The situation is like this: Samuel is now old and sadly his sons are rebellious and do not follow in his ways. Unfortunately it appears that it took the people to point this out to Samuel, as there is no mention of their behaviour previously. It presented a problem to the people as they were not sure what would happen when Samuel died, perhaps they were selfishly thinking, "what's going to happen to us? Who is going to judge us then?"
Quite wrongly they make their request - "make us a king to judge us like all the nations" 1 Sam 8:5
After all they had experienced, after all the history of divine blessing, guidance and provision they no longer want God to rule over them.It seems that they no longer appreciated that they were different and distinct from the nations. They seem to have forgotten that God singled them out for blessing and separated them to himself: "for thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth" Deut 14:2
Let us be clear that this is exactly what they were insinuating, for the request displeased Samuel, and God made it clear to him that "they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them" 1 Sam 8:7
Remember that the people had tried this once before, in the book of Judges chapter 8 the people approach Gideon - "rule thou over us... for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian" and we recall the wise and magnanimous response of Gideon, which is useful to remember here - "I will not rule over you... the Lord shall rule over you"
Of course, we know what happened, God gave them what they wanted and so began a line of kings marked largely by failure, weakness and wickedness. Even the best of the kings failed at some point, as they were only sinful men at the end of the day, just like us! The kings basically teach us that man is a poor substitute for God, and as the Psalms say - "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man"
I am sure most of us will understand that one day there will be a perfect king who will reign in righteousness, the king of kings and Lord of Lords, our blessed Lord Jesus Christ! Isaiah 32:1 and Psalm 24 would make this clear to us.
Going back to our account in 1 Samuel 8 though, we would apply the broad lesson to ourselves today and ask ourselves the following searching questions:
- Do we honour men more than we honour God?
- Do we value and respect the thoughts and opinions of men more than the truth of the Word of God?
- Do we prefer to identify ourselves with fellow-men or with God?
- Do we appreciate the fact that we ourselves are distinct and different from the world, that we are sanctified positionally and separated unto God?