When he heard their demands it shook him . . . literally! His soul so vexed because of their request that he trembled. Dedicated to the Lord since birth, his life had been one of learning to hear the word of the Lord . . . of pursuing the word of the Lord . . . of obeying the word of the Lord . . . of conveying the word of the Lord. He had tried to model the right stuff . . . had sought to be the leader that would direct the hearts of the people to the LORD and to serving Him only. And now, as Samuel’s ministry wound down, they wanted this. Give us a king, the elders of Israel demanded, like all the nations.
Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD. . . . But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey their voice and make them a king.”
(1Samuel 8:4-6, 19-22a ESV)
Unlike Samuel, God was not surprised by this turn of events. Through Moses, God had foretold of that day when the people would make this exact demand (Deut. 17:14-20). And in His grace, God would use a kingly line to establish His heavenly kingdom. But the request was born in sin and compromise. Sin, in that the sons of Samuel made for a poor alternative. To continue the line of judges through them was to entrust themselves to men who did not follow in their fathers footsteps but instead “turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice” (v.3). Compromise, in that the people, rather than trust themselves to the faithful God of their deliverance, instead devised their own “Plan B” — a king, like all the nations.
The way of the peoples around them . . .the way of the world . . . that was their answer. God’s chosen people wanted to be like those outside the promises and covenant. God’s special people looked to the grass on the other side of the fence and decided it was greener. Those who had received the word of God, instead thought the answer must lie in the wisdom of men. And while Samuel trembled at their arrogance and insolence, God says, Let it be . . . “for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them” (8:7).
And maybe I might pause and say, “Really? Is it that black and white? It is really either embrace the ways and wisdom of God or reject Him? Isn’t there some middle ground? Take some Word of God and mix it with some wisdom of men, like all the nations, and you have the perfect solution? . . . the best of all worlds?” Short answer? Thinkin’ not.
First, the wisdom of the world is foolishness in God’s economy (1Cor. 3:19). Second, to embrace the ways of the world is to set our faces in opposition to God (James 4:4).
To be sure, wholehearted devotion to the Word and ways of God can be a scary path. Beyond times when, as with Samuel’s son, the way seems flawed and to have broken down because it’s been affected by the ways of the flesh, the increasing gap between us and the world by going “counter culture” creates intense pressure to to take an easier path and be more “conformed to the world” and a little less “transformed by the renewing of the mind” (Rom. 12:2).
I guess that’s where faith is drawn upon. Believing in God’s wisdom . . . trusting in God’s word. Setting our minds on things above and not on earthly things . . . seeking “the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1-2) and not the things below . . . like all the nations.
O that, because of the gospel, we might be a people who own Him, and no other, as King. That, through the illumination and power of the Spirit, we would seek His ways and wisdom, and not the nations, and walk according to them.
All because of grace. All by grace. All for His glory.