“When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice.
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.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “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.”” – 1 Samuel 8:1-9
“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.” And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey their voice and make them a king.” Samuel then said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.”” – 1 Samuel 8:19-22
The history of the Israelite nation would be greatly changed in this short chapter of 1 Samuel as they demanded a king. Until this time the people of Israel had been governed by judges. The Lord would raise up judges to oversee and lead the people. In verse 2 we learn that Samuel’s sons, Joel and Abijah, were judges. It also tells us that both men were not righteous and fair judges (they did not walk in the way of their father, Samuel). While Samuel’s sons were not good judges that does not seem to be the reason for Israel’s demand for a king. After all, if they just wanted them removed as judges, that was an option. But that wasn’t what the hearts of the people desired.
In verse 5 it reveals a truth about the Israelites hearts, they longed to be like all the other nations. Everyone else was ruled by a monarchy, but they were governed by judges. They saw what the other nations had and they wanted it. Israel had physical judges help to keep order, but not a physical king. God was their king. The Israelites simply wanted to look like everyone else. Their request was ultimately a rejection of the kingship of God.
I can’t help but wonder; how have I rejected God as an authority in my life because I wanted it to look like what I saw all around me? When did I choose something that others had over God’s best? Where have I rejected God as king in my life?
Samuel reacts by talking to the Lord. He doesn’t tell them they are nuts, he doesn’t try to convince them of how wrong they are, he doesn’t even correct them in that moment. Instead he talks to God and asks for the words and the permission to speak about what he believes to be a misguided request.
I wish that were my first reaction. If I’m honest, it certainly isn’t. I have to think on my feet, I have to keep everything moving, I have to make it all work. No matter how you spend your days as a woman, we all feel pulled to make it work. It might be with our family, in our job, it could even be in our friendships that we are desperate to hold it all together and keep it moving forward. Samuel proves that the pressure we feel to make it work is not the ultimate guide. Samuel had a whole nation forming a thought that he immediately didn’t believe was right. He had time to make a request to God and so do we. We have the time to pray, we have the time to come back and explain the vision God has placed on our hearts. We have to stop buying the lie that we need to move now. We have the time to request God’s guidance. We can wait to listen to him.
God knew establishing a monarchy wasn’t the best for Israel. He had Samuel share the potential struggles that would come from having a king (verses 10-18). In the end, God allowed the people to move forward with their request for a king. This story is a stark reminder; we cannot assume the consent of God is the will of God.