Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations. (1 Samuel 8:5)
Samuel chapter 8 is one of the darkest days in Israel’s history. This was the day they rejected God as their king and demanded the prophet Samuel appoint for them a king like the surrounding nations to rule over them. The book of First Samuel comes on the heels of the book of Judges where we witness the people of Israel spiraling into complete chaos. Judges begins with Israel being constantly attacked by various tribes and surrounding nations but ends with a Levite priest dismembering his concubine and sending her various body parts to the twelve tribes if Israel as a grim message, and then the tribes of Israel going to war against itself and nearly wiping out the entire tribe of Benjamin. Thus, by the time of First Samuel, the people feel that what they need is a king to rule over them, to govern them, to keep them in check. However, what they failed to realize is that the problem is not that they lacked a king, but the problem has to do with two phrases which keep recurring throughout the book of Judges—"Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (17:6; 21:25), and “In those days there was no king in Israel” (17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). Yet, at the very beginning of the book Gideon makes clear that Israel does have a king. When the the people tried to make Gideon king over them, he says, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the LORD will rule over you.” (Jdg. 8:23). Thus, Israel had a king! God was their king! Yet, in 1 Samuel 8, the people wanted to be like the other nations. And this was their downfall. But how often do we do the same? How often do we want what others have? How often do we desire to be like other people? How often do churches desire to be like the surrounding mega-churches and so incorporate their business principles in order to compete? Whenever we think this way, we are essentially rejecting God as our king and saying to him, ‘We want to be like the other nations. We want to live like they live; we want to have what they have.’ In essence, we are saying to God, ‘You are not enough for me. I need something more.’
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