As we have been walking through the Old Testament, tracing the promise of the coming of the Messiah, we have seen that God is always faithful to His promises. In the midst of carrying out His eternal plan, God invites people to join Him in His eternal plan. Some people understand the significance of this calling and submit to it. Others chose to reject the Lord’s invitation. God allows people to make their choices. On the other hand, both choices have consequences.
- Adam and Eve had a choice
- Cain and Abel had a choice
- The people of Babel had a choice
- Job had a choice
- Joseph and his brothers had a choice
- Leah had a choice
- Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Esau all had a choice
- The children of Israel had a choice
- Aaron had a choice
- Rahab had a choice
- Balaam had a choice
- Ruth had a choice
- Hannah had a choice
In this lesson, we discover that Israel also had a choice. The period of the Judges in Israel is coming to an end. Samuel has been leading the people faithfully for years. He is a great spiritual leader. Will Samuel do as Moses did, making a disciple to whom he can pass the baton of leadership, or, will he do as Joshua did and not make a disciple? Let’s find out.
1 And it came about when Samuel was old that he appointed his sons judges over Israel.
2 Now the name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judging in Beersheba.
3 His sons, however, did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice. (I Samuel 8)
Samuel groomed his sons to take the baton of leadership. Samuel was a great leader. He spent his life investing the Word of God in others. He tried to train his own sons in the ways of the Lord. The chose not to follow in the footsteps of their father. They walked in the opposite direction, according to their sin nature instead of being led by the Lord. They were dishonest. They were controlled by money, similar to Balaam, and they perverted justice. These are all characteristics of our sin nature.
I. The people rebel
The people took notice of the fact that the sons of Samuel did not follow the ways of their father.
4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah;
5 and they said to him, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.” (I Samuel 8)
Why do the people want a king? They want a king because they want to be like the nations (pagans). This is completely contrary to God’s will for them. God had told them that He wanted them to be holy, set apart from the pagan nations.
1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
2 “Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. (Leviticus 19)
5 ‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine;
6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ (Exodus 19)
“For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. (Deuteronomy 7:6)
Now, the children of Israel have made it apparent that they do not want to be different from the nations. Instead, they want to be just like the nations. God’s will, His eternal plan will continue on, yet, He is going to give the people what they want. They are making a choice but, God is going to inform them of the consequences of their choices before they make the choice. Usually, we have to make choices to find out the consequences. The Lord is full of mercy and grace. He allows us to make choices and also informs us of the consequences of those choices before we make them.
But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD. (I Samuel 8:6)
Like any good leader, Samuel tries to warn the people before they make a huge mistake. Unfortunately for them, they do not want to listen to Samuel.
The LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. (I Samuel 8:7)
God comforts Samuel. God knows that the people are not rejecting Samuel. They are rejecting Him as their King. In verses 10-18, the Lord explains the consequences of their choices. After hearing all of those consequences, look at their response.
19 Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, “No, but there shall be a king over us,
20 that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” (I Samuel 8)
This kind of response is hard for me to fathom but, I know when I am not walking in complete obedience to the Lord, I make poor choices. The same is true for the children of Israel. I am sure that the same is true for you too.
II. The king revolts
Saul is the man who becomes the king that the people want. The people love Saul because he is just like they are. He is a man who is led by his sin nature instead of being led by the Lord.
Saul was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty two years over Israel. (I Samuel 13:1)
Saul reigned over the people for 42 years. It did not take Saul long to reject the Word of the Lord and do what he wanted. When Saul gets in a jam, he does not turn to the Lord for help. He actually looks to the support of the people. If they are displeased with him, he takes matters into his own hands, even to the point of disobeying the Word of God. Saul is the original politician who is obsessed with poll numbers. He is willing to do whatever it takes to please the people, even if that means disrespecting God.
8 Now he waited seven days, according to the appointed time set by Samuel, but Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattering from him.
9 So Saul said, “Bring to me the burnt offering and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering.
10 As soon as he finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him and to greet him. (I Samuel 13)
Samuel was the one who was supposed to offer the sacrifices, not Saul. King Saul took matters into his own hands and in doing so, he disobeyed the Word of God. Saul is acting just as God said that he would act. Samuel confronts Saul and pay attention to how Saul answers. (he really has a lot in common with our modern politicians)
11 But Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “Because I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the appointed days, and that the Philistines were assembling at Michmash,
12 therefore I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not asked the favor of the LORD.’ So I forced myself and offered the burnt offering.” (I Samuel 13)
Did you notice Saul’s response? He blames the people and Samuel for his poor choices. This is how our sin nature acts. We never want to take responsibility for our actions. We always want to shift the blame to others. Samuel confronts Saul the same way that he confronted the people for their poor choices.
Samuel said to Saul, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you, for now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever (I Samuel 13:13)
How is Saul going to respond? Is he going to repent the way that king David repents after being confronted by the prophet Nathan? Or, is he going to continue to blame others for his actions?
III. The Lord rejects
God knows the response before Saul even thinks it.
“But now your kingdom shall not endure. The LORD has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.” (I Samuel 13:14)
Because God knows what Saul’s response is going to be, He rejects Saul as king of Israel. Keep in mind, Saul has already rejected God’s authority, as the people whom he leads have done as well. God does not remove Saul right away. He gives Saul another chance to prove himself. Things go from bad to worse. God sends Saul and the army out to take care of Amalek, an eternal enemy of Israel. Saul goes but, he does not fully obey God. The Lord commands Saul to destroy everything. Saul does not fully obey. He keeps the choice spoils of war for himself. The Lord sends Samuel to confront Saul yet again.
10 Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel, saying,
11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.” And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the LORD all night. (I Samuel 15)
Samuel is heart broken. His first two disciples, his sons, do not walk in the ways of the Lord. Now, Samuel has invested heavily in Saul. Samuel feels let down again because Saul does not fully obey the Lord. In fact, he lives in such a way to disrespect the Lord. But, like a good follower of the Lord, Samuel goes and confronts Saul just as the Lord has told him to do.
13 Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the LORD! I have carried out the command of the LORD.”
14 But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?”
15 Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen, to sacrifice to the LORD your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed.” (I Samuel 15)
Look at Saul’s response. He knows that he has messed up. He acts like a child acts when caught in the middle of doing something wrong. Once again, Saul excuses his actions, trying to cover them with the mask of righteousness. Saul blatantly disobeyed the Lord in order to offer better sacrifices to the Lord.
Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams (I Samuel 15:22)
God is looking for obedience, not sacrifices from a disobedient soul. Saul is rebellious to his spiritual mentor, Samuel. He is also insubordinate to the Lord. He has a very difficult time submitting to authority figures. Take a look at the Lord’s response to Saul’s actions.
“For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king.” (I Samuel 15:23)
Rebellion and Disobedience are part of our sin nature. They may not seem like much of a problem in our modern world but, God has a different view. Rebellion and Disobedience, according to God, is rejection of His Word. Saul rejected God by rejecting the Word of God. When you reject the Word of God, you reject God. He does not separate Himself from His Word. You cannot claim to follow Him and yet not follow His Word. This is what God tells Saul. This was true 3,000 years ago and it is still true today. Rebellion and the rejection of the Word of God are the norm today in our modern world. There really is nothing new under the sun.
What about you, my dear friend, are you rejecting God by your rebellious attitude? Are you rejecting God by rejecting His Word? Are you choosing to live by your sin nature like the people, the sons of Samuel, and Saul? May the Lord help us reject our sin nature and submit to the Lord’s leadership in our daily lives!