My Life Group lesson for June 26, 2016, using Lifeway's "Explore the Bible" commentary as a guide ...
You know how General George Washington led American troops to defeat the British in the Revolutionary War.
But did you know … the rest of the story?
Allegedly, at least.
Legend has it that, after his victory in the Revolutionary War, Washington was so popular that a group of citizens frustrated with the Continental Congress wanted to make him king of the new nation. He turned the suggestion down. It's probably just as true as Washington chopping down the cherry tree.
After the war, in London, English King George III questioned the American-born painter Benjamin West what Washington would do now he had won. West said he would return to his farm. "If he does that," said the king, "he will be the greatest man in the world."
We also know that as president, Washington stepped down after two terms to set a precedent of leaders not holding onto power for too long.
Like those early Americans looking for King George Washington, the Israelites sought a king for leadership. Problem is, they were rejecting the ultimate King.
UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT
1 Samuel 8:1–11:15
*** It might be difficult to believe in our age of government control and bureaucracy everywhere, but prior to King Saul, Israel had no central government to enforce Old Testament law. After Joshua's leadership to conquer Canaan, early Israel had no king or national ruler, no capital city, no bureaucracy, no tax collectors, no highway department, no national court system, no representative body (like a congress or parliament), no welfare department, and no standing army.
*** God would raise up "judges" sporadically to deal with foreign oppressors, such as when Gideon fought the Midianites. There was no official office, and no system of succession.
*** Local affairs would be taken care of by elders in cases of criminal or civil law. Militias served as defense against intruders.
*** The Israelites were expected to be faithful to their covenant with God as their king, without enforcement necessary by a central state.
*** This brings us to 1 Samuel chapter 8, and now the Israelites want a human king to lead and protect them.
A KING DEMANDED (1 SAM. 8:4-5)
4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and went to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not follow your example. Therefore, appoint a king to judge us the same as all the other nations have.”
*** Game of Thrones.
--- As Samuel grew old, he named his sons as judges. This was rare; the sons of earlier judges did not take over from their fathers. (The one exception was Abimelech, son of Gideon, who tried to succeed his father and to actually claim the title of king. That ended in complete disaster (Judg. 9).)
--- However, just as Eli the priest's sons were awful, Samuel's boys, Joel and Abijah, "turned toward dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice," according to 8:3.
*** All the king’s men.
--- A group of elders told Samuel that since his boys were corrupt, he should appoint for them a king.
--- The elders, therefore, had rejected that God was their king, and that He had appointed Samuel.
--- They could have asked Samuel to step down and take away his sons' authority. Israel had survived for hundreds of years without a constant leader.
--- The elders reveal their true desire by saying that they wanted a king "the same as all other nations have."
--- Israel wasn't supposed to be like the other nations. they were supposed to be better according to God's leadership.
--- Instead, Israel had a history of idolatry, and demanding a king was just one more example of giving lip service to their trust in God while proving faithless in their actions.
--- Our actions can reveal our spiritually blindness to God's power and leadership, too, when we trust in man instead of trusting in the Lord.
*** Question – Is it easier to trust in a strong leader or in God?
REJECTION DECLARED (1 SAM. 8:6-9)
6 When they said, “Give us a king to judge us,” Samuel considered their demand sinful, so he prayed to the LORD. 7 But the LORD told him, “Listen to the people and everything they say to you. They have not rejected you; they have rejected Me as their king. 8 They are doing the same thing to you that they have done to Me, since the day I brought them out of Egypt until this day, abandoning Me and worshiping other gods. 9 Listen to them, but you must solemnly warn them and tell them about the rights of the king who will rule over them.”
*** You've made your bed, now lie in it.
--- God reassures Samuel that the people weren't rejecting Samuel's leadership, but far worse, a rejection of God as their king.
--- God tells Samuel to go along with their request.
--- According to Deut. 17:14-20 this was permissible, so long as God chose the king.
--- This does not mean that God approved of their action. He is willing to let people choose their own path, even if their choices are poor and will cause them pain and regret.
--- Israel had been turning from God ever since the exodus from Egypt. (Lack of faith, idolatry, and corruption became a pattern.)
--- The period of the judges was a time of freedom. From the time of King Saul through the Roman emperors, they would always be under a king, whether their own or a foreigner.
--- Samuel warned the people in verses 11-18 that if they had a king, he would have the power to confiscate wealth and property, draft men into the army for his own purposes, and take women to use for royal service.
--- The end result was that the Israelites would discover they had no rights at all: “He can take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves can become his servants. When that day comes, you will cry out because of the king you’ve chosen for yourselves, but the LORD won’t answer you on that day” (1 Sam. 8:17-18).
*** Question - What kind of consequences should we consider when we turn our faith and dependence away from God and place it in someone else?
REBELLION DETERMINED (1 SAM. 8:19-22)
19 The people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We must have a king over us. 20 Then we’ll be like all the other nations: our king will judge us, go out before us, and fight our battles.” 21 Samuel listened to all the people’s words and then repeated them to the LORD. 22 “Listen to them,” the LORD told Samuel. “Appoint a king for them.” Then Samuel told the men of Israel, “Each of you, go back to your city.”
*** Gods and Kings.
--- The Israelites were determined to live under the own system, to fight their own battles instead of following God’s will.
--- Instead of bowing to God, they would bow to a man the same as “all the other nations” did with their pagan kings.
--- The other nations treated their kings as gods, as if they had superhero powers to defeat their enemies and bless the people:
Egyptian pharaohs were kings of Ancient Egypt, and were considered gods by their culture.
Some of the Roman emperors, including Julius Caesar, Caesar Augustus and Caligula claimed divinity.
Japanese emperors claimed to be divine.
Dalai Lamas are considered divine re-incarnations in Buddhism.
We saw in Acts 12:20-23 last month, Herod Agrippa I so impressed the Phoenicians with his generosity and splendor that when he spoke, they shouted, “It’s the voice of a god and not of a man!” But God was not impressed with Herod. He struck him with a severe and sudden illness, and he died.
This doesn’t even count rulers treated as a personality cult such as Adolf Hitler, or the rulers of Iran who claim to speak for God while running police states.
Of course, the most famous movie example, Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars. He starts off as a senator, then manipulates events so that the people clamor for a strong leader to crush rebellion, and ends up as the evil emperor of the Galactic Empire.
--- The saying goes, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Israel would be led by some competent and faithful kings, but too often Israel would find itself in ruin because of ungodly leadership.
--- When we fail to acknowledge Jesus as our Savior and the King of kings (Rev. 19:16), chaos will be the inevitable result.
*** Question - How is it spiritually dangerous to look to a human being as your savior? What will that do to your relationship with God?
REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS
How often do you tell your kids, "If you would just do as you are asked, you wouldn't be in trouble right now?!"
How often do you tell them, "I can't do that for you right now. You'll understand someday?"
If the Israelites had been faithful to God, He would have protected them and given them all the prosperity they could handle.
We can repeat the same foolish decision made by Israel by turning away from Jesus, the one true King.
We read God's Word and it convicts us of the sin in our lives and yet we justify and continue on without any consideration for what God says knowing that we are doing things outside the blessing of God.
*** Only God is worthy of being looked to as the Ruler of His people and of His creation.
*** When we turn to other things to provide us satisfaction, protection, security, and purpose, we become idolaters. Jesus is the One whom God appointed as the true King—the One who died and rose again! We must ask ourselves, "Who sits on the throne of our hearts?"
*** Sometimes the best answer God can give us is “no” when we ask for something that’s not in our best interest. At other times, God allows us to have what we demand—along with the negative consequences—to teach us that His plan is truly the best path for us.