The Rebellion of Man: Illustrations from the Prophet Samuel

It goes without saying that man lives in rebellion to his Creator. All one has to do is turn on the television and he can witness first hand the depravity of man. Even better, all one has to do is turn his attention to his own heart and he can see up close and personal the wickedness that lives there.

While reading 1 Samuel the other day I was blown away by a section in chapter eight. Let me quote the full text of the Prophet so we can see first hand the rebellion of Israel.

So Samuel spoke all the words of the Lord to the people who had asked of him a king. He said, “This will be the procedure of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots. 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. He will also take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and your vineyards and your olive groves and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your seed and of your vineyards and give to his officers and to his servants. 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. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his servants. 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.”

Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, “No, but there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” Now after Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the Lord’s hearing. 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 8.10-22).

The people come to Samuel clamoring for a king to rule over them. No longer were they desiring the government that had ruled them since the Exodus; they wanted what what everyone else had, a king. Now to be fair to the people of Israel, Samuel’s two sons who were judging over Israel were a wicked lot. It was said that they “did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice” (1 Sam 8.3). The nation took advantage of Samuel’s sons hypocrisy and used it in their protest for a king. The people were tired of the same old thing, and they wanted to be like the nations that surrounded them and have a king ruling over them.

At first Samuel was offended that the people were rejecting his rule, but God reminded him that it was not Samuel they were rejecting. God was the one who appointed not only Samuel, but the whole system of judges that were ruled over Israel. So when God heard the people’s cries for a king, he told Samuel exactly what they should expect from such monarchical rule (8.10-18). The people would be slaves to the rule of a king. They had no idea if the king would be a merciful and righteous ruler, or a vicious tyrant.

What is utterly amazing is that in light of all the warnings Israel received about their so desired monarchy, nevertheless they refused God and his wisdom and still pursed their desire for a king. The people refused to to listen to the voice of God, and they answered Samuel (that is, they answered God), “No, but there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles” (8.19-20). These people had a serious case of amnesia. They forgot that it was God that led them out of Egypt; God who sustained them for forty years in the wilderness; God who went in before them and conquered the people in the land so that Israel could go in and take possession.

Now I must ask myself thus: “How have I refused to listen to God?”

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