1 Samuel 8:4-20
Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel to Ramah,…
As a matter of public notoriety, Samuel's sons were not like Samuel himself in their moral tone and in their moral example. This brings before us a sad and humiliating fact — that the children of great men and of good men are not always worthy of their parentage. There are men who can speak to a thousand hearers, who are utterly weak and powerless when they come into the details of common life and have to teach a single child at home, and show the light of God upon the private paths of life. Consequently, their own garden wall is broken down, their own little flower bed at home is all weed grown, whilst they are busy with the great public fields and the great vineyards of the world.
1. This brings before us the equally remarkable fact that grace is not hereditary. When we see a good man we expect his children to be like himself. But grace does not descend in the family line. The father may be an apostle, the son may be a blasphemer. There are circumstances, no doubt, in which at the very moment that the father has been preaching the gospel, his own son, whom he loved as his life, has been fulfilling some profane engagement, has been blaspheming the name of the God of his fathers! The elders of Israel had a case. They were concerned for the nation; they saw the two sons of Samuel going astray from their father's paths; they came to the man when he was old, and told him about the apostasy of his sons. They said, "Make us a king to judge us like all the nations." If ever men apparently had a simple, straightforward, common sense case, the elders of Israel had such a case. Samuel heard this statement, and the thing displeased him. No man likes to see his whole life disregarded, and his power thrown away ruthlessly. After all, there is a good deal of human nature and common sense in the old man's view of the changes which are proposed to him. He started from a given point; he has worked along a certain line; a man cannot disinherit and dispossess himself of all his own learning, culture, traditions, and associations, and go back again or go forward into the infancy of new and startling movements. It would be well if men could learn this more profoundly. Young Englandism and young Americanism must be very distasteful to old Samuels, high priests, and venerable prophets. We shall show our strength by showing our moderation; we shall be most mighty when we are most yielding! Samuel told the Lord about it. This is very startling to those who live at a far distance from God. These old men seem always to have been living, as it were, next door to him, and had but to whisper and they were heard. It is a kind of breathing process, it is ready, spontaneous as love. Samuel turned towards the elders of Israel, heard their story, then turned his face about and told God concerning the whole thing. It is a wonderful kind of life — God always so nigh at hand.
2. Samuel saw the outside of the case. Samuel saw what we now call the fact of the case; God saw the truth of it. Many people do not distinguish between fact and truth. There is an infinite difference between fact and truth. Fact is the thing done, the thing visible, the thing that has shape, and that can be approached and touched. Truth underlies it. We must get at the truth before. we can understand the fact itself. This is ever necessary, but specially needful where matters are complicated by profoundly moral considerations. The Lord explained the case to Samuel. He said, in effect: "They are only making a tool of thee; thou art become to them a mere convenience, or as it were a scapegoat. They profess to be very deeply concerned about the moral apostasy of thy sons; they do not care one pin point about it; they are extremely glad to be able to seize upon anything that will seem to give a good colouring to their case. Samuel, Israel has cast off its God. Is it wonderful, then, that Israel should cast off the servant?" What an explanation this is! how it goes to the root and core! What a subject opens upon us here! The great world of excuses, social explanations, the faces which things are made to wear, the visors and disguises which are set upon life in order to conceal its corruption, its leprosy, its death Truly the word of God is sharp and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword! So there are two judgments in the world. Man makes out his own case, God comes with the explanation. Man cheats man with outside appearances; afterwards God holds the light over the case. All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do!
3. The Lord told Samuel to make the people a king. "Hear them; do what they ask; hearken unto their voice; howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them." This is an instruction that we should do well to carry out in all life. There are times when we are pressed into certain courses; when all we can do is to protest. What then? When they heard the speech they said, "Nay; but we will have a king over us." Observe how men can fight their way, when so determined, through all the warnings that even God can send. Observe, man can have his way. There is a point at which even God withdraws from the contest. "My Spirit shall not always strive with man." If we be so minded, we can force our way through all solemn warning, all pathetic entreaty, all earnest persuasiveness on the part of friend, wife, husband, teacher, preacher, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost! We can go to hell if we will! There is a grim, ghastly cross — hew it down! There is a way round it, a way through it, a way over it — you can get there! Fool, coward!
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,