Bible in a Year – Day 87: Be Careful What You Wish For
As I said yesterday, Samuel was certainly a special child – one who grew into a special man. He would serve as prophet, priest and judge over Israel – the embodiment of God for those people. And the people of Israel weren’t stupid. They knew a good thing when they saw it. As long as Samuel was in charge, they had a good life and they weren’t grumbling about not having a king. But as soon as Samuel’s sons came to power and weren’t following the ways of their father, the Israelites started grumbling again. Presumably, they at least had some notion that the reason they were prospering was because of the faithfulness of Samuel.
And so begins this back and forth between God, Samuel and the people of Israel. The people really wanted a king – if for no other reason than just to be like all the other nations – and Samuel thought the idea was ludicrous. I think it’s interesting that 1 Samuel 8:6 says that it “displeased Samuel” that they asked for a king and “so he prayed to the Lord.” You’ll notice that it doesn’t say, “it displeased the Lord and so he spoke to Samuel.” No, this was initially Samuel’s beef with the people. He heard their request and thought, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” And so he consulted with God.
Now, there are a lot of directions to go here, but I think maybe the most fruitful is to understand that Samuel had grown up in relationship with God. He regularly heard from the Lord. He was a student of the law of Moses. He apprenticed under Eli the priest. He was, for lack of a better word, “soaked” in God his entire life. And so, it would stand to reason that something that was displeasing to God might also be displeasing to Samuel. Ultimately, Samuel sought God’s direction regarding a king, but even before praying to the Lord, Samuel knew that this wasn’t a good idea. He knew, because he knew the nature of God.
He knew that God was a compassionate monarch. He knew that God didn’t do things out of selfish ambition and always had the people’s best interest in mind. He knew that human kings could never hold a candle to God, the perfect king. He also knew that the people didn’t so much need a ruler as they needed to follow the rules they had already been given.
When Samuel prayed to God, his gut feeling was confirmed, but God inserted another layer of wisdom into the picture. God affirmed Samuel’s belief, but told him to go ahead and give them a king. This would be a lesson for the Israelites. God knew that no matter how good things were, they were never going to be satisfied until they tried out this whole “king thing.” And so, rather than arguing with them, he said, “Give them a king.” But, he told Samuel to let them know the cost of having a human king.
For me, this is akin to telling a child not to touch the hot plate in front of them. “It’s hot, no no, don’t touch!” “Don’t touch, no no.” It’s hot!” For some kids, though, they are going to have to touch the plate before they’re convinced. And so, God lets Israel “touch the hot plate” in order for them to discover that what he has been telling them is actually the truth. Of course, this is a lesson that the people of Israel would have to learn over and over again – and one that we’re still having to relearn today.
- Bible in a Year – Day 364: Payback
- Bible in a Year – Day 353: Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing
- Bible in a Year – Day 328: Writing to Rome
- Bible in a Year – Day 326: Felix the Scaredy Cat
- Bible in a Year – Day 285: Don’t Bury It
- Bible in a Year – Day 284: Jesus’ Cleaning Service
- Bible in a Year – Day 281: Faithful Dog
- Bible in a Year – Day 269: Win-Win
- Bible in a Year – Day 268: Hope (if) You Keep Reading
- Bible in a Year – Day 266: Famine of God