I Samuel 8
The significant circumstance which paved the way for Saul to become king of Israel was the persistent demand for a king by the Israelites. Without this demand, Saul would not have become royalty.
This demand was formally spoken by the elders of Israel (I Samuel 8:4) to Samuel, the prophet, who was then the virtual head of the nation in spiritual matters and civil matters—he was both a prophet and a judge (I Samuel 7:15). He was the last judge of Israel—the first was Othniel, who was Caleb's younger brother (Judges 3:9-11). Othniel held the position of judge for forty years (Judges 3:11). Gideon was the sixth judge and Samson was the thirteenth judge. Samuel was the fifteenth and last judge. He replaced Eli who was the fourteenth judge. Eli judged Israel for forty years (I Samuel 4:18). Because Samuel's work was so involved in the spiritual leadership of Israel, many do not realize that he was actually one of the judges who guided Israel as a nation during the first four hundred or so years they were in Canaan. Samuel made his sons "judges" (I Samuel 8:1), but they did not have the extent of rule as did Samuel and the previous judges one reads about in the book of Judges. They were more of his assistants and not his successors.
It was a sad day when Saul replaced Samuel as the head of the nation of Israel. Samuel still had authority, but Saul was the king and, therefore, the head of the nation. Many today are replacing Samuels with Sauls; and they soon discover, as did the Israelites, that it is a tragic replacement.
To examine this demand by the Israelites for a king—a demand and attitude which provided the situation for Saul to become king—we will consider the prompting of the demand (I Samuel 8:1-5, 20), the praying about the demand (I Samuel 8:6-9), the protesting of the demand (I Samuel 8:10-18), and the persisting in the demand (I Samuel 8:19-22).
"When Samuel was old... all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah" (I Samuel 8:1, 4) and demanded a change in government. They demanded Samuel "give us a king" (I Samuel 8:5). This demand was, of course, out of order. It was true that prophecy had long before intimated that Israel would one day have a king (Genesis 17:6, 16; 35:11; 49:10), and God had made provision in the law for the appointment of a king (Deuteronomy 17:14, 15). But that time had not yet arrived in God's plan for a king for Israel; therefore, the demand by the elders was presumptuous. They could not wait God's tune.
However, as is true of all evil, this presumptuous demand by the elders to Samuel for a king came with some prominent reasons to try to justify their demand even though their demand was out of order. The elders gave five reasons why Samuel should accede to their demand for a king. These reasons concerned capability, corruption, conformity, control, and conflict. Though not valid reasons, they were clever reasons. These reasons revealed the fact that "the deputation which waited on Samuel, asking for a king, was not the expression of a sagacious patriotism, or of profound concern for the spiritual interests of the commonwealth... but a restless desire for what God would give in his own time, mingled with a dissatisfaction with the system which God then was sanctioning" (R. P. Smith).
The first reason the elders advanced for wanting a king was that Samuel was "old" (I Samuel 8:5). In the judgment of the elders, they felt that at his age, Samuel was no longer capable of leading Israel but must give way to younger leadership. This reason, though sounding legitimate, was distorted and disrespectful.
The reason was distorted. It was true that Samuel was "old," for not only did the elders say he was old, but the unbiased writer of the Scripture also says Samuel was old (I Samuel 8:1). The distortion is in the idea that his age was so old that it made him incapable of leading Israel. He was old, but he certainly was not useless and incapable. To the contrary, the way he later led Israel in the anointing of Saul as the first king and the manner in which he rebuked Saul for his disobedience do not reflect weakness and lack of capability. Furthermore, after Saul had been king for awhile and had failed to smite the Amalekites as he was suppose to do, it was Samuel who smote the king of the Amalekites. "Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal" (I Samuel 15:33). Hewing Agag in pieces is not a picture of incapability or feebleness! The elders were simply distorting the age problem in order to get a king.
This same distortion practice sometimes happens in our churches. Because an older pastor, like Samuel, puts the emphasis on spiritual matters and gives the church a strong preaching and teaching ministry, the carnal church members, who prefer fun and games to the frequent preaching and teaching of the Word of God, complain that the pastor is too old to adequately pastor the church. Then the complainers head up a movement to get a younger pastor who will play ball with the young people and engage in other recreational activities—and who especially will not put so much emphasis on the preaching and teaching of the Word of God.
The reason was disrespectful. The complaint to Samuel about his old age, and that he should step aside because of it, was grossly disrespectful of Samuel. This man had given Israel many years of sacrificial service and deserved much better treatment than this. "If he was old, had he not grown old in their service? And it was very unkind, ungrateful, nay, and unjust, to cast him off when he was old, who had spent his days in doing them good" (Henry). Prior to the beginning of the monarchy, Samuel had successfully led Israel from the dark days of judgment during Eli's time to days of victory over the Philistines. Also Samuel had, through his faithful ministry, effected some significant spiritual recovery and revival in the land. But that was all ignored here by the elders. "Due respect to him and gratitude for his past services should have prevented their desire to set him aside; and the prosperity that attended his rule during many years should have led them to wish for its continuance as long as possible" (Dale).
This disrespect of Samuel is not uncommon even in our churches today. Our churches are so busy giving their accolades to the new generation of worldly leaders in the church that they have little time for the older men of God. Yea, they despise the older men of God and speak of them as being outdated and old-fashioned and not up with the times. The truth of the matter is, however, that the older men of God generally know more of what is really going on in this world and what to do about it than the younger generation will ever discover in their carnal ways. The younger generation has for the most part gone the way of the world. They have left the great truths of the Word of God which the older generation wisely embraced with tenacity. They have little respect for the things of God which the older generation sacrificed much to defend and proclaim.
The second reason or argument the elders advanced in trying to convince Samuel to make them a king was the fact that "thy sons walk not in thy ways" (I Samuel 8:5). The elders charged Samuel's sons with unsavory conduct in their work as deputy judges for Samuel. The charge against Samuel's sons was true, unfortunately. But the use of the charge to justify a king was not valid.
To further examine this charge and the crafty use of it, we note the details of the charge and the deceit about the charge.
The details of the charge. Samuel had made his sons, Joel and Abiah, judges in Beersheba (I Samuel 8:2). He had done this because of his age (I Samuel 8:1). Beersheba was at the southern most part of Israel making it a long, hard trip for Samuel to judge the Israelites there. While Samuel was not too old to lead Israel in his offices of a judge and prophet, it eased the load with his sons assisting him by taking the work in the extreme southern end of Israel. However, his sons turned out to be poor judges because of their wicked hearts.
Their wicked hearts were revealed when they got in the position of a judge. Power reveals the true character of people. Put a person in power, and you will discover what that person really is. The sons of Samuel did not have enough character to handle power properly. Lacking character, they used power for their own selfish means. This evil use of power is still in practice today. It is especially seen in many of our politicians. It is also seen in some church officers.
The details of the corruption of Samuel's sons had to do with law, lucre, and light.
First, law. Samuel's sons "took bribes, and perverted judgment" (I Samuel 8:3). They broke the law as judges. Taking bribes was expressly forbidden in the law (Exodus 23:6, 8; Deuteronomy 16:19). This breaking of the law by taking bribes was both harmful and hypocritical. It was harmful in that it "perverted judgment" which brought injustice to many wronged persons, and it brought contempt upon the judiciary. It also encouraged others in the evil of wanting a king. It was also hypocritical in that under the pretense of defending the law, it was breaking the law. The sons of Samuel were in their judging to honor the keeping of the law, and yet they practiced breaking the law in their judging. They so perverted their office that it did the opposite of what it was suppose to do. We see plenty of that today in our government, too. As an example, it is the kind of judgment which takes away our freedom of worship in the name of a constitution that says the government shall not prohibit the tree exercise of religion.
The bribe business has always been a problem with mankind, and we must avoid yielding to it at all cost. T. DeWitt Talmage forcefully warned, "My charge is to you, in all departments of life, steer clear of bribery, all of you. Every man and woman at some time will be tempted to do wrong for compensation." Many officials in our land have ignored the warning about the peril of bribes and have fallen to this temptation and heaped much disgrace upon themselves. Bribes only make people bad.
Second, lucre. The sons of Samuel had an inordinate passion for money, and so they "turned aside after lucre" (I Samuel 8:3) in the matter of bribes. They turned "aside" from the right path to gain money in an evil way. The Hebrew word translated "aside" here not only carries with it the meaning of going off course, but also of stretching out for something. This stretching out for something shows the great passion one has for that for which he is reaching. Samuel's sons had such an inordinate passion for material gain that they reached out as far as they could to get gain, even if it meant reaching into the unlawful area of bribery for it. Unfortunately, they are not alone in yielding to this inordinate passion for money. Our world is filled with people who have let the passion for money destroy them. Not only is this seen in many folk given to taking bribes, but it is also especially seen in the popularity of gambling. Many folk will freely gamble though it throws character to the wind. You put money first in your life; and while you may gain money, you will lose a host of things of greater value.
Third, light. Samuel's sons will receive far greater condemnation for their evil than many others who have done the same. The reason for their greater condemnation is that they walked in so much more light than others. They had the great advantage of Samuel's teaching and example. By lip and by life Samuel had shown the boys how to live. But they spurned his teaching and example and would not walk "in his ways" (I Samuel 8:3).
Many parents set a horrid example for their children today, and because of that we are not surprised when their offspring turn out evil. But some folk go bad even though they have been taught the truth and had it lived gallantly before them. The same is true in church. Some folk can sit under good preaching week after week and still turn away from the Lord. All men will have to answer for what they have done with their advantages.
The deceit about the charge. The elders were deceitful in making this charge of corruption against Samuel's sons. Though the charge of corruption about Samuel's sons was true, the elders were not nearly as concerned about the corruption as they were about changing the form of government. They simply used the corruption in the present government as an excuse to justify another form of government. Though outwardly the argument about the corruption of Samuel's sons seemed to indicate that these elders were verily concerned for the purity and high moral state of the nation; yet "this reference to the sons of Samuel was only a pretext; for the evil could have been remedied by demanding their [Samuel's sons] removal. It is clear that the plea was only a cover for a deep aversion, predetermined plan to get rid of the present system, whether the prophet of God approved or not" (R. P. Smith). Thus they were subtly using disobedience to God (corruption by Samuel's sons) to promote another form of disobedience to God (seeking a king). They complained that Samuel's sons did not walk "in thy ways" while they did not want to walk in Samuel's ways either.
Such hypocrisy is nearly the norm in politics today. While corruption in government needs to be exposed, politicians often expose it for ulterior reasons. And often those who expose corruption are a corrupt mess themselves. Such folk would make moral issues to be political issues, and political issues are made to be moral issues. The church is not exempt from this problem either. Church dissidents often take on an air of holiness in deploring some sin in the congregation. They do this, however, not because they are opposed to the evil (for they do not get upset over the same evil in their friends) but to manipulate for some church position or some change in church administration.
There was nothing devious or concealed about this argument. The elders plainly said they wanted a king in order to be "like all the nations" (I Samuel 8:5). The elders saw the glamour of the world and wanted to be like the world. "A poor prophet in a mantel, though conversant in visions of the Almighty, looked mean [lowly, deficient in appeal] in the eyes of those who judged by outward appearance; but a king in a purple robe, with his guards and officers of state, would look great; and such a one they must have" (Henry). The elders wanted Israel to be like other nations in pomp and glory not realizing that they excelled other nations greatly in true glory because they had a prophet of God in their midst who was in close communion with God.
How often we get mixed up in values and judge only on outward grandeur rather than on the inward spirituality. Because we lack materially or in popularity we think we are inferior; when in truth if we have spiritual advantages, we are very superior. If you know Christ as Savior, do not complain that God is not blessing you if you lack in the things of the world; for God has already given you the greatest blessing of all in your salvation. Spiritual blessings far exceed in value all other blessings.
Conforming to the other nations was exactly what Israel should not be doing. "Israel was designed to be unlike them, and superior to them (Leviticus 20:26), and most of the miseries they had suffered arose from conformity to their ways. The wish to be like others is a fruitful source of sin and woe" (Dale). This problem still exists among God's people. Scripture warns us to "be not conformed to this world" (Romans 12:2), and it gives us some sterling examples of men like Daniel and his three friends who refused to conform to the world (Daniel 1:8, 3:1-30). But a look at the typical church today reveals conformity in a host of ways, and this has resulted in much corruption in the church and the church being shorn of its spiritual power.
"To judge us" (I Samuel 8:5; cp. I Samuel 8:20). The word "judge" here means in this context to rule. This was a mean and unjustified criticism of Samuel, for Samuel was at that time the judge of Israel. The elders by saying they wanted a king "to judge us" said they wanted someone else to judge them other than Samuel. This gave away their carnality. Samuel was a spiritual leader and judged accordingly. They wanted a king who did not judge so spiritually.
The demand of the elders for someone "to judge us" sounds so noble and submissive, but here it was rebellious; for it was rebelling against the present rule of the man of God. The demand for a king said they wanted someone else to rule over us. Later on God told Samuel the people were actually rejecting God, not Samuel (I Samuel 8:7). That is even a more serious charge.
The fifth reason the elders gave Samuel for why they wanted a king was that they wanted a king to "go out before us, and fight our battles" (I Samuel 8:20). This was a foolish argument. "Could they ever desire a battle better fought for them than the last was, by Samuel's prayer and God's thunder" (Henry). Israel's strength in battle was not in a sovereign dressed in royal apparel leading them but in their spirituality. It was not the purple robes and kingly pomp that Israel needed to win their battles and conquer their Philistines, but it was consecration of heart—a work that Samuel did exceedingly well in his ministry in Israel. When they were spiritually right, Israel had God fighting for them. You cannot improve on that! But the elders of Israel were not thinking in spiritual terms here; they were thinking only in earthly terms.
Many churches are the same way. They put on some pretty fancy promotional programs with guest celebrities and worldly entertainers to attract a crowd. These churches are seemingly unaware that what would make the church really go forward is a revival of spirituality among the members. They have forgotten that the revivals of years past were a result of great praying and great preaching—something that does not show up in many churches anywhere nowadays.
When the elders had finished giving Samuel their reasons for a king, Samuel did not give the elders an answer right away about whether he would make them a king or not. Rather, he first went to the Lord in prayer. This is not surprising, for Samuel was a man of prayer. Prayer embraced his life. He was the result of the prayer of his mother, and he is seen in Scripture availing himself to prayer in significant ways and at significant times. Once he spent one whole night in prayer (I Samuel 15:11). To examine Samuel's praying about this demand, we will note the prudence of his praying, the perspective from his praying, and the precepts from his praying.
How wise Samuel was to go to prayer. The demand of the elders was a distressing request for Samuel. He was "displeased" (I Samuel 8:6) with the request which means he saw the evil of the request, for the Hebrew word translated "displeased" in verse 6 means to see the evil of something. Samuel saw nothing good about the people's desire for a king. It reflected a troubling attitude in the land. This helped him to go immediately to the Lord in prayer.
Too often in our troubles, we do not take the time to pray, and that only complicates matters. But "when anything disturbs us, it is our interest, as well as our duty, to show before God our trouble" (Henry). Hannah, Samuel's mother, did this as is noted in our I Samuel 1. Now Samuel does it, too. Never be in such a big a hurry that you neglect prayer. Circumstances may be such that you cannot go to a nice quiet and private place conducive for praying, but you can still pray though you are not in some quiet and private place. You can lift up your heart for at least a quick prayer anywhere (note Nehemiah's quick-on-the-spot prayer in Nehemiah 2:4). The elders of Israel were wanting an answer quickly from Samuel, but Samuel wisely took the time to pray first. You may not know exactly what to do in some situations thrust upon you unannounced. But you can always respond immediately to the situation with prayer, and it is always wise to do so.
In response to Samuel's prayer, God told Samuel, "They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them" (I Samuel 8:7). The elders' request was obviously an attack upon Samuel, but God told Samuel that the real problem was not a rejection of Samuel but the rejection of God. The demand for a king was not primarily a criticism of Samuel, though it sounded that way; but it was an indirect criticism of God. The elders did not want God's way about Israel's government; they wanted their own way. God told Samuel that this was the habitual attitude of the Israelites. "According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee" (I Samuel 8:8).
It had to be a great encouragement to Samuel to get this perspective of the situation. Prayer does that. It helps to clear up our thinking and put things in proper perspective. Too often we have the perspective of the world in our troubles, and that only discourages; what we need in our troubles to encourage us is the perspective of God about our troubles.
This criticizing of Samuel actually being a criticism of God is something one sees a lot at church. You can put it down that a lot of the criticism of the pastor at church is not primarily the pastor that the people are upset about, but it is God's ways they are upset about. Because the pastor insists on preaching the Word of God faithfully, the people often criticize the pastor for all sorts of faults. But the real problem is not the pastor. The real problem is that the people are simply upset with God's ways as it is spelled out in God's Word which the pastor faithfully preaches.
Prayer helps us to understand and know the will of God better. It gives us assurance regarding the will of God. This was the case with Samuel's praying here. Through this praying, two precepts from God were made very clear. They were the precept to provide for a king and the precept to protest a king. Both precepts were difficult to do, but prayer made the duty clear and that encouraged the doing of the duty.
The precept to provide a king. God told Samuel to "Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee... make them a king" (I Samuel 8:7, 22). This precept was unlikeable to Samuel and it was unusual for him to do, but prayer helps us to do the unlikeable duty and the unusual duty.
First, the unlikeable duty. Making a king for Israel would be repulsive to Samuel. Having the proud prestige and grandeur of a monarchy instead of the humble, low-keyed judges' government was against everything Samuel believed in and practiced. His desire was that the people would want God, not an earthly king, to rule over them. But God said to make them a king. Prayer makes clear our duty but sometimes that duty is not appealing. There will be many distasteful tasks for the servant of God to do over his lifetime. Praying about the will of God does not guarantee a nice task, rather it may show us a very difficult and unlikeable task. But do it anyway.
Second, the unusual duty. Note that God told Samuel three times to hearken to the people's demand for a king (I Samuel 8:7, 9, 22). Samuel needed this repetition, for it was an unusual command. Making a king seemed a most unusual thing to do, so Samuel needed repetition here from God to give him assurance for doing the unusual. This reminds us that if God wants us to do something unusual, He will make it very, very clear to us.
Some folk have embarked on some strange paths without the plain leading of God and they make a mess of things. Do not do the unusual unless you have had very plain orders from God.
The precept to protest a king. "Protest solemnly unto them, and show them the manner of the king that shall reign over them" (I Samuel 8:9). Samuel was to protest a king; that is, God wanted Samuel to warn the Israelites of the consequences of a king (we will note the details of that message shortly). Two things can be said about this message of protesting a king. It was a despised message, but it was a delivered message.
First, it was a despised message. This message would definitely not be popular with the people, but Samuel was to proclaim the message anyway. Many messages God gives His preachers to proclaim are not popular with the people. And too many preachers proclaim only popular messages. These preachers are not praying preachers, however. The praying preacher will learn that his message is sometimes very unpopular.
Second, it was a delivered message. Samuel dutifully "told all the words of the Lord unto the people that asked of him a king" (I Samuel 8:10). Samuel was faithful and preached the message to the people even though it was not a popular message. The praying preacher, like Samuel, will be a faithful preacher. Ignore prayer and you will have trouble preaching the message as it ought to be preached.
As we have just noted, God told Samuel to "protest solemnly unto them, and show them the manner of the king that shall reign over them" (I Samuel 8:9). Samuel gave an earnest message to the people protesting their demand for a king. This message detailed the adverse consequences which would come from having a king. "Samuel points out to the people that their desired king will aggrandize himself at their expense" (R. P. Smith). The price of evil is always great—more than people can afford to pay.
Here Samuel said the adverse consequences of having a king would involve the conscription for service, the confiscation of property, the charge of taxes, and the cry of sorrow.
The first unpleasant consequence of having a king which Samuel told the people about was the conscription for service—we call it the draft in our country. The king would draft the people's sons and daughters and servants for his service.
First, the king will draft the sons. "He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen... he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots" (I Samuel 8:11, 12). Sons were invaluable to the home and family. They provided much labor, carried on the inheritance, and were comfort and security for the parents. Losing them would not be a profitable or pleasant experience.
Second, the king will draft the daughters. "He will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers" (I Samuel 8:13). This also took labor from the home; and as with the sons, it took dear ones from the home, too. Taking the people's sons and daughters will break up the homes. "He [the king] must support his dignity at the expense of that which is dearest to you" (Henry). Sin ever breaks up the home, but how often people sacrifice good things to do evil.
Third, the king will draft the servants. "He will take your menservants, and your maidservants" (I Samuel 8:16). Taking their servants will short hand the people for their work in the fields and in the home. That will cost plenty, too.
All that glitters is not gold. The people may like the glitter of a monarchy, but the glitter will be at the expense of the loss of their sons, daughters, and servants. It will be a very costly conscription for the people which will never be adequately compensated for by the benefits the monarchy could give. The rewards of sin never compensate for the losses of sin!
The king would not only take their sons and their daughters and their servants, but he will go further. "He will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them" (I Samuel 8:14). Note the phrase "the best of them" which is like the phrase "goodliest young men" (I Samuel 8:16), for it says the king will take the best you have and leave you with the rest—the inferior. This is always the way sin works. You always come out on the short end of the deal with sin.
Taking the land of the people was taking of the people's inheritance. Israel's inheritance was considered a sacred trust. The law of God said, "So shall not the inheritance of the children of Israel remove from tribe to tribe; for everyone of the children of Israel shall keep himself to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers" (Numbers 36:7). Samuel warned that the king would cruelly violate that law by not only taking the people's property but by also taking the "best" of the property. The cruelty of taking one's inheritance is extreme. Like the kings of Israel, our government does it all the time. We personally wonder at the character of legislators who have written up and passed tax laws that extract so much of the estate of those who have died. There is enough sorrow when one dies, and so we do not need the government adding to the sorrow by coming to the funeral and demanding a great portion of the deceased person's goods. It is unconscionable to pass such laws. It is an attitude that reflects greed, not godliness.
Taxes would be heavy consequence under a king. Samuel said, "He will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards... He will take the tenth of your sheep" (I Samuel 8:15, 17). There were no taxes under the judges. But in contrast, a monarchy comes with taxes. It requires that the people be taxed and taxed in order to pay for the expenses and excesses of a monarchy. Israel never got away from the taxation; for even in the reign of Jehoiakim some four hundred years later near the time of the Babylonian captivity, taxes were still being raised. "Jehoiakim... taxed the land to give the money according to the commandment of Pharaoh" (II Kings 23:35). There are some taxes that are just. Obviously, we cannot run a government, build roads, provide for protection through a military without money. But most taxation is exorbitant, and such taxes are imposed by wicked hearts regardless of which political party they are from.
The last consequence for having a king, which Samuel mentioned here, was the cry of sorrow. This distressing cry of sorrow would be added to the other evil consequences of a monarchy. The evil consequences of a monarch were great. We note the definiteness of their cry and the deafness to their cry.
The definiteness of their cry. "And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen" (I Samuel 8:18). This cry would definitely come. They "shall" cry is the Divine message. They would not escape the cry of sorrow. Sorrow is always the product of sin. Sinners are forever thinking they will escape the sorrow of sin. But they never will. Sorrow is as much a part of sin as anything else, and no sinner will escape the sorrow of sin. When sinners are warned of the "sorrow" consequences of sin, they often answer defiantly that it will not happen to them. They will be happy, they say; but the sorrow of sin catches them much quicker than they ever thought. Sin looks so appealing when it solicits you. It promises so many good things. But once you take the bait, you soon discover there is always a hook in the bait and the hook hurts! It cancels out all the promised blessings. It takes away all the joy one may have in sinning. Many today are crying out in great sorrow because of the path of sin they have chosen to travel. Much of society is unhappy, and the main reason is their sin.
The deafness to their cry. The most tragic sentence in our text for this chapter is, "The Lord will not hear you in that day" (I Samuel 8:18). Israel got what was coming to them. They had shut their ears to God's message, and then in judgment God shut His ears to Israel's miseries. Many seem to forget that if you want the blessings of obedience, you must obey. Balaam said, "Let me die the death of the righteous" (Numbers 23:10); but he died the death of the wicked (Numbers 31:8) because Balaam ignored the fact that in order to die the death of the righteous, you must live the life of the righteous. We reap what we sow. Shut your ears to God and He will shut His ears to you.
Samuel's strong protest about a king, in which he showed some of the evil consequences of having a king, was not received well by the people. They still persisted in their demand for a king. It is not unusual, however, for good sermons to be rejected by the listener. It still happens many times today. Telling people what is right often results in people turning against you. It is not easy preaching the truth.
To further examine the people's persistence for a king, we note the character of their persistence and the compliance to their persistence.
There was nothing noble or good or acceptable about this persistence of the people for a king. It was dumb, disobedient, and defiant.
Dumb. After Samuel's great protest about a king, we read, "Nevertheless" (I Samuel 8:19) the people still insisted on having a king. This was so dumb. One would think that after hearing what the price for a king was that they would have quickly changed their minds and decided not to demand a king any more. But the people paid no attention to the warning. Their passion for a king was too strong for the warning to affect their thinking. Inordinate desires always rob men of wise thinking.
The people's stupid insistence about having a king, even though the price was forbiddingly high, is the same kind of stupidity seen in people who vote for political candidates whose character and record are very corrupt. It is incredible to thinking people to witness voters voting for obvious crooks and liars. Facts and reasoning seem to make no difference to those who vote for such scum, however. The people's stupid insistence about having a king is also like the stupidity of those who marry people of poor character even though they have been warned of the perils of such an unwise marriage. The people's stupidity shows up all over society. Unfortunately, we do not have to look far to see many examples of the elders' stupidity of ignoring wise warnings and persisting in foolish action.
Disobedient. We have no doubt that the persistent demand for a king was an act of disobedience; for the Scripture says, "The people refused to obey the voice of Samuel" (I Samuel 8:19). When God says, "No," and you argue, you are disobeying. These people could not wait God's time for a king. God had indicated in prophecy and in the law, as we noted earlier, that someday Israel would have a king. If the people had waited awhile, they could have started with David instead of Saul. What a difference that would have made in Israel. They would have missed all the evil consequences of the kingdom of Saul. But disobedience invites Sauls, not Davids. When we cannot wait God's time, we only get Sauls, not Davids.
This attitude of not waiting God's time is not extinct. The world is filled with people who cannot wait God's time. This fact is most evident in the low morals that abound in society. As an example, people cannot wait until marriage for sex. Also people cannot wait through hard labor for material gain but must gamble or rob or cheat instead. However, you must wait God's time, or you will learn about troubles you will wish in all eternity that you had never learned about at all.
Defiant. The defiance of the elders when Samuel told them the price of a king is seen in how they changed their demand. At first they said, "Give us a king" (I Samuel 8:6). But now after Samuel spoke to them, they speak defiantly and say, "We will have a king" (I Samuel 8:19). From "give us" to "we will" spells defiance! It was an insult to God and also Samuel.
Persistence in sin always makes a person more insolent of that which is good. This explains the abundance of attitudes which mock God, the Bible, Christianity, and high morality today. Our world is filled with hardened sinners, and so righteousness is insulted more and more. This defiance shows up in every area of society, such as, in the school, in the home, in the workplace, in the church, and in the courtroom. It is the defiance seen in abortionists, homosexuals, and those who espouse gambling and other evils. These folk defy the law, God, and anyone who disagrees with them.
"And the Lord said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king" (I Samuel 8:22). This statement may shock a lot of people and cause them to think God is caving in to the wishes of the elders like a delinquent parent who spoils his children. But God's compliance must never be so interpreted. God's compliance is often a form of punishment upon people who persist in their evil desires.
God often permits us to have our way so we can experience the folly of our way. "Granting to Israel of the king whom they desired, is but one instance of the law which is exemplified in God's dealing with nations and individuals, according to which He lets them have their own way that they may 'be filled with their own devices' [Proverbs 1:31]. Such experience is the best teacher, though her school fees are high. The surest way to disgust men with their own folly, is to let it work out its results" (Maclaren). "If men will not take advice, let them have their way. Wisdom seldom comes to wilful men but through sharp lessons of the results of folly" (D. Fraser). The prophet Hosea makes clear the disciplinary action of God in giving Israel a king when he says, "I will be thy king... thou saidst, Give me a king... I gave thee a king in my anger" (Hosea 13:10, 11).
When God gives in this way because of the sin of people, it always extracts a painful price from the receiver. The Psalmist states the high price of God giving you what you want regardless of His will when He says of Israel concerning another occasion of rebellion, "He gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul" (Psalm 106:15). Leanness of the soul is an awful price to pay for a stubborn self-will.
Never persist against God's will until God gives you what you want. You will not have it very long before it will be the last thing you want—but you will not be able to get rid of it then. Be pliant to the will of God. Recognize that He knows best and orders your life for your good. Never force God to comply to your will. Rather, always comply to His will—and the quicker the better.
Israel insisted upon a king and they got one, namely, Saul. God granted their demand but they soon paid a terribly high price for getting what they wanted. Let us all be careful to heed the warning in this case of Saul.