If you go back to 1 Samuel 2 you find that the priest Eli was ruling Israel. Eli son were terrible. They had no respect for the Lord (2:12-13). They treated the Lord’s offerings with contempt (2:17). They seduced the young women who worked at the tabernacle (2:22). Eli, the spiritual leader of the people, did not discipline his sons (3:13). Because of this God has them all die on the same day.
Samuel becomes the ruler and is a great man of God. The people respected him and knew that God was working in and through him. As Samuel was getting older and knew that he could no longer serve as the ruler of the people he appointed his sons to be the next leaders of the nation. The problem is that his sons were not godly men. They were not like their father, for they were greedy for money. They accepted bribes and perverted justice (8:3). The people of Israel knew this and they come to Samuel and tell him they do not want to be lead by his sons because they are ungodly and terrible leaders. It was at this point that they asked for a king to be like all the other nations. Samuel is upset over this and he goes to seek God’s counsel and God tells him the rebellion is against God not Samuel.
I think there are three lessons we can learn from this story. First is that when we want to be like everyone else and not trust in the system that God has put in place we have rejected God and not a failed system. When we rebel against elders, doctrine, the church we are rebelling against God. The people, doctrine, and church may be flawed, even corrupt, but there is a way to correct this and not rebel and want to be like everyone else around us.
The second thing is that bad leaders cause people to rebel. The people didn’t rebel against Samuel they rebelled when his sons were going to take over the leadership. They probably remembered the days of Eli and his sons and didn’t want that type of leadership. Why not be like the other nations when your only alternative is corrupt leaders. Samuel made a terrible choice of placing his sons as the next leaders. He basically helped the people choose to rebel against God.
The third lesson is when do we go to God for counsel? The Bible doesn’t say that Samuel asked God who should be the next leader of Israel instead he put his corrupt sons in power and when it backfired he went to God. Could the outcome have been different id Samuel went to God first and asked who should follow him as the leader of Israel?
If you are in a position of leadership this is a passage that should speak volumes to you. Who are you placing in leadership positions (Bible class teachers, leadership roles, camp staff, etc)? Are these people drawing people closer to God or do they push people away from God? When the people see the leaders do they see a contrast between them and the people of the world? We need to be careful who we place in positions of leadership. We also need to evaluate our own life. Are we causing people to want to follow God or are we pushing them away from God? When people see me do they see love, grace, mercy, acceptance, truth, integrity, and have a deep passion for God, or do they see someone who is judgmental, cliquish, and likes God? Finally when do you pray to God? When you need to make a decision or after you made one? Do we ask God to show us they way and give us guidance or do we ask God to bless the decisions we already made and to correct the bad ones? What if Samuel went to God first? I doubt God would have told him to put his sons in power. The nation wanted to be like everyone else but there was no difference between corrupt priest and corrupt kings. What choices are giving the people we lead?