1 Samuel 8-12
(Give Us a King)
March 23rd

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

Click here for a print- friendly version

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,

And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.

- 1 Samuel 8:4-5 (KJV)

Summary of Chapters

This set of chapters introduces a section that focuses on the rise of Saul and recounts his term as the first king of Israel. The prelude to that story begins in chapter 8, where we discover that Samuel had appointed his sons, Joel and Abijah, to replace him as a spiritual and political leader. However, they did not follow Samuel’s ways, so the people rejected them (later in the Bible there will be another man named Joel who brings honor to the name as a worthy prophet). The people wanted someone with more authority then a judge, so they asked for a King.

Samuel warned the people of the downside of a king by describing what a king would do:

    1. Draft some of your sons into the army and make them run in front of the chariots
    2. Put other sons to work plowing fields, reaping the harvest or making his weapons
    3. Take your daughters to make them perfumers and cooks and bakers
    4. Take your best fields and 1/10th of your grain and wine
    5. Take your servants, donkeys, and cattle
    6. Take a tenth of your flock
    7. Make you his slaves

But the people had stars in their eyes because they wanted a king like the other nations, so they refused to listen to reason, and the LORD agreed to give them what they wanted.

Chapters 9 and 10 describe how God instructed Samuel to anoint Saul as the first king. God had created a situation in which Saul thought he was looking for lost donkeys, but the truth was that God was leading him to a meeting with Samuel for the anointing. Saul could not believe that he was chosen because he was from Benjamin, the smallest of tribes of Israel:

    “But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?”

    -1 Samuel 9:21 (NIV)

Samuel did not bother to debate, but carried on with a celebratory meal and anointing. Many people were excited about their first king, but others were initially not convinced that Saul was their best man.

Saul quickly proved himself to be a capable leader who is blessed with strength and wisdom from the Spirit, as described in chapter 11. He drafts an army of men to rescue the remote city of Jabesh from the Ammomites, a neighboring nation that was an erstwhile enemy. Subsequently, all the people had a better appreciation for God’s choice.

In chapter 12, Samuel gives a farewell speech and warns the people again about their mistake in asking for a King, but encourages them to continue to “ ‘Serve the LORD with all your heart’ (12:20 - NIV).” Samuel had passed the reins of political leadership but retained the role of a spiritual leader.

Reflection and Application

What was the biggest problem with the request from the people who wanted a king? The main problem is that they already had a king in heaven. An earthly king could be distracting and would become an object of worship and the definer of rules. In addition, he would be tempted to take advantage of the people to serve his own purposes. Are we guilty of making similar mistakes by seeking to worship earthly objects? We see that the first enumerated point in Samuel's list of warnings came true very quickly when Saul put together an army to protect Jabesh. Before long the people saw that of these projections would come true for the Israelites and may be true for us also as our objects of worship suck up our time and energy.

In contrast to an earthly king, God seeks to love, provide, and protect us. He is a giver not a taker. We should let God be our king – and should let nothing else replace him. Samuel tried to warn the people with wise advice, but they would not listen. We should remind ourselves to sincerely listen to good advice and heed warnings from the wise.

How did you like the scenario with the lost donkeys and the “coincidental” encounter with Samuel? Samuel gave an answer before Saul had a chance to explain what he was doing. How did he do that? The answer is that the LORD had prepped Samuel for this meeting and then tipped him off when Saul was approaching:

    The very day before, God had confided in Samuel, "This time tomorrow, I'm sending a man from the land of Benjamin to meet you. You're to anoint him as prince over my people Israel. He will free my people from Philistine oppression. Yes, I know all about their hard circumstances. I've heard their cries for help."

    The moment Samuel laid eyes on Saul, God said, "He's the one, the man I told you about. This is the one who will keep my people in check."

    -1 Samuel 9:15-17 (MSG)

The LORD orchestrated the scenario of the lost donkeys and the search by Saul so that he could set up this meeting. Is it possible that God does the same thing for us? God not only orchestrated the events but was giving stage directions to Samuel. Is it possible that he does this for us also?

If we are attuned to him, we may discern these instructions. I had a similar experience one day when God spoke to me out of the blue, while I was sitting on a subway train, on my way to meet a friend. Suddenly and unexpectedly he said to me, “Today is the day that you are going to talk to your friend about me.” Before I could respond or question he added, “And I will give you the words to say.” Sure enough, just as he guided Samuel that day long ago he also guided me while I shared a meal with my friend. Truly, God can use any of us to advance his purpose, regardless of our flaws and limitations - and perhaps because of our flaws. He may choose to do this today through you. Listen up.

"I Hear You Calling Me," performed by C3 Church

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. Have you ever been on a wild goose chase that turned out to have some unexpected benefit?
    2. What wise advice have you been given recently that you were tempted to dismiss?
    3. Whom does God want you to witness to this week?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know you can orchestrate whatever outcome you seek, but also give us free will to obey you or not. Thank you for sending your spirit to guide us. Help us to hear your word, understand it, and obey it. Use us today.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Someone who has lost an animal today

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: 1 Samuel 13-15 (Trouble in the King's Dominion)

    Comments and Questions
    If you have comments or questions, please add them to our Comments page, email to the author at ted@listeningforGod.org, or share your comments or questions via the Listening for God Twitter account

    Click to follow Listening for God(@listeningforgod)