1 Samuel 8

Sermon preached on November 2, 2008 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2008. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

When I was in university I had a friend who attended Bible School. He's a really nice fellow with a great sense of humor and good stories to tell. One time he told me a story about Bible School. I can't remember if it was about him or one of his friends—but it involved one of the Old Testament classes that they were taking. Some of them were studying for an exam and as they were studying they found or heard about some exam questionnaires from previous years. Apparently one question that was always on the exam had to do with Joseph and how he was a type of Christ. It was something like,

"Name and discuss ten ways in which Joseph was a type of Christ."

So they all prepared for that question and made sure that they had it down pat. But when they actually sat to write the exam, they found that that question wasn't on the exam. But there was another question on the exam that one guy didn't have a clue about. He couldn't answer it at all. Now, rather than leaving it blank and spending all his time on the questions he did know—he did something that was really funny. Under the question that he didn't know he wrote,

"I don't know the answer to this question, but let me tell you about the ten ways in which Joseph was a type of Christ."

He then proceeded to write down everything he knew about Joseph being a type of Christ. I guess he was hoping that he'd get some extra credit for it. But he didn't. He got zero on that question. The answer that he gave wasn't the important one. He spent all that time writing down an answer that wasn't going to do him any good.

We're having an election on Tuesday. I heard one of the candidates say that this election is so much more important than a regular election. A lot of people are hoping that their candidates will get elected. One side will tell you that if the other party gets elected that it will mean disaster for the country. The other side says the same thing—only about the other side. Some evangelical Christians are hopeful because one of the candidates for VP is an evangelical herself.

So this morning I'm going to look at some of the things that our passage tells us about politics, elections and rulers. Hopefully these things will help us put some things into better perspective.

The first thing we see from our text is that

a people's relationship with God is what is really important for a nation.

What we see here is that the people had rejected the Lord and because of that things were going to go badly for them. Their rejection of God was the real problem. That's what was really important. In verses 7-8 the Lord said to Samuel,

"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.
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."

The people had rejected God as their king. They had rejected God's rule. God said that things had gone badly for them in the past because of that and things were going to go badly for them in the future because of that.

If you look at the book of Judges you'll see that it was when the people did evil in the eyes of the Lord that they were delivered into the hands of their enemies. It's a theme that we see repeated time and again in Judges—sin led to oppression and suffering.

We see the same thing in our text. God tells the Israelites that their sin will lead to suffering. In verse 9 God said to Samuel,

"warn them solemnly
and let them know what the king
who will reign over them will do."

So Samuel went to the people and told them a whole lot of negative things that the king would do to them. He said that the king would conscript their sons and daughters to work for him rather than for them. On top of that Samuel said that the king would tax them and take the best of their cattle and donkeys for his own use and that they basically would become slaves of the king.

Of course there are exceptions to the rule and many positive things about some earthly rulers. For example, when the Queen of Sheba saw Solomon's wisdom she said, (1 Kings 10:8-9)

"How happy your men must be!
How happy your officials,
who continually stand before you
and hear your wisdom!
Praise be to the LORD your God,
who has delighted in you
and placed you on the throne of Israel.
Because of the LORD'S eternal love for Israel,
he has made you king,
to maintain justice and righteousness."

But we must not forget that there was also a very negative side to Solomon's reign as well, and that Solomon's reign fulfilled Samuel's words perhaps even more so than the reign of King Saul. In 1 Kings 12:3-4 we are told what the Israelites said to Solomon's son Rehoboam, after he ascended to the throne,

"Your father put a heavy yoke on us,
but now lighten the harsh labor
and the heavy yoke he put on us,
and we will serve you."

Solomon had the people of Israel under a heavy yoke. Listen to what 1 Kings 5:13f tells us about Solomon's preparations for the building of the temple—you'll see that it was a heavy burden on Israel. We read,

"King Solomon conscripted laborers
from all Israel
—thirty thousand men.
He sent them off to Lebanon
in shifts of ten thousand a month,
so that they spent one month in Lebanon
and two months at home.
Adoniram was in charge of the forced labor.
Solomon had seventy thousand carriers
and eighty thousand stonecutters in the hills,"

That passage shows us something of the heavy yoke that he put Israel under. That's basically what the kings of Israel did.

So our text teaches us that earthly rulers are very often a negative thing. You are not to put your hopes and dreams in them. This is evident from the subsequent history of Israel as well. If you look at the history of the first king of Israel, King Saul—you'll see that he started so well—there were so many excellent qualities in him—yet he failed miserably and his reign was a disaster. Even good kings, like King David, greatly disappointed. David fell into sin and some of his reign was filled with injustice and evil. Indeed, we also see that during the reign of David God greatly punished the people of Israel. For example, in 2 Samuel 24:1 we read,

"the anger of the LORD
burned against Israel,
and he incited David against them, saying,
'Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.'"

So David took a census as a result the Lord sent a plague on Israel and an destroying angel went out against it. Seventy thousand men from Dan to Beersheba were killed.

Now why did the anger of the Lord burn against Israel during the time of David? Why did the Lord incited David to take a census of the fighting men of Israel? It was because of the sin of the people. We see the beginnings of that sin here in 1 Samuel 8. S. G. De Graff writes, (Promise and Deliverance, Vol. 2, p. 82)

"The sin of the people lay in their conception of their king and in their motive for wanting just such a ruler. A king who would lead them in battle would make them more independent—and less dependent on the Word of the Lord than they were now, under the leadership of a judge-prophet. A king would be able to make his decisions more independently."

The people were punished under David because they were sinning in various ways—but perhaps most of all in drawing away from their dependence upon the Lord.

So your hopes and dreams should not be placed in earthly rulers. You are not to put too much hope or confidence in politicians or governments. Most often they will disappoint. That's not where your primary effort should be.

Now I'm not saying that the election on Tuesday isn't important, or that who gets elected isn't important. Good rulers can be a great blessing to a country. Bad rulers can be an awful curse. Rulers can do much good or inflict much harm on a nation. They set the tone. But which rulers you have is not the most important thing for a nation.

The most significant thing is the hearts and conduct of the people.

Proverbs 14:34 says,

"Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin is a disgrace to any people."

That's what counts.

A nation can have the best ruler in the world yet if the people are wedded to sin even a great godly leader may not be enough to save them from disaster.

We see this from Israel's history. In 2 Kings 23 tells about King Josiah's reforms and how he was a great king in leading the people back to God. We read, (verse 24f)

"Furthermore, Josiah got rid of
the mediums and spiritists,
the household gods,
the idols and all the other detestable things
seen in Judah and Jerusalem.
This he did to fulfill the requirements of the law
written in the book that Hilkiah
the priest had discovered
in the temple of the LORD.
Neither before nor after Josiah
was there a king like him
who turned to the LORD as he did—
with all his heart and with all his soul
and with all his strength,
in accordance with all the Law of Moses."

But the text continues,

"Nevertheless, the LORD did not turn away
from the heat of his fierce anger,
which burned against Judah
because of all that Manasseh had done
to provoke him to anger.
So the LORD said,
'I will remove Judah also from my presence
as I removed Israel,
and I will reject Jerusalem,
the city I chose, and this temple,
about which I said,
'There shall my Name be'.'"

It was too late. They had a great godly king who made great reforms and tried to lead the people back to God. But in a very real sense it was too little too late for the nation of Judah. God had had enough. Josiah was killed in battle and not long after the ruthless Babylonians came and laid Judah and Jerusalem waste.

The great hope for a nation does not lie in politics but in people living righteously. As we read in Deuteronomy 29:23-28 about the land of Israel being cursed.

"The whole land will be a burning waste
of salt and sulfur—nothing planted,
nothing sprouting,
no vegetation growing on it.
It will be like the destruction
of Sodom and Gomorrah,
Admah and Zeboiim,
which the LORD overthrew in fierce anger.
All the nations will ask:
'Why has the LORD done this to this land?
Why this fierce, burning anger?'
And the answer will be:
'It is because this people abandoned
the covenant of the LORD,
the God of their fathers,
the covenant he made with them
when he brought them out of Egypt.
They went off and worshiped other gods
and bowed down to them,
gods they did not know,
gods he had not given them.
Therefore the LORD'S anger
burned against this land,
so that he brought on it
all the curses written in this book.
In furious anger and in great wrath
the LORD uprooted them from their land
and thrust them into another land,
as it is now.'"

Sin is a curse to a nation. When people's hearts are not right with God, they sin and disaster is the result.

So what all this shows us is that

the church's job is of vital importance.

The only hope for our nation is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Righteousness exalts a nation. People need to become believers and start living according to God's commands.

This means that you Christians have a great responsibility. You need to give yourselves to evangelism. You'll remember that in John 4:35 Jesus said,

"I tell you,
open your eyes and look at the fields!
They are ripe for harvest."

And in Luke 10:2 Jesus said,

"The harvest is plentiful,
but the workers are few.
Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore,
to send out workers into his harvest field."

Our job as a church and your job as an individual Christian to witness is vitally important—

you need to be involved in changing people's hearts.

You need to be telling people about Jesus. He's their only hope. He's the only hope of our nation.

What an impetus our text is for evangelism. The fate of our nation is not ultimately in the election that is going to take place on Tuesday—it rests with the mission of the church, with the grace of God in giving repentance and salvation to the people of our nation.

Christians be bold. It's not popular today be a Christian and advocate righteousness. If you call sin 'sin' — you'll be accused of promoting hate. That's how bad our society has gotten. But if we don't go out boldly with the gospel all will be lost.

The next thing we see from our text is that

you are responsible for how you vote.

The people wanted a king. That's how they voted. They insisted on it. They voted to reject God's rule, God's counsel and God's prophet. That's how they voted and as a result they suffered for it. God often judges nations on how they vote. We see that here in 1 Samuel 8. This incident was a turning point in the history of Israel. Thereafter they would have kings—kings that would oppress them, kill the prophets of the Lord and lead the people in wickedness.

The result of all that was all the tragedy that happened to Israel in their subsequent history. Their history was very bad. Although they had good kings and bad kings—overall the history of Israel was one of great tragedy.

I believe it was Senator Biden who said that if Senator Obama is elected President he is going to be tested by some sort of terrorist threat or attack in the first six months of his administration.

But that could happen even if McCain is elected. When there's a terrorist attack, like 9/11 or the attack like the one on Pearl Harbor, people always ask, "Why?" There's only one answer—it's ultimately because of sin. Sin leads to punishment.

I don't pretend to have discernment into all God's ways. In Isaiah 55:8-9 God said,

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,
As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."

God's ways are complex and mysterious. Yet one of the clearest points that the Bible makes is that there is an inevitable connection between sin and punishment. Even with the outpouring of grace that connection is not broken—as the cross of Jesus Christ proves.

When terrible tragedy comes people ask, "Why?" But should they? A few years ago I read a book about the last days of World War II in Europe and how the Soviets took Berlin in a fierce and horrible battle in which thousands and thousands were killed. Many women were raped and brutalized. Now I ask you, are you willing to say that there was no connection between that and the Holocaust—the killing of 6 million Jews—as well as the other atrocities that the Nazis committed? Of course there's a connection.

In the Civil War in the 1860's with its horrible suffering—are you wiling to say that there's no connection between that suffering and slavery? I would not rule out some connection there.

Was there a connection between abortion and 9/11? It's estimated that there are 1.3 million legal abortions performed in our country every year. It's estimated that there have been 46 million legal abortions since Roe vs. Wade made abortion legal in 1973.

Was there a connection between 9/11 and the horror of abortion that exists in our country? I would not be willing to say there was no connection. 9/11 was a wake up call for our nation. How have we as a nation responded? Oh, we've relied on government and politicians. They have set up the Department of Homeland Security. But essentially we have ignored God's calling us back to righteousness. We as a nation have hit the snooze button on God's alarm clock.

One of the really sad things about our text is that

God gave the Israelites what they wanted.

He gave them a king. In verse 22 we read that God said to Samuel,

"Listen to them
and give them a king."

And then in verse 18, after Samuel warned them about how the king would oppress them, he said,

"When that day comes,
you will cry out for relief
from the king you have chosen,
and the LORD will not answer you in that day."

What we have here in 1 Samuel 8 reminds me of Romans 1 and how we see that when the people chose sin and didn't heed God's call to repentance—God gave them over to their sin and its inevitable punishment. We read, (verses 21-32)

"For although they knew God,
they neither glorified him as God
nor gave thanks to him,
but their thinking became futile
and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Although they claimed to be wise,
they became fools and exchanged
the glory of the immortal God for images
made to look like mortal man
and birds and animals and reptiles.
Therefore God gave them over
in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity
for the degrading of their bodies with one another.
They exchanged the truth of God for a lie,
and worshiped and served created things
rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.
Because of this,
God gave them over to shameful lusts.
Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.
In the same way the men
also abandoned natural relations
with women and were inflamed
with lust for one another.
Men committed indecent acts with other men,
and received in themselves
the due penalty for their perversion.
Furthermore, since they did not think it
worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God,
he gave them over to a depraved mind,
to do what ought not to be done.
They have become filled
with every kind of wickedness, evil,
greed and depravity.
They are full of envy, murder, strife,
deceit and malice.
They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters,
insolent, arrogant and boastful;
they invent ways of doing evil;
they disobey their parents;
they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
Although they know God's righteous decree
that those who do such things deserve death,
they not only continue to do these very things
but also approve of those who practice them."

God gave them over to their sin and it's resulting punishment.

How we need to be praying for our country. We need to pray that God doesn't give our nation over to the sins they have chosen. We need to pray that instead He will give them repentance and life.

The last thing I want you to see from our text is that

there's only one King who is worth serving.

Just about all earthly leaders will disappoint. King Saul did. King David did. King Solomon did. They all took from the people to a certain extent. They made the people poorer.

But it is different with Jesus. In 2 Corinthians 8:9 the apostle Paul wrote,

"For you know
the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though he was rich,
yet for your sakes he became poor,
so that you through his poverty
might become rich."

Sinner, He has not come to make you poorer. No. He came to suffer and die for sinners. He came to save them and make them rich. He came to stoop down, save them from their sins and give them a place of rule in His eternal kingdom. He is the One that you are to serve. If you're not a Christian you need to go to Jesus now. It would be the best vote you ever cast—a vote that you will thank Jesus for forever and ever. Go to the King of Kings today. Serve Him.