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1 Samuel 8-10: Who Is Your King? Print E-mail
1 Samuel
Sunday, 07 May 2017

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History has taught us that people like to have a leader. Humans will follow the person in charge. Even the movements that rebel against authority are normally still led by someone, or at least a body of leaders. Pure democracy, where everyone makes every decision is difficult to sustain. Thus, normally the people select some leaders to handle certain responsibilities. You may call the person in charge the director, the leader, the king, or in our country the president, but they all serve a similar purpose: lead the people. On a smaller scale, most human institutions have someone in charge. Schools have principals. Boards have chairmen. Businesses have owners. Large and small groups of people normally have someone to lead them in some capacity.

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The people of Israel wanted a king. God had rescued them out of Egypt and given them the Promised Land. For many years the Lord had given them judges to rule over them, but their influence was normally limited to a particular region for a particular time (until their death). Samuel is the last of these judges and when he can no longer lead (and his sons take advantage of the situation), the people cry out for a king. Look at 8:1-5. And even though Samuel warns them about how a king will treat the people (see 8:11-18), they still want a king. And so the Lord gives them what they want.

In 1 Samuel 9 we are introduced to Saul, the son of Kish. God reveals to Samuel that he will be the first king of Israel (see 9:15-17) and confirms that to Saul through various signs (10:1-16). After Samuel warns the people again, Saul is taken by lot and he is crowned the first king of Israel, which some support and others do not (10:17-27). The people of Israel cry out for a king and God gives them a king. What can we learn from this story in 1 Samuel 8-10. Let me mention three lessons from Israelís longing for a king.

Motivation matters

One of the difficulties in this chapter is trying to understand if God approved or disapproved of Israel wanting a king. As we saw in the Deuteronomy passage, God knew that there would be a king in Israel. Also, since we know that the king line will ultimately lead to Jesus, we know that God is going to use their desire for a king for His purposes. So we can say that the desire to have a king is not bad by itself. Yet, we see in these chapters that something is wrong with their desire for a king. What is that? The problem is their motive. We see this in two ways.

First, they wanted a king because they wanted to be like other nations. Look at verse 5 again. They want a king so that they can be like the pagan people around them. Even after Samuel warns them that such a king will make them slaves, they still want a king like the nations have. Look at verses 19-20. God had commanded His people to be set apart from the nations, but they wanted to be like the nations. They wanted a king to fight their battles, even though God repeatedly defeated such kings on the battlefield. They just wanted to be like everyone else (good thing we donít struggle with that). Their motive was wrong in this way.

Their motivation for a king was also wrong because it was a rejection of God as their king. Look at verses 6-9. The people were rejecting Samuelís sons, but they were ultimately rejecting God. They did not want the kind of King that was talked about in Deuteronomy 17, one that would fear the Lord and always view Him as the true authority over His people. They wanted a king like the other nations. Samuel rebukes them for this in 10:17-19. Look at that with me. Again we see that the people have rejected God by wanting a king like all the other nations. It was not so much that they wanted a king, but that they wanted an earthly king to take Godís place.

Motivation matters. The people of Israel wanted a king for the wrong reasons. Maybe you struggle with that at times. Maybe you want to go to church and do churchy things so that people will think you are a good person. Perhaps you serve God to try and manipulate Him into doing what you want. The truth is that we can want even good things for the wrong reasons. We must seek to do all that we do for the glory of the true King. We must avoid building our own earthly kingdoms (that look so good on Facebook) and get busy building the Kingdom of God.

Details matter

Just because Israel wanted a king for the wrong reasons does not mean that God is not still accomplishing His purposes. In fact, it seems that He will give them the exact kind of king that they want (King Saul) for His own plan, which will be to eventually replace him with a man after His own heart (King David). We see clearly His work in raising up Saul when we look at some of the details of the story.

We are introduced to Saul in chapter 9. After a brief description of him, which we will consider in a moment, a mundane event is recorded. Look at 9:3a. These donkeys play a key role in the story. Since they are missing, Saul and a servant go looking for them throughout the country side. When they canít find them, Saul wants to go home. But the Lord works through the servant. Look at verses 5-6. Saul does not want to see Samuel because he doesnít have any money to pay him. But the servant responds in verse 8. Look at that with me. God is directing Saulís path. When they go to find Samuel in Zuph we are told another detail that indicates Godís hand.

Look at verses 11-14. Is this all just a coincidence? No, this is all happening according to Godís plan. How do I know? Look at verses 15-17. How did the Lord send Saul to Samuel from Benjamin? He used some donkeys who were lost and a servant who had just enough money to seek out the seer. The Lord used all of these details to get Saul to Samuel. Not only this, but when it comes time to select the king, Samuel casts the lot to find Godís will. And guess who the lot falls to? It falls to Saul because God controls even the casting of the lot (see Proverbs 16:33).

Do you ever wonder if Godís plan for your life has gotten off track? Maybe He forgot about you? No, the Lord never loses control of our lives. And even in our rebellion, He is there to show us mercy. Look again at what God said to Samuel in 9:16. The Lord is aware of Israelís motivation for a king. He knows that they want to be like the other nations. He understands that the are rejecting Him as king. Even so, He hears their cry for relief from the Philistines. We should not miss His sovereign mercy in that. We should believe that He shows us mercy as well. The details in this story matter. They teach us about Godís sovereign mercy for Israel and for us.

Character matters

One last lesson to point out from Israelís longing for a king comes from Saul. The story indicates that he is seen as a good candidate for king because of his outward appearance. Look at 9:2. Saul was tall and handsome. He would look good as Israelís king. He would be a king like the other nations had. Look at 10:23b-24. He had everything going for him on the outside. We even read in this story that the Lord set His Spirit upon Saul. Look at 10:6, 9. The Lord is obviously at work in the heart and life of Saul. Surely he will make a great king in Israel.

Yet, in spite of the outward appearance, we still see some weaknesses in Saul. First, we see that he is a terrible shepherd. Even though the sheep are eventually found, they are not found by Saul. Second, he has not even heard of the spiritual leader in Israel. Even though Saul lived fairly close to Samuel, it was the servantís idea for them to go and speak with him about the sheep. Finally, we see a real problem when he is chosen by lot as Israelís king.

Look at 10:20-23a. Again, we see some humor in the Bible. This time it is foreboding humor, for it seems to indicate what type of king Saul will be. It had to be someone awkward to crown as king the man hiding in the baggage. When he stood up, he was taller than all the people, but that doesnít really count for much if he is crouched down among the luggage. We already see in Saul a problem with his character. Yes he is tall and yes the Lord has given His Spirit, but we should not ignore his lack of character, something that will be more plain as his story goes on. The Lord is looking for a man after His own heart, but it will not be King Saul.

The Lord is still looking for men of character. He is still more interested in our hearts than our frames. It matters little to Him how much money we have or how good we appear before the crowds. He is interested in the heart. He is interested in men who follow hard after Jesus and lead their families to do the same. Character matters more than outward appearance.

We learn some important lessons from Israelís longing for a king. Our motivation matters, the details matter, and character matters. The truth is, we are all following a king. Some have crowned financial success. Some have crowned family. Some have crowned comfort and ease. Some have even crowned themselves, believing in the lie that they can be free from all others. So what about you? Who is the king of your life. The problem with kings is that we all become their slaves, which is Samuelís point in 8:17-18. Look at those with me. These are sobering words for us all. The good news is that a new king has come. God is raising up king Saul and will eventually raise up king David so that He can send us King Jesus. Jesus will not just save us from the Philistines, He will save us from sin, Satan, and death. He will save us from all lesser kings. He will be the King of kings and the Lord of lords. If you will turn from your sins and trust in His death and resurrection, then He will be your King today. Do not reject Him as Israel did God. He is the King you need. Will you follow Him today? Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 16 May 2017 )

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