1 Samuel 8: Lessons Regarding the Dangers in Placing Your Trust in Governments or Leaders from the Jews’ Demand For a King

Introduction: Under Samuel’s Spirit-led leadership, the Jews repented of their sins and destroyed their idols. God then delivered them from their Philistine oppressors and gave them their freedom. But rather than trusting in God for their freedom, the Jews demanded a strong man as their king to ensure their freedom. The Jews were ready to give up their God-given freedoms to have a carnal king like the pagan rulers around them. Here, God gives seven warnings about turning to the government for deliverance from oppression and fear.

First, in his old age, Samuel appointed his sons to judge portions of Israel. Yet, unlike Samuel, his sons were corrupt and did not walk with God. All governments suffer from sin because humans are sinful by nature. The elders should have asked Samuel to merely remove his sons. Instead, they made the mistake of demanding that Samuel abandon God’s appointed system of justice through judges. They instead demanded a king. From this, God reveals that government alone is not a solution to human sin. Second, later chapters reveal that Israel faced new threats from the Philistine and Ammorite armies. The people thought that a strong king like the nations around them would do a better job than God’s appointed judges in delivering them. They were mistaken. From this, God reveals that governments cannot deliver you from oppression and fear. Third, while Samuel prayed for God’s guidance, the people did not. God revealed that He freed the people from bondage, and the people had rejected Him with their request. From this, God reveals that autocratic government is never God’s will for His people. Fourth, God liberated the people to give them freedom. Through Samuel, He warned that the people’s requests would place them back into bondage. From this, God reveals that an autocratic government will place you into bondage and oppression. Fifth, God warned the people that He would not intervene if they cried out from the yoke of an oppressive king. From this, God reveals that autocratic governments suffer from the loss of His protection. Sixth, the people rejected God’s warnings and again demanded a king. From this, God reveals that mob rule frequently causes people to despise the things of God. Finally, God handed the people over to their desires and gave them a carnal king. The people later suffered under the rule of a number of autocratic kings. From this, God reveals that autocratic rulers frequently cause suffering.

1. Government Alone is Not the Solution to Human Sin. 1 Sam. 8:1-3.

  • Samuel’s sons’ failure to lead with integrity as their father did. As a young man, Samuel traveled across Israel to annually judge the people’s disputes (1 Sam. 7:16). Yet, as an old man, he appointed his sons to assist in judging disputes. His sons, however, did not walk with God. They embezzled funds, took bribes, and perverted justice: “And it came about when Samuel was old that he appointed his sons judges over Israel. Now the name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judging in Beersheba. His sons, however, did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice.” (1 Sam. 8:1-3). God’s Temple was a place where people could bring their disputes for His leaders to resolve. But because He did not want justice denied or delayed in between the annual pilgrimages, He ordered that God-fearing judges be appointed for the towns to resolve disputes as needed: 18 “You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your towns which the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. 19 You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. 20 Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” (Dt. 16:18-20). Samuel’s sons perverted God’s call for Spirit-led leaders who would dispense His divine justice.

Samuel appointed two of his sons to be judges over Israel1

  • Divine order is only possible if leaders submit to Jesus, the King of Kings. The books of the Judges, Samuel, and Kings all show that every human system of government is compromised by sin. Submitting to an autocratic government will not solve this problem. It will only magnify it by removing checks and balances on the leader. Throughout history, countless coups, military takeovers, and revolutions have been premised upon the need to remove corrupt leaders. Yet, frequently the revolt or revolution only serves to replace one tyrant for another. True order and deliverance is only possible when leaders and the people live under Jesus’ authority as both their Savior and Lord. This does not mean a government theocracy. God prohibited any civic leader from also serving as High Priest. God’s chosen system of government through judges was temporary and allowed for the replacement of a judge who fell into sin. The people simply needed to turn to God to raise up the right new leader. The people then needed to test the leader to make sure that he stayed on his walk with God. In many ways, this system of checks and balances resembles the checks and balances in modern representative democracies.

  • Coveting is a sin that frequently leads leaders to pursue dishonest gain. Samuel’s sons used their power to pursue dishonest gain (1 Sam. 8:3). Their actions violated the Tenth Commandment against coveting (Ex. 20:17; Dt. 5:21). God later condemned one of last kings of Judah for his covetousness that led to his “dishonest gain” and the “shedding innocent blood and [] practicing oppression and extortion.” (Jer. 22:17). Satan’s pride also caused him to covet God’s power (Is. 14:12-15). Those who “covet” are disqualified from inheriting the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:10; Eph. 5:3-6). A leader who covets can never satisfy his desires by giving into those desires. Thus, in a modern democracy, the people should test whether their leader has submitted to God’s authority.

  • Corruption prevents Jesus from using leaders as His instrument against injustice. God cares deeply about any injustice in the world (Ps. 45:6; 50:6; 72:1; Heb. 1:8). Every believer is part of His holy priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). He further uses believers as His “avengers” to administer His justice (Ro. 13:4). Thus, He commands that every believer pursue what is just and right in their own lives and in the world around them: “[D]o justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8). “[L]earn to do good, seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, and plead for the widow.” (Is. 1:17; Dt. 16:20). “Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.” (Prov. 31:9). “Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute.” (Ps. 82:3). “He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.” (Dt. 10:18). “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (Jam. 1:27). You are God’s “salt and light” (Matt. 5:13-16). Salt is an irritant to an open wound. If your leader is trapped in sin, he or she cannot be an irritant to sin (Matt. 5:13). Have you lost your saltiness? Do non-believers know that you stand against the sins of the world?

  • Be careful when appointing children to lead. Many leaders take the authority given to them lightly when they appoint their children to take over for them. Many leaders appoint children because they know and trust them. This also potentially allows the leader’s family name and legacy to live on. But this is not a Spirit-led means for appointing a successor. Samuel would have known his children better than anyone else. He would have known that they “did not walk in [God’s] ways.” (1 Sam. 8:3). There was also no prior example of a judge who successfully appointed his or her children to lead after them. In effect, Samuel was creating a dynasty amongst the judges when God never called for one. As one commentator notes, “Samuel was wrong to appoint his sons as judges over Israel. Samuel probably could not look objectively at his sons. He excused sins in them that he saw in others.” (David Guzik on 1 Sam. 8).2

  • Selecting a future leader should also never be done in haste. Although selecting other leaders to help run a ministry or organization is critical to success, great harm can come to an organization or ministry that selects a leader who is not ready or qualified. The leadership selection process is not concluded until a senior leader publicly laid hands on the new leader (cf., Nu. 27:19). This symbolized the transfer of authority (cf., Lev. 1:4). But Paul warns: “do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.” (1 Tim. 5:22). The Bible gives several criteria for making sure a leader is ready and suited to lead. First, through Jethro, God advised Moses to select God-fearing men who loved the truth and hated dishonest gain: “21 Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens.” (Ex. 18:21). In the New Testament, such a leader is referred to as either being full of the Spirit or Spirit-led: “Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.” (Acts 6:3). Second, a prospective leader must be content. (1 Tim. 6:6-9). Third, the person must be “above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach.” (1 Tim. 3:2). Fourth, the person also must not be “addicted to wine or be pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.” (1 Tim. 3:3; 6:6-10). Fifth, the person must also manage his or her own household well (1 Tim. 3:4). Sixth, the person must also not be a new convert (1 Tim. 3:6). Finally, the person must also lead by being a servant to others (1 Tim. 6:2). In short, you will know them by their fruits (Matt. 7:16, 20). Every believer is part of God’s nation of priests (1 Pet. 2:5). Ask God to show you where to improve as a leader.

  • Only disobey your leaders when they ask you to disobey God’s Word. It is important that believers exercise care in whom they appoint as leaders. God normally commands believers to submit to His appointed leaders. His leaders are supposed to “watch out for your souls.” (Heb. 13:17). Only when your authorities refuse to follow His Word can you ignore them (Acts. 4:19). First, you submit to Him through his Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:14), His Word (2 Tim. 3:16), and His church leadership (Matt. 18:17-20, Heb. 13:17). Second, you submit to Him through your civil authorities (1 Pet. 2:13-14; Rom. 13:1-2). Third, you submit to His family order (Eph. 5:22-25; 6:10). If you are in authority over others, do you seek the Lord’s will by praying for His will in appointing leaders?

  • Guide those who serve under your authority. Jesus said: “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.” (Lk. 6:40). This suggests a close relationship between the leader and the person the leader is training. If you have people who serve under you, you must mentor and guide them. The shepherd carried a staff to keep the sheep together and safe from predators. If you don’t use your staff to guide others, can you expect them to stay by your side? (Prov. 23:12).

2. Government Cannot Deliver You From Oppression and Fear. 1 Sam. 8:4-5.

  • The elders placed their faith in government by demanding a king like the pagan nations. Instead of demanding that Samuel replace or discipline his sons, the elders demanded a king to rule over them: “Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah; and they said to him, ‘Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.’” (1 Sam. 8:4-5). The leaders should have instead trusted God to raise up a new judge.

The elders of Israel demand to have a king like the pagan nations3

  • God gave the Jews earthly kings because they could not wait for the King of Kings. It was always God’s plan that the Messiah would rule His people. Jacob / Israel prophesized that the country’s future “ruler’s scepter” belonged to the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10; Nu. 24:17; Ps. 60:7; 108:8). A scepter was a symbol of a king (Ps. 45:6; Amos 1:5, 8). David was a descendant of the tribe of Judah and inherited the role of the ruler’s scepter. Jesus later fulfilled this prophesy. He became the King of Kings and was later called the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah.” (Rev. 5:5). Balaam also prophesized that Israel would have a king. “A star shall come forth from Jacob, a scepter shall rise from Israel.” (Nu. 24:17(b)). Without Balaam’s prophesy, the wise men would not have had any reason to look for Israel’s king after seeing a new star. The wise men then turned to other prophesies about the Messiah’s birth to go to Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2-4). These prophesies, however, pointed to God as the Jews’ king. “The LORD shall reign forever and ever.” (Ex. 15:18). “The LORD is King forever and ever; . . .” (Ps. 10:16(a)). “The LORD sat as King at the flood; yes, the LORD sits as King forever.” (Ps. 29:10). “But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King.” (Jer. 10:10(a)). God only allowed for earthy kings because the people lacked the patience to wait for the Messiah:  14 When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,’ 15 you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman.” (Dt. 17:14-15). The events in 1 Samuel 8 were a fulfillment of the exact words that Moses prophesied hundreds of years earlier. This should have caused the Jews to heed Samuel’s warnings.

  • Trust in God and not in human leaders. The elders initially made the right decision by gathering together to confront Samuel over his sons’ sins (1 Sam. 8:4). But they failed to then seek out God’s guidance in prayer. If they believed that they were doing this by approaching Samuel as a prophet, they then rejected his counsel (1 Sam. 8:19-20). Believers are warned not to place equal trust in God and in human leaders. “Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Ps. 146:3). “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.” (Ps. 118:9). “Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Ps. 146:3). “O give us help against the adversary, for deliverance by man is in vain.” (Ps. 60:11). God’s righteousness and His desire that you lean on Him will appear foolish to the world. “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18). “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Cor. 2:14). Do you place your trust in a government or God?

  • The Jews’ prior misguided desire for Gideon to be king. This was not the first time that the Jews demanded a king for the wrong reasons. After defeating the Midianites, Gideon then retaliated against the Jewish citizens of Succoth for a perceived slight by destroying it and murdering every single man in the city (Jdgs. 8:13-17). But the Jews showed no concern for Gideon’s mass murder in Succoth. Instead, they sought to make Gideon their king: “22 Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, ‘Rule over us, both you and your son, also your son’s son, for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian.’ 23 But Gideon said to them, ‘I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you.’” (Jdgs. 8:22-23). Although Gideon’s statements were theologically correct, he never explained to the people that God was responsible for their victory. Nor did he reject the instruments of power that he had seized. After making a flippant reference to God as the Jews’ only true king, Gideon immediately asked for and received 1,700 shekels of gold to enrich himself following God’s victory over the Midianites (Jdgs. 8:24-26). At .4046 ounces or 11.33 grams per shekel, Gideon received 43 pounds of gold. If he had become king, Gideon could not have used his position of power to enrich himself (Dt. 17:17). His refusal to become the official king may have been calculated to skirt this rule. His greed further could not be satisfied with money. Eventually, he wanted the people to bow before him as a pseudo-king: “27 Gideon made it into an ephod, and placed it in his city, Ophrah, and all Israel played the harlot with it there, so that it became a snare to Gideon and his household.” (Jdgs. 8:27). Like Gideon, many future kings would become covetous with their unchecked power. For this reason, a monarchy or autocracy government was never God’s plan for His people.

  • Government can become an idol when you place all your faith in it. Like many today, the Jews made their government an idol by placing their faith in an earthly king for deliverance: “After suffering defeat at the hands of the Philistines, the Israelites bring out the Ark and take it into battle with them, certain this will bring victory. As we know, it does not. Now in chapter 8, it is not the Ark but a king in whom the Israelites will place their trust and hope.” (Robert L. (Bob) Deffinbaugh, 6. Give Us a King! (1 Samuel 8:1-22)). Although most countries have dispensed with monarchies, many believe that they can build the perfect government to solve human poverty and need. Yet, Jesus reveals that the poor will always be present. “For you always have the poor with you; . . .” (Matt. 26:11). God wants you to trust in Him for people’s needs. He wants you to then respond as His instrument for helping others. If you hope to solve society’s problems through your taxes, you will likely grow indifferent to the poor and think that it is the government’s problem. Placing all your trust in government also turns it into an idol. This is a central question that each voter should consider when selecting a leader.

3. Autocratic Government is Never God’s Will for His People. 1 Sam. 8:6-8.

  • Samuel seeks out and receives God’s governance counsel through prayer. While the elders sought to emulate the pagan rulers, Samuel sought out and received God’s counsel: “But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to judge us.’ And Samuel prayed to the Lord. The Lord said to Samuel, ‘Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day—in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also.” (1 Sam. 8:6-8). Samuel’s displeasure was in the ungodly motives of the elders. But he did not lash out at them in the flesh. He instead gave their dispute with him to God. If Jesus is the head of the Church (Col. 1:18), believers can give their headaches to Him.

Submit to Jesus, the King of Kings4

  • Turn to God in prayer for guidance in all matters. When the Jews sinned at Mount Horeb, Moses first spent 40 days and 40 nights fasting for God to forgive them (Dt. 9:18). After God forgave the Jews, Moses then prayed and presumably fasted again for 40 days to seek God’s guidance: “I, moreover, stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights like the first time, and the Lord listened to me that time also; the Lord was not willing to destroy you. Then the Lord said to me, ‘Arise, proceed on your journey ahead of the people, that they may go in and possess the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.’” (Dt. 10:10-11). Samuel also turned to God whenever the Jews approached him. For example, he did this when the Jews cried out in fear as the Philistine army approached them. “Then Samuel said, ‘Gather all Israel to Mizpah and I will pray to the LORD for you.”’ (1 Sam. 7:5). You must also constantly seek the Lord in prayer and not lean on experience or your own understandings when making decisions. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered.” (Prov. 28:26). If you seek God’s will, He will guide you with the wisdom to know how to handle any situation: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (Jam. 1:5). “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.” (Ps. 51:6). “For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Prov. 2:6). “But it is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives them understanding.” (Job 32:8). When you submit yourself and pray, His Holy Spirit and Word will be a light unto your path (Jo. 14:26; Ps. 119:105). Are you seeking His guidance in all your major decisions?

  • The Jews rejected God as their Lord. God told Samuel “they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.” (1 Sam. 8:7). After the elders rejected Samuel’s counsel not to continue on this path, Samuel later condemned the Jews for rejecting God as their deliverer: “But you have today rejected your God, who delivers you from all your calamities and your distresses; yet you have said, ‘No, but set a king over us!’ Now therefore, present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes and by your clans.” (1 Sam. 10:19). If the Jews had been faithful, they would not need a king.

  • The Jews later also rejected Jesus as their Lord. This would not be the last time that the Jews rejected God as their king. They would later reject Jesus as their king as well. Pilate presented Jesus to the Jews as their king. “And he said to the Jews, ‘Behold, your King!’” (Jo. 19:14(b)). “So they cried out, ‘Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.”’ (Jo. 19:15). If you reject Jesus’ Word, you also deny Him.

4. Autocratic Governments Will Place You into Bondage and Oppression. 1 Sam. 8:9-17.

  • Samuel’s warnings of the loss of seven freedoms. Because the elders had made their decision in the flesh, God directed Samuel to give the elders one last chance to repent by telling them of the terrible price they would soon pay. This involved the loss of seven different freedoms: “Now then, listen to their voice; however, you shall solemnly warn them and tell them of the procedure of the king who will reign over them. 10 So Samuel spoke all the words of the Lord to the people who had asked of him a king. 11 He said, ‘This will be the procedure of the king who will reign over you: [1] he will take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots. 12 He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and of fifties, and some to do his plowing and to reap his harvest and to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 [2] He will also take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14[3] He will take the best of your fields and your vineyards and your olive groves and give them to his servants. 15[4] He will take a tenth of your seed and of your vineyards and give to his officers and to his servants. 16 [5] He will also take your male servants and your female servants and your best young men and your donkeys and use them for his work. 17 [6] He will take a tenth of your flocks, and [7] you yourselves will become his servants.” (1 Sam. 8:10-17). This was the first of three warnings that God would give the people about the loss of freedoms that they would suffer with a human king (1 Sam. 10:17-19; 12:6-18). The elders could not plead ignorance when they received Saul. God warned them in advance. “If they would have a king to rule them, as the eastern kings ruled their subjects, they would find the yoke exceedingly heavy. Those that submit to the government of the world and the flesh, are told plainly, what hard masters they are, and what tyranny the dominion of sin is. The law of God and the manner of men widely differ from each other; the former should be our rule in the several relations of life; the latter should be the measure of our expectations from others. These would be their grievances, and, when they complained to God, he would not hear them.” (Matthew Henry on 1 Sam. 8).5

Samuel warned the elders of Israel regarding the consequences of their foolish demands6

  • The seven lost freedoms with a human king. Through Samuel, God warned of the loss of seven kinds of freedoms. Each would eventually come to pass. First, their sons would be conscripted into a standing army (1 Sam. 8:11-12). This prophecy was fulfilled when Saul forcibly conscripted any strong man that he saw. “Now the war against the Philistines was severe all the days of Saul; and when Saul saw any mighty man or any valiant man, he attached him to his staff.” (1 Sam. 14:52). Second, the people would be conscripted to serve the king as workers in his court (1 Sam. 8:13). Saul also fulfilled this prophecy. Third, future kings would seize the best farm lands for themselves (1 Sam. 8:14). The wicked king Ahab asked Naboth for his fine farm lands. “Ahab spoke to Naboth, saying, ‘Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden because it is close beside my house, and I will give you a better vineyard than it in its place; if you like, I will give you the price of it in money.”’ (1 Kgs. 21:2). When Naboth refused, king Ahab had him killed and then seized his lands (1 Kgs. 21:11-13). Fourth, the kings would take a tenth of the people’s earnings (1 Sam. 8:15). Future kings would start by demanding a tenth of people’s seeds or earnings. That rate of taxation would then grow further. Indeed, many today would gladly pay a ten percent tax rate. Fifth, the people would also be conscripted as laborers for the king’s future building projects (1 Sam. 8:16). This prophecy would also soon be fulfilled. Sixth, future kings would take a tenth of the people’s animals (1 Sam. 8:17). This foreshadowed a time when the kings would move beyond taxing income (seeds) to the people’s wealth (animals). The Jews experienced this under Pharaoh when they gave up all their possessions in order to survive the great famine (Gen. 47:13-26). Under their own kings, they would soon experience the loss of their wealth again. Finally, the people would lose their freedoms by becoming servants (1 Sam. 8:17). The Jews also experienced this as slaves under Pharaoh in Egypt (Ex. 1:11). And they would again lose their freedom to their kings.

  • While kings take away freedoms, the King of Kings restores them. God freed the Jews from bondage in Egypt. ‘“With a powerful hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery.”’ (Ex. 13:14(b)). Jesus also came to free mankind from the bondage to sin and human oppression that humans have imposed upon themselves. On the first day of His public ministry, He entered the synagogue and read from Isaiah 61:1-2. After reading the passage, “He has come to proclaim release to the captives . . . to set free those who are oppressed,” Jesus proclaimed: “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Lk. 4:14-21). “‘So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”’ (Jo. 8:36). “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Cor. 3:17). “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” (Gal. 5:1). Have you squandered the freedoms Jesus gave you?

5. Autocratic Governments Suffer From the Loss of God’s Protection. 1 Sam. 8:18.

  • God’s warning that He would not hear the prayers if the Jews rebelled against Him. After laying out the future loss of their God-given freedoms, God warned that He would not hear their prayers when the Jews cried out for relief: “18 Then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.’” (1 Sam. 8:18). God gave similar warnings about when a society rebels and embraces sin. These warnings still apply today.

  • During the Old Testament, God would not hear some prayers made in sin. Throughout the Old Testament, God warned that intentional rebellion would cause Him not to respond to the sinner’s prayers for relief from their sins: “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but they will not find me.” (Prov. 1:28; Job 35:12). “Then they will cry out to the LORD, but He will not answer them. Instead, He will hide His face from them at that time because they have practiced evil deeds.” (Micah 3:4). “They cried for help, but there was none to save, even to the LORD, but He did not answer them.” (Ps. 18:41; 66:18). “So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.” (Is. 1:15; 59:2-3(b)). “Therefore thus says the LORD, ‘Behold I am bringing disaster on them which they will not be able to escape; though they will cry to Me, yet I will not listen to them.”’ (Jer. 11:11).

  • Sin can also “hinder” your prayers to God. Jesus repeated these warnings in the New Testament (Jo. 9:31). His blood can forgive any sin (1 Jo. 1:9). But Peter warns that unrepentant sin can still “hinder” a believer’s prayers (1 Pet. 3:7). Is there a sin you need to repent of? If so, repent so that your prayers will not be hindered before Jesus.

6. Autocratic Governments Frequently Despise the Things of God. 1 Sam. 8:19-20.

  • The people ignore God’s warnings and again demand an earthly king. Despite Samuel’s warnings not to adopt foreign ways, the Jews persisted in their demand that God give them a king like the nations around them: “19 Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, ‘No, but there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.’” (1 Sam. 8:19-20). At the time, the Jews feared both the armies of the Philistines and the armies of King Nahash of Ammon (1 Sam. 9, 12). In the past, the people turned against God only after His appointed judge died (Jdgs. 2:16-19). Now, the Jews were so fearful of their enemies that they wanted immediate action. They assumed that Samuel in his old age was worthless and unable to save them. But he was not close to death. And some of his most effective ministry in guiding Israel was still to come. Over time, our rebellions cause believers to despise God’s Word and His will.

The elders of Israel refused to listen to Samuel’s warnings7

  • Do not emulate the things of the world. The people wanted a king “like all the nations” to deliver them from the Philistines and the Ammonites (1 Sam. 8:20). The Jews looked at the nations around them and desired to be like them. The other nations became a light to the Jews when God meant for the Jews to be a light to the other nations (Is. 42:6). In order to be a light to the other nations, God called upon the Jews to be holy and set apart (Ex. 19:6). You too are called to be a light to others (Matt. 5:14). Believers are not to be conformed to the world (Ro. 12:1-2). Are you set apart as a light for others to see?

  • Trust God to fight your battles. The people assumed that they needed a king to “go out before us and fight our battles.” (1 Sam. 8:20). Yet, God used Samuel with no military training to defeat the Philistines (1 Sam. 7:10-14). He also used the female judge Deborah with no military training to encourage the Jews to fight the Canaanite king named Jabin and his military commander named Sisera (Jdgs. 4:6-7). He also defeated Pharaoh’s mighty armies at the sea. “The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is His name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea; and the choicest of his officers are drowned in the Red Sea.” (Ex. 15:3-4). Indeed, God’s hand was present in each of the Jews’ many victories. Moses explained “The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Dt. 31:8). God was also able to defend the Jews more efficiently than a king could. He did not require the Jews to field standing armies on a continual basis. Instead, He called the men of the 12 tribes to assemble as needed when a threat appeared. Israel was a reservist nation. The soldiers would return to their farms and cities when any conflict ended. God’s ad hoc system did not require the taxes to maintain an army. His system was also effective because He did everything to guarantee victory. The Jews only needed to show up in faith. Do you trust God to go before you to fight your battles?

7. Autocratic Governments Lead to Suffering. 1 Sam. 8:21-22.

  • God promises to hand the Jews over to their carnal desires. After rejecting all of God’s warnings, He handed them over to their carnal desires: “21 Now after Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the Lord’s hearing. 22 The Lord said to Samuel, ‘Listen to their voice and appoint them a king.’ So Samuel said to the men of Israel, ‘Go every man to his city.’” (1 Sam. 8:21-22). If the Jews had not acted impulsively, David might have been their next judge or ruler. Yet, to learn the need for a godly leader, God first had to teach them a lesson by giving them what they wanted.

  • Any autocratic rule ultimately leads to suffering. The Jews would suffer under Saul’s rule and the rule of many of their future kings. Throughout history, autocratic leaders have promised a better life for their people. Yet, in the end, they can only deliver suffering as they ultimately focus on preserving their own power. Hosea later rightly asked: “Where now is your king that he may save you in all your cities, and your judges of whom you requested, ‘Give me a king and princes’?” (Hos. 13:13).

  • God also promises to hand carnal nations over to their desires. If a nation rejects God, He will also hand it over to its carnal desires. This most frequently happens when a nation embraces sexual immorality: “Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.” (Ro. 1:24). If the Western World choses to reject God, He will also hand it over to its carnal desires.

  • The Jews suffer under Saul’s rule. In the Bible, the number 40 is associated with testing. To show the Jews that the king they wanted was not what was best for them, God tested the Jews with 40 years of rule under Saul: “Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.” (Acts 13:21). Saul was physically impressive and tall, like the pagan kings (1 Sam. 9:2; Nu. 13:28). Yet, he was also spiritually blind like them. The Jews got exactly what they wanted.

  • God turned the Jews’ evil desires into good. In the short term, the Jews would reap the consequences of their carnal desires for a king like the pagan nations. Yet, in the long term, God caused these unholy desires to reap good outcomes (Ro. 8:28). In the medium term, the monarchy would allow David to unify Israel. In the long term, the monarchy paved the way for the future righteous rule of Jesus, the King of Kings. God would eventually establish His unconditional and eternal covenant through David (2 Sam. 7:8; 1 Chr. 7:14; Ps. 45:6; 89:36-37; Heb. 1:8). Jesus was born into David’s line (Matt. 1:1; Ro. 1:3). Yet, He became the King of Kings (Rev. 19:16; 1 Tim. 6:15). “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David;” (Lk. 1:32). His reign will last forever (Ps. 10:16; 146:10). He will rule the world with divine justice and righteousness: ‘“Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land.” (Jer. 23:5). You may believe in Jesus. But have you submitted to Him as your Lord?