No King But God?
Read 1 Samuel 8:4-7 (ESV)
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.”
How do we either reject or accept God as the king of our lives?
In this day and age, it may seem difficult to relate to the Israelites in 1 Samuel. Those of us in the United States may especially wonder what in the world they were thinking in asking for a king! We value freedom and a form of government that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people” (Abraham Lincoln). In general, Americans do not want a king to rule their lives. And yet, that is exactly what the people of Israel demanded in 1 Samuel. Apparently, they thought their form of government was to blame for all their problems, rather than their lack of faithfulness and obedience to the Lord their God.
In 1 Samuel 8:19-20, we see the why behind the people’s request for a king: “...No! But there shall be a king over us, 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.” They had forgotten what their forefathers in Joshua’s time knew—it was always the Lord who fought their battles. Plus, God didn’t create the nation of Israel to be just like all the other nations. He created them to be set apart. They were the people of God and they shouldn’t have needed any king but Him!
Of course, it was no surprise to God that they demanded a king to govern them. In Deuteronomy 17:14-15, the Lord warned them that when, not if, they decided they wanted a king, they should be sure to select the man God chose. 1 Samuel explains this transition from judges as leaders of Israel to Israel’s first king. The book covers about 94 years of Israel’s history from ca. 1105-1101 B.C.
1 Samuel opens with a beautiful story of one woman’s deep grief but great faith in the Lord. Hannah was barren and deeply desired a child. She vowed to God that if He heard her prayer and gave her a son, she would dedicate him to the Lord. Her prayers were answered and Samuel was born. She kept her promise to God and as soon as Samuel was weaned, she took him to Eli the priest and Samuel began serving the Lord in childhood. He became a highly respected prophet among the people, and he served as Israel’s final judge.
When Samuel grew old and his sons proved to be corrupt judges, the people demanded that Samuel give them a king, despite Samuel’s warnings. God told Samuel to give the people what they want and directed him to anoint Saul as Israel’s first king. But it wasn't long before Saul began to disobey the Lord’s commands. He offered a sacrifice though he wasn’t a priest (1 Samuel 13:8-14) and he failed to completely eradicate the Amalekites. He let the people keep the livestock they plundered as spoils and kept their King Agag alive despite God’s direct command to the contrary (1 Samuel 15).
Because of this, the Lord rejected Saul as king and anointed David, a young shepherd, to be the next king. In 1 Samuel 16, we read of the Lord’s spirit leaving King Saul and settling on David from that day on. David began to serve King Saul as his musician and armor-bearer but as David began to experience military success against the Philistines (including killing Goliath), Saul began to view him as a threat. Saul was jealous, manically depressed, and murderous toward David. David had to flee from King Saul’s rage and attempts at this life, but God protected him. David even spared King Saul’s life twice (1 Samuel 24, 26)! In the end, Saul is killed by the enemy, the Philistines.
Where do we see the Scarlet Thread of redemption in 1 Samuel? We see it in David. He is a foreshadowing of Christ. Like Christ, he was born in Bethlehem, he was a shepherd (Christ is the Good Shepherd), and he was anointed king of Israel. He had to endure suffering and rejection during which time he penned beautiful psalms, some of which are messianic prophecies. He was a man “after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14) and as we read on, we’ll see him become Israel’s greatest king. Not because he was a perfect ruler but because he understood what Saul did not—ultimately, it was God who was king of Israel and it was God who was King of David’s heart. Friends, we all need to acknowledge who the true King is. Who is the king of your heart?
Lord, I confess that sometimes I try to be king of my own life. But I know that You are the One on the throne. You are the King of Kings. Help me to submit to Your authority in my life and live in obedience to You, my King. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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