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We’re on a journey exploring First and Second Samuel, and we’ve been looking at the character of Samuel himself for a few weeks.
We know that he was raised by a priest named Eli, in the temple at Shiloh.
We learned about the Lord calling him and we compared the call that Samuel received on his life to the call that each one of us receives from the Lord on our life.
An invitation to be a part of what God is doing.
The last time we were together we spoke of repentance and what it means to turn from all our other “gods” or “idols” - money, possessions, position, power, - and to turn towards God.
This morning, we’re in chapter 8 of First Samuel.
I’m going to invite Drew up here to read verses 1-9, and 19-22.
Let me pray as we prepare to hear from God’s Word.
Ask people to pray with you.
Most Holy, sovereign, righteous God, the King above all gods, we come here this morning to hear from you.
Lord, we confess that our hearts are easily distracted.
We ask that you would bind distractions from us as we seek to hear a word from you.
As Eli commanded Samuel, we say, “Speak Lord for your servant hears.”
Illuminate your Word to our understanding that we may be changed by it and draw closer into your presence.
We pray this in the name of our Lord, Jesus.
In the opening verses of chapter 8 what we find is that as Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas, had followed in their father’s role as priest - so Samuel’s sons took were appointed as judges in Israel.
But they turned out much like Eli’s.
They too took matters into their own hands, they took bribes and perverted justice.
So then we read that the elders of Israel gather together and point out that Samuel’s sons do not walk in the way of Samuel - indicating that Samuel continued to walk in the way of the Lord.
They ask for a king “to judge us like all the nations.”
Now think about this.
Who was Israel?
How did they become a nation?
We go back to Genesis to find that out.
It takes us all the way back to Genesis 12, where we read (Two Slides) :
Note that last part of the last verse:
The fact is that the promise of God to Abraham was that in him all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
It was a position of leadership - not of becoming like all the nations.
Then you go from Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob (whose name becomes Israel in Genesis 32 after wrestling with God) - and Jacob/Israel become synonymous with the people.
And what you realize is that the nation of Israel was to be a blessing to the entire world.
What we see happening here is Israel giving up its identity as God’s people and instead choosing to be like the nations around them and being identified by a human king.
It is always dangerous when we compare ourselves to others.
What are the dangers?
There are basically two:
Dangers in comparing self to others:
You will see yourself with more value because of an intrinsic feature, character, or status.
You will see the other with more value because of an intrinsic particular feature, character, or status.
The elders and people of Israel were making the second of the two.
Somehow they thought they were less than the nations around them because they saw the other nations as having a higher value because they had a king.
What they failed to recognize is that they had an extrinisic value, that is an acquired value, that in this moment they are totally discounting and that is the fact that they are God’s chosen people.
so said the LORD!
In essence they were forgetting their identity and allowing those around them to define them.
Rather than say we are God’s chosen people and identifying themselves by the promises God had made to them (A God focused definition).
They are listening to those around them and agreeing, “We are the nation without a king,” (A self focused definition).
Samuel takes offense and he prays to the Lord and the Lord answers:
And Samuel does just that in verses 10-18, warning them of what a king would do to them:
Samuel’s warning about a king:
he will take your sons and appoint them to his military
he will take sons and have the plow his ground and reap his harvest
he will have them work for him
he will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers.
he will take your property - your fields, vineyards, orchards and give them to his servants.
he will take the tenth of your grain and vineyards to give to his officers and servants.
he will take your servants and the best of your men and put them to work
he will take the tenth of your flocks
you shall be his slaves.
And perhaps the most damning of all:
Israel needs to remember who they are!
It was the Lord who led them out of slavery.
Now, despite Samuel’s warnings, Israel is asking for a king so they can be like other countries.
How do we apply this text?
In many ways it feels like Israel has forgotten who they are - do you ever forget who you are?
Their desires, demands and failures offer us an opportunity to examine our own faith.
How often to we as modern Christians reject God’s rule and opt for compromise?
Like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the Israelites of Samuel’s day attempt to cross over the divinely ordained boundaries in order to become something they were not created to be and are not supposed to be.
They are not satisfied with what God has done with them and where God has placed them.
As Adam and Eve longed to become “like God” (Gen.
3:5), the elders of Israel long to become “like the other nations.”
Arnold, B. T. (2003). 1 & 2 Samuel (p. 153).
Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
The desire for the king is not sinful in itself, it is the fact they are looking to be like others.
They are rejecting what God has given them and not asking, but demanding something different.
How often do we reject what God has given us and opt for another source of authority?
We have to be honest about this.
In our clearest and most honest moments, we all too often seek security by conforming to the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the times, rather than serving in the world as God’s counterculture, as we were created to do.
Like Israel, we tend to forfeit the lordship of God in order to become “like all the nations.”
Only the man who follows the command of Jesus single-mindedly, and unresistingly lets his yoke rest upon him, finds his burden easy, and under its gentle pressure receives the power to persevere in the right way.
The command of Jesus is hard, unutterably hard, for those who try to resist it.
But for those who willingly submit, the yoke is easy and the burden is light.24
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