Welcome in the name of our Lord, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, by Whom all things have been created and by whose Word they are upheld and maintained. I also bring you warm greetings from those at our home church in
. We gather here to worship Him and hear His Word that we might respond with faith at the hearing of it, and with obedience consistent with that same faith. Moscow
Father in heaven, we thank You that You have not forsaken us and left us entirely to our own understanding and devices, but have spoken clearly through Your Words of declaration in the Scriptures, and more particularly through the life, death, and resurrection of Your only Son, Jesus. Cause us here today, by the power of Your Spirit, to hear, know, believe, and obey that which You have commanded and given to us, washing, nourishing, and granting us strength by that Word, and by that Spirit, for we ask it in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Today I have a fairly lengthy text to present to you, the 8th chapter of I Samuel, so I ask you to bear with me, and give particular attention to this portion of the Word of God.
1Sa 8:1 And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over
1Sa 8:2 Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: they were judges in
1Sa 8:3 And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment.
1Sa 8:4 Then all the elders of
gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, Israel
1Sa 8:5 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.
1Sa 8:6 But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD.
1Sa 8:7 And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
1Sa 8:8 According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.
1Sa 8:9 Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.
1Sa And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king.
1Sa And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.
1Sa 8:12 And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.
1Sa And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.
1Sa And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.
1Sa And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.
1Sa And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.
1Sa He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.
1Sa And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.
1Sa Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;
1Sa That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.
1Sa And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the LORD.
1Sa And the LORD said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of
, Go ye every man unto his city. Israel
It has become fashionable in our modern times to consider that the Bible is a “religious” book, which is to maintain that it only speaks to “religious” and/or “spiritual” issues. This attitude therefore attempts to relegate the content of scripture to the ethereal, never to touch down on earth in any authoritative or meaningful manner. However, this is simply not the case. The Bible addresses every significant aspect of life, and is far from the Gnostic premises of exclusive “other worldliness”.
As a consequence of this contemporary Gnosticism, many wish to maintain that the Word of God has nothing to do with, or say anything about, the whole area of politics. Many wish to maintain that “religious” concerns are over here (on one side) and political matters are way over here (on the far opposite side). Nothing could be farther from the truth. Every system of politics rests on an inherently religious basis regardless of protestations to the contrary. Therefore, competing political systems should be understood as representing competing religious systems. This is inescapable.
To simplify this concept, we should be reminded of the fact that whatever a man sows in his garden, or society, is exactly what he should expect to reap. You do not reap grapes from star thistle seeds, no matter how hard you may try.
In our text today we have the biblical definition of tyranny as delivered by the prophet Samuel to the children of
. We would do well to note that this was a revolution against the governmental system that had been ordained for this people, recorded in the books of Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Leviticus. As pastor Samuel Langdon rightly noted in a sermon in May of 1775: Israel
“The Jewish government, according to the original constitution which was divinely established, if considered merely in a civil view, was a perfect republic. The heads of their tribes, and elders of their cities, were their counselors and judges…. Counselors and judges comprehend all the powers of that government, for there was no such thing as legislative authority belonging to it, their complete code of laws being given immediately from God by the hand of Moses.”
This is what the Jewish nation was rejecting, and fomenting a complete replacement of.
I want to draw your attention to a number of the important statements in the scriptural text itself.
First, the substitutional system they were demanding would be characterized overwhelmingly by “taking”. Their new “change” would implement a government that would require (and allow) the following.
1. The taking of their sons for the use of the king. This would be, in effect, a form of conscription for the personal benefit of the king as well as providing for the manufacture of the weapons of war and a standing army. “He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.” (vs. 11-12) This was something unheard of in their previous estate. Previously, they had relied on what we would call “militia”.
2. The taking of their daughters to be impressed as servants for the king’s table and pageantry. “And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.” (vs.13) This sort of thing was antithetical to a variety of prohibitions against forced servitude declared in the Laws of God.
3. The notion of private property would be abolished. “And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.“ (vs. 14)
4. The new system would include the redistribution of wealth from those who were the producers to the king and to those whom found the particular favor of the king. This would establish a politically privileged class. “And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.” (vs. 14-16)
5. A new system of taxation to support the new apparatus would be established to maintain all of this, and would arrogate the status of the new state to that of ‘godhood’ by demanding at least parity with the true God by taking 10% (or more) in taxes to be levied on the people. “And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants… He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.” (vs. 15, 17) Remember that the tithe that God requires of His people is 10%.
6. Basic personal freedoms would be all but abolished. There would be the termination of any form of basic self determination. Arbitrary abridgements of these rights would become the norm. “He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.“ (vs. 17 and others) What do we call a system in which your property, wealth, children, indeed your very life, are all subject to such arbitrary power that assumes authority over all of these? Slavery.
7. The new government would include a revision of their system of judicial review, and likely a revision of their judicial code. “That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us…” (vs. 20)
Not a very pretty picture is it? Do you think we could find any parallels today in the modern world? How about in our nation? How about in our counties? Maybe in our towns and cities?
So where did this impulse come from? The text itself answers this question.
The first thing that we should note is that there was a generational discontinuity between Samuel and his sons. His sons did not follow faithfully in the footsteps of their father and had perverted and corrupted the system of justice that was in force. This was not a failure of the system, but rather was a moral failure in Samuel’s sons and their contemporaries. Nonetheless, the people cited this as one favorable point in arguing for their revolution.
Secondly, it appears that the people of
were impressed by the governmental systems of the pagans that surrounded them. These are what they pointed to as the ‘new’ paradigm which they wanted to follow. They wanted to be just “like them”. Perhaps they believed that these alternate systems were “cool” or “progressive”. They certainly were novel compared to the system that God had given to them. Israel
Third, and most significantly, this was a consequence of their defection from faith in the Lord Himself. Samuel was told by God not to take this too personally, as he was merely a representative, a stand in, for the Lord. The people really didn’t want to serve God any more, and had already (at that time), rejected Him as their King. They wanted a substitute who would be more like them. Never mind all of the privileges and benefits they had received from God. They already had a history of being resistant and stiff-necked in relationship to the Lord and to the covenant which He had ordained for them, and this revolution was the fruit of their lack of repentance.
Fourth, this would be a formulation of what we now call the ‘nanny’ state. Note that they were not only desiring a ruler to make a public show, but one that would take care of them by fighting their battles for them (as particularly stated), and it is implied that they expected to be well taken care of in other ways. Thus, this was a creation of a god-state to replace the true and living God.
Verse 18 anticipates the future of this agenda. It predicts a time in which the people would wake up to the magnitude of this error and realize that this mistake had cost them far more than they had anticipated or imagined. Why, they would even be driven to cry out to God for deliverance! They are forewarned of the consequences. God warns them that He would not listen to them in that day just as they had refused to hear Him and his prophet. This is not a declaration or a threat of absolute abandonment, as subsequent history demonstrates, but certainly an indication that God would be in no hurry to respond to their despondency. This is a history lesson we should be prepared to pay acute attention to.
We also should be asking ourselves questions about the causal nature of our present miseries. Could it be that we, like the Israelites of old, have forsaken the living God, and traded His benefits (both temporal and eternal) in for an unfaithful and unfruitful pagan model? If so, what should we expect? Do we have a basis to believe that we deserve anything different than those of whom we learn of in this text? If this is the case, if we have forsaken the Lord and His ways, we should diligently, faithfully, and sincerely confess our sins to our Lord and King, repent of our infidelity, and hope in His great mercies. We do not know whether it is too late. I don’t believe it is, and I hope that it is not. But we must respond in a way that pleases God, and not ourselves.
May we find grace in the sight of the Lord.
This is a prayer written by David, while he was hiding in a cave, on the run from Saul, the first king (and tyrant) after the revolt we have just considered.
I cried unto the Lord with my voice; with my voice unto the Lord did I make my supplication. I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path. In the way wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me. I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul. I cried unto thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living. Attend unto my cry; for I am brought very low; deliver me from my persecutors; for they are stronger than I. Bring my soul out of prison that I may praise thy name: the righteous shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal bountifully with me.