Today’s passage: 1 Samuel 8
This week, we’re returning to our lighting journey through the story of the Old Testament. We spent a few weeks in the introduction to the Biblical story: Genesis 1-11. There we saw that the way the world now is is a result of human rebellion against God. We have a sin problem. We also saw that we have a knowledge problem: we don’t know who God is or what He is like. As a result, we end up with people treating God as if he were just another (more powerful) person.
The Old Testament story kicks off properly in Genesis 12 – with God calling Abram to follow Him. God’s plan was to use this man and his descendants to deal with these two big problems we have: being sinners, and not knowing God. Ultimately, God the Father would send His only Son – Jesus – to save us from our sins. Jesus would also fully and completely reveal who God is to the world. But prior to His coming, one of the big tasks of the Old Testament, and of Israel, was to make God known. God made Himself known to Abraham and his descendants. They in turn were to represent God to the world; to be a kingdom of priests.
Genesis tells of the patriarchs coming to know and trust Yahweh. And then Exodus tells of God rescuing them from slavery in Egypt. God formalised His relationship with them – and invited them to respond to His having saved them by dedicating themselves to being His people.
In Joshua, we read of God leading the people of Israel into the land that He had promised to give to Abraham and his heirs. We read of God proving His power and might and faithfulness time and time again. As Joshua comes to an end, it looks like everything is nicely wrapped up. Joshua 21 even notes that all of God’s promises had been fulfilled.
But then we turn the page to Judges – and find the next generation of Israelites refusing to know the Lord. We see God graciously saving them time after time – but Israel repeatedly abandoning Him to chase after the gods of the nations around them. Come the end of Judges, Israel is a shambles. God isn’t honoured as He should be, and the nation is rife with sin and surrounded by enemies.
At the time of today’s passage, Israel had a particularly good judge – the prophet Samuel. But the elders of Israel were worried about the future. Samuel was an old man, and his sons weren’t up to the task of picking up his mantle. They didn’t know what the future held. But what they did know is that they didn’t want things to carry on as they had done.
Israel was a nation in rebellion against God. They had enemies all around, and were often attacked. And God was allowing these attacks – and not fighting for Israel, since they had abandoned Him.
How could the nation of Israel secure their future? The solution was clear: turning their hearts to the Lord, and trusting in Him!
But that’s not the solution they came up with. Theirs was much earthier. Much more “like the nations around us” – he same nations whose gods they were serving rather than Yahweh! Having a king was the obvious solution to what ailed them, and so that’s the demand they took to the prophet Samuel: “Make us a king!”
But what was so wrong with that ask anyway? And how does their story speak to our story today?