Call to Worship May 9, 2021

Expository Thoughts on 1 Samuel 8

Samuel spent most of his years in the usual work of his office. He traveled throughout Israel as a judge to the people. He taught them the law of the LORD and to continually trust in the LORD. The revival at Beth-shemesh was not an everyday occurrence. Yet Samuel continued with his work as God’s servant to His people (7:15-16). Ever since the days of Beth-shemesh Israel had feared the Lord to a certain extent with adoration and thanksgiving. Then, Samuel had become old and he had appointed his sons as judges. They did not walk with the Lord in His precepts and worshipfully fear Him. They followed in the line of Eli’s sons. During this time the people recognized Samuel’s age and the concerns of his sons’ behavior. So they called upon Samuel to appoint them a king who would judge them “like all the nations.” (8:1-5)

Samuel and the LORD were displeased with the elders’ demand. It was not that a king in himself was evil (Deut. 4:32-40). The problem was the motive behind the demand. So years after the horrific battle loss at Mizpah (ch. 4) and the return of the Ark at Beth-shemesh (ch.7), subsequent generations of Israelites were still struggling to understand the greatness and holiness of their GOD. They had learned not to lean on foul and fiendish judges’ sons as their intercessors, and yet they did not seek to trust in the Lord Himself, but in mechanisms of His leadership. In chapter 4 they looked to the item of the physical Ark as a good luck charm. In chapter 8 they usurped God as their king for the physical mechanism of a King.[1]Therefore, they had forgotten their recent history of God’s faithful kingship and their distant history as God led them out of slavery to Egypt. 

The Israelites’ lack of trust in the Lord first garnered a warning from the LORD (vs. 9). Through Samuel He cautioned them regarding the working of a human king. Six times God warns them how an earthly kingdom functions. The king would “take” their sons, daughters, property, harvests, servants and flocks by portion for his determination to run the kingdom. It’s not that every king is all evil, but rulers use their power for their purposes in the provision and interests of their goals (vs. 11-18). At some point depravity becomes a driving force, especially when God is only seen as a vice-royal instead of the ultimate perfect King. So God informs them from a family perspective to think about what they are doing in their appeal/plea to their sons and daughters. Israel is not phased and gives further reasoning for their desire to have a king (vs. 19-20).

In forgetting, or putting aside, their history as God’s people, Israel had forgotten their distinctiveness as God’s people. They were never meant to be followers of other nations or “like” them. God had set them apart. They were led only by the LORD through means and people He provided. He gave them His Law for their good and His glory. He gave them leadership according to the functioning of that law. He provided the land, the means for sustenance and worship. In other words, the LORD provided everything. The Lord led them through trial and in joy. He had protected them in peace and in war. Yet now they looked around at every other nation and said, “We want to be like them, not like You.” They not only sought to displace God’s kingship, but to distance themselves from His holiness. When the people of God seek to hide from holiness it only means they do not desire to see their sin for what it is, “cosmic treason.”[2]The Israelites had forgotten their purpose in life. They were created and separated to reflect the holiness of God. Let us remember this purpose as well and its implications. If we do not seek to love the Lord our God with everything that we are and have in this life, we are going against our creator. As believers in Christ, that also means we are looking at Jesus as our “lucky rabbits foot,” instead of as “the author and perfecter of our faith.” The world looks at the mechanics of life and seeks to solve its problems, but believers have all trust in the Lord using His mechanics or means unto His glory. They recognize the issues, but do not seek to move ahead of the Lord in His plan and purpose. Let us trust that the Lord will work on our behalf in the bounds of His word, which will cultivate a biblical reasoning for the way we live life. May we seek not to “follow” or look “like” the world, but to trust in the holiness, graciousness, and goodness of the one true living God in Three Persons-Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Soli Deo Gloria!

[1] Dale Ralph Davis, I Samuel: Looking on the Heart, (Christian Focus Pub., 2014.), 85-86.

[2] R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, (Tyndale, IL., 1985.), 149-152.
In Christ,Brandon F. Smith