How many of us have been disappointed by results in an election? Or by our elected officials?
We get frustrated with corruption, greed, agendas, slogans, dodgy campaign tactics, and knowing we can’t realise trust anybody who is a elected to fulfil their promises, let alone fulfil what we want to see in a government.
All too often we look to secular governments to deliver what can be achieved by obedience to God in the hearts of men and women made new by Him.
The people of Israel were at a point in their history of transition, or at least they thought so. They were sick and tired of judges and priests. They wanted a king, at any cost.
1 – The Last Judge 8:1-5
There are several ironies in this story.
Joel and Abijah,Samuel’s sons, like Eli’s sons, were not the leaders they should’ve been. Unlike Eli, Samuel bears no blame here and he is not accused of being complicit with their bribery and perverting of justice(8:3b).
That this pattern is repeating in Israel shows again that no one can rest on an inherited faith or testimony. Even the best and Godliest of leaders can have children who make evil and selfish choices.
Another irony is that the elders of Israel come to Samuel and their main argument for having a king is that they did not like the way hereditary leadership was working out with Samuel’s sons. Monarchy is founded on hereditary leadership, but that point seems lost on the elders of Israel.
Samuel was going to be the last judge, as far as they were concerned.
Ironic then, that even though they get the king they ask for, Samuel still had authority to remove his kingship and anoint another king in his place. ( 1 Samuel 15).
One more irony is that the people wanted ‘to be like the other nations’ (8:5b).
Why would we want something that everyone else has?
Not necessarily because that thing is inherently good for us, and would benefit us, but most of the time, we want what others have because we want to be like them.
The people of Israel don’t have a leadership problem. They have a profound identity problem. They had forgotten who they were and Whose they were.
God had repeatedly instructed them that He was their God, and they were His people. That they should be a holy people because He is a holy God.
They wanted to be like other nations more than they wanted to be like God.
Instead of being a light to the other nations, instead of reaching other nations with God’s glory and holiness, they wanted to be like them. They had lost their identity and their mission.
2 – The Wrong Kind of King 8:6-22
The history of Israel clearly indicates that they would one day have a king. ( Genesis 17:6; Numbers 24:17-19). The law allowed for a king and predicted this very day ( Deuteronomy 17:14-20). Throughout the book of Judges we are told everyone did what was right in their own eyes because there was no king ( Judges 21:25). Hannah foretold it ( 2:10b) and it seemed to the elders of Israel, now was the right time of all of this to be fulfilled.It seems strange then, that God sees this as a personal rejection ( 8:7). But…“The people were asking for the wrong king, with the wrong motives.” – Tim Chester
God tells Samuel to give them what they want, but only after he would warn them regarding ‘the ways of the king who shall reign over them’ ( 8:9b,11a).
The king they are asking for will take their sons and daughters ( 8:11b-13).
He would take the best of everything they have (v 14-17). He would take, take, take, take, take, take.
Even after all these warnings – the people still cry out “No! There shall be a king over us!” ( v19b). These people that had cried out only years earlier for God to save them from the Philistines and saw His miraculous intervention with thunder from heaven ( 7:8-10), are now adamant that they need a human king to fight their battles.
How often we make this same mistake. In thinking we will be free of God by establishing our own way, we end up enslaved to a monster of our own making.
“It typifies humanity. We reject God as King even though it means choosing tyranny.” – Tim Chester
When we know what God has said about something, a lifestyle, a behaviour, an attitude, an attraction, an addiction, and we know the consequences of giving into those things God has warned against, but we do those things anyway.
We’ve bought into the old lie of the devil that God is just a prohibitionist and we can be our own sovereigns.
One of the worst judgements we can have on our lives is that God would give us what we want. ( Romans 1:28).
3 – The Anointed King 9:1-10:16
Everyone is expecting a king to be announced. Samuel has instructed everyone to go home and await his word( 8:22b), so it’s no surprise the next person we are introduced to is the king.
Saul comes from the small tribe of Benjamin,son of a wealthy farmer, and the writer goes out their way to point out he was talk, dark, and handsome.
Really, really handsome, or as certain of the poets have said, “Really, really ridiculously good-looking” , better looking than anyone else in Israel and taller than anyone else in Israel ( 9:2).
Here’s a likely candidate…He just doesn’t know it yet!
One minute he’s out looking for his dad’s lost donkeys, then ‘nek minnut’ he’s being anointed by Samuel as Israel’s first king.
Although Saul doesn’t know what is about to happen, Samuel does ( 9:15-16).He invites Saul to feast with him, giving him a place of honour and praising him ( 9:19-24).
Saul spends the night with Samuel, and as he is leaving the town, Samuel secretly anoints him as a prince ( under-king) of Israel. ( 9:25-10:1a).
Saul shows humility at all the fuss (9:21), he’s not after fame, he’s just doing what his father asked of him.
Samuel knows this is a lot for Saul to take on board, so as he secretly anoints him, he gives him three signs that will be a confirmation that God has really chosen.
Sign 1 – two men would tell him the donkeys are found and his father is now worried for him ( 10:2).
This is a lesson for Saul that God would solve all his problems. God is always at work, and those who trust Him will have assurance He is on their side.
Sign 2 – Some other men will give him some gifts ( v3-4)
This shows that God would always supply his needs. He would need to depend on God for everything, and God would supply it.
Sign 3 – He would be filled with the Spirit and prophesy with the other prophets (v 5-6).
This showed that God equips those He calls with the gifts they need to do what they need to do.
All these signs proved to Saul that God was truly with Him, and more than that, had given him ‘another heart’ (v.9).
Saul knew God was with him, that his calling was real, and that his life would never be the same.
He had been granted a position, a power, and a heart he had not sought after or worked for. God had chosen him, from the least of the clans, from the least of the tribes.
4 – The Everlasting King
How often do we ask for the wrong king?
Not just political leaders, but in our hearts and lives, we are so often setting up false sovereigns. Usually ourselves, or a projected image of ourselves.
We get frustrated, angry even, when public policies don’t go the way we think they should.
When our family members don’t treat us the way we want them to.
When we don’t get what we want in life, we blame God, and ask for our king.
Even in our churches, we allow our identity to be shaped, our behaviour to be governed, and our message to be dictated either by the culture around us, or by our own personal traditions,ideals and agendas rather than by God’s explicit commands.
You cannot legalise your sin anymore than you can legislate righteousness, and trying to do either abdicates Jesus as King of your life and puts self on the throne.
Don’t be fooled by the ‘trending topics’, the hashtags, the slogans. Vote wisely when you vote, and certainly stand up for Godliness, and vote for Godliness, but do not put your hopes and faith in what is temporal.
We don’t need any other King than the One we have been given. Only in Jesus are completely free of condemnation, not because we can do whatever we please and get away with it, but because He has given Himself fully for us, we joyfully submit ourselves to His Kingship.
That is the only way to political peace, community peace, church peace, family peace, and personal peace.
Put Jesus first.
“When people transfer their expectations for righteousness and salvation from God to government, they are sure to be disappointed.” – Eugene Peterson
Their first king, they ask for and accept based on his personal appearance and the perception that his strength, attractiveness and ability would deliver them from their enemies and finally give them some respectability.
The King they needed, but wouldn’t accept, was One that would one day come in obscurity.
There was no beauty that anyone would desire Him.
He didn’t seem majestic, or strong.
He was despised and rejected by men. ( John 19:15 – ‘we have no king but Caesar’)
He wasn’t seeking fame, He just came to to the will of His Father.
At the end of it all the government will rest upon HIS shoulders.
The shoulders of the One Who came not to be served, but to serve.
Not to take, but to give Himself.
The One Whose kingdom is not of this world.
This is the only King Whose way is perfect.
All others will one day bow the knee to Him.