Meditations in 1 Samuel 18. We want change
1 Sam 8:1-5 When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges for Israel. The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. But his sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice. So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”
Reasons and excuses are not the same thing. Reasons are the “actually why we do things” while excuses are the reasons we make public but which, in fact, may not be the real, genuine reason why we do something. We say this by way of introduction as we come to observe what went on in Israel at this time in 1 Samuel, and we will see that some of the ‘reasons’ that are given for a course of action are in fact excuses. Let’s see what was going on.
Our verses tell us that time has passed and Samuel has grown old. He has sons and he unwisely appoints his sons to be judges over Israel. You can be a prophet and still not be wise sometimes! You can be a prophet and forget to go to God for wisdom. I say this because the record in the verses above tells us that “his sons did not walk in his ways.” That simply means they were not the godly people that Samuel was. But more than that, “They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.” i.e. they used their position to make money and were not too concerned about truth, honesty and integrity. Now those are the basic facts of the situation and which confront Israel at this time.
Now there are clearly elders of Israel and we find, “So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah.” (v.4) They have obviously discussed this and they have come to the conclusion that they need to go and talk with Samuel who is still seen as the most senior spiritual figure in Israel. “They said to him, “You are old.” Now that’s a bit in your face. I’m a bit touchy about that sort of thing. I may be older than Samuel was at that time (I’m not certain) and I confess I don’t like people saying that sort of thing in a derogatory sort of way. Hey, have a bit of respect for us old guys. We’ve been there and done stuff, you owe us a little respect at least!
But it may be that they are saying, “Look, Samuel, we recognize that you are getting on a bit and won’t always be with us, and so we’ve looked at what will happen when you go, and we’re not too happy about the possible future. Again, if it was like that, I’m a bit touchy about this sort of thing. We were with some good longstanding friends not long back and she nodding at me, said to my wife, “Will you be able to cope when he’s gone.” When he’s gone????? Come on, I’m good for a long time yet! Now I say it like that because it strikes me that actually they were not coming with a ‘beyond reproach attitude’ and I’ll explain why in a moment, which raises a question mark over all that is happening.
So they continue, “your sons do not walk in your ways.” The implication now is that when you’re gone these sons of yours aren’t going to do a good job looking after Israel. Now the tricky thing about all this is that it is all true. Samuel is old, he won’t last for ever and these sons of his aren’t doing a good job! So now we come to their conclusion: “now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” Wow! What is behind that? What are they saying? We want to be like everyone else, all the surrounding nations, we want to have a king at the top of the pile, a figurehead that people and other nations will respect, someone who will take responsibility for the nation – someone we can see!
Now do you see what we have seen so far. They come with good valid reasons why they should have a king. We’ve just been through them: Samuel is old, he may not be around much longer, and his sons aren’t good candidates to carry on in leadership of the nation. You can’t really fault that; it’s all true. But are those reasons or excuses? For the answer to that we need to see what God thinks about it.
So we next see that “this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD.” Good man! We don’t know if he was displeased because of personal feelings as I’ve expressed above or whether he sensed the reality of this. Anyway, he gets an answer: “the LORD told him: “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.” (v.7) THIS is the truth behind their request and they are using Samuel and his family as excuses. The Lord confirms this: “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.” (v.8) It’s the same old thing, self-centred godlessness, that we call Sin. We’ll look at how the Lord deals with this in the next meditation but for now just hold onto this distinction between excuses and reasons. We put up excuses as reasons to cover our lack of spirituality. “God is unfair so I’m not going to follow and obey Him.” Well, no, actually He’s not. Don’t make excuses that are not true. Your problem is your self-centred godless tendency, that Sin that resides in you that you have never confronted! Deal with the Sin by coming to the Cross and then everything else will fall into place. Enough!