Today we remember, we return to the beginning, and we celebrate the resurrection of the Son of God. Because of today, we can everyday proclaim that Jesus is the true King. There are many places we could go in the Bible today to see the glory of the resurrection, but for us this morning we’ll simply continue on in the series we’ve been in for a couple months now in the book of 1 Samuel. The reason we’re not taking time out to go to another passage of Scripture is because our next passage is ripe for our Easter holiday. You’ll see how soon. In chapter 8 there are 3 sections…
a) The Demand (8:1-9)
The prophet Samuel is now an old man, and to aid him in His ministry he appoints his sons, Joel and Abijah, to be judges over Israel. But v3 tells us that his sons didn’t walk in the ways of their father Samuel, but instead lived lives characterized by bribery, perversion, and wrongful gain. Then the pivotal moment comes in v4-5, ‘Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, ‘Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.’ In view of the clear lack of character in Samuel sons, the elders of Israel have thought up a new idea, an idea that will solve their leadership problems, so they ask for the establishment of a monarchy, they demand a king.
As you can imagine, Samuel was angered by such a request, thinking the people are attacking his leadership. So in his anger he prays, and God tells him that the people’s offense is far greater than he thinks, for the people are not just attacking his leadership, they’re rejecting God’s. In v7-9 God says, ‘Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking Me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.’ In His response to Samuel God makes many things clear. First, God reminds Samuel that Israel isn’t rejecting him so much as rejecting God. Second He mentions that Israel has a long standing tradition of such sinful behavior, from the day God brought them up out of Egypt until now, they have always abandoned God and turned to worship and follow other gods.
This means the people’s desire for a king is the same old idolatrous streak with a new flavor.
I must pause here and mention the desire for a king wasn’t wrong in itself. In Deut. 17 God had told the people a day might come when they would want a king like all the nations around them, and that this desire is acceptable so long as the king met certain standards. In Deut. 17 it says the king must be a male Israelite and not a foreigner, the king must not acquire or hoard many horses, wives, or gold, and the king must be a man underneath the law of God, a diligent student of the law of God, so that he may fear God all the days of his life. This kind of king would be a good king for God’s people. But as the history of these people makes plain, they’re not merely for asking for a king, they’re seeking to be like all the other nations, to keep in step with the world around them, sure God may have done many things for them, but no one has a God for their king anymore, that’s old fashion now, we want a king. For Israel to want to be like the nations around them is a wicked desire because the very thing that made the people of Israel different from all the other nations was that out of all peoples God was near to them and had given them His Law (Deut. 7-8). To ask for a king was to reject God as King.
b) The Warning (8:10-20)
God wanted His people to know what having a king would be like. What would a king be like? 6 times from v10-18 God warns the people saying ‘he will take…’ v11 a king will take your sons for an army, v13 a king will take your daughters for perfumers and cooks, v14 a king will take the best of your land, v15 a king will take a large portion of your crops, v16 a king will take the best of your servants, and v17 a king will take a large portion of your flocks. Then the biggest warning comes at the end of v17, ‘you shall be his slaves.’ What God means for them to understand in saying these things, is that having a king will be just like being back in Egypt, for a King will take their freedom from them and when they cry out to God in later days because of the king they chose for themselves, God will not answer them.
Israel heard the warning, was educated on the norms of how a king normally rules over his people, but Israel remained foolish. Proverbs 12:15 says, ‘The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.’ v19-20 give the people’s response to God’s warning, ‘But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, ‘No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.’’ Did you see the difference in their answer in v5 and here in v21? In v5 they simply state that they want a king like the other nations, but here in v21 we see more added to the picture. In v21 they make it clear that what they really want is to be like all the other nations, and to have this king fight their battles. They have turned away from wisdom and have run after the desire of their hearts.
I know of a pastor who went to visit a member of his congregation only to find the member’s wife in her car with packed bags leaving her family to run away with another man. This pastor pled with her to stay, told her she was being foolish and blind, and told her that one day she’ll look back on this decision and regret it more deeply than anything she’s ever done. She stomped on the gas and sped out of the driveway, she knew what she was doing was wrong, but she wanted it anyway, and no one was going to tell her different, and just like that she was gone. 3 months later she came to her senses and returned to a broken home. If they made it through, it would be years before anything felt normal again.
Here in 1 Samuel 8 Israel knows what they want is wrong, but they want it anyway. As Emily Dickinson says ‘The heart wants what it wants.’ I wonder how many of you right now are into something similar. Perhaps many people have warned you, perhaps no one has, perhaps you’re hearing a warning now. Will you stubbornly refuse to listen? You see, Israel has forgotten that it is God who fights for them (Exodus 14:14), that God is Judge over them (Genesis 18:25), that it is God goes before them (Deut. 31:8), and that God had redeemed them from slavery to bring them to a new land (Exodus 20:1-2). They heard God’s instruction, but rejected it preferring their own wisdom.
c) The Giving (8:21-22)
We then see God command Samuel to obey the voice of the people and give them a king in v21. Samuel does do this, and as the chapters ahead of us in 1 Samuel make plain, the king to be was a man of the town of Gibeah named Saul. He surely looked the part of a king, but he was an awful man who didn’t know God nor want to. Be careful what you ask God for, He may just give it to you.
At the close of the chapter in v22 Samuel sets off to do as he has been commanded. He sends everyone home from Ramah to make the necessary preparations for the coming king.
There is much to learn from this passage today:
First, remember Romans 12:2
Even though God had made them unique and special amid all the nations of the world, twice in this passage (v5 and v20) we read of Israel’s desire to be like the nations. They wanted to stay in step with society, to keep up with the culture, to be like the rest of the world.
This temptation is the temptation of the modern church. For ages the church has been the place where the Word of God is preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, where God is praised with rich and deep music, and where God is sought in prayer with intensity. Do you see what we’ll happen if we become like the world? We’ll lose all this! If we want to be like the world we must water down our sermons so that we don’t step on toes or offend anybody. If we want to be like the world we must make our music more like a concert where we remove most of the Scriptural truth from the lyrics to make it more appealing to people’s tastes. And if we want to be like the world we’ll abandon much of our prayer because we’ll bore people. Really, the Church’s temptation to be like the world is really a temptation to bow the knee to man’s preference over God’s commands for the worship of His people.
Romans 12:2 calls us to not be conformed to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds. How can we be transformed by the renewing of our minds if we’re removing all the transforming material from our worship? Bottom line – we can’t. When a church bows to the world it’s message becomes worldly, it slowly begins to be a place where the grand realities of the Bible are no longer welcome. We must remember our convictions, build on them, cast-vision with them, hire with them, fire with them, disciple on them, and send people out with them.
It really is our desire to be relevant to the modern world. But remembering the truth, not reinventing or reshaping it, is the only way to be eternally relevant to all people in all ages.
Second, remember resurrection.
You and I are too quick to conclude that we’re above the wickedness of Israel. But what we see in Israel here is the tendency of every human heart. Like Israel did, we too have idols of all kinds, ours aren’t little statues we bow too, no, ours are much more sophisticated and logical. Rather than seeking our identity, safety, and security in God you and I seek it in presidential candidates, in bank accounts, in the opinions of others, in our jobs, in our looks, in our vacations, in our children – in all kinds of things that can never ultimately give us what we need. When all along, true security, true identity, true life is right before us in God and in His King – King Jesus.
Israel demanded a king and rejected God as their King. When Jesus walked into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday He rode in on a donkey as the humble King. Those same people a few days later would reject Him as King by mocking Him and crucifying Him. But wonder of wonders, mystery of all mysteries, the very thing that separates Jesus from every other religious leader in the world, is that when died He didn’t stay dead, He rose.
The stone blocking His tomb was only a pebble compared to the strength of the Rock of Ages.
Thus, Easter is to the Christian faith what water is to the ocean, everything! In Romans 1:4 God says Jesus was ‘…declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by His resurrection from the dead…’ It is His resurrection that marks Jesus out as the true King, and because of His resurrection Jesus is now able to save to uttermost anyone who comes to Him by faith. This means the resurrection isn’t a one-time event; it looms still and is at large. For every time a sinner turns from sin toward Christ in faith, we see resurrection.
So each one of you in this room, has a question to answer. This is not a question to put off until later, or until you’ve cleaned up your life, it must be answered now. Your answer to this question will not only determine if you waste your life or use it well, but your answer to this question will also determine where you will spend all of eternity. The question is not ‘Will you demand a king?’ The question is rather ‘Who is your king?’ For Israel the answer was ‘We are king, we do what we want to!’ and they would suffer dearly for it.
By the grace of God, may your answer be, ‘My King is Christ the Lord, Risen today!’