You Don't Always Want What You Get

Studies in Samuel  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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This sermon shows us how the choice of rejecting God's sovereign authority in our lives leads to some miserable consequences and circumstances which we must own.

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[Tonight’s Scripture reading is .]
An old rebellious rock song sung by the Rolling Stones, who are incidentally gathering a lot of moss, has a pretty memorable hook:
You can't always get what you want But if you try sometimes well you just might find You get what you need
That may in fact be true. However, one certainty that is quite biblical is: You don’t always want what you get! And that is very true in the chapter before us this evening. Israel didn’t want what they got in Samuel’s sons. Second, they didn’t want what they got in God’s direct reign over them. Third, Israel didn’t want the consequences of their choices made in this chapter. Finally, they didn’t want the desires of their heart …that’s the last thing they wanted. You don’t always want what you get!

Israel Didn’t Want Samuel’s Sons ()

Now it came to pass when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice.” (, NKJV)
These verses set the stage for the people to insist upon a king. The idea of Samuel's sons judging over Israel certainly caused unrest and dissatisfaction with the people. There's good reason: they both loved money. They loved it so much that they stood against their father's ways and exchanged their integrity and family heritage by receiving bribes and being willing to pervert justice for them.
But this isn't the real reason the people insist upon a king. The Scriptures explain clearly that the people rejected God and His kingly authority over them. We find this out very clearly later in this chapter.
Samuel had two sons just like Eli. Both the sons of Eli and the sons of Samuel have something in common: they pervert justice by taking bribes. They abused authority and power given to them. They abuse people they are supposed to serve.
The fact that Samuel waited until he was old to make his sons judges over Israel tells us that he knew there were problems with them. If they had integrity, he probably would have given them authority sooner. It's fairly certain that Samuel knew that his sons were corrupt. But God doesn't judge Samuel like He did Eli. It's likely that Samuel tried to do something about his sons' behavior. He corrected them, but as adult men, they refused to listen. Samuel made his sons judges, but his sons didn't walk in their father's ways.

Israel Didn’t Want the LORD’s Direct Reign ()

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make 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.” So Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day—with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also. Now therefore, heed their voice. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them.”” (, NKJV)
The elders reject the current status of things. When Samuel dies, they will be ruled by his thoroughly corrupt sons. Therefore, they call for a king like all the nations. God knew they would as Deuteronomy makes clear (). But this king would have to be of the LORD's choosing, and he would have to be an Israelite and not a foreigner according to ). From the elders' perspective, if Samuel could choose the next judges, he ought to be able to choose the next king. The elders don't wish to consult the LORD. Perhaps they assumed Samuel would.
Samuel is horrified by all this, and the LORD reassures him. The elders have rejected the LORD and not Samuel. Samuel would have been upset by the fact that the people were not trusting in the LORD. The LORD reveals that the problem is that the people have rejected the LORD's reign ...His sovereignty. The LORD didn't condemn the idea of an Israelite king; He condemned the idea of the rejection of His sovereign will and control over them.
There is a contrast of two ways in the text: the ways of Samuel are the LORD's ways. But the ways of a future king would extremely burden the people.

Israel Didn’t Want the Consequences of their Choice ()

So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who asked him for a king. And he said, “This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day.”” (, NKJV)
Samuel told everything to the people as the LORD directed him.They were rejecting and forsaking the LORD. This has been a part of Israel throughout her history. Since the days of Moses, Israel has rejected God's sovereign right over her. So Samuel told them what they would get along with a human king. This would be the behavior of the king who reigned over them.
The people would be in bondage to the king. They would have to toil and work for him. They would also have to pay taxes and give up their lands. They would give up their sons and daughters to become servants of the king. Some of the kings would force labor with no remuneration at all. This all would begin with the reign of Saul and just get worse through David and Solomon. It will get so difficult, that Solomon's son is counseled to relax the burden on the people, something he foolishly rejects. David's son Absalom will turn the people to himself because of the perceived abuses of King David.
It will get so bad that the people will cry out for relief because of the king they've chosen for themselves. Yet God will not hear them because of this affront. They made their bed; now they must lie in it. This is the way it will be. The LORD will hold corrupt kings accountable, but He will not deliver the people from the annoyances of having a human king. There is no going back.

Israel Didn’t Want the Desire of Their Heart ()

Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, “No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he repeated them in the hearing of the Lord. So the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed their voice, and make them a king.” And Samuel said to the men of Israel, “Every man go to his city.”” (, NKJV)
The people won't listen to the warnings given them. They are just as stubborn as their wilderness-wandering forefathers. "No, but we will..." are ominously hard-hearted words. It's almost like they are saying that the LORD was no king. They finally needed one to rule over them. This is quite disrespectful and rebellious.
These people found an answer that people are even looking for today. It's not enough to have direct dependence upon God. Most people have rejected Him today. They'd rather have big government, print money, and spend what they do not have. If problems come up, their attitude is like Hezekiah's. This is not my problem. Let my children and grandchildren deal with it!
Samuel repeats the words of the people to the LORD. But the LORD won't speak to the people. He instructs Samuel to do this. The haunting words, "Heed their voice..." ought to give us pause for thought. The worst thing that could happen to us is that the LORD would give us what we ask for sometimes. Not my will be done; but Thine!


Just as the people can't go back when it comes to being ruled by a human king, there are many things that will happen in our lives which are irreversible. God always forgives His children; however, we must live with the consequences of poor choices and methodology in life. My sons often pray for my healing. I'm grateful for this, of course. God has heard their request and the request of others who pray for me. But God doesn't answer the same prayer offered for other believers in the same predicament I am in. Sometimes the LORD handles these things in ways we can't anticipate. Sometimes He will not heal, but He simply allows those who suffer the courage and strength they need in the face of great pain. He grants them victory over the fear of dying. Sometimes a man might say that he marries the wrong girl. He prays about this and concludes that he should divorce her. But he married this woman. He did so of his own free will. Shouldn't he pour himself into loving this woman for better or for worse? Why does he want this divorce? Are things just too uncomfortable? Well, that's what sin does. This is what people do when it comes to work too. When the going gets tough, most simply want to quit and find something easier. This is the reality of fallen man.
Nothing has changed in all these years. We are still as stubborn and rebellious as ever. But you don’t always want what you get. Only the grace of God can save us from ourselves.
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