A beloved but barren wife fervently prays for a son. Her lips move, but no sound is heard.
A curious priest watches, mistaking her behavior for drunkenness. She defends herself against his accusations and explains her vexation. The priest sends her on her way, assuring her that God will give her a son.
Hannah gives birth to Samuel and brings him to Eli the priest once he is weaned. She tells Eli who she is, and of her desire for Samuel to be given to the Lord under his charge. Samuel grew up ministering to the Lord, and all Israel knew he was established as a prophet. He judged Israel all the days of his life.
When he was old, he made his sons judges, but they did not walk in his ways. The elders of Israel gathered and pointed out to Samuel the wickedness of his sons. And then they made a request: “Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Sam. 8:5). Samuel obviously felt rejected by the elders, but God clarified that they had not rejected Samuel “but they have rejected me from being king over them” (1 Sam. 8:7).
God told Samuel to give the people what they wanted, but to remind them what they were asking for.
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR
Samuel warned them of the ways of the kings of the nations they wanted so badly to be like. They would bring about harsh living conditions. They would take from the people and create heavy financial burdens. They would enslave the people. And when the oppressed and miserable Israelites cried out to God for help, he would not answer.
“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’” (1 Sam. 8:19-20). When Samuel told God the people’s words, God instructed Samuel to give them what they wanted; to give them a king other than himself.
Samuel’s life began with God giving a fervently praying woman what she wanted. She in turn gave her most beloved gift back to the Lord. Samuel’s life ends with God again giving people what they wanted. But the result is very different, for their wants were not of the Lord. They wanted a king—just not King Jesus.
All the other nations had earthly kings. Suddenly their heavenly king seemed too little, too different. They weren’t opposed to the idea of a king, they just wanted to be in control of the conversation. They wanted to dictate the terms of their surrender. They wanted a king they could control.
God warned them of the consequences of getting what they wanted, but they refused to heed his warnings. They stubbornly demanded their own way. They were deceived, just like Eve in the garden. God warned her against eating the fruit of one tree, but under the serpent’s influence, she saw that it was good and delightful (Gen. 3:6). She bit into the fruit expecting divinity, but instead swallowed down the disappointment of deceit.
SURROUNDED BY KINGS
Our stubbornness to have our own way, to submit to the kings of our own choosing, always ends poorly. We’re surrounded by kings: kings of culture, kings of influence, kings of pleasure, kings of leisure, kings of success. And without the intervening grace of God, we’re no different than the people in Samuel’s day. Our hearts would be ripe with rejection of Christ.
He turns our hearts towards him. Our new affections come with new desires. We want better. We don’t want just any king, we want the King of kings! We don’t settle for conformity when we’re called to peculiarity. We don’t delight in the ways of the world, we delight in our God. Our stubbornness isn’t aimed against God, but towards a passionate pursuit of him and his ways.
Others say, “Give us a king.” We cry, “Give us King Jesus!”
Others declare, “Any king will do, so long as we can control him.”
Our rally cry is for Christ and his kingdom. He alone is worthy of our allegiance. Only he can be trusted with our submission.
Christ’s church is not interested in serving earthly kings or in building lesser kingdoms. We’ve tasted and seen that the Lord is good. We want more. We want better.
The Lord may give us what we ask for, so ask well, church. Ask for true treasure. Make this your rally cry: “Give us King Jesus!”
Christy Britton is a wife and mom to four boys. She writes Bible study curriculum for Docent Research Group and serves as the Discipleship Classes Coordinator for Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, N.C. She is an orphan advocate with 127 Worldwide and contributes administratively to bring pastor training opportunities to Africa for Acts 29. You can follow her on Twitter.