1 Samuel 8:1-20
Seeking God's Guidance

Copyright © 2016, Dr. John W. (Jack) Carter.  All rights reserved.
www.biblicaltheology.com   Scripture quotes from KJV

Our society has undergone some radical changes in the last thirty years.  It has been a period when conservative values have been overrun by secular liberal ideology.  It has been a time when "open marriages" have been advocated, drug legalization, death education, euthanasia, values clarification, trash talk, the ERA, "Children's liberation", commune dwelling, and the "sexual revolution" that seeks to rationalize away any social definition or application of gender.  It was a time of flower children and radical feminists.  The motto of the 60s was "Tune in, turn on, drop out.", the 70's was "If it feels good, do it".  The 80's was the "Me Generation", and the 90's were referred to as "Generation X", a euphemism for a mixed up, valueless and confused generation, no longer based on values, but rather searching for definition.  Look at the significant cultural changes that have taken place!  "Father Knows Best" has been replaced by coverage of the daily routines of the families of Ozzie Osborne and The Kardashians.

One common thread is woven through these years, the concept that fundamentally, an individual is not really responsible for their own actions.  Progressive liberal ideology holds that everything is relative, nothing is absolute, so nearly everything is acceptable.  There are few true limits on belief or expression.  That common thread of relativism has been invading our government legislatures and courts. 

What would happen to a child if it was never presented with limits while it is being reared?  Such a person would become undisciplined, selfish, and possibly dangerous.  What would happen if that child always got its own way, entirely devoid of wise guidance?  What would happen in a society if it always got its own way, separate from God's guidance?  Everyone who chases their own way would find themselves getting in someone else’s way.  Certainly, sin would become the norm rather than the exception in the cultural experience, and many would probably argue that we have reached that point.  Society has experienced some of the results of such an ideology, and lately the secular liberalist movement, hailing the euphemism “progressive” is quickly gaining momentum in western society. 

People are beginning to see the real results of such a way of life.  Teen pregnancies are now the rule rather than the exception.  We have killed over 50 million unborn children in this country alone using the cultural euphemism of "choice." Divorces far outnumber marriages, and single-parent families are the norm for most low-income families.  Overall crime statistics are far worse than any time in recorded history with the cost of running the penal system now taking more of the State's resources than any other single program.  States now spend more money in their penal system than they do in their educational systems. 

How has society so degraded over a period of only three generations?  Each generation of parents failed to bring up their children to maintain personal, familial, community, and generational integrity.  The faith of parents has not been passed down: illustrated by the majority of older church members whose grown children do not share their faith in God, and whose grandchildren are consequently brought up in a godless home, in what is becoming more and more a godless society.

Of course, there is nothing new under the sun.  This penchant for apostasy is the norm for any society that turns away from God.  This is arguably one of the primary lessons that we can learn by studying the history of ancient Israel.

1 Samuel 8:1-4.  And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel.  2Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: they were judges in Beersheba.  3And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment.  4Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,

Samuel was the last of the judges of ancient Israel, and we probably know more of his ministry than any other judge.  At this time in Hebrew history The Hebrews were quite assimilated into the culture of the Canaanites.  Samuel was getting old, and some consideration was being given to his replacement.  Samuel appointed his sons, Joel and Abijah to serve in Beersheba, but they were immersed in the pagan world and failed in the calling.  Much can be said to criticize Samuel's lack of success in raising his children in the ways of the Lord.  When Samuel failed to instill in them a reverence and love for God, they turned from Samuel, turned from God, and served the nation in the manner of the pagans.  They sold their position as judge to those who would pay bribes, and by doing so perverted the responsibility and ministry to which they were called.  So the elders, (literally the "bearded ones"), came to Samuel with a request. 

1 Samuel 8:5.  And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.

What were the elders asking for? The government of Israel was different from that of its neighbors.  Instead of having a single dictator to manage its affairs, Israel had judges who were charged with delivering God’s word and dispensing Godly judgments.  Actually, God’s plan was that there would be a community of godly Levites who would serve the spiritual needs of the community, learning of the Word of God, teaching it to the people, and out of the Levites were to come priests who would minister to the people through the Temple and synagogues that would be scattered throughout Israel.  However, when the Levites turned away from God, the entire system broke down, leaving the entire responsibility of spiritual leadership upon that rare and courageous individual who could be used by the LORD as a Judge over the nation.

There was no need for a king in Israel, since that position would be served by God Himself.  It was God's purpose that, through the Levites, the priests, the judges and prophets, He would lead His people.  However, the people could not see this leadership, and asked for the raising of a king who would lead them.  Why would the people want a king, a single individual who has dictatorial authority? As they observed their pagan neighbors, they saw them led by a King.  They simply wanted to be the same as their neighbors.  How often do children use such an argument to rationalize their desires? "Mommy, I have to have Calvin Klein jeans, because everybody is wearing them.", "Tommy has a motorcycle, why can't I have one?" Such a rationale for justifying desires is as old as desire itself.  People are quick to embrace a fundamentally broken ideology when they are ignorant of the true impact of that system, and are destined only to suffer the consequences of that broken system.

What is fundamentally wrong with the concept of a Hebrew King?  Simply, God is to be their King.  If God provides them with a human King, He is abdicating His own authority and giving it to a frail and sinful person, solely because Israel no longer wants Him.  By wanting to be like the rest of the world, the people are asking to separate themselves from God by inserting an intermediary authority between themselves and God.  By choosing to engage themselves in the political intrigue of the nations they are willfully stepping away from God’s hand of protection, and exposing themselves to the consequences of that intrigue which during the historical period of ancient Israel was one of continual warfare between nations.

Often we desire for ourselves that which is not in our best interest, and though it is against God's ultimate will for our lives, God will implement His permissive will that allows us to have our own way.  By doing so we suffer the consequences of our rebellion against God, and through those experiences God can often teach us a lesson.  Israel would learn a very hard lesson through this request. 

Look at the rationale that the elders use to make their argument: 

"You are Old".  Was this even a valid argument? It is plain that Samuel worked very hard for many years following this incident as he ministered during the reigns of both  King Saul and King David. 

"Your son's do not walk in your ways." Even this argument holds no authority.  Though Samuel gave them administrative authority in a different region, they were not judges in the manner that was Samuel.  Judges were not appointed to Israel by familial succession as the pagan kings were, they were always uniquely appointed by the calling of God in the lives of the judge.  Only one who is called by God could replace Samuel.

Note that these were simply occasions for their request, an agenda that was well established long before they approached Samuel; their rationalizations were not legitimate justifications.  Using occasions for justification of our actions is a rationalization at best.  It is one of the fundamental errors we apply when making decisions. 

1 Samuel 8:6   But when they said, "Give us a king to lead us," this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. 

What was Samuel's response? Note that his first response was not to argue the points of occasion brought up by the elders.  Samuel was wise enough to restrain from argument, or to yet point out the error of their request.  Samuel knew their hearts, and their agenda, so he also knew that they would not listen to reason.  So, Samuel prayed to the Lord, YAHWEH.  What would have like happened if he had tried to debate with them?  First, he would have been acting in his own power, which was not sufficient for so significant a situation.  Second, they would not listen to him anyway, so such an act would only bring harm to the debate.  Our natural response when confronted with conflict is to put on the boxing gloves and go into battle, often trying to bring a rational argument to an irrational audience.  Such an exercise is futile at best and destructive at its worst.  Again, what was Samuel's response? To pray.  We can learn from his example. 

1 Samuel 8:7.  And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.

What was the result of Samuel's prayers? First, he was listening to God for the proper response, and the message he heard was saturated with God's wisdom rather than his own.  God told him first to listen to the request of the people and to give them what they want.  It is not clear from the English translations, but the word for "Listen" means to receive a message with the intent of responding positively.  God also gave Samuel some words of encouragement when He said that the people are not rejecting him, but rather God himself.  How would that make Samuel feel? When you express what you know is God's truth and your expression is rejected, who is being rejected? It is God, and His Word that people reject, not you.  Jesus gave some advice to those of whom he sent as missionaries into Samaria.  When they went to a house and their ministry was rejected what were they to do? They were to shake the dust from their sandals upon leaving.  God would use that dust as a testimony against them at the day of Judgment.[1]

What does God's willingness to give them a King say about Him within the context of this verse? God may give you the desire of your heart even if you pursue it against what both you and God know is best for you, and you will ultimately suffer the consequences.  Note that, though God gave Israel a King, God's own authority cannot be usurped.  God was and still is King over all of creation and nothing that mankind can create can ever change that.  This illustrates the folly of the request made by the people of Israel.  The Hebrews had simply added to their sin by rejecting God yet further than they had done so before.

What would have been the proper response of the people in this situation? The people could simply ask God for the answer to their dilemma.  Instead, the concept never entered their mind.  They did not ask Samuel for a solution; they told Samuel what their own solution was.  In our efforts to maintain control in our own lives people will most often make decisions based upon their own assessment of a situation, rather than seek out and rely upon God, His Word, and the gentle leadership of His Spirit.  People tend to turn to God only after things get so out of control that there is no place else to turn, and by then the voices of conflict easily drown out the still-small voice of God.  It is our lack of involving God in the daily events of our lives that often places ourselves in a compromised position in the first place. 

1 Samuel 8:8-9.  According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.  9Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and show them the manner of the king that shall reign over them. 

What was Samuel to do? God told Samuel again to listen to the people’s intent, but he was also to warn them of the ultimate consequences of their choice.  In our lives, when we make decisions based upon ungodly rationalizations, we also may receive warnings from God concerning of the folly of our choices.  We know deep within our hearts that our choice is not the one that the LORD would have for us, but we choose to take our own path anyway.  There are several sources that the LORD may use to inform our choices:

The scriptures.  We have many examples of human error as illustrations to guide us.  If we are ignorant of them due to a lack of Bible study, we are not taking advantage of this resource.  There is also a great deal of teaching on godly living, particularly in the epistles of the New Testament.  Where much of the Old Testament illustrates how not to live, much of the New Testament instructs us on how to live godly lives.

The Holy Spirit's influence in our lives.  The Holy Spirit gives us peace when we are obedient to His will, and allows frustration and turmoil in our personal spirit when we disobey.  Usually, we use the noise of rationalization based upon occasion-based justification to silence the voice of the Spirit.

The advice of sincere and loving Christians.  Sometimes people who are not immersed in our own events have a clearer mind and a different perspective of the issues.  These can often serve as excellent mentors in times of decision.

Again, when faced with a decision, where did Samuel turn? Samuel turned to God.  When we are faced with decisions, where should we turn? We should turn to God also without regard to the magnitude of the impact of that decision in our lives.  How can we do this? 

·        Recognize that God's wisdom far exceeds our own, and it is available to us. 

·        Silence the noise of the rationalization.  Only with our eyes focused on God can we be freed of the pressure of rationalization.  God's ways are greater than our ways, His ways far exceed the value of anything that we can create on our own. 

·        Recognize that we will have to live with the consequences of our decisions.

God's Holy Spirit will warn us of the consequences of our actions if we are truly listening.  For example, consider a temptation to commit adultery.  To the faithless of the world, those who have followed the liberal thought of the last 30 years, the consequences of such an act are minimal.  Divorce is no big deal to them.  Satiating personal desire is much more important than any ideology. 

However, to the Spirit-led Christian the circumstances are quite different.  The consequences of such an act are profound.  The execution of such a sin will result in an alienation from everything that you consider of value, including your fellowship with God.  One needs only to look at adultery of King David to find an example of the consequences experienced when a person of faith willfully disobeys the Spirit of God.  When a Christian commits a willful sin there is a pattern of destruction in the life that only God's forgiveness can repair. 

It is best to heed the warnings. 

1 Samuel 8:10-18.  And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king.  11And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.  12And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.  13And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.  14And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.  15And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.  16And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.  17He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.  18And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day. 

Did the elders receive a warning of the consequences of their actions? Certainly, Samuel spelled out a clear and dramatic prophesy of what would take place if their nation had a king like those in the pagan nations.  The pattern described by Samuel is consistent with that of the Kings of the other nations.  Without asking, Samuel is implying, "Do you really want to be led by a dictator as the pagan nations are?"  When we make choices in our lives that are contrary to God's purpose in it, we are confronted with a similar situation when the Holy Spirit and God's Word asks a similar question, "Is this really what you want?"  One can see how a loving parent can ask the same question of an errant child in an attempt to give the child a choice of making the correct decision without taking from the child the opportunity to choose.  Often such a parent will ultimately allow the child to make the wrong choice so that an important lesson can be learned.  God responds to us as a loving Father who does not dictate, but rather provides wise advice.   

1 Samuel 8:19-20.  Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; 20That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.

What was the response of the people to Samuel's warnings?  Note the adamancy of the people's response.  The people were so blinded by their rationalized desires that they never listened to anything Samuel had to say.  Again, we can become so blinded by our own rationalizations that we will not be able to hear the still-small voice of the Spirit as He issues warnings and guidance in our lives.  We must be very careful about this.  If our choices are rejected by someone whom we respect, we would be wise to reconsider our request before getting angry or impatient.  Rejection of the advice of another who has demonstrated faith and godly wisdom should take place only after prayer and objective consideration.  Rejection of the advice of God will always result in the wrong choice. 

1 Samuel 12:19.   And all the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto the LORD thy God, that we die not: for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king. 

One of the characteristics of God's people is that He always preserves a remnant.  In times of great rebellion against God, there has always been a remnant of people who did not compromise their faith.  Those who came to Samuel were the leaders in the community, a band of “elite” who believed that they made the choices for the nation.  However, there were others who were not part of the ruling class, and these were more sensitive to the admonition of the LORD.  Here we see the testimony of this small minority of people.  The faithful remnant asked Samuel to pray for them that they would not die because of their sin.  Whether or not these people were included in those who asked for a King, it is clear that they are repentant of their action and seeking forgiveness.  They have confessed of the sin, and are truly asking for forgiveness.  What is God's response to a repentant sinner? The request of Samuel is an indicator of their repentance, the fact that they turned from their rebellious position.  When a sinner confesses the sin and turns from it, God is in a position to forgive.   If we will confess our sins and turn from our wicked ways, God is always faithful to forgive us of those sins and cleanse us of our unrighteousness.  However, we should remember that confession without repentance is fruitless. 

1 Samuel 12:20-25.  And Samuel said unto the people, Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart; 21And turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain.  22For the LORD will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the LORD to make you his people.  23Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way: 24Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.  25But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king. 

Samuel provides some Godly counsel to the people making the request.  First, he tells them not to be afraid of death.  We can always rely on God's faithfulness to forgive.  What is Samuel's instruction to the people?   They were to agree that they have sinned (confession), yet keep their focus on God (repentance), serving the LORD with all of their heart.  They are not to succumb to the ways of their current culture that looked to idols for guidance and provision in their lives.   Things created by man have no power to make a real difference.  Today's culture is no different.  This world still looks to the things made by the hands of man for all manner of authority. 

God will not reject those who love Him.  Samuel also said that he would honor their request to pray for them.  Samuel stated that he would do so, and failure to do so would be a sin on his part.  Furthermore, he made a covenant with them to teach them God's ways.  If the people did indeed repent of their rebellion, they would now be in a position to listen to him, one quite different from the deaf ears that Samuel had earlier experienced.

Samuel again admonished the people to be faithful, and gave them a warning of what would happen if they followed the ways of evil.  What was that warning? Israel and its king would be swept away.  It is plain that in the ways of God, there is no such thing as an idle threat.  Indeed, Israel and its king were swept away, just as those who reject God today will face the same judgment.  We are responsible for our actions.  We will suffer the consequences of them.  Therefore, what should be our priority when it comes to decisions which affect our actions? We have only one reasonable choice:  listen to the Lord through the Word and His Spirit.  Only then can we develop a pattern of choices that honors God and appropriates his wisdom and will for our lives.

Samuel warned that their desire for a king would lead to their loss of freedom as a strong king would continually take away more and more of their freedom until they found themselves dependent on a king who would place them in bondage and they would lose all that they had ever known when their culture would be destroyed.

We face similar choices today when we decide who we will give our allegiance to.  Israel was to give their allegiance to the LORD God, and would reap the benefits of His blessing by so doing.  However, when they observed the ways of the world, they chose to turn from God and replace allegiance to Him with allegiance to a central government.  The further our nations wander away from God and replace Him with human leadership, we will find ourselves subject to the same consequences that were prophesied by Samuel as that central government takes away more and more freedom until all freedom is lost.

It is important that people who call themselves Christians, people of faith, are not fooled by the propaganda that would lead them away from what the Spirit teaches as godly living and the nature of a godly community, but would remain in prayer to the LORD, seeking God’s guidance, engaged in consistent Bible study, and accept their responsibility as ministers of the kingdom of God, spreading the messages of love and truth in what is becoming a continually more secular and wicked world.



[1] Matthew 10:14-15; Mark 6:11.