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1 Samuel 8:46; 10:2024; 12:1315, 2023comment (0)

September 25, 2008

By Doug Wilson

Related Scripture: 1 Samuel 8:46; 10:2024; 12:1315, 2023

Explore the Bible
Associate Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile

1 Samuel 8:4–6; 10:20–24; 12:13–15, 20–23

Throughout the Old Testament, Israel tended to stray from the Law of God and to conform to the practices of its neighbors. One of the most obvious examples of this conformity is when leaders approached Samuel and asked for a king. Over the course of time, God granted them a king. He was not the one through whom the Messiah would come, for God had promised long ago that through the descendants of Judah would come the enduring Kingdom (Gen. 49:10).

Whenever a vacuum of leadership occurs, people are apt to choose symbolism over substance. With the spiritual failure of Samuel’s sons by perverting justice for a price, the elders felt that having a visible symbol of leadership and power would be more substantial than simply acknowledging religious authority.

Even at the cost of personal liberties and possessions, these leaders were willing for their families and their wealth to be redistributed according to the whims of a man. The end result of this was a kingdom led by a figurehead named Saul from the tribe of Benjamin. He feared the opinions of other men and had little commitment to God.

Ask for God’s Guidance (8:4–6)

The elders were in turmoil. Samuel was too old, in their opinion, to lead successfully. His sons could not be trusted, and they did not follow the example he had set for them. The tribes needed a king, just as Moses had addressed in Deuteronomy 17. It was time for a change, time for new leadership.

Samuel asked the Lord for direction, and God said to listen to the elders. They had not rejected the prophet’s leadership but they spurned God Himself.

Samuel tried to warn the leaders about the new taxes that would be levied and their sons and daughters who would be taken into service for the king and how they would have to rely on the king in hard times. They still insisted on having a king of their own.

And Israel received exactly what it asked for — namely a tall and handsome king whose greatest ambition was to be liked.

Discern God’s Direction (10:20–24)
God has a way of narrowing our attention. In the case of identifying His man to be king, He whittled the selection down from the entire nation to a single tribe (Benjamin), a single clan (Matrites), a single family (Kish) and finally a single man (Saul).

An interesting side note is that Mordecai was a descendant of Kish, who was the object of Haman’s wrath in the Book of Esther. This is significant later in the kingdom of Saul, when he spares the life of King Agag, the ancestor of Haman.

Saul was a head taller than anyone in Israel, and his stature pleased the people when he was identified. God gave them the symbol they asked for.

Commit to God’s Calling (12:13–15, 20–23)

Two issues arise from this passage about commitment. One is choice and the other is consequence. God gave the Israelites the choice to fear, worship and obey Him, based on their knowledge of His word. When they or their kings chose disobedience to the commands of God, they faced consequences.

One significant act of rebellion was their rejection of God as King. As a consequence of this conscious choice, they faced severe storms in the middle of harvest time. Farmers know the beating of the rain or the blowing of the wind is not profitable when it is time for the sheaves to be cut, gathered, winnowed and the grain stored.

When the rainstorms came, they recognized God’s judgment upon them for their disobedience. In fact, they feared God’s continued wrath.

Samuel encouraged the Israelites to worship the Lord wholeheartedly and to reject idolatry. He assured them that God does not abandon His people, though He does judge disobedience.

He also committed to pray for them and to teach them how to live for God.

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