I Samuel 8: “Changing of the Guard”
There is a time lapse when we come to chapter 8, and Samuel is now old. Probably 20-25 years have lapsed since the meeting at Mizpah and Samuel is 65- 70+ years old. A new generation has come of age. As is always the case with a new generation there are new ideas and new leaders. Change is inevitable. Change occurs from one generation to the next.
Life goes on, circumstances change, and God’s people hopefully adapt to new challenges but do so without abandoning old convictions. But as we know from experience and see before our very eyes what has happened in our country, is we have abandoned old convictions. For example: It used to be we kneeled at the Cross and stood at the flag. It used to be you could watch television and not be offended by language and pornography. It used to be you pledged allegiance to the flag and prayed in school Each successive generation comes with ideas on how to do something better and different from the previous older generation. Older generations resist change, while the younger generations are eager to change. Moses was chosen by God to lead the people out of Egypt. The nation of Israel was led by God and they considered God their King and they were His people. They were set apart from all other nations. And even Peter tells us as Christians we are a peculiar people and a royal priesthood.
Moses was told by God to appoint Joshua as his successor. However, when Joshua was old and near death, God did not tell Joshua to appoint an individual successor. The era which followed is recorded in the book of Judges and time and time again we read in that account: ‘there was no king in Israel and the people did what was right in their own eyes. ‘
When we observed Samuel in Chapter 7, he was a respected national leader and a man of God. He became a respected national leader as Samuel led the people of Israel in a national revival which came because of their repentance and return to God. Following God’s way seemed to have lasted for 20-25 years. But Samuel was now considered an old man and he was passing from the scene. Many of us know what it is to reach a “peak” in our careers. We are at the “top of our game”, we are the leaders in our field and are recognized for our expertise and or abilities. Samuel had had his day. He was faithful to serve the Lord. He had made his two sons, judges. This turned out to be a mistake on his part. His sons were not their father and they took bribes in their roles as judges. This seemed to be known by all. And if the truth were known, it was probably a common practice among many of the judges during this era.
Samuel had become a focal point for political unity and spiritual authority. He made his home in Ramah and faithfully served as a judge as “he traveled on a circuit to Bethel, Gilgal, Mizpah and judged Israel in those places.” (I Samuel 7: 16) But times were changing, and a new generation of leaders wanted the nation of Israel to change as well.
Sound familiar? In 2015, something happened which we are now beginning to see the results of what happened. In 2015, the generation known as the Millennials, who were born between 1981 and 1997 surpassed the Baby Boomers as the largest demographic segment of the population in America. The Gen-Xers, those born between 1965 and 1980 will soon be larger than the Baby Boomer generation with the passing away of the famous Baby Boomer generation who changed the 20th century.
Here are some statistics: Millennials are almost 25% of the population and account for 30% of the vote. They are only 56% white compared to Boomers who are 72% white. They are tech-savvy, health conscious and drive social media. They describe themselves as spiritual, not religious. Favor non-denominational churches if they attend at all. Overall- church attendance is declining.
Boomers are traditionalist, religious, believe the Word of God is absolute truth and defines our world view of right and wrong. 2 out 3 Boomers believe our form of government our forefather founded is very important. While only 1 out of 3 Millennials believe it is important. History is being revised to make our forefathers and our nation look bad- and apologize for the wrongs which we have committed and the troubles we have caused. For sure, America is not a perfect country, but then there are none that are. America has done some things which were wrong, but sooner or later we corrected our mistakes as best we could.
What political scientist tells us about this form of government and capitalism is this: If a country is both affluent and democratic it is almost always stable. To sustain a durable economy a country must attain a high level of wealth and education. In the USA, the standard of living doubled from 1935 to 1965 and then doubled again from 1965 to 1985. But has been stagnant since then. The latest elections and leadership changes in the past few years have been about choosing a form of government, with the following factors changing our views: globalism, nation states and democracies. As Christians we believe the Bible is the Word of God and it tells us we are moving toward a one world government. We can now see this is where we are moving. We can empathize with Samuel’s feelings: he wants things to stay the same. One nation under God. Sound familiar?
Wanting to have one powerful nation, a one-world government is nothing new. It was attempted in Genesis 11 after the flood, when a new generation came along and wanted to build a Tower which reached to the heavens. The Tower of Babel was intended to signify and promote a “one world government.” We know Satan was behind this attempt and we know he will be behind the last attempt which will take place in the Tribulation period in the future. Understand, since the rebellion in heaven led by Lucifer to take over the kingdom of God, we have had two kingdoms at war since the fall in the Garden of Eden. I believe the enemy has grown bolder and bolder and senses the time is coming for the final battle. It will come in God’s perfect timing, and not before.
We have had our attention drawn to stone and stones recently in the falling face down of the stone idol, Dagon in the presence of the God of the Ark of the Covenant. Jesus is called the Cornerstone, on which the church, the body of Christ is built. God builds with stone. In building the Tower of Babel, they used brick instead of stone. Brick is man-made, hardened clay. Clay represents humanity, in other words this ancient attempt to build a one-world government was humanistic. Read the account and you will see they used slime for mortar. What fitting materials to build such an abomination. The leader of the one world government in the future will be the “man of sin.” He will unite mankind in wickedness in a godless union. He will call dark – light and light- dark. Sin will be glorified. The key to this attempt to build a one-world government recorded in Genesis 11 was based on one language and one speech. This was a culture which had been conformed and thought alike. For this reason God dispersed and scattered the people by confounding their language.
God was not allowing this to happen at that time. But we know the time is coming when the Tower of Babel will be rebuilt and the world united with one common language. The internet and the personal computer and smart phone has provided the world with one language and social media drives communications through the world and causes man to rise against governments in country after country. For this reason, in my opinion, we are looking at the man-made foundation for the new Tower of Babel being laid today and it appears God is going to allow the building of the one-world government as we move toward the end times. No one knows the day or hour- but we can see the signs like the buds on the tree. We are closer now than ever before.
In the meanwhile what happens to Samuel is in today’s language, Samuel is being given his ‘ gold watch’ and told to go home, his time has come and gone. Make way for the new generation with new ideas.
GIVE US A KING
Israel was at this time a nation-state made up of a loose confederation of sovereign tribes. The new generation wanted a strong central government. Listen to their logic for change: “you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways.” Then comes their demand: “Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations have.” Not give us a king of God’s choosing, but give us a king like the rest of pagan nations have.
As Samuel was growing older, his sons not qualified to lead, the new generation wanted a leader like their pagan neighbors. God had been Israel’s king. God had provided their needs. God had enabled their armies to have amazing victories. He was their national security and prosperity, as long as they obeyed Him.
Samuel recognized this demand for king like the other nations was evidence of spiritual decay. Remember when Moses who was their God appointed leader was up on Mount Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights, they asked Aaron to “make us gods.” This was the Golden Calf incident which occurred in Exodus. It was a blatant act of idolatry. God knew Israel would want a king like the other nations when they came into the Promised Land. For this reason, God gave them instructions which are recorded in Deut 17: 14-20. God had already told Abraham in His covenant with him that kings would come from Abraham and rule nations. And Jacob knew the tribe of Judah would be the one from whom the line of kings would come, pointing to the Messiah, Jesus who would come from the family tree of Jesse and David.
Deut 17: 18,19 are the key verse for the main attributes of God’s qualifications for a godly king, a man after God’s own heart. “Also it shall be, when he (the king) sits on the throne of his kingdom, and then he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book from the one before the Levite priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes.” God is saying for the king to make wise decision and lead the country, he must follow God’s laws and keep his eyes on the Lord.
The desire for a king was a desire God was willing to provide in His perfect timing and in accord with these qualities. But the people of Israel did not want to wait for God to give them a king. They wanted a king now of their own choosing.
Israel wanted to be like the rest of the world. This human king would be someone who could take care of them, provide a safe country, protect them from their enemies, give them a vibrant economy, a strong army and peace in the land. Sounds like the platform of a politician running for office trying to appeal to the people’s desires for the life, which “seems right in their own eyes.”
God had a king in mind. He was a man after God’s own heart. He was alive at this time, but he was not yet ready to be king as he was still too young. David was a man after God’s own heart. But the people wanted a king right now.
Have you ever gotten ahead of God? Gone out and done something which seemed right in your own eyes, but had not really sought the will of God in the situation?
It was not Israel’s sin to want a king, God foreknew this would be their desire. But their sin was they would not wait on God’s chosen king, but would make a king for themselves. It was the epitome of worldliness they wanted a king like the pagan nations and what they wanted their king to do was what God had promised to do for them: to protect them, and provide for them and make them a great nation, unlike any other nation. They wanted a king to do for them what God wanted to do for them. They placed their faith in another to provide what God had said He would provide. They had made for themselves an idol.
The greatest judgment God can give us sometimes is to let us have our own way. God would then have Samuel warn them of what doing this their way would cost them.
THE COSTS OF A KING
Samuel then outlines the cost of a king and notice how often the word “take” is used.
The king will:
- Take your sons for his armies
- Take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.
- Take the best of your crops from your fields to feed his armies
- Take a tenth of your grain.
- Take your menservants and maidservants.
- Take the best of your cattle and donkeys for his own use.
- Take a tenth of your flocks
Samuel told them the unvarnished truth, including this king will make you his slaves. And when that day comes and you cry out to the Lord for relief, God will not answer you in that day.
But the people refused to listen to Samuel.
We want a king over us like the other nations to lead us and go before us and fight our battles.
The Lord tells Samuel: “Listen to them and give them a king.”
We will meet the first king, Saul, in the next chapter. The fact that he is from the tribe of Benjamin tells us he is not of God’s choosing and his kingdom will not become a dynasty. That is reserved for the tribe of Judah.
But when you meet Saul you will see he is exactly what the “king-makers” of today’s political world look for: handsome, tall, wealthy and charismatic.
Israel found it too demanding to trust an invisible God. They wanted to have a king of their own choosing. In spite of all God had done for Israel from the call of Abraham to the conquest of the Promised Land, they turned their back on Almighty God and wanted a king like the pagan nations and God gave them what they wanted and demanded.
A new generation who did not want to embrace the old ways. Israel had come to a crossroads, an important phase in their country. The Word of God says when you come to the crossroads consider the ancient paths and walk in them and you will find peace. But Israel would not listen. I wonder if America will?