When We Unwittingly Disagree With God…

Have you ever been so convinced that you are correct about something that you defend your belief about that thing or your way of doing things at all costs? Even though you see all the damage that is being done around you, it feels like you can’t stop because you are defending and standing for truth and righteousness. I’ve been there. I would absolutely destroy people and I loved doing it. Even if I was wrong about something, I would deconstruct my opponent’s argument, show its inconsistencies, and reveal how his presuppositions proved my own claim. I never remember actually changing anyone’s mind. Winning an argument never actually accomplished anything. No one came to any deeper understanding of things. We were immature children only concerned with proving that we believed what was correct and which way was the correct way to do things. The one who lost got angry, and the one who won got depressed because he (by he, I mean I) didn’t accomplish anything more than making someone else angry. Now I try to understand what I’m not knowledgable of and simply share what I learn and people still try to argue with me and get angry with me when I don’t argue. This world is a madhouse.

The time of the Judges is ending. Samuel has served as judge almost his entire life up to this point in the story. Samuel is aging and it is time for others to judge the nation. By this time, there is a certain way of doing things. Those things are about to change dramatically. After at least 235 years, there is about to be a paradigm shift in the land of Canaan. As we read this part of the story, I want to ask- How do we respond to change and to rejection that is beyond our control?

1 Samuel 8:1-9

And it came about when Samuel was old that he appointed his sons judges over Israel. Now the name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judging in Beersheba. His sons, however, did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice.

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah; and they said to him, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.”

But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord.

The Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day—in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also. Now then, listen to their voice; however, you shall solemnly warn them and tell them of the procedure of the king who will reign over them.”

Samuel’s sons (v. 1-3)

And it came about when Samuel was old that he appointed his sons judges over Israel. Now the name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judging in Beersheba. His sons, however, did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice.

In Deuteronomy 16:18-20, God instructed the Israelites on how they were to govern themselves once they entered the land of Canaan and posses it:

“You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your towns which the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”

The Israelites were appoint judges and officers in all of their towns. The Israelites failed to do this and, through the book of Judges and the first seven chapters of 1 Samuel, we see the people committing idolatry and living according to their own wills and ways. God would hand the people over to their unrighteousness through their breaking of His Law. After bringing His people to repentance, God Himself would appoint a judge to bring justice to the land. The people fell short of God’s glory and proved to be insufficient to accomplish the things of God, but God was (and is) sufficient and powerful to accomplish His own work.

We remember that Samuel is the final judge. At this point, Samuel has, according to the Law, appointed other judges. These other judges were His sons, Joel and Abijah. Joel and Abijah abused their role as judges in the land. They were not only being terrible human beings but were also directly breaking God’s Law for the judges in Deuteronomy. Before the time of the Judges, God instructed through Moses that the Judges were not to distort justice or take bribes. Joel and Abijah took bribes and perverted justice. According to God’s word in Deuteronomy, at least 20 years before the time of the Judges began and at least 175 years before this part of the story, Samuel’s sons were to be seen as blind and perverters of the words of righteousness (God’s Law).

This means that dishonest gain, in any manner, is a key identifier of false teachers in our day. If anyone is tailoring any message in order to increase his or her following, to make more money, to gain a certain reputation, or to gain in some other way for him or herself; Scripture identifies him or her as one who is blind and perverts the words of righteousness. We live in an age, and every age has been this way, which we need our teachers and preachers to be sincere in their faith and interested in proclaiming the words of righteousness without perverting it. We cannot be blinded by the success syndrome in ministry or in any other arena of life. Self-centered living blinds us, not only preachers and teachers, but every person. This is the very truth the Law was given to reveal. It is why we need a savior. We are all unrighteous. We have fallen short of God’s glory.

The request for a king (v. 4-6)

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah; and they said to him, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.”

This request does not surprise God. In fact, at least 175 years God instructed the people on what to do when the appointed time came for the Judges to fail. As early as Deuteronomy 17:14-15, we learn that God had appointed there to be a time when the judges would no longer judge the people:

“When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,’ you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman.”

God had decreed beforehand that Israel would have a king. It was His plan all along. As we have seen in 1 Samuel, God has been providentially working things together in order to bring about His own plan and accomplish His own will. When the elders of Israel come to Samuel at Samuel’s home in Ramah, they are making a request that is God’s plan according to God’s own decree in God’s own written word. Following the failure of the judges, there would be a king. Through this king, God would establish His own throne within His creation.

When you hear any preacher or teacher claim that this was not God’s plan and that people were dishonoring God by making this request, do not believe him or her. God’s word tells us that this was, indeed, God’s plan and that the people would ask, according to the Law, to have a king like the other nations. If we believe, for whatever reason, that this was not God’s plan or that the people’s request to have a king like other nations somehow dishonored God, we are going to have much trouble explaining why God instructed beforehand that the people should do this and why God, himself, appoints a king.

But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord.

Notice the wording, here. God is not the one who is displeased. Samuel is. How often are we displeased with the things we see in the world, with sin, with the way that other people do things or don’t, with leadership and politics, and change? How do we know that God isn’t working all things together according to His own will and plan? 

Rejecting God as king (v. 7-11)

The Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day—in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also.

Let’s take these verses in slowly and marinate in what God is saying to Samuel. He instructs Samuel to listen to the elders. It seems, here, that the elders are representing the whole of Israel before Samuel. Then, God reveals that the people have not rejected Samuel but have rejected Him from being king over them. This is often taught in such a way that the request of a king like the other nations is the request by which the people have rejected God as king. We have already discovered, in this text and in Deuteronomy, that this cannot be the case. We see how people can easily misunderstand and misinterpret this text. God explains what He means in the following sentence. It is the idolatry of the nation by which the people have rejected God as their king from the time of the Exodus up to this part of the story. They have forsaken God and served other gods. Their worship is misplaced. Their rejection of the Judges and particularly Samuel, as foretold in Deuteronomy 16-17, is the physical picture, the living parable, of their rejection of God as king.

This means that the king is being given not merely to prepare Christ’s throne within His creation but also as a living parable of humanity’s rebellion against God according to her own nature. The king will be the picture of God’s authority until the perfect revelation of God is made in Jesus Christ, the Messiah (c.f. Hebrews 1:3). Jesus is the eternal prophet, priest, and king. His place within His own creation is being prepared through the nation of Israel (c.f. Genesis 3, 15, Deuteronomy 7:7-8, 31:26, 32:43).

When we ask for a king, we prove that we have rejected God as king. Some kings that we ask for today include the king of social justice, attractional ministry, personalities or celebrity leaders, fame, recognition, and self-glory. The truth is that God is all-sufficient. In His providence, He hands us over to our unrighteousness, shows us that by our nature we have rejected Him, and causes salvation to fall upon His people by grace. This is the understanding and the interpretation of the Old Testament text by the writers of the New Testament. In his broad commentary on the Old Testament, Paul writes,

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. 

Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them (Romans 1:18-32).

God’s wrath is revealed against all of the unrighteousness of people. This is done as God hands people over to their own desires and lusts. Later in his commentary, Paul writes,

The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:20-21).

God gave the Law so that people would be handed over to their desires and lusts. Where sin increases, where God is rejected as king, grace abounds all the more. It is our recognition of our own sin that causes us to be saved in Christ and receive eternal life through His righteousness alone. When we only try to justify ourselves or refuse to recognize sin, we only prove that we are not recipients of God’s amazing, saving grace.

When people reject us or reject the true church or godly leadership, we know that this, too, is a living parable, a physical picture, of humanity’s rejection of God as king. I sympathize with Samuel, here. I have been rejected more times than I can count by people all over the world in many different ways. When we are rejected by anyone, we understand that physical rejection is something provided by God to help us understand humanity’s unrighteous nature and her rejection of God as king. Our hope is that people will recognize that they have rejected God as king, hear God’s testimony given in His Bible, and come to repentance by the saving grace of God.

Now then, listen to their voice; however, you shall solemnly warn them and tell them of the procedure of the king who will reign over them.”

This procedure is found in the next part of Deuteronomy (17:16-20) and Samuel will tell Israel that their king will do exactly the opposite of the instructions found in the Law. 

Samuel’s sons were corrupt like the sons of Eli before him. So, the elders of Israel asked for a king, and the notion was displeasing to Samuel. God instructed Samuel to listen to the people. God’s will was to promote a king over Israel because Israel had rejected Him. This was the same reason He had given the prophets and the priests. 

The new thing was displeasing to Samuel. Yet, Samuel overcame his pride and followed the instruction of the Lord. 

We often think that things ought to be different from the way God is working them out to be. Whether we have a moral opinion, are holding tradition dear, or are worshipping our own theological understandings, there are many things that can cause us to disagree with God and be convinced that we are correct. Samuel swallowed his pride. By God’s mercy and grace, we can too. Like Samuel, let our desire be to seek to honor God and not self. Let us continue to seek understanding and not confirmation. Let us always learn from our Lord, falling evermore in love with His words.

Advertisements

One comment

  • Thank you, thank you and may our Father continue to bless your ministry.
    It is our peace to know that God in Christ forgives us of our sins.
    How we love Jesus.
    Praying daily for you, your family and the Church,
    Albert

Leave a Reply