if we choose to be, we will lose our distinctiveness.


2. This rejects God as king because they had an idolatrous trust in human salvation.

  • Previously, Israel had it so good: they cried to heaven for help and God sent them a judge to make execute justice and to lead them in battle. Other times - as in 1 Samuel 7 - God thundered from heaven and scattered their enemies. 
  • According to God, how will the king they want get stuff done in verses 10-18? He will have to take, take, take. Where do human rulers who don’t trust God find resources or power to do anything? Us! They don’t get super powers from some farcical ceremony. “Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses.” They have to take from us to get anything done at all. This IS God’s plan, but it is a poor substitute to trust them more than God!
  • Psalms 146:3–4, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.”
  • I don’t think it is terribly uncommon for Christians to trust human rulers and human salvation more than God as king. I want to prove that to you.
    • If I want this nation to go in the right direction, am I more likely to speak about a human candidate, or about the God who actually has the power?
    • Better yet, when I define what the right direction is for this country, do I talk more about the ideals of a party, the constitution, or of the true king?
  • Why is this so tough for us? Probably because we prefer salvation that comes from a seen, tangible source. It seems more concrete. Israel probably felt really silly calling out to heaven while the Philistines surrounded them with swords. It is not that God does no rescue through humans, but trusting the unseen God to be the author of salvation provides far more concrete results.
  • Let’s ask ourselves, who would we rather be king of the U.S.? God, or candidate 2020. God, or someone who keeps the ideals of a political party or the constitution? I recognize we cannot write Jesus on the ballot, but how we answer that question changes everything about our values, attitude, and hope.


How Should We Behave?

1. Respect and submit to human authorities, because God instituted them to execute justice (Romans 13:1, 6-7). Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God… For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” And, vote for people who you believe will execute justice and honor God most.


2. Warn rulers and peoples to kiss the feet of the Son (Psalm 2:10-12). “Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”


3. Pray for and give thanks for rulers (1 Timothy 2:1-4). “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.” We don’t pray to the rulers, we pray to God that he would help them.


For now, remember who the Lord is. Jesus is Lord and we have all made that confession (cf. Romans 10:9). When we sing, “I will call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised,” remember that we are not to call upon politicians for salvation. Though God has given them power, Caesar is not Lord, the President is not Lord - Jesus is Lord. That confession was the right one to make. When we trust in humans we are trusting someone whose plans die with them - or whose plans end after 4 years. They can only bring temporary solutions to permanent problems. Let us long for the day when all government and power rests on the shoulders of our King. In that day we will see no more darkness or corruption, but eternal light. Lord, come quickly. 

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