I’ve been struck these last months and praying about the story in 1 Samuel when Israel asked for a king. Are we in a similar spot in our history? Have you read that story?
In the First Book of Samuel the elder and prophet Samuel is asked by the people to appoint a King over them so they can be “like other nations”. Until that point, the Israelites shared in the responsibilities of governing. Some took the role of seer, prophet, judge, and military commander. Samuel warned the people that they should be careful what they wish for, that if he appoints someone as King, this king will eventually confiscate their property, force their sons and daughters to serve the king, and impose a 10% tax on everything. The story picks up in 1 Samuel 8:4….
4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, 5 and said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.”
6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” So Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. 8 According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day—with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also. 9 Now therefore, heed their voice. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them.”
10 So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who asked him for a king. 11 And he said, “This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. 12 He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. 14 And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. 16 And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest [a]young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. 18 And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day.”
I wonder how many, if any, Israelites went against the grain? Did a remnant remain that did not plead for a king to rule over them?
And the account continues in 1 Samuel 8:
19 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, “No, but we will have a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”
21 And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he repeated them in the hearing of the Lord. 22 So the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed their voice, and make them a king.”
How does this relate to us today? As we see current events unfolding, our nation is filled with riots, lawlessness, unrest, discord. Good is called evil and evil good. Some cry for the end of capitalism and a shift towards socialism, where private ownership ceases to exist (sounds a lot like a king and his court ruling over the land). With socialism, true freedom and true equality require social control of the resources that provide the basis for prosperity. Essentially under socialism, the ruling elite (a king and his court) control property, money, natural resources…citizens do not own private property or natural resources.
Many Christians in 17th and 18th century England and in North America were also impacted by the same passages in I Samuel in which the prophet Samuel warned about the dangers a King would pose to the liberties of the Israelite people. This struck a chord with those who were fighting the growing power of the monarchy or the efforts of the British Empire to exert its power over the North American colonies.
“… those Monarchies were absolute and arbitrary not by conquest, but by consent of the people, the Jews desired of God a King, to be governed by, after the manner of the Nations…so God, by Samuel, tells them what such a King would do to them, not what he might do. And for the Roman Empire, it was not introduced by conquest, but by consent of the Senate. (From Joyce Lee Malcom, The Struggle for Sovereignty: Seventeenth-Century English Political Tracts).
What is so interesting is the consent of the people to desire a king to rule over them.
Do you want a king?
God gave them a king, despite the warning and dangers. God knew the desires of their hearts, as he knows the desires of our hearts today, too. By demanding a king, Israel rejected God as king. Was it wrong or sinful to desire a king to rule over them? Jacob had prophesied that rulers would come from the tribe of his son Judah. Then why did God not want to give Israel a king? God also promised kingship when he told Abraham: I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you (Genesis 17:6). God said to Jacob: I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body (Genesis 35:11). God also gave instructions for a king in Deuteronomy (Deut. 17:14-20). God knew Israel would desire a king.
God knew Israel would desire a king. He permitted it. God was reluctant to give Israel a king when they demanded one because they were looking for an earthly king, who would eventually seek after his own desires, not a heavenly king. God reluctantly gave Israel a king because they did not want to wait for His timing. These are important lessons for us. We should seek heavenly and not earthly blessings. We should wait on the Lord's timing. We should trust Him to work out His good purposes in His perfect time. God gave Israel exactly what they asked for even though the motivation of the people of Israel was wrong. They wanted to be like other nations. They did not want God to be their king. However, in God’s time He established the royal line of David and from that line the Messiah came to be King forever. God knew the failings of men, so He made another way….He provided a true king in Jesus Christ.
As we read the accounts of the kings in the Bible, even the most righteous of kings fell short. King Josiah, described in 2 Kings 23:25 turned to the Lord with all his heart, soul and might. It still was not enough to save the people from the wrath of God.
26 Nevertheless the Lord did not turn from the fierceness of His great wrath, with which His anger was aroused against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked Him.
This account in the Old Testament highlights our human failings but also conversely highlights the greatness of our Lord, Jesus. He came to deliver, not only the Israelites, but ALL people, by taking God’s wrath on Himself. He is a King with no limits on His ability to save, to set free, to deliver. Jesus is not like the king that Israel wanted. He does not take from His own people, but gives them gifts, the greatest of which is eternal life. His battles are not earthly, but are Spiritual victories over the hearts of His enemies.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12.
Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve. Jesus is not like the kings of the nations. His reign is righteousness and peace. And those who trust in Him will enter into His eternal kingdom.
Do you want a king? Or do you want the KING? God knew He planned to send Jesus all along. And we anticipate the return of our King with glad hearts. Until then may it be said of us that we turned to the Lord with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our might!
35 “Be prepared for action at a moment’s notice. 36 Be like the servants who anticipate their master’s return from a wedding celebration. They are ready to unlock and open the door for him at a moment’s notice. 37 What great joy is ahead for the awakened ones who are waiting for the Master’s return! He himself will become their servant and wait on them at his table as he passes by. 38 He may appear at midnight or even later, but what great joy for the awakened ones whenever he comes! -Luke 12:35-38 TPT
Written by: Jen Burlingame
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