There are many stories in the Bible which we learn as children through a children’s Bible or a Sunday School telling such as a puppet show, Veggie Tales, or other fun tool. These stories help us learn the Bible from a young age, but are not always followed by reading it from the actual Word. Therefore, we grow up thinking we know the story. There is much more to the stories than a children’s Bible tells, that is why we have the real Bible. For the 2014 year from January through December 31, we have been reading to Davy from a devotional that uses the lectionary for half the week and companion texts the other half to read real sections of Bible to him. In reading even these sections I feel better about his understanding. He loves to read about Moses and Aaron in his Bible, but Aaron did erect a golden calf for the people to worship, and he was supposed to be the high priest! This story in 1 Samuel chapter 8 is a lot like that. We read a lot in Davy’s Beginner’s Bible about God calling Samuel, and Eli seems so wise telling him it is the Lord calling and how to answer. Then we read the real thing and realize Eli was not a great priest, and God rarely spoke to him anymore because he couldn’t discipline his sons. Now here we are in chapter 8 finding out that Samuel also did not raise sons to follow God. But before we sigh, shake our heads, and say, “Well, that’s just what happens with pastor’s kids.” It is not okay. Davy loves God, tells us consistently that Jesus died on the cross, has a growing understanding of his own relationship with God and the relationship of the body of Christ with God. These kids do not just end up that way, there is nowhere in Scripture that says “Pastor’s kids are doomed to hell. Too bad.” Not true, the Bible tells us to raise up our children in the way they should go, and to teach them the Scriptures and to care for them. Samuel had a bad example of fatherhood in his life growing up in the temple and not with his own father, and it shows up here. Samuel is greatly grieved by the decision the people make to find a king instead of to continue to have judges over them. Partly this decision of the people comes from these two judges in a row having sons who did not have any respect, honor, or glory for God. Once again, the Bible is teaching indirectly through these stories, and we must continue to search the Scriptures for the character of God in all of this, the truths that He is sharing, and we must not assume that everything each character does is good or bad based on our children’s Bible lessons. There are intricacies to people, as we know, and that is shown here. These are real stories with real people in them.
In this chapter Samuel’s sons are placed as judges over Beersheba because Samuel has gotten old. They turn away from God, and pursue gain instead. The people decide they want a king, and Samuel argues with them. As he brings it to the Lord in prayer, God tells him to let them have their king. He explains to Samuel that they are not rejecting Samuel, but rather God himself. Samuel again entreats them and shares about all the things that a king will do, things which God has saved them from countless times. Samuel finishes by explaining that when the people realize their mistake and cry out to the Lord for help, He will not answer them on that day. The people do not want to listen to Samuel, and so God tells Samuel that they can have their king.
I pray that you do not let this remain a story in a book, like a fairytale, but that you dig into this chapter in your three times reading through it. See what God is saying to you, and about our history throughout time with God. We are a part of this family that made this choice, and even though we had no weight in making the decision then, we have similar decisions we make now. Pray about in what ways you have chosen a king over God. The people did this with Moses as well. When God wanted the people to come and meet him, they told Moses to go and come back with what God said, and that is why the law was made. Because the people rejected relationship with God for someone to tell them what to do. We say these same things to our pastors, leaders, etc. “You go talk to God and come back and tell me what He says.” We avoid relationship with Jesus, and we place people on pedestals. Is there any person, pastor, author, leader, friend, etc. whom you have placed up higher than God? Someone whose opinion you value first and foremost, and are now realizing you do not even question alongside what God says?
Samuel, Samuel’s sons: Joel and Abijah, the elders of Israel, the Lord, the people
Verse 7 “And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.”
Exodus 16:8 “And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the Lord has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord.”
1 Samuel 10:19 “But today you have rejected your God, who saves you from all your calamities and your distresses, and you have said to him, ‘Set a king over us.’ Now therefore present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and by your thousands.””
I am appalled at these Israelites rejecting God, and knowing that with every return to God they did this again, even to now. It is upsetting, unsettling, and makes me grieve that they deny the Lord even now. Then I turn my eyes to the church and see that we have just made some of these same sins acceptable and okay by hiding them. We don’t make golden calves, but we do complain about food, and we do turn to people to solve things rather than God. As a body, we can easily make this mistake, and as individuals we do without even noticing at times.
I pray that we are convicted in any way that we are being kept from the fullness of the love and mercy and relationship with Jesus Christ that has been offered, so that we can come running back to him from whatever it is we have been turning to.
For the past few chapters I have mentioned idolatry, the cost of discipleship, and this conviction that I pray would fall on us. I think I should share some examples from my own life. The first example may hit close to home for some people reading, so I will preface it by saying this is my story, not that of others, while some of you may know the very situation, or think you know the situation since it is not the only time it has happened.
Many years ago, there was a pastor who made several decisions in leaving his role of pastor at his church which cut me deeply. The method in which he went about it, the words he spoke during the process, and his attitude after the fact upset and angered me. I found myself embittered and angry beyond his leaving the church and the church falling apart. At some point I realized that a church I do not attend, a man who no longer was at that church anyway, and my feelings were running my life. God should be running my life, and yet I had let a person, a building, and emotions fill that role. Obviously it was not his final actions that placed him in that position of king, it was my allowing it before that point. It was falling into the trap that pastors are more than mere men and cannot fall. It was my remaining blind to the fallenness of all man so that there could be someone I did not have to listen to with God. In a sermon, it is easy to just listen, decide it was all good, and go home. But God wants us to know Him so well that if a pastor says something that is not Biblical we are aware, we hear our Spirit whispering to us about the truth.
Another situation I have mentioned in the past is my tendency to place family in the position of king. I can think about them, plan for them, work for them, and never stop to talk to God about any of it, to spend time with God, or to consider God. This is an easy one to get away with as well, because it makes me look like a good mom. However, it leads to melt downs, confusion, loneliness, disappointment. Because they will fail me, and I have no God to fall back on when stuck in the rut of family worship rather than worshipping God. When I met Louis I thought he knew everything about everything, he was amazing, smart, talented, and dare I say I may have thought he was perfect? Guess what? He’s not. And every discovery of that could drive me into a marriage that would eventually be clothed in bitterness, anger, hurt, etc. or could lead me back to God as my true Love, the only one who will never disappoint me.
Third, in an American culture of independence and competition, it is deemed necessary to decide things for yourself, to make your own way in the world. This is also not placing God as king. I was a legalist, a perfectionist, and a smart kid growing up. I thought I had to earn God’s love, and that there were several steps one had to go through to ensure the relationship aspect once one was saved. This is, of course, malarky! At several points I became my own king, thinking I am the smartest one in the room, I am the most capable one in the room, I should be in charge of what is happening all around me. Ironically, this led to depression, lack of self-worth, loneliness, anger, and denial. Because I had to be perfect for myself, I could not accept the mistakes I made and would deny or lie about them. The unhealth from placing myself higher than God was spiritual as well as physical. Upon returning God to the throne where he belongs He could tell me the truths about myself that were both beautiful and ugly. By no longer hiding my mistakes, and recognizing my need for God I was able to face them and grow from them, and also to become empathetic to others through their struggles.
Jesus in the Old Testament
The first point in my Bible Notes on this chapter is something I did not think of because I actually had a day between my readings and did not think instantly of how chapter 7 ended. “Against the backdrop of chapter 7’s description of the Lord’s deliverance—recall “Till now the Lord has helped us” (7:12)—chapter 8 comes as a shock. “Appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations” (8:5) is the elders’ demand to Samuel. In actual time, this episode did not immediately follow the events of chapter 7—Samuel by now is “old” (8:1)—but in “narrative time” the immediate juxtaposition of the two chapters raises eyebrows.”*
The elders may think their reasons for wanting a king are justified: Samuel’s age and his terrible sons, “But these are not the real issues. Samuel hears their request for a “king to judge us” and, as Israel’s “judge,” feels personally affronted (v. 6). The actual offence, though, is much more serious. God tells Samuel, “they have rejected me from being king over them” (v. 7). Such is the tendency of the human heart, to seek safety and security in governments, bank accounts, human relationships, insurance policies, health plans—all kinds of things that can never ultimately deliver. True security can be found only in God and in his King, Jesus himself (cf. Mic. 5:4; Rom. 8:31-39). The gospel call is always to resist becoming conformed to worldly thinking and to be transformed in our thinking and living (Rom. 12:2) by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:5-6). “To set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6).”*
Micah 5:3-5a “But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace.”
Romans 8:31-39 “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:5-6 “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
Romans 12:1-2 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
*Note: I am using the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible for the Jesus in the Old Testament section, so these are paraphrases and quotes from the commentary with my own ideas sprinkled in.
Thank you for reading. I am excited to hear your key verses, observations, and thoughts! Please take a moment to leave a comment to share them with us.
Next Week: 1 Samuel 9:1-25
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