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Summary: First in a series on the life and reign of Saul. This message deals with the results of Israel demanding a King, and of God giving them what they request.

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Trinity Baptist Church June 22, 2008

Series: Portrait of a Politician

Title: The Substitute King

1 Samuel 8:1-22

I don’t know much about Samuel Clements -- Mark Twain -- when it comes to his faith. But he said something once which was dead on. He said, “Some people worry about the passages in the Bible they don’t understand. What worries me most are the Bible passages I do understand.”

You’d probably agree with him. After all, most of us who are Christians have favorite verses or passages -- they’re the ones we open when we need encouragement or comfort or want some assurance. And it’s a good thing to have passages for times like those. But then, there are other verses or chapters that are hard to read, hard to hear – because, like Twain said, they’re not just straightforward, they can be downright troubling!

I’ve got some of those – most of them are ones I heard or read one time -- then they were lodged in my mind and never came loose. Let me give you a couple of illustrations: one comes from the OT book of Ecclesiastes. I was in college and listening to a taped talk by a speaker when I first heard this verse. The man speaking had been working with a young guy -- that guy had made a decision to quit doing things God’s way and live life like he wanted. The speaker said, “I jotted down Ecclesiastes 11:9 on a slip of paper and left it with him.”

When his friend opened and read it, he read this hard Truth about accountability to God. It says, Rejoice, young man, during your childhood, and let your heart be pleasant during the days of young manhood. And follow the impulses of your heart and the desires of your eyes. Yet know that God will bring you to judgment for all these things. (Ecclesiastes 11:9)

That’s a verse that sank into me and never came out. The other is from Psalm 106. You’ve probably read it or heard it. It says, And He (God) gave them the desires of their heart, but sent leanness into their souls. (Psalm 106:15)

That Psalm paints the picture of how God had so patiently dealt with His people -- He brought them out of Egypt, He carried them along, provided for their needs, kept them safe. But still, they moaned and complained -- and demanded more and different things! They demanded meat -- they were tired of manna. They wanted water on the spot. And the Psalmist wrote, God gave them what they wanted… but…

People today say, “be careful what you ask for…” or, “be careful what you wish for…” And why? Because, they say, you might get it. Do you know that sometimes God gives you what you want, even though, it’s by far not what you need. Over the next few weeks, I want to spend some time looking at an illustration of precisely that. King Saul, in the OT, is the direct result of that principle -- he’s God’s response to the people’s demand. The results can only be described as tragic. Today, I want to look at the

The demand of the nation

and its results. We’ll work around the whole account of Saul just a bit, so turn to 1 Samuel 8. The first verses report that Samuel is aging. The people have recognized that his sons will never be the caliber of spiritual leader that Samuel has been. So, verse 4 -- they gather and approach Samuel with their plan for their future:

“you have grown old; you sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, “give us a king to judge us.” (1 Samuel 8:5, 6)

Their request is totally out of bounds, from everything Samuel knows to be God‘s plan for governing His people. It upset him that they come asking for a king at the close of his ministry. But Samuel doesn’t react like a man who didn’t walk with God. He didn’t turn on them -- didn’t try to set them straight -- he went to God in prayer.

By this point, the nation has for generations, been governed by -- and rescued from military crises by -- local leaders called “judges.” There were some great ones you’ll remember -- like Deborah and Gideon. But that judge system has lost support, and now here’s the last one -- Samuel -- judge and prophet. And the people demand that he change things -- that he anoint a king as his successor -- in spite of God’s warnings that this will bring disaster on Israel.

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