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1 Samuel 8:1-22

Lesson Focus

Israel demands a king to be like other nations, rejecting God as their true King, which leads to unforeseen consequences and serves as a warning to rely on God rather than earthly substitutes.


Lesson Outcomes

Through this lesson, students should:


  1. Understand the significance of Israel's request for a king and its implications on their relationship with God.

  2. Recognize the differences between God's covenantal promises and the earthly kingship Israel desires.

  3. Reflect on their own lives to identify and resist modern "kings" that can take the place of Jesus as their true King.


Catching up on the Story

Sometimes, we get what we want. Other times, we don’t. There are times and situations when we get what we want, but the consequences are nothing like what we expected. 


We tend to be rather short-sighted when it comes to our desires.  Most of the time, we believe that getting what we want will bring us happiness, fulfillment, and contentment.  That is, to a certain extent, the nature of desires to fulfill a perceived need.  Perceived is the operative word here.


As we move through the Story of God’s good creation, Israel has a perceived need.  Israel thinks she needs a king.  To this point in the story, from Abraham to the taking of the Promised Land, God has been Israel’s true king.  Or, at least, that has been the plan.  God has created for himself a people, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation through which God plans to bless the whole world, bringing about peace, reconciliation, and wholeness.  For their part, Israel has not lived up to expectations.  Several times already, God has almost destroyed Israel so that God could begin again with a new set of characters.  Israel’s continual testimony about God is that God is steadfastly loyal and loving.  God is faithful even to the unfaithful.  God will not start new with other people, even when Israel rejects God.  No, God is faithful. 


We Want a King!

If the story of the Judges teaches us anything, it is that Israel continually rejects God as their true King.  As Israel’s true King, God was a good and just King. God has freed Israel from slavery in Egypt so that she might serve him faithfully.  God has provided boundaries and rules for Israel to follow so that she might grow and prosper.  God has fought Israel’s battles for them so that she might be free from oppression.  As King of Israel, God has provided for all of Israel’s needs.  God has fed, clothed, and given Israel a land to live in and generations of children.  God, as true King in Israel, has abundantly given so that Israel might live.  But, Israel has a short memory, is stubborn to boot, and fails to believe that God, as the true King in Israel, has their best interests in mind.  If we remember the story so far, this is the same failure that leads Adam and Eve to believe the snake, taking and eating the forbidden fruit.   


Toward the end of the time of the Judges, Samuel is a prophet and judge of Israel.  Samuel is a true man of God.  He is faithful, dispensing God’s word to the people of Israel. He leads Israel well, but his time is drawing to a close.  He has two sons, to whom he turns the duties of Judges over Israel, Joel and Abijah, but they are not the same type of godly person Samuel is.  They care more for their personal gain than leading Israel toward obedience.  So, Israel's elders gathered with Samuel and asked for a king.  “Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, five and said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.” - 1 Samuel 8:4-5


Israel’s pattern of rejecting God as King continues as they approach Samuel to ask for an earthly king.  Israel is once again rejecting God as King, but this time, they are asking to be just like everyone else (I Samuel 8:5).  For a moment, Samuel is upset with the people because they desire a king.  But God reminds Samuel that Israel is actually rejecting God as the true and rightful king.  Somehow, Israel has forgotten how God has acted on their behalf in the past.  Somehow, Israel has forgotten the covenant that God made with them, a covenant to be their God, to provide them with a good and plentiful land filled with all of the necessary things needed to sustain life.  As we see in Deuteronomy 6.  “10 When the LORD your God has brought you into the land that he swore to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—a land with fine, large cities that you did not build, 11 houses filled with all sorts of goods that you did not fill, hewn cisterns that you did not hew, vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant—and when you have eaten your fill, 12 take care that you do not forget the LORD, who brought yo