Have you ever desperately wanted something that turned out not so great after you got it?
Either it didn’t live up to the expectation that you placed on it or the initial excitement simply wore away faster than you anticipated. Whether it is related to material items, small or big, or an event looked forward to, life has a way of allowing what we think will be great, to not turn out that way.
This happened to the Israelites many years ago. There is a story recorded in 1 Samuel 8 where the people desperately wanted something that not only didn’t turn out so great for them, but was actually detrimental in the long run.
The context of this story is that the Children of Israel are asking repeatedly for a king to rule them. Samuel, God’s messenger to the people, was getting old and his son’s weren't doing a very good job taking over his responsibilities. Because of their poor performance the people asked for a king to be placed over them instead. It seems like a reasonable request at first glance.
However the Bible says that this request “displeased Samuel.”
Because this was supposed to be his role under God’s leading. He was God’s chosen messenger, called to deliver the message that God Himself had for His people. As Samuel talked with God, he is told, “for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.”
Today we are used to rulers and leaders being over us, but we forget that God had designed for the Children of Israel to be directly under Him. They were to be a special people that would follow His directions and counsel. They had no need for a king, because God was their King of kings.
But verse 8 tells us, “… since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day—in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods.” The people were so quick to forget how God has freed them and lead them to banks of the promised land. They forgot all the promises that He had made to them and to their fathers.
But God graciously tells Samuel to warn the people what they are asking for. Samuel lists all of the negatives about having a king. He told them that the king would;
Take sons to be in his army for both fighting
Take sons to work the field
Take sons to make weapons
Take daughters to work in his palace
Take their land for himself
Collect a tax to support his kingdom
Take their servants to work for him
Take their animals to serve him
Seems like a comprehensively negative list. One that should make people question if the benefits actually outweigh the negatives.
And to make it even worse, after reading the entire list, Samuel says,
“Then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
Reading this today, I hope I would have said, “That’s too much, no king for me.”
But the Bible says that the people refused to listen and responded saying, “No, but there shall be a king over us.”
“I want what I want, and I want it now.”
But the most baffling part of this story is the three reasons they give for their refusal to listen and their desire to parade forward with having a king.
The three reasons they give are;
That we also may be like all the nations.
That our king may judge us.
To go out before us and fight our battles.
That we also may be like all the nations.
God called them to be distinct from the other nations - To be His witnesses.
They saw what others had and they wanted it.
This reminded me of my 2 year old son. He sees a toy another kid has, and he wants that toy. Forget that he is sitting in the middle of 20 toys, he simply wants what he doesn’t have.
However as I thought deeper about this I realized that I'm not too different from him. I see what others have, and I want it also. I see what they have and somehow I become discontented with what I have. I, over time, begin focusing more on what I don’t have than what I do have.
Maybe that's all of us.
So in looking at what the other nations had — a king — the children of Israel are actually saying that God wasn't a sufficient king.
God was their judge.
Essentially they were saying that because of the failures of Samuel's sons they didn't trust that God could judge and they wanted someone else. But they forgot that God was the one who called Judges into service. He was the one responsible for judgement. As often happens, when men fail, we doubt God.
God was the one that had fought their battles up to that point.
While much could be said about this point, all we need to do is look at countless Old Testament battles that the Children of Israel didn't have to do anything and God would fight for them. Think of the story of when they crossed the Red Sea, Exodus 14.
The Children of Israel simply didn’t get it. And things turned out exactly how Samuel predicted. It didn’t take long for the Children of Israel to wish they hadn’t pleaded for a king.
Is it possible that we don't get it today?
Be careful trying to replace God’s plans and purposes in your life with other things. Even your best plans may turn out to be simply a disappointment.
*Scripture taken from NASB