I Samuel 8
Notes by Ivan Ho 9 May 2016
Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your 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.” So Samuel prayed to the Lord .
And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day—with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also. Now therefore, heed their voice. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them.”
So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who asked him for a king. And he said, “This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day.”
Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, “No, but we will have 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.”
I Samuel 8:4-20
The people of Israel demanded a king, and God granted them their wish. God knew what was in the heart of the people who deep inside, in demanding a king, had really rejected God Himself and looked for someone whom they could see physically to rule over them. At that time, they were not going through any crisis. In fact, they had been enjoying a period of peace and prosperity with all the enemies around them being subdued. Seeing that Samuel was getting old and his sons did not walk in the ways of their father, however, the people started to consider their future. The people of Israel demanded a king because all the nations around them had a king. They tried to follow the pattern of the world around them.
Despite all that, God gave them a king with His blessing to rule over them, but at the same time warned them in advance all the difficulties they would face with this rulership system. The Egyptians already had this structure, so did the Chinese and other nations. Now Israel would also follow the other nations to have a king despite the fact that they have already got the word of God (law of Moses) and judicial system (Samuel being their judge at the time) to govern their lives.
Without God in their heart, people would inevitably turn to an alternative saviour. They are always seeking for a public figure, a political icon, a religious guru to replace God.
What are in the hearts and minds of the people often fluctuate. In any political system, it is often the mindset of the people that drives it, and their mindset can change. Unless the heart of people of a nation return to God and realise that His word is the final and ultimate authority , there will never be any real stability in any political system.
People often talk about “separation of the Church and the State”. In other words, let not the church involve with political affairs, and let not politics interfere with church affairs. This concept sounds good, but in reality, the hearts and minds of people in their relationship with God often determines the nature of the governing systems. For example, the Marxist system is basically an atheist system despite its ideals about people sharing common properties. The majority of people, who had no God in their hearts, bought into such ideology and gave birth to communist regimes around the world. History tells us, without God and His ultimate standard, such forms of ideology and government system cannot work. Without God , it has to sustain its power by military force against the will of the people. It was the will of the people who gave rise to Communist system which eventually took freedom away from them. Apart from Communism, other political systems, including Hong Kong, are becoming more and more like that, when the will of the governing powers often overrules the will of the people.
Mind you, even God Himself respected the will of the people when they demanded for a king (as long as it doesn’t conflict with His moral standards) !
And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he repeated them in the hearing of the Lord . So the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed their voice, and make them a king.” And Samuel said to the men of Israel, “Every man go to his city.”
I Samuel 8:21-22