If you look closely, you’ll notice it. Woven throughout 1 Samuel 8 you can see signs of a people who want others to handle things related to faith. When they see that Samuel’s sons are corrupt just like Eli’s sons before him (verse 3), they want new leadership. The elders of Israel tell Samuel, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.”
In this statement I see a people who lack faith in God and refuse to live out their faith according to God’s law. When they tell him he has “grown old,” it’s as if they have given up on Samuel and forgotten what God did with Abraham in his old age. They judge others who don’t follow God when they point out that Samuel’s sons “do not walk in your ways,” but they overlook their own sin. These are the elders of Israel who should be guiding the Israelites in obeying God — teaching them to live for God.
Instead the elders shirk their responsibility and want someone else to do it for them. Samuel is displeased with the whole thing and prays to God about it. What God tells him is instructive to us: “they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them (verse 7).” Even though you follow God and walk in His ways, people will still reject you. The passage should encourage you in that they are not rejecting you, but God. When you tell them about Jesus, they are rejecting Jesus not you.
God reminds Samuel that this is a pattern of behavior with Israel that they have rejected God since he brought them out of Egypt. He tells Samuel, “they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also (verse 8).” It’s hard not to take criticism personally, but God reminds Samuel that just like they rejected Him all those years, don’t be surprised that they’re rejecting His servant.
What the Israelites want is someone to do their work for them. They want to be more like the nations around them than more like God. They tell Samuel they want a king so they that may be like “all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” Sometimes we can be like that, wanting our churches to look like other organizations in the world; wanting others to lead us instead of stepping in to lead; desiring someone else to fight our battles for us. Sometimes the answer is to humble ourselves before God, seek His wisdom, and step out in obedience to His will.
© 2021, CGThelen
Some boast in chariots and some in horses, But we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God. – Psalm 20:7 (NASB)