Part Five: Israel Rejects the Judges; The Reign of Saul
1 Samuel 8:1-15:35
From the time of Joshua until the time of Samuel Israel existed as a confederation of the 12 tribes. They were loosely bound to each other by a common faith and common law; however, no one tribe was lord over the others. Moreover, no one man was over the others. The Israelites experienced unprecedented individual liberties because of this system.
Did this system work? Just look at the judges God raised up to lead Israel: Deborah, Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, etc. A look at these leaders shows you that the system definitely was successful. This set of judges alone should have convinced Israel not to tamper with the system God had set up.
Yet one thing plagued the Israelites. After the judge died, Israel would basically be leaderless. They were always uncertain as to who the next judge would be. This system naturally led to times of instability and insecurity in Israel whenever the judge passed away. The Israelites were always wondering where the next ruler would come from. From a human standpoint this did not seem good.
The beauty of this set-up was that Israel was not restricted as to who would be her ruler. God would move upon one family to raise up one judge and then move upon another family for the next judge. The son of a judge did not necessarily become the next judge. In fact in NO instance did the son of a judge become Israel's next judge. This was because although the judge himself might have been a godly man, there was no guarantee that his sons would be godly also. (Samuel and Eli are perfect examples of this.) God's system basically assured that whatever judge God raised up would be a great and worthy leader for Israel. The conflict then occurred between quality and freedom versus stability and security. Israel is going to opt for stability and security.
The ironic thing about this conflict is that it occurred during the judgeship of Samuel. As we shall see, Samuel is going to turn out to be the greatest of Israel's judges. It might have been one thing to have rejected this set-up during the days of Samson; it is quite another though to reject it during the days of Samuel. It shows that after all this was not the problem; something else was driving the Israelites to ask for a king.
(Technically this section should fall under the category of the kings; however, because Samuel continues to play a significant role in this story, we are going to list it under the category of the Judges.)
THE ACCOUNT IN 1 SAMUEL
Israel Rejects the Judges (1 Sam. 8:1-22)
Samuel had judged Israel for close to 40 years. Yet towards the end of his life what problem emerged which prevented his sons from becoming Israel's next judges (8:1-3)?
What request did the elders of Israel make of Samuel (8:4-5)?
Some well-meaning Christians claim that a board of elders is the only way to govern a church successfully. Well, this board of elders shows that it is not always the most successful form of government. How does Samuel respond to this request (8:6)?
According to God though who were the people really rejecting (8:7)?
How long had the Israelites been rejecting this person (8:8)?
God wants the Israelites to know exactly what they are getting into. They are going to make a decision right now which will affect them permanently. They are not going to choose to have a king right now and 30 years later change their minds and form a new kind of government. They are at a critical moment in their existence as a nation. Their choice is going to affect them permanently.
The same kind of situation confronts us from time to time. We are confronted with choices which will affect us a long time in the future. We don't lose our salvation because of these choices. As Aslan says: "Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia"; however, our choices can have lasting effects. Ask the young man and lady who go too far on a date; they have to move up their marriage date by several years and have to raise a baby at a time in their lives when they should be having tons of fun. Ask the man or woman who decides to indulge in drugs. They overdose, and they die physically, even though they are a king or queen of Narnia. Ask the business man who breaks the law and discovers he now has a blot on his record until the day he dies. Ask the minister who stubbornly makes a bad decision for the church and finds himself unemployed. God does forgive us; however, there are consequences. Knowing that consequences do follow our actions should encourage us to make right decisions; however, even if they do not motivate us enough to make right decisions, the consequences do follow.
Why did the Israelites want this form of government (1 Sam. 8:20))?
How sad that they wanted to be like the other nations. What kind of nation did God originally create them to be (Exodus 19:6)?
What a letdown. They go from being a royal kingdom of priests to a kingdom of slaves. God had created them to be free. The judge form of government basically gave autonomy to the 12 different tribes and to the men who made up those tribes. They were all lords of their homes, their castles. They couldn't handle this freedom; therefore, they gave it up for slavery.
Following God's instructions, what does Samuel warn the people about the king and standing armies (8:11-12)?
Second, what does Samuel warn the people about the king and his need for a royal court (8:13-14)?
Third, what does Samuel warn the people about the king and taxation (8:15-17)?
Even though the people have been duly warned, they persist in their demand for a king. God gives into their request. (Not every thing is lined out as some believe it is; there is a real dynamic relationship between God and His people.)
The Reign of Saul
The people did not care what God wanted for them. They had their own vision of what kind of rulers they needed, and now God is going to provide them the kind of ruler they asked for. They have rejected His kind of ruler; He's now going to let them taste the kind of ruler they asked for. How does 1 Sam. 9:2 describe the kind of person Saul, the first king of Israel?
What does this passage emphasize, Saul's spiritual greatness or physical prowess?
Samuel is going to anoint Saul as king over Israel in a private ceremony. Later when it comes time to present Saul publicly to Israel, what is Saul doing (1 Sam. 10:21-22)?
Notice that this occurred AFTER Samuel had already informed Saul he was chosen to be Israel's next king. This incident alone should have telegraphed to everybody that something was radically wrong with Saul.
Although Saul will reign for 30 years, his reign will be a disaster. Two incidents spelled doom for Saul and his household. The first incident occurred as Saul and the Israelites were about the engage the Philistines in battle. Samuel has given Saul specific instructions not to go into battle until he has arrived and offered sacrifice for the army. Saul knows that the sacrifice is going to be critical for his army's success. When Samuel takes a long time in arriving, what does Saul do and what results (1 Sam. 13:8-14)?
The next incident involved God's judgment upon the Amalekites. Because the Amalekites had harassed Israel when she passed through the territory of the Amalekites during the days of Moses, God sends Saul to destroy utterly the Amalekite nation, including women, children, and animals. Nothing is to be spared. This is God's judgment. Saul though refuses to kill the best of the cattle and even goes so far as to spare Agag, the king of the Amalekites. What is Samuel's response to Saul's disobedience (15:13-29)?
Although Saul has rebelled against God, Samuel grieves for Saul. God tells Samuel that he has grieved enough; now He wants Samuel to anoint another to be the next king of Israel. What quality will God look for in His next choice as king (13:14)?
THROUGH THE EYES OF THE APOSTLES
According to Exodus 19 God had made the Israelites to be a kingdom of priests, royal priests. What kind of people has God created us to be (1 Pet. 2:2:9; Rev. 1:6)?
Freedom can be terrible responsibility. It can easily degenerate into license, doing whatever I want to do no matter the consequences or who I hurt. God warns against this: "Do not use your freedom as a ______________ for __________ but use it as ____________________ of God" (1 Pet. 2:16).
True freedom is not doing whatever I want to do; it is doing whatever God wants me to do.
Paul claims that when it is all said and done that we are slaves. The question is who we are slaves to, slaves to Satan and bondage, or slaves to Jesus and freedom (Rom. 6:16-23). We are slaves; it's just that if Satan is our master, then we are under bondage; if we are slaves to Jesus, then we are free men indeed. Slavery to Jesus leaves to true spiritual freedom.
(Too often we misunderstand freedom as being license. It is not license. True biblical freedom elevates people into being sons and daughters of God with the same dignity Jesus Himself possesses.)
When we cannot handle freedom, we either degenerate into licentiousness or into slavery. The U.S. has definitely mishandled the freedom God has given her. It started in the 60's with its rejection of authority. Many things coming out of Hollywood today and other western cultural sources are an abuse of the freedom God has given us. When it is misused, people will eventually turn to slavery. It is little wonder then that the fastest growing religion in the West today is Islam which basically enslaves men and especially women. Freedom is a wonderful privilege; it is also a tremendous responsibility.
When we cannot handle freedom, we either devolve into licentiousness or into slavery. The U.S. has definitely mishandled the freedom God has given her. It started in the 60's with its rejection of authority. Many things coming out of Hollywood today and other western cultural sources are an abuse of the freedom God has given us. It is little wonder then that the fastest growing religion in the West today is Islam which basically enslaves men and especially women. Freedom is a wonderful privilege; it is also a tremendous responsibility.