Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” —1 Samuel 8:4-9 (ESV)
In today’s passage, we find the prophet Samuel in conflict with the elders of Israel. This scene is taking place after the era where judges ruled over Israel. These weren’t the same type of judges that we know. Judges functioned as rulers or governors. They had militant roles and were sources of authority for the people. The final judges are identified in 1 Samuel 8:2 as Joel and Abijah, the sons of Samuel. Samuel recounts that “His sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain.” According to the book of Judges, this was typical behavior from those who held this title and responsibility.
Following Joel and Abijah’s appointment to the role of judge, the elders of Israel complain to Samuel. They have unfair leaders who are seeking personal gain over the prosperity of the nation. So, they go to Samuel, the man who appointed them, to ask for another alternative, but their request disappointed him. The Lord intended Israel to be a holy nation, set apart from all others. Israel wasn’t meant to be like the other nations. But the Lord, in His great patience, allows them to have what they wanted.
As you read the rest of the story, you find that the Kings of Israel did some good things but ultimately acted in a way that dishonored the Lord. This is an important lesson for us today: people will never know all that God knows, so we would do well to listen to Him more intently. Unfortunately, we too often want what the rest of the world has, rather than what God desires for us. Despite the Lord’s desire for Israel to be a distinct nation, they found the world’s ideas to be more favorable. I challenge you today with this charge: It’s important that we, as followers of Christ, listen to what the Lord has said.
Today, may you and I listen earnestly for the voice of God. May He be the one directing our path. In an age of confusion, Christians can rest assured that the Holy Spirit of God is able to lead us in paths of righteousness.