Samuel is passing on some of
his responsibilities as he ages. Trouble is, his sons don’t share his devotion to the Lord. Israel doesn’t want their kind of leadership. They want a king like the other nations instead.
This day has been a long time coming. When God was giving Moses His Law He spoke of Israel wanting a king. He told Moses that the people would ask for one so they could be like their neighbors. And He told Moses to allow it! The people are now fulfilling the Lord’s prophecy, again.
Another reason this day was coming is found several times in Judges. It is the theme; “Israel had no king so every man did what was right in his own eyes.” This is mentioned four times in the last several chapters of Judges. When I went looking to identify the specific times I found it centered around two different people/events. The first was Micah and his hiring of a Levite which the tribe of Dan eventually took. The second was the Levite whose concubine was raped and abused all night long. BOTH these men were vile in my eyes but at the time there wasn’t anyone making or enforcing the Law. The last judge before these two stories was Samson and I have reservations as to what kind of judge he was. Law and order needed to be returned to the nation.
Samuel was doing an EXCELLENT job of bring the people back into line with the Lord’s Law but he couldn’t do the job indefinitely. He was passing it on to his sons. But his sons were in danger of bringing the people back to the mentality that concluded the book of Judges. They were corrupt! And they perverted justice. They sold it to the highest bidder.
I’m wondering why Samuel didn’t correct his sons. His failure to do so reminds me of Eli yet he wasn’t reprimanded by the Lord as Eli was. Their sin wasn’t a ‘one and done’ thing. It went on for years. At the very least it went on from a bit before Israel asked for a king and Samuel’s death. Did he not remove them from office because he didn’t have the strength to take back the additional load? Did he pray they would straighten up? Did he think Israel was getting what they deserved since they rejected God? Why did he let this sin continue in his own family?
Samuel KNEW that in demanding a king that Israel was rejecting God. He also felt the rejection personally. They were rejecting the leadership he set up. I would say they had good reason for their rejection of the leaders Samuel placed over them, for the reasons we just looked at.
But Israel’s rejection of God hurt Samuel even more. God had been faithful to His people, even when they weren’t. Yes, He had disciplined them through the hand of the nations around them. Yet, when they repented and returned to Him He ALWAYS took them back. He ALWAYS rescued them from their distress.
Samuel had the stories of old to reflect back on as well as his own experience to see God’s faithfulness. I have a feeling that those stories were a little ‘colored’ depending on who was telling them and for what purpose. If one wanted to highlight the wonders of God, the miracles were prominently featured. If one wanted to emphasize Israel’s failings, the punishments were recounted. Neither ‘story’ was complete without the other. A FULL accounting was necessary to see the pattern of behavior on both God and Israel’s part. God had that view.
He also had a perspective that Samuel didn’t; the future. God knew what it was going to take to complete His plan of salvation. He knew that His plan included Israel having a king and understanding what power that position wielded. Israel was going to get a first-hand learning experience that they wouldn’t soon forget. One that was not forced on them but given at their own request.
I find it interesting how God brought Israel right where He wanted them to go. No. A human king over Israel was no His ideal choice any more than removing Adam and Eve from the garden was. But it was the path this world had to travel to get to the place where He could truly offer us His salvation led through these hard spots. Without the corrupt judges Israel wouldn’t have asked for another way. Without the examples of the nations around them Israel wouldn’t have sought a king. Without the experience of a king Israel wouldn’t have been seeking that again in their Redeemer. Without the model of a king we wouldn’t recognize the authority the TRUE King will bring.
God led the world step by step to the place where He could finally reach us. His plan wouldn’t have worked without each of those steps. Imagine how different things would have been if God had inserted Jesus into humanity right after Eve first sinned. We wouldn’t have had the opportunity to truly appreciate who God is. Without experiencing the valleys we wouldn’t appreciate the mountaintops. And without the mountaintops we wouldn’t appreciate the work it takes to get there. We need both to fully appreciate and desire the reward God is holding out for us. After all, what is ‘Paradise’ if you have nothing to compare it to?
Father God, THANK YOU for both the mountains and valleys in my life. You have brought me to each of them to teach me something. NO. You did NOT create the depression that led me to my deepest lows. Nor did You cause me to sin. But You ALLOWED me to walk through all of these places of my own making for a reason. That reason is to recognize how far away from You I was at the time and to draw me closer. I would not be who I am or where I am without BOTH experiences.
Thank You for being there with me, no matter where we were at the time. Your faithfulness and love is what propelled me to keep moving. Knowing there was hope when in the valley. Knowing there was still more work to be done to reach even higher mountaintops when standing and enjoying the view. I wonder what my ‘Mt. Everest’ will look like. I have a feeling I haven’t even made it past the foothills yet! And THANK YOU that no matter how difficult the climb is, YOU are with me during it.