Updated: Oct 22, 2022
1 Samuel 8:4-22 & all of 1 & 2 Kings
By Drew Zuverink
"All the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, "You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have." This displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. The Lord told him, "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights."
Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, "This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign as commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves.
When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you on that day." But the people refused to listen to Samuel. "No!" They said, "We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles."
In 1 Samuel 8, when Israel asks for their very first king, it really serves as a foreshadowing passage for what's to come in the books of 1 and 2 Kings. Essentially God's people reject God as their king and ask for one of them to become their king instead. God grants their request but not before issuing them a warning of what life will eventually be like if they go ahead with their request for a king. Nonetheless, Israel decides that they want a human king.
Fast forward to the books of 1 and 2 Kings that record how Israel's kings ruled and what life was like under their kingship. I just finished reading both of these books devotionally and here are just a few things that I noticed:
1) There were so many assassinations. Out of 19 kings in Israel 8 were assassinated by their successor. That's 42%, nearly half of their kings were assassinated by someone who wanted to be king instead. Things weren't as bad in Judah but 6 out of 21 of their kings were assassinated as well.
2) When a new king took over he would often kill off the rest of the previous king's family in order to remove any threat to his rule.
3) Most of the kings of both Israel and Judah started to follow other "gods" and religions that are better described as evil occult practices. Instead of making evil occult practices illegal many of Israel's kings, not only allowed them to worship freely, but they also participated in worship services themselves. The worship services sometimes included cutting themselves with rocks and sharp objects, inhumane animal sacrifices, child sacrifices and other disgusting and evil rituals. One queen, possibly with the help and advice of some of the occult leaders, murdered hundreds of God's prophets in an attempt to rid Israel of God's influence.
4) A few kings killed civilians so that they could take either their property or their wife for themselves.
5) Israel and Judah split into two separate kingdoms and even fought against one another.
6) The kings often allowed for a perverted justice system. People who raped and murdered others were sometimes allowed to go unpunished. Other times the king would be having a bad day and he would order someone innocent to be murdered.
7) Male prostitutes who would perform sexual acts as a part of a ritualistic service for other gods were allowed to set up their tents inside of the Lord's temple.
How accurate was God's warning that the people would regret replacing him with a human ruler? I jokingly renamed 1 and 2 Kings in my Bible, "Crappy Kings 1 and 2," because I think it really summarizes those books perfectly. And I apologize for the use of the word, "crap," but it touches on a deeper truth than just Israel's history, which is that, humans make for crappy rulers. People make for terrible rulers of others and people make for terrible rulers of themselves. Human history tells us as much. People make for terrible parents and terrible grandparents. People make for terrible pastors and terrible presidents. People make for terrible coaches and terrible teachers.
If this is true what are we to do? The answer is to reverse Israels history and choose God as king instead of a human. People are corrupt; God is the source of all goodness. People make decisions based upon their limited understanding; God knows how every decision would unfold and makes his decision based upon perfect understanding of the situation. People can be selfish; God is love. It should be no surprise to learn that God is a much better leader to follow, but what does this mean for us in 2022?
It means instead of turning to people for wisdom and guidance and leadership we must turn to God's word for those things. Instead of reading books on how to parent written by secular authors - we must search God's word for guidance on how to parent. Instead of looking to ourselves to decide the best path for our lives - we must learn to search the scriptures which will be "a light for our path." Instead of following the latest church growth trends - we must do our best to build our church around the core values laid out in God's word. Instead of following our own hearts to decide who we will date and marry - we must choose our spouse based upon the kind of person that God would lead us to marry. Instead of following a financial planner's advice on how to save and use our money - we would be better off following God's leadership on how he would like for us to use our money. Instead of following our own discernment to decide which movies or tv shows or songs we should listen to - we would be much better off following the guidance that God's word gives us into those things. In all areas of life we have the option for Almighty God to be our king, but because of our free will, we can also choose to follow the wisdom of mere humans.
It is all too easy to fall into a routine of following a human being's leadership, whether that be someone else's or even our own, but humans make for really crappy leaders while God makes for a great one. So today, whether you are a parent, a youth, a student, a coach, a pastor or just a regular person trying to make decisions for yourself - make sure you are following in God's footsteps and not a human being's.