INTRODUCTION TO MAY LESSONS
William Shakespeare wrote, “What’s past is prologue.” We often must look backward to move forward. This month, students will learn from Israel’s past about the people’s desire for a king, what happens when that king goes AWOL, the need for a new king, and the establishment of his throne in Jerusalem.
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Unit: History of Israel (1 Samuel & 1 Chronicles)
Theme: A New King
Lesson Text: 1 Samuel 8:4-22
Supplemental Texts: Deuteronomy 17:14-20; 1 Samuel 12:12-25
Aim: Seek God’s plan rather than man’s.
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Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the Study by Mark Scott, Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions by Michael C. Mack): LOOKOUT_May2_2021
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By Mark Scott
Sometimes people can’t differentiate what they want from what they really want. In our Lord’s parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16), the workers hired early in the day got what they wanted (a full day’s pay for a full day’s work). But what they really wanted was more wages than other workers (20:11-15). The nation of Israel was similar. The Israelite elders said they wanted a king so they could be like all the other nations (a phrase that appears twice in the text). But they really wanted Yahweh not to be their king anymore.
The prophet Samuel was the bridge between the time of the judges and the time of the kings. The era of judges was characterized by anarchy (Judges 2:16-23; 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). In part, this anarchy continued during the era of kings due to the enemy known as the Philistines. But Israel had its best political days during the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon.
Rejecting the King
1 Samuel 8:4-9
Samuel was a devout and holy leader. Unfortunately his sons, Joel and Abijah, did not follow their father’s lead (1 Samuel 8:1-3). So as not to tailspin back into the time of the judges, the elders of Israel came to Samuel at Ramah (a town five miles from Jerusalem) and asked him to appoint (set, make, or place) a king . . . such as all the other nations have. The people wanted someone to lead (a word occurring three times in our text and meaning “to judge”) them.
Samuel was displeased (a form of the word for “evil”) with this request because he knew it constituted a rejection of Yahweh as their king. He did what godly leaders do. He took it to the Lord in prayer. Perhaps he was shocked when the Lord told him to listen (a word God uses three times in our text and is the word shama—i.e., hear) to the people.
God acknowledged the people’s rejection and told Samuel it was a long-established pattern. In fact, their rebellion had followed them out of Egypt. They forsook (abandoned or loosed) God and served other gods. Samuel was to grant the people’s request, but he was to warn them solemnly and make sure they knew there was a price to pay for having a king other than God.
Accepting a King
1 Samuel 8:10-22
Samuel painted an honest and bleak picture of what any king other than Yahweh would do. Human kings seem obsessed with their rights (a word that occurs twice in our text) and inflated egos. Samuel warned against kings drafting men to be his soldiers (v. 12), enlisting people to be his servants (vv. 12-14), and taxing the people heavily (vv. 15-17). In the end, their desire for a king would turn into enslavement. It would not take long for the first warning to come to fruition (1 Samuel 14:52). The very first king of Israel (Saul) drafted strong and valiant men.
Samuel warned the people that their desire for a king would soon turn to crying for relief from his heavy-handed ways. God made Israel an ugly promise. When the people cried out following their kingly oppression, the Lord would not answer them. Does God at times elect not to answer prayers? Evidently, especially when our motives are not as they should be (James 4:1-4a).
The people dug in their heels. They refused to listen to Samuel. They wanted a king in order to be like other nations; they wanted a king to judge them and to fight the Philistines. Even though Samuel represented the people’s stubbornness to the Lord in prayer, the deal was done. God allowed Samuel to give them a king (outlined in the next chapter). Then Samuel—no doubt with a downcast spirit—sent everyone back to their respective homes.
The supplemental texts help us with this lesson. Previous to this moment in Israel’s history, Moses taught in the law what kings should and should not do (Deuteronomy 17:14-20). Kings should recognize that their authority comes from God (Daniel 2 and 4; John 19:11; Romans 13:1), they should avoid wives who would compromise their husband’s faith (1 Kings 11:1-4), they were not to give themselves to excessive money as Solomon did (1 Kings 10:14-22), and most importantly, they were to write out the law and read it all the days of their lives. Samuel’s heart was heavy, but in his farewell speech, he told the people he would not sin against the Lord by not praying for them (1 Samuel 12:12-25).
Dr. Mark Scott, longtime professor of New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri, will conclude his full-time service with the school at the end of May. He has served as minister with Park Plaza Christian Church in Joplin since late last year.