Samuel, serving as Israel’s judge, was growing old and needed help with his responsibilities. He appointed his oldest two sons, Joel and Abijah, as assistants and they responded to this great honor by taking advantage of the people: “They were greedy for money. They accepted bribes and perverted justice” (I Samuel 8:3b, NLT).
So instead of asking Samuel to find some honest helpers, the people of Israel asked for a king “like all the other nations” (I Samuel 8:4b). And when Samuel consulted the Lord about this, He told him, “Do everything they say to you, for it is Me they are rejecting, not you” (I Samuel 8:7, NLT). How sad to think after all He’d done for them, they’d treat Him so shabbily. How sad to think how shabbily we sometimes treat the Lord after all He’s done for us!
Israel’s request, however, hadn’t taken the Lord by surprise. Long before, Jehovah had spoken to the people through Moses: “‘You are about to enter the land the Lord your God is giving you. When you take it over and settle there, you may think, ‘We should select a king to rule over us like the other nations around us.’ If this happens, be sure to select as king the man the Lord your God chooses’” ((Deuteronomy 17:14-15a).
The Lord knew that His people would at some point want a king “like the other nations.” The God who is More Than Enough knew that His own people would one day openly declare Him inadequate. And knowing this, instead of wiping them off the face of the earth – which I certainly would have if I’d been Him – He simply gave Moses specific stipulations about how a king was to conduct himself so that these instructions would already be in place:
“The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the Lord” (Deuteronomy 17:17a).
Well, how’d Israel fare on that one? First Kings 11:3 tells us that Solomon “had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines. And in fact, they did turn his heart away from the Lord.”
“And he must not accumulate large amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself’” (Deuteronomy 17:17b).
“Hezekiah received the Babylonian envoys and showed them everything in his treasure-houses – the silver, the gold, the spices, and the aromatic oils” (II Kings 20:13a).
Like saying “sic ‘em” to a dog, Hezekiah let Babylon know that Judah (Israel and Judah had split by this time) had treasures galore. Hezekiah had wanted to show off for his visitors and Isaiah let him know what a costly sin this had been: “The time is coming when everything in your palace – all the treasures stored up by your ancestors until now – will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord” (II Kings 20:17).
The Lord doesn’t give us His commands to keep us from enjoying life. On the contrary, He gives us His commands: (A) to keep us in His will so that He can bless us; and (B) to keep us from the consequences that sin sets in motion.
“God is not a cosmic killjoy. I know some people who believe He is. They think God runs around saying, ‘There’s one having fun; get him!’ They believe God wants to rain on everybody’s parade. But that isn’t so. God made you. He knows how you operate best. And He knows what makes you happy. The happiness He gives doesn’t stop when the party’s over. It lasts because it comes from deep within.” (John MacArthur)
Tomorrow we’ll look at the rest of God’s instructions for Israel’s kings.
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates