(NOTE: All Scripture verses are taken from the New International Version, unless otherwise stated.)
FOCUS: Israel Demands A King!
BACKGROUND SCRIPTURE: 1 Samuel 8:1-21
Somewhere on the historical timeline between Moses and Elijah, Israel decided they wanted a king to rule over them “like all the other nations had.” So they asked the prophet Samuel to speak to the Lord on their behalf. And Samuel’s feelings were hurting as he went to the Lord in prayer . . .
“And the Lord told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who reigns over them will do…
“‘He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses . . . and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. . . . He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the Lord will not answer you in that day.’
“But THE PEOPLE REFUSED TO LISTEN . . . ‘We want to be like all the other nations and to go into battle before us and fight our battles.’
“When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. The Lord answered, ‘Listen to them and give them a king.'”
PROPHECY CONNECTION #1: 1 Samuel 10:17-24
The Lord God made good His promise and sent His servant Samuel to the man (hiding among the baggage) who would be Israel’s first king . . .
“Samuel summoned the people of Israel to the Lord at Mizpah and said to them , ‘This is what the Lord God of Israel, says: “I brought you up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you. But you have now rejected the Lord your God, who saves you out of all your calamities and distresses. And you have said, ‘No, set a king over us.’ So now present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and clans.'”‘
“When Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, the tribe of Benjamin was chosen. Then he brought forward the tribe of Benjamin, clan by clan, and Matri’s clan was chosen. Finally Saul son of Kish was chosen. But when they looked for him, he was not to be found. So they inquired further of the Lord, ‘Has the man come here yet?’
“And the Lord said, ‘Yes, he has hidden himself among the baggage.’
“They ran and brought him out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others.Samuel said to all the people, ‘Do you see the man the Lord has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.’
“Then the people shouted, ‘Long live the king!'”
PROPHECY CONNECTION #2: 1 Samuel 15:1-29
Saul reigned over Israel for 42 years, but he did many foolish things that displeased the Lord God of Israel . . .
“. . . Samuel said [to Saul], ‘Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And He sent you on a mission, saying, “Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.” Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?’
“‘But I did obey the Lord,’ Saul said. ‘I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.’ [verse 3: God had told Saul to completely destroy the Amalekites and everything that belonged to them!]
“But Samuel replied: ‘Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has rejected you as king. . . .
“As Samuel turned to leave, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors — to one better than you. He who is the glory of Israel does not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man, that he should change His mind.'”
PROPHECY CONNECTION #3: 1 Samuel 15:35 – 16:13
Saul’s “neighbor” David, the youngest son born to Jesse of Bethlehem, would be anointed the next king of Israel . . .
“The Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.’
“. . . Samuel did what the Lord said. When he arrived in Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, ‘Do you come in peace?’
“Samuel replied, ‘Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.’ Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the banquet.
“When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.’
“BUT the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’
“Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, ‘The Lord has not chosen this one either. . . . Are these all the sons you have?’
“‘There is still the youngest,’ Jesse answered, ‘but he is tending the sheep.’ . . . So he sent and had him brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features.
“Then the Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; he is the one.’
“So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power.”
WHAT’S THE POINT?
When God answered the Israelites’ prayer for “a king to lead them,” He showed His chosen people that He does listen and respond. The historical consequences of His answer should stand as a continual reminder that we ought to be careful what we pray for.
HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND?
When God selected Saul as Israel’s first king, He demonstrated that He can use ANYBODY He chooses to accomplish His purpose and plan. And by trying to hide from God, Saul demonstrated that it’s not possible to “hide among your baggage” if God intends to use YOU!
WHY DOES IT MATTER?
God rejected Saul because he did not follow specific instructions that the Lord God gave to him through the prophet Samuel. The Lord wanted to encourage “stiff-necked” people to compare their fallible, human king with the tried-and-true, divine King whom they had rejected. Unfortunately, true to historical form, they didn’t get the message. So God switched to the plan that He’d intended to go with all along — the plan that would eventually introduce Israel to the King of kings, Jesus Christ!
“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’ (1 Samuel 16:7).