I Samuel 8

When God’s people will not accept His best for them,
they will get the best they can be persuaded to take and,
with the answer to their selfish prayers,
will receive also an added judgment.

1 And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel.

2 Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: they were judges in Beer-sheba.

3 And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment.

4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,

5 And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.

6 ¶ But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD.

7 And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.

8 According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.

9 Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.

10 ¶ And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king.

11 And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.

12 And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.

13 And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.

14 And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.

15 And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.

16 And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.

17 He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.

18 And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.

19 ¶ Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;

20 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.

21 And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the LORD.

22 And the LORD said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city.

1 Samuel 8:1-9 – Seeking a King like Other Nations

   The sin that Samuel, as a lad, rebuked in Eli, reappeared in his own family and undermined his influence. The names of Samuel’s sons are suggestive of his own piety—“Jehovah is God” and “Jehovah is my Father”—but, alas, they failed to walk in His steps! It was a mistake to delegate authority to men whose character was corrupt, and this precipitated the desire of Israel for a king. They failed to value the glory and strength of their position as a theocracy—a nation directly ruled by God—and craved to be as other nations. This finally led to their undoing. Be not conformed to the world; or you will share in its condemnation as well as in its penalty, Hosea 13:9-11.
   Samuel felt the rebuff keenly, but ultimately he took the one wise step of laying the whole matter before the Lord. It is a good example! When the heart is overwhelmed; when we are hemmed in by difficulty; when men rise up and breathe out cruelty against us, let us roll back our trouble on our Lord and Savior, who has identified Himself with our life. Tell Him all, though your heart is almost too broken for utterance. “He will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry,” Isaiah 30:19.

I Samuel 8:6—But the thing displeased Samuel…, And Samuel prayed unto the LORD.

   A little further down in the chapter we learn that Samuel rehearsed the words of the people unto the Lord. His prayer, to a large extent, was a rehearsal of all the strong and unkind things that the people had said to him; and in this way he passed them off his mind, and found relief. There is a suggestion of close communion with God in the expression, “He rehearsed them in the ears of the LORD” (v. 21). It had been the habit of his life to be on intimate terms with his God.
   Things do not always turn out as we had hoped, and we get displeased for our own sakes and God’s. We had planned in one direction, but events have issued in another; and the results have threatened to become disastrous. There is but one resource. If we allow vexations to eat into our heart, they will corrode and injure it. We must rehearse them to God spreading the letter before Him, as Hezekiah did; making request like Paul; crying like Samuel.
   Surely it is the mistake of our life, that we carry our burdens instead of handing them over; that we worry instead of trusting; that we pray so little. The grass grows thick on the pathway to our oratory; the cobwebs hang across the doorway. The time we spend in prayer is perhaps better spent than in any other way. It was whilst Samuel prayed thus, that he saw the Divine program for Israel:

       “And he who at the sixth hour sought 
          The lone house top to pray, 
       There gained a sight beyond his thought 
          The dawn of Gentile day. 
       Then reckon not, when perils lour, 
          The time of prayer mis spent; 
       Nor meanest chance, nor place, nor hour, 
          Without its heavenward bent.”

1 Samuel 8:10-22 – Rejecting the Prophet’s Warning

   The people had entreated Samuel to cry unto God in their behalf; and now we see him going to and fro between the people and God, as a true mediator and intercessor. “Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people” (I Samuel 8:10); and, “he rehearsed them [all the words of the people] in the ears of the LORD” (I Samuel 8:21). See also I Samuel 8:22. Samuel is fitly described in the Psalter as one who called upon God’s name, Psalm 99:6. How much we may influence the life of a nation or of an individual if we will only pray with persistent and believing earnestness! We cannot dispense with our statesmen, but our prophets—the Samuels and the Elijahs—are the most efficient chariots and horsemen of protection, II Kings 2:12.
   The people could not answer Samuel’s grave and graphic words. They contented themselves with repeating their request, and soon they learned the bitterness of imposing their own will upon God. They would have a king, and God gave them their hearts’ desire, but see Psalm 106:15. When Samuel had received God’s reply, he set himself, with all his power, to further the matter, at all cost to himself. We are reminded of that noble reply of the Baptist in John 3:31. God’s will ever first and supreme!