Summary: Do we need to be like others or should we stand out?
Left Standing on the Cliff
And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel. Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: they were judges in Beer-Sheba. And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre (loo-ker), and took bribes, and perverted judgment. Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, and said unto him, “Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make 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 unto the Lord. And the Lord said unto Samuel, “Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.”
After the death of Joshua, God called certain people from the Israelites to speak for Him to the people, to be God’s spokesman, to listen to disagreements, and to be a judge for the people. The last of these judges, Samuel, once he had gotten old, appointed his two sons to be his successors. His sons were not Godly people and sold their judgments to some people, and distorted judgments on others. The elders of Israel finally got tired of this and came to Samuel, and demanded that he anoint someone to be their king, so they could be like other nations. Although this saddened Samuel, it wasn’t Samuel the Israelites rejected, it was God.
The Israelites had a habit of rejecting God in favor of other things. During the Exodus the Israelites had Aaron make a golden calf and worshipped it. During the time of the Judges, it is recorded on numerous occasions they would worship the gods of the surrounding peoples, only to incur God’s wrath and subjugation to those other nations. It should have been no surprise to anyone the Israelites once again rejected God’s rule over them in favor of something else.
God was not surprised by this. When Moses was giving his final words to the Children of Israel through God’s inspiration he warned them in Deuteronomy 17:14, “When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say “Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us”. God warned the people that a day would come when they would reject God’s rule over them. But God continued in verse 15, “be sure to appoint over you the king the Lord your God chooses”. Even though the people refused God, He wanted to make sure that He would still be there ruling through a man that would listen to Him.
But the Children of Israel did not just reject God because they didn’t want Him anymore, they rejected God’s rule so they could be like other nations, other nations that did not listen to God’s word; that did not obey God’s laws; that did not worship God. Samuel’s sadness over his people’s request for a king is understandable, because it wasn’t for any good or Godly reason did the people demand a king, but so that the nation of God’s chosen people, the one He created and set apart from the rest of the world, could be just like everyone else. The kings of Israel ruled the area for many years, some were Godly men and ruled well, most were not Godly and ruled poorly, but all were flawed and all made mistakes. After the reign of Solomon, just their third king, one of his sons and an aide to Solomon both assumed the title of king and split the nation in two. The northern area abandoning God completely to be known as Israel and later as Samaria, the southern area, comprised of the tribal sections, Simeon, Benjamin and Judah, and which ever Levites who still served God, remained faithful to God for the most part, and was known only as Judah. And all this was the result of wanting to look just like everyone else.
This desire to not stand out, to be like everyone else, is not something that was exclusive to the Israelites, but something that all people want to do. There is probably not one person who has wanted to do something with their friends because “everyone is doing it”. And I’m sure that everyone has been told by their parents “And if everyone jumped off a cliff would you jump too?” While we might have answered “no”, we know without a doubt that if all of our friends were jumping off a cliff, we would not be the only one there by ourselves. Growing up we had a pool that was kind of close to the house. I say kind of because you could climb on to the roof and jump in the pool, as long as you got a running start. My brother and I showed my dad this, and he jumped into the pool with us because, as he told my mom later, “I wasn’t going to be up there alone.”