Summary: Sometimes we leave God out of our desires and plans. We must always go to God for guidance, especially when we face life’s challenges. Our desire to imitate the world may seem righteous at first, but it will result in destruction.
How many of you have wanted something that someone else has? Well, you’re not alone. Envy and coveting have been around since the beginning of time. One of the Ten Commandments even says, “You shall not covet…” It’s too bad that the Israelites and the elders in the reading from 1 Samuel 8:4-20 didn’t remember that commandment.
What is a king? A king is a barrier between us and chaos. A king is a strong wall protecting us from whatever we fear the most: marriage problems, a faltering economy, illnesses, crime, or drugs, for example. Anything that threatens to destroy us is chaos. A king promises to bring order out of chaos. Whatever we are afraid of in this world, there is a king to tell us why we don’t need to be afraid. For Christians, our king is Jesus. He came to give us the protection we need in the form of a restored relationship with God.
The Israelites wanted a king for three main reasons. First, all of the surrounding nations had kings, so the people of Israel wanted a king too. They were influenced by the world and were no longer listening to Samuel. Second, the Israelites were concerned about who would lead them after Samuel died. You see, Samuel’s sons were leaders in other parts of the country, but they weren’t very good leaders. They made crooked politicians look good! Third, the Israelites wanted a king who would represent power and security and lead them into battle.
Deuteronomy 17:14-15 gave the Israelites the right to have a king as long as they chose a king from among themselves and not a foreign king. This same passage places restrictions on the king to prevent some of the abuses Samuel outlined. The king was not to have many horses or wives or great amounts of silver and gold, and he was not to exalt himself above the people. Human nature being what it is, these restrictions were largely not observed, and sometimes they are not observed today.
The problem the Israelites had was two-fold-wanting to be like other nations and forgetting about God. God saw the Israelites’ desire for a king as a rejection of him and everything he did for them. They forgot (as we sometimes do) that God must be first and foremost in our lives. God can and does go along with demands that are not in our best interests in order to teach us a lesson.
The people were wise in that they saw an upcoming leadership void. Samuel was getting old and the people knew that his sons would not be capable of assuming the leadership role. They didn’t see a succession plan, and they certainly didn’t see God’s plan for succession. They made their decision with their hearts and not with their heads. They did not think things through. They made an emotional decision and not a logical decision.
We are the same. We often look at things through an emotional filter when we make decisions. For example, if we do not make our funeral arrangements and pay for our funerals before we die, our families have to make the necessary arrangements at a time when emotions are running high and might cloud their judgment.