“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’" (1 Samuel 8:19-20).
The prophet Samuel had faithfully judged Israel (1 Samuel 7:15-17). Later in life he made his sons judges over Israel, but they turned aside from God and were corrupt (1 Samuel 8:1-3). The elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel 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” (1 Samuel 8:4-5).
Although he was disappointed, Samuel prayed to the Lord about this (1 Samuel 8:6). God told him, “Heed to 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” (1 Samuel 8:7). Even though God viewed this request as the people’s rejection of Him as their king, God allowed the people to have a king.
God told Samuel to “solemnly forewarn” Israel by showing them the “behavior of the king” who will reign over them. Samuel does this (1 Samuel 8:9-17). Samuel ends this warning by describing the consequences of Israel’s desire to have a king: “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” (I Samuel 8:18).
As the opening verse above indicates, Israel insisted on having a king so that they can “be like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:19). Being like the other nations was more important to them than being in a right relationship with God. God used Samuel to anoint Saul king of Israel (1 Samuel 9:1-10:27).
Saul’s reign over Israel started off well with the defeat of the Ammonites who had encamped against Jabesh Gilead (1 Samuel 11:1-15), but things quickly began to unravel as Saul disobeyed God’s commands and God rejected him from being king over Israel. Future kings would lead the kingdom further and further away from God, into idolatry, into alliances with heathen nations, and eventually into captivity by the Assyrian and Babylonian empires.
God rules the nations. He works His will and accomplishes all His purposes. His power is immense! Yet, He doesn’t take away man’s power to make his own decisions, even when those decisions (like Israel’s in wanting a king) are incredibly foolish and self-destructive. Even though He doesn’t desire to see me hurt, God will not prevent me from being stupid when I insist on being so!
God never stopped loving his people because they chose to have a king. He disagreed with their choice and viewed it as a rejection of Him. He knew their decision would bring tragic consequences. Yet, He knew He still loved them. He would continue to show them love by sending prophets to them to attempt to get them to turn from the errors of their ways before eventually his longsuffering with them runs out and their sinful behavior leads to the judgment of captivity for them.
I rejoice that God loves me even when I insist on making dumb choices! This doesn’t remove the consequences I will face as a result of my choices, but it doesn’t remove God’s love for me either. I will strive to make the choices that are in accordance with God’s Will for me and not contrary to it.
“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).