1 Samuel 8
We will have God, or we will have slavery. This is a pertinent word for our chains are getting quite heavy. Just ask the Californians who have recently been subjected to yet another mask mandate. If we do not like the shackles, then we should turn away from the tyrant and swear allegiance to the King who liberates. That is what Israel failed to do in 1 Samuel 8, and it is a lesson for us all.
The Text – A Summary
The prophet Samuel had grown old and his sons perverted justice for money (v. 1-4). The previous chapter spoke of God defeating His enemies and Samuel ruling Israel well. But, many years have passed and Samuel is now old. The comforting scene of the last chapter is gone.
The elders gathered together to Samuel at Ramah where they asked for a king (v. 4ff). The request itself was no sin. In Deuteronomy 17, God said that Israel could have a king, but he couldn’t be a foreigner, or multiply for himself military, marriages, or money. So Israel’s problem was not asking for a king, it was asking for a king “like all the nations” (v. 5, 20).
Samuel was displeased about this request from the elders and prayed to the Lord (v. 6). But, God responded with these devastating words, “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” (1 Samuel 8:7). God added that Samuel must warn Israel what a tyrant their “king like the nations” would be (v. 9). The message was clear: This king would take. Samuel told them, “He will take your sons . . . He will take your daughters . . . He will take your fields . . . He will take the tenth of your seed . . . He will take your menservants and your maidservants . . . He will take the tenth of your sheep” (v. 11-17). Samuel added that they would eventually call out to God because of their tyrant-king, but the LORD would not hear them in that day.
Having been warned, Israel told Samuel that they wanted a king like the nations anyway. And God gave them just that.
Starting at Home
Many things could be said about this passage. Israel rejected God as King. And these United States by and large have rejected Him as King also. Israel suffered tyranny as a result. And tyranny is on the rise in increasing measure in our land. These parrallels are on the surface and hard to miss. But, American evangelicals— those who see the tyranny and are not fans—must make the connection between what we evangelicals have done, and Gavin Newsom’s power trips. In other words, we are very good at identifying threats out there in the world and guarding against them making their way into the church. But, we are not as keen to see the reverse, the bad practices that Chritians have exported to the world. If we want to clean up the world, then we need to start by cleaning up our own home.
No Imaginary King
One of the chief sins of American evangelicalism is reducing the Lordship of Christ to a dream. Jesus is no imaginary King. And His kingdom is not a shadow. He is a real King and His kingship involves all of life. Abraham Kuyer explains how things went ary, “The words kingdom, kingship, and king were no longer understood as realities, but only in a figurative sense . . . In reality, there was no kingdom; people merely spoke of it figuratively as a kingdom. In reality, Jesus was no King, but he was figuratively given this honorific title. Nevertheless, this conflicts entirely with what Scripture depicts for us prophetically in the Old Testament and historically in the New. This spiritualization crept imperceptibly into our circles as well and was the cause for the widespread waning of the glory of Jesus’ kingship.”
Many evangelicals have been raised in just such an environment. They understood the kingdom of Christ to be but an ethereal mist. Jesus was only a spiritual King who ruled over spiritual things. Life was compartmentalized into the watertight categories of sacred and secular. From that vantage point, you cannot help but reject God as King in favor of a king like the nations. Yes, God will rule certain things in your life, but He will not rule all things. He rules the things that belong under His dominion. But, the other things of life are under the sway of a different power.
The truth however is that all authority in heaven and on earth belongs to Jesus. And when Jesus tells us that all authority belongs to Him, He means just that—all. You cannot find an authority or power that is not under His authority. It follows that all of your life must bow to this very real King. He rules over your education, vocation, politics, economics, and a thousand more things. We have to learn to be Christian all the way down, from the east to the setting of the sun. If we don’t, then we will find ourselves with many more kings like the nations and they will take, take, take.