"Saul: Appoint a King to lead us!"
Scripture Reading: I Samuel 8:1-22
What makes for a great leader? We have just finished a journey through Matthew 8 where we followed Jesus while he went about his ministry on earth. We saw the power of his touch when he healed the leper, the power of his word when he healed the Centurion’s servant, the authority of his voice when he calmed the wind and the waves on the sea, and his authority over the forces of evil when he cast out the demons from those who were demon possessed. Jesus is the ultimate leader because he is God.
What did Jesus come to proclaim?
How does this show Jesus to be a great leader?
In I Samuel 8 the people of Israel have just experienced a period of peace. Under the leadership of Samuel, who is the last Judge before the establishment of the monarchy, things are going well. But now the people demand a king because Samuel is old and he will not be around forever. They want him to find them a leader – a king – who will ensure a stable national life. Is this a problem? Maybe.
Eugene Peterson writes, “Israel was unique: the people had no government in a conventional sense, for God was their King. From time to time God provided prophets and judges to carry out special tasks of leadership, but the central focus for the common life of the people was not in political office, but in an act of worship where God was acknowledged as Ruler and Savior.”
Who was the last judge in the book of Judges? Was he a great leader? Did God still use him?
What are the names of Samuel’s sons? What is the problem with them?
As followers of Jesus it’s important that we remember leadership remains a high and noble calling in this world. It’s not just needed in politics at a municipal, provincial, or federal level of government. Good leaders are needed in our homes, schools, and churches as well. Parents, teachers, elders and deacons are all called to positions of limited leadership where they are given authority and held accountable. A good leader is someone who recognizes they exercise their leadership within a limited scope under a greater authority, that is, under the sovereignty of God.
Israel needs a new kind of leadership. The elders of the people ask Samuel for a king, which they have the right to do, but something goes wrong in verse 6. “But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel.”
What happens to “displease” Samuel? What’s wrong with the people’s request?
How does the Church today do the same thing as the people of Old Testament Israel did back then?
What does it mean to say “There is no freedom apart from the grace of God?”
In the end, when the people insist on having a king like all the other nations the Lord says to Samuel in verse 22, “Listen to them and give them a king.” God’s permission is rooted in grace because a king in Israel would ultimately point towards the coming of the King of kings, Jesus Christ. In so far as any Israelite king ruled with justice and integrity, he would be a type of Christ. God will use their inappropriate and rebellious request for his own purposes and the people’s good. This turning point in Israel’s history will serve the greater story of God’s redemption in Jesus Christ.
Christ, the King of kings, is our Leader. As his people we look to him and his Word for guidance as we reflect his Truth and Grace. Amen.