1 Samuel 8:4-20
Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel to Ramah,…
There is scarcely anything more trying to a father than to witness the moral shipwreck of his sons. But this personal trouble was intimately connected with a more overwhelming one — the disaffection and declension of the people. While this man of God was lamenting his domestic trial and his country's loss by reason of the conduct of his sons, a deputation of the people was introduced to state the popular wish, and to ask political changes. They had seen the growing infirmities of Samuel; they had suffered from the dishonesty of his sons; they probably feared the consequences if their leader were taken away; therefore they solicited a thorough Change in their civil polity: "Make us a king to judge us like all the nations." Their government was theocratic. God was their king But the people of Israel did not possess the same license with regard to government as other nations. They were bound to consult the will of God, and seek Divine approbation of their arrangements. They did not like to be so isolated, so peculiar; they grew weary of the ways of God. Conformity to the world has been always a great snare to the Church. Natural to the sinful heart, it tempts the imperfect, and has led many a fair professor into backsliding. Conformity to the world, united to a profession of faith, has been the stumbling black to many an awakened soul. It troubles the Church, but it does not induce the world to be godly The most ungodly know well how to estimate this conformity in those who profess the faith of Christ. They consider it an attempt to serve two masters. It does not attract them towards, but repels them from, religion. It strengthens their opinion of the superstition of worship, and of the hypocrisy of religionists Samuel was above these infirmities of ignoble minds. But he knew the theory of the national government was well acquainted with past history, and aware that self-willed reforms were neither healthy nor good. The circumstances occasioning it was to him most affecting — the misconduct of his sons. Consciousness of his growing infirmities contributed to try the feelings of this man of God. But he had a resource where he could find composure, counsel, and strength: "And Samuel prayed unto the Lord." Prayer was to him the exercise of communion with God. As you would consult a tried friend in your difficult, circumstances, and be comforted and strengthened by his prudent advice, so did Samuel with God when Providences were dark and the path of duty not plain. Prayer to God was the constant resource of Moses ere he spoke to the people, and hence it was only once throughout forty years of difficult leadership in the weary wilderness that he is said to have spoken "unadvisedly with his lips" Nehemiah found his soul strengthened by ejaculatory prayer while he was considering what answer he should make to the king Artaxerxes. This was Samuel's practice, and it made his words cautious and weighty. No man can be so much engrossed as to have no time for prayer. The eminent physician Boerhaave, whose practice was so great that "even Peter the Great and to remain for hours in an antechamber before he could be admitted to an interview, was wont to devote the first hour of every day to prayer;" and he recommended this practice to others, "as the source of that vigour which carried him through all his toils." Learn from Samuel how to act in seasons of perplexity. It is vain to place happiness in the present world. The Israelites imagined that their temporal aggrandizement would be to their advantage; that a king, and a pompous retinue behind him, would greatly enhance their importance. But God taught them that the desire was sinful, and the result disappointing. Byron sought early gratifications, and by means of his lofty titles, splendid genius, and jovial tastes, had abundant means of gratifying his large capacity for pleasure; but he wrote, as the result of all, that he — "Drank every cup of joy, heard every trump of fame: drank early — deeply drank — drank draughts that common millions would have quench'd; then died of thirst, because there was no more to drink." The great novelist, Sir Walter Scott, had as brilliant a career as any litterateur. But he who gratified tens of thousands was not a happy man, and in the closing scene of his life had no abiding joy. His hopes had been blighted. His happiness had been eclipsed. His fortune had vanished. He was impoverished, embarrassed, aged, and comfortless. And under the influence of these unhappy experiences, he said, as he sat at Abbotsford, "When I think of what this place now is, compared with what it has been not long ago, I think my heart will break." "I have no other wish than that (the grated door of a burial place) may open for me at no distant period. The recollection of youth, health, and power of activity neither improved nor enjoyed, is a poor strain of comfort. The best is, the long halt will arrive at length and close all." His idolized existence had a melancholy termination. The truth is, no earthly advantage can give peace to the soul or secure its bliss.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,