1 Samuel 8 tells us when the Israelite’s asked for a good king it displeased Samuel and God.
God’s advised Samuel how to respond: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”Why? (NIV, v 7-9).
Rejecting God! Wow. That is a pretty serious diagnosis. They just asked for a good king. Why so harsh?
How could it be bad to want a good leader? They didn’t want a bad one! They just wanted a good one to lead them against the warring nations. That seems like something every nation, organization or family would want!!! ….A better leader.
I work in a department of leadership. We take thousands of dollars from individuals as they hope we can help them become better leaders in their homes, churches, schools, and nations.
Yes, they have big expectations. And at times I wonder how successful we are. And we are constantly looking for better ways to do our work. And I can’t speak for my colleagues but I constantly feel inadequate as leader and in helping them. TOTALLY INADEQUATE. I know first hand that our goal is outrageous.
But I have never believed it was evil goal. Paul even tells young Timothy to improve his leadership and reminds him that “Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task” (1 Timothy 3:1, NIV).
What does 1 Sam 8 have to teach us about leadership, rejecting God, and wanting a king to make our nations great again?
I found a partial answer to this issue when comparing three charts from my Andrews University Study Bible. One chart showed the period of the judges, and the enemies of each period as well the estimated time of oppression and peace.
Then it gave the kings in Judah and Israel and the good times (read good kings) and bad time (read bad kings).
I haven’t done a verse by verse analysis of these charts but I have summed up the tables. The calculations are clear. In 200 years of Israel, there was ONLY good king that was labeled Right and Evil. The rest were evil. Not Good.
Yes, Judah did better. They “lasted” about 350 years and had several kings who were right (four), some who were mixed right and evil (four), but the rest evil (12).
The period of the judges was over 400 years, with 111 years of oppression but 290 years of peace.
The bottom line analysis: they did better with a judges approach than a king approach.
Why? What made the difference. Judges ends with this announcement: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 21:25.
Most people use this passage to dismiss the loosey-goosey subjectivism where people make their own feeble judgment about issues and make crazy decisions with crazy times resulting.
But the craziness seems to come when we give up our private right of judgment and let a king or other leader tell us what is right and wrong instead of trying to figure out ourselves.
So, the kings was not the best choice, and the period of judges wasn’t the idea either. What was needed was something better.
I believe that is what Samuel and God was working on. Their plan—really it was Gods, and Samuel was its chief reformer–was to create a school system that was growing the LEADERSHIP of everyone.
Wanting a king wasn’t in the plan. What God wanted to create was distributed leadership across the whole kingdom.
This is what I see in reading between the lines about the role of the Schools of the Prophet (established by Samuel and returned to the kingdom during Elijah/Elisha’s time once the “king” disaster worked its way out of the peoples blood stream).
The request for a king suggested idolatry, a desire to go back to Egypt, to go back to a system with more flaws than perks. God knew this. That was why he was leading them to something better than looking for the next great leader. He, through Samuel, was leading them to a development of a culture of leadership.
Big difference. The former shirks responsibility, puts the mind in neutral, and creates “mindless” followers on one extreme or “rebellious” schisms on the other.
Better than getting a good leader in an organization, nation, God had a more effective plan. That plan was to develop each persons “JUDGEMENT” and then connect them in a COMMON SCHOOL.
This would have developed a nation of judges, instead of the stupid idea of a singular leader, however good that leader may be.
Do we still believe that system will work? I do.
Thats why, even as a very inadequate leader, I work in a department of LEADERSHIP, bringing the hope we all can develop to our full potential and thus strengthen the homes, churches, and organizations….and nations we serve.
“No leader sets out to be a leader. People set out to live their own lives, expressing themselves fully. When the expression is of value, they become leaders. So the point is not to become a leader. The point is to become yourself, to use yourself completely–all your skills, gifts, and energies–in order to make your vision manifest. You must withhold nothing. You must, in sum, become the person you started out to be, and to enjoy the process of becoming,”–Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader, expanded edition 2003, p. 104
We are in the business of the Schools of the Prophet. We develop people who will find this work of God in their minds and lives. Then as they pursue that, we will be a stronger nation… much better than Israel and Judah were. Even better than the times of judges.
I can see why that dreadful day recorded in 1 Samuel 8 was sooooooo bad!!!!!
Sorry God. Can you forgive us and heal us of that nasty “king thing” desire?