1 Samuel 8:19-20
Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, No; but we will have a king over us;…
If we were asked what is the prevailing feeling which the study of this history is calculated to produce, we should answer in one word — disappointment.
I. The request of the Israelites brings before us a melancholy view of the PROGRESS OF DEGENERACY IN A COMMUNITY. It requires no effort to perceive in this desire of the Israelites the renewed manifestation of the discontented and rebellious disposition which prevailed in the camp at the Red Sea, and on subsequent occasions in the wilderness; but now it was marked by a greater fixedness of criminal resolve and of God-dishonouring purpose. It was the sin of the fathers living over again, but with greater intensity, in the persons of the children. This view of the case is, in a high degree, admonitory. None of us, perhaps, think enough of the connection between ourselves and the future. Each age exerts a very considerable influence on that which succeeds it, and the men of any particular age are responsible to God in a very large and affecting measure for the characteristics of the period which may come after them The degeneracy of communities is after all the degeneracy of individuals; and he who makes the effort to prevent in the conduct of a single individual the continuance of sin — who attempts in the case of a single individual to raise the tone of morals, does so far provide a better State of things for the age that shall come after him. If looking at the clamorous assembly which the narrative brings before us as now surrounding Samuel and asking a change in the form of government, we inquire whence learnt they those low thoughts of God which led them so much to dishonour Him as to wish to put Him aside in order to make room for an earthly ruler? the only proper and correct reply would be, "From those who went before them." We live for a future age, and virtually we have the character of that age in our hands, whether as it concerns the nation, the church, or the family
II. The scene brought before us by this demand of Israel for a king, teaches us the PERILOUSNESS OF ALLOWING OUR THOUGHTS TO RUN IN AN IMPROPER DIRECTION AND OUR WISHES TO CENTRE UPON A WRONG OBJECT. And this for a reason which is very distinctly conveyed to us in the tenour of the narrative — the absorbing effect of one wrong thought, and its consequent power to throw into oblivion all those counteracting thoughts and objects which from any other source might be suggested. Trace the progress of this one wrong desire, in Israel, of having a king. Was there nothing to be said on the other side? Rather we might ask, Is it not exceedingly easy to conceive of the counteracting effect which at the first stage might have been presented to such a wish by a recollection of their actual privileges at the moment? There is a matchless sublimity — the sublimity of condescension and graciousness — about the very idea of a theocracy. But if its sublimity did not appeal to their moral sense, its peculiar advantageousness might have appealed to their self-regard. The God-honouring wish grew stronger and stronger. At least, however, it might have been expected that they would be moved by a vivid delineation of the unwelcome consequences which God declared would attend on the new arrangement. Yet, after all, this is but a picture of real life, applicable to every age. It contains a faithful warning. It says — "Beware of the first wrong desire, give it no encouragement. Beware of the first misdirection of thought. Be sure you are right at first in your plans and purposes, because afterwards, by reason of the very force with which wrong thoughts indulged exclude all suggestions to the contrary, it may be too late to alter." To the young it especially says — "In the purposes you cherish, the plans you propose, the changes you contemplate, the objects on which you allow your affections to rest, beware of a mistake at the first."
III. It is of importance that we should carefully study THE ESSENTIAL EVIL OF THE MOTIVE WHICH HERE OPERATED IN THE MINDS OF THE HEBREW NATION. That motive was — that they might be like other people. And if in a thoughtful mood we take a survey of the causes which have wrought to produce moral desolation in communities from that day until the present, there will appear none whose operation has proved more widely mischievous, more intensely active to harm than this — a desire to be like others. Many a time has that young man left the house of God full of conviction, and ready to resolve that, whatever others did, he would serve the Lord. But he turned to take another look at the world, and the thought came along with the look, float much of his worldly interest depended upon the friendship of those around him, and that if he expected them to be his friends, his opinions and his habits must not be opposed to theirs. He gave in to the principle of being like them; and, having resembled them in time, his lot now throughout eternity resembles theirs too. Alas! the wreck of souls which this principle involves! and, we must, add, the wreck of earthly comfort, too.
(J. A. Miller.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;