HAVING LEARNED TO hear and respond to God’s voice at an early age, Samuel grew to become a respected leader in Israel (read 1 Samuel).
He did his best to keep Israel’s heart close to God’s heart and was known for his integrity, honesty and fairness.
When Samuel became old, he appointed his two sons to be judges over Israel.
Unfortunately, his sons didn’t follow his ways or God’s ways. Instead, “they took bribes and perverted justice” (1 Samuel 8:3 ESV).
This concerned the elders in Israel, so they appealed to Samuel to do something different. Instead of being ruled by judges, they wanted him to appoint a king so they could be like all the other nations.
Samuel was bothered by their request because he knew that being like the other nations wasn’t a good idea. He knew it would better to be a distinct nation by following God, setting an example for other nations to follow and leading them, too, near to the heart of God.
Samuel prayed, and surprisingly, God told him to “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” (1 Samuel 8:7).
God also told him to warn the people of what a king would cost them.
Samuel was upfront with the people. He told them that if they chose an earthly king’s rule over God’s rule, it would cost them dearly.
The king would take their best — sons and daughters, male and female servants, and even their best donkeys — and put them to work for him.
“He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day” (8:17-18).
You would like to think that the people listened to their respected leader, but that’s not the case. They didn’t heed his advice; they insisted on a king — and they got one. His name was Saul.
We are introduced to him as tall and handsome, and the son of a rich man (9:1-2).
Guess what? It didn’t work out very well.
This theme often repeats itself in the Bible, and it continues today. When either individuals or nations trust themselves instead of trusting God, it’s only a matter of time before heartache, tragedy and chaos ensue.
I’m concerned for us as a nation. I see us drifting farther and farther from the heart of God in pursuit of our own way. Again, God is being rejected — and that isn’t good.
I marvel at God’s patience. He warns. He gives his best appeal. He offers a better way, the best way, the only way — but people still insist on their own way. It’s human nature.
But we don’t have to be bound by our own human nature insisting on our own human way. Jesus tells us that he is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) and repeatedly invites us to follow him (Matthew 9:9, Mark 1:7, Luke 9:23, John 21:19).
His invitation remains — for you, for me, for us.
Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Greg Reynolds is pastor of Joyce Bible Church. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.