What kind of government do you want? This is a question that is filling news broadcasts, talk radio, the internet, newspapers, magazines, and conversations. There are already countdowns as to how many days till the polls open. The election of our nation's President is a big deal. Do you want a Democrat, a Republican, an Independent, a Libertarian, a Liberal, a Conservative......the list goes on. Changing leaders can be very stressful, but changing the type of government you are to have can be maddening! Just ask the Iraqis! Even though many are experiencing freedom for the first time, freedom is scarey. I brings responsibility.
Someone has given a definition of the various governments of the world using the illustration of two cows:
The Children of Israel were experiencing the stress of changing government, and they were bringing this upon themselves. This stress most profoundly affected Samuel. Turn with me to the Book of 1 Samuel as we continue with our sermon series on the Prophet and the King.
1 Samuel 8:1-3. When Samuel grew old, he appointed his son as judges for Israel. The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. But his sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.
Samuel was now an old man. He took it upon himself to appoint his sons as judges to help him manage the outlying areas. But Ellen White says in Patriarchs and Prophets, that "the warning given to Eli had not exerted the influence upon the mind of Samuel that it should have done. He had been to some extent too indulgent with his sons, and the result was apparent in their character and life." Samuel's sons had not reached the state of the sons of Eli, but their reputation was still hurting the reputation of God's chosen prophet. So, in actuality, what happened next was partially the fault of Samuel. Look at verse four.
1 Samuel 8:4-5. So all the elders of Israel gathered together, and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, "You are old and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.
If anybody walked up to you and said, "You're old." That's what's happening here. "You're old. You're going to die. You are our leader. Your sons should not succeed you, Samuel. They are already taking bribes. Your sons are not following your ways, Samuel. Give us a king." The elders were right to wonder who would lead them in the future. That' okay to wonder that. Samuel was getting old. His sons were not trust worthy. But what they should have been asking in sincerity was, "Who will God choose to lead us in the future?" But this was not the elders' intent. They were using Samuel's age and his sons' dishonesty to get what they really wanted a king like everyone else in the neighborhood. It was embarrassing not having a king to show off to the other nations. People would come by: "take me to your king." "Well, um, we don't have one, um, we've got a prophet and we've got some judges, but our real king, he is like invisible." This is embarrassing to them! They had was an invisible God. No royal courts. No high crowns. No prince to succeed the king, no princesses. Nothing like that! No figure to lead them into battle. No pomp and ceremony. No keeping up with the Joneses, much less impressing them. We don't have a king!
This was a new generation in Israel. It seems like every generation that came along forgot how God had led the previous generation. Don't do that. A generation who had forgotten how God's prophet, Samuel, had been faithful and had established their current peace. They'd even forgotten what their current prophet had done in the past. A generation who chose the way of others instead of God's way.
Well, how did Samuel feel about this? How did he react? Look at 1 Samuel 8:6-8. But when they said, "Give us a king to lead us," this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: "Listen to all that te people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected Me as their king. As they have done fo the day I brought them out of Egypt until this day, forsaking Me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.
Samuel could have reacted to the elders in anger. What they were wanting was wrong! He could have said, "Fine! Have your own king. I'm out of here, you bunch of ungrateful fools!" But he did what we all should do when we face rejection, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Rejection is something that we all face. How we react to it is very important. Rejection causes a very personal pain. If not handled properly, it can determine the way we lead the rest of our lives. Many respond to rejection with aggression or resentment. You have seen what happens when a child is reprimanded. He will sometimes see it as a rejection of who he is and will feel even smaller than usual if the reprimand is handled incorrectly. He will often withdraw and sulk which may lay the foundation of an over sensitive and critical adult. Or, he may take it out on his smaller sibling or the cat. This makes him feel big again. "Okay, can handle them anyway!" He may become the school bully and an aggressive adult.
The story of Cain and Able is a good illustration of how not to handle rejection. When Cain's unaccepted sacrifice was rejected by God, he had to choose how to respond. The Bible says that Cain's expression fell. He was feeling guilt and low esteem of himself. But God did not abandon him to these feelings. God gave him the opportunity to talk about it and to set things right.
But, as you know, he chose option number two and the first murder was committed. In contrast, we look at Samuel. No, he is not perfect. He is not the perfect Dad, and he's not even the perfect prophet. But he has been a great leader of Israel under the direction of God. The people have no gratitude and simply want a leader that looks better to their neighbors, not this old man. He is truly and wrongly rejected after decades of faithful service (Think of that next time you get laid off or are passed over for that promotion!). He does not argue first and pray later. He does not give an answer of any kind. He simply goes to God.
It reminds me of President Lincoln. He is called America's most beloved president. But this was not the case while he was in office. The South hated him. The anti-war activists hated him. Democrats hated him, calling him a widow maker. The media ridiculed his eyes, looks, and body, calling him a freak of nature. Harpers magazine called him many names: Filthy story teller, despot, liar, thief, braggart, buffoon, usurper, monster, ignoramus Abe, old scoundrel, perjurer, swindler, tyrant, field butcher, land-pirate, and others. All for Abraham Lincoln. It sounds very familiar to what one hears today. But Abraham Lincoln would not stoop to the level of his critics. He won over a lot of his enemies and critics by holding fast to this famous principle found in his second inaugural address where he said: "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right."
When Samuel goes to God, God gives him an earful, as well as a surprise. First off, God informs him that it is God that is being rejected when the people complain about His prophet. "Don't take it personally, Samuel." Then he tells Samuel "listen to them." The word "listen" here in the Hebrew does not mean just hear them out. It means to do what they are requesting. Samuel can't believe his ears. Even though God had predicted that the people would one day ask for a king back in Deuteronomy 17, Samuel cannot believe that it is happening now.
Keep your finger here and turn with me back to Deuteronomy 17:14, 15 to see what God predicted. When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, "Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us," Be sure to appoint over you the king the lord your God chooses. He must be from your own brothers. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not a brother Israelite. So, God is saying, "When you get there, you're going to ask for a king just so yo can be like your neighbors. But let Me choose who it's going to be."
Now turn to Hosea 13, on the other side of Samuel. Beginning in verse nine. Hosea 13:9-11. "You are destroyed, O Israel, because you are against Me, against your helper. Where is your king, that he may save you? Where are your rulers in all your towns of whom you said, 'Give me a king and princes'? So in My anger I gave you a king, and in My wrath I took him away."
This is interesting. In I Samuel 8, God tells Samuel to give them a king. In Deuteronomy, God not only predicted that they would ask for a King but told them that He would choose their king for them. In Hosea we find out that God did this in great anger! What does this say about how God relates to us? A bunch!
God has a perfect will for each of us. He has a plan that will insure that our lives are lived to the fullest. But He also has a permissive will. This comes into play when we reject His perfect will. Do not get this wrong! God's permissive will should never be confused with God agreeing with what we choose. It may even be called sin. But God does not reject us because we choose plan B. Notice, I said that God does not reject us, but he does reject what we do. He was angry about what His people chose. He even compared having a king to another form of idiolatry. But He still loved His people and wanted plan B to lead them back to plan A. The book Patriarchs and Prophets says, "When men choose to have their own way, without seeking counsel from God, or in opposition to His revealed will, He often grants their desires, in order that, through the bitter experience that follows, they may be led to realize their folly and to repent of their sin." - EG White.
One might say that God allows us to be in charge. He allows us to play god, just to see what happens if we are in charge of our own lives.
A doctor in a mental institution was making his rounds one evening when he heard shouting from one of the rooms. "I am the king of the universe! I'm the ruler of the world! From now on everyone will do what I say because I'm the supreme commander of the galaxies!" "What is going on?" He went to the patient's room, unlocked it and went in. The man was standing on a chair in his underwear pronouncing that he was king of the universe. "Harry! Get down off of that chair and quiet down. You're disturbing the other patients. They're trying to sleep." "But, I am the king of the universe!" "Harry, you're NOT the king of the universe!" "Yes I am." "And just what makes you think you're the king of the universe?" asked the doctor. "God told me I was king of the universe." shouted harry. And then a voice from two rooms down shouted back, "I did not!" If we play "God" this is where we end up. You might as well be in an insane asylum if you are trying to do things "our way." God's way is so much more sane.
Yes, God chose their king for them. He chose exactly who they had in mind, the type of person they could look up to literally. Someone they could be proud to point at and say "That is my king! Look how tall and handsome he is!" Someone that was also a very poor leader. Later, God chose another king. Someone who was just the opposite of the first. But that's the story of David.
God instructs Samuel to remind the people what a king is. Look again at 1 Samuel 8:9-22. "Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who reigns over them will do."
Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, "This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and other to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the Lord will not answer you in that day."
But the people refused to listen to Samuel. "No!" they said. "We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles."
Samuel put up a pretty good argument. This is what a king will do. And he is totally aghast that their response: "we don't care." We find Samuel in disbelief about the stubbornness of his people. They probably reminded him of the donkey he road from town to town. They are stubborn. They aren't listening. He just has to bring it to God once again.
1 Samuel 8:21, When Samuel heard all that the people said, He repeated it before the Lord.. The Lord answered, "Listen to them and give them a king."
Then Samuel said to tje men of Israel, "Everyone go back to his own town."
Samuel repeats everything they said to God and God repeats everything he already said to Samuel "Give them a king." But what does Samuel do? He tells them to "go home!" He just can't do it yet. He can't bear to agree to this yet. "You all just go home." I am glad that God is even patient with His prophets!
In chapter 8, we have a bunch of stubborn donkeys looking for a king. In chapter 9, we have a king looking for a bunch of stubborn donkeys. Look at 1 Samuel 9:1-6. There was a Benjaminite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Becorath, the son of Aphiah of Bejamin. He had a son named Saul, an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites a head taller than any of the others.
Now the donkeys belonging to Saul's father Kish were lost, and Kish said to his son Saul, "Take one of the servants with you and go and look for the donkeys." So he passed through the hill country of Ephriam and through the area around Shalisha, but they did not find them. They went on into the district of Shoalim, but the donkeys were not there. Then he passed through the territory of Benjamin, but they did not find them.
When they reached the district of Zuph, Saul said to the servant who was with him, "Come, let's go back, or my father will stop thinking about the donkeys and start worrying about us."
But the servant replied, "Look, in this town there is a man of God; he is highly respected, and everything he says comes true. Let's go there now. Perhaps he will tell us what way to take."
It's kind of funny: Saul is willing to give up in his search, but his servant is not. Whoever this servant is, he has evidently learned that God is concerned even with small matters, like where you misplaced your donkeys. "No, let's not give up, let's go to the man of God and see what he has to say." Look down at 1 Samuel 9:11-14. As they were going up the hill to the town, they met some girls coming out to draw water, and they asked them, "Is the seer here?"
"He is, " they answered. "He's ahead of you. Hurry now; he has just come to our town today, for the people have a sacrifice at the high place. As soon as you enter the town, you will find him before he goes up to the high place to eat. The people will not begin eating until he comes, because he must bless the sacrifice; afterward, those who are invited will eat. Go up now; you should find him about this time."
And they went up to the town, and as they were entering it, there was Samuel, coming toward them on his way up to the high place.
This is a lesson for Samuel. If Samuel won't go to the king, the Lord will bring the king to Samuel. I can picture Saul. Here he is, chasing after the most stubborn animals on earth. They have probably torn down the fence, eaten the shrubbery, trampled mother's flower beds, and he has looked for miles, high and low, wondering where these beasts are. And wondering about all the things he could do that are far more important. "Oh! If I didn't have to chase these things, I could be doing this, I could be doing that, but I'm on this detour." Yet it is God who has led him on a detour in order for him to become king of all Israel! Be careful that you are not griping about one of God's detours for your life, because it may be the very detour that leads you to the kingdom!
There is an ancient Chinese story. A farmer had one old horse that he used for tilling his fields. One day the horse escaped into the hills, and when all the farmer's neighbors heard about it, they sympathized with the old man about his bad luck. "Bad luck, good luck, who knows?" said the farmer. A week later returned with a herd of wild horses from the hills, and this time the neighbors congratulated the farmer on his good luck. "Good luck, bad luck, who knows?" said the farmer. Then when the farmer's son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses he fell off his back and broke his leg. Everyone agreed that this was very bad luck. Not the farmer, who replied "Bad luck, good luck, who knows?" Some weeks later the army marched into the village and forced every able-bodied young man to go and fight in a bloody war. When they saw the farmer's son had a broken leg, they let him stay. Everyone was very happy at the farmer's good luck. "Good luck, bad luck, who knows?" Do our lives center around luck? I don't think so! Not as long as we are following the king. Anything that happens to us, Paul tells us "rejoice in it!" and be glad, because God is in charge.
Look at 1 Samuel 9:15-20. Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed this to Samuel: "About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him leader over my people Israel; he will deliver my people from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked upon my people, for their cry has reached me."
When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the Lord said to him, "This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people."
Saul approached Samuel in the gateway and asked,"Would you please tell me where the seer's house is?"
I am the seer," Samuel replied. "Go up ahead of me to the high place, for today you are to eat with me, and in the morning I will let you go and will tell you all that is in your heart.. As for the donkeys you lost three days ago, do not worry about them; they have been found. And to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you and all your father's family?"
This discourse served to help Saul trust in Samuel as a man of God. Samuel not only knew about the missing donkeys, he knew how long they had been missing and he knew that they had been found. The new king of Israel had also been found even though he could not believe that God would choose him.
1 Samuel 9:21-27. Saul answered, "But I am a Benjaminite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?"
Then Samuel brought Saul and his servant into the hall and seated them at the head of those who were invited about thirty in number. Samuel said to the cook, "Bring me the piece of meat I gave you, the one I told you to lay aside."
So the cook took up the leg with what was on it and set it in front of Saul. Samuel said, "Here is what has been set aside for you. Eat, because it was set aside for you for this occasion, from the time I said, 'I have invited guests'" And Saul dined with Samuel that day.
After they came down from the hugh place to the town, Samuel talked with Saul on the roof of his house. They rose about daybreak and Samuel called to Saul on the way, "Get ready, and I will send you on your way." When Saul got ready, he and Samuel went outside together. As they were going down to the edge of town, Samuel said to Saul, "Tell the servant to go on ahead of us" and the servant did so "but you stay here awhile, so that I may give you a message from God."
Now, look down at 1 Samuel 10:1. Then Samuel took a flask of oil, and poured it upon Saul's head, and kissed him, saying, "Has not the Lord anointed you leader over His inheritance?"
Here we find Samuel being very gracious to this man Saul. Even though Samuel is against having a king, he knows this is God's will. He shows this young man great respect. He allows Saul to go before him. He places Saul and his servant in seats of honor at the table. He has already prepared a special meal just for Saul before they ever met. He anoints Saul as Israel's king.
How much more at peace we are when we follow God's perfect will. How much more at peace we are when we allow God to handle things even when we think that we know better. How much better it is to do things God's way than to insist that he does it my way! Both the people of God and the Prophet of God had to learn this lesson the hard way. If you are not following God's perfect will for your life, allow His alternate plan to guide you back. Which type of government are you going to vote for? One where God follows you? Or one where you follow God? The polls are open today!
Sources: Patriarchs and Prophets, by E. G. White First and Second Samuel, by J.Vernon McGee The NIV Application Commentary 1&2 Samuel, by Bill T. Arnold Men of Character: Samuel, by Gene A Getz Chosen to be God's Prophet, by Henry Blackaby The Books of Samuel vol. 1, by Cyril J. Barber They Love Me, They Love Me Not, Sermon by Victor Yap
Hymn of Praise: #17, Lord of All Being, Throned Afar Scripture: 1 Samuel 8:6, 7 Hymn of Response: #523, My Faith Has Found a Resting Place
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last updated August 22, 2004 by Bob Beckett.