By Al R. Hodges
Retired IMB Missionary
Do you fear the Lord? A healthy respect for our Creator is a good thing which should motivate us to worship and obey Him. The Israelites were involved in a cycle of fearing the Lord, then rebelling against Him, then experiencing His judgment through the attack of their enemies. When they were beaten, they repented and called on the Lord. The Lord then provided a judge to deliver them. Toward the end of Samuel’s lifetime, the elders of Israel got together and proposed a “better plan.” They insisted on having a king to reign over them instead of God. This was a sinful affront to the sovereignty of God over them (I Samuel 8:7).
Saul was chosen as Israel’s first king, and Samuel convened the people for a meeting. He reviewed for them how God had always taken care of them, yet in a crisis where they should have turned to God, they insisted on having a king. Rather than coming to God, they had distanced themselves from God (v. 12).
Samuel emphasized the people’s responsibility in choosing a king, but he also reminded them that God had set the king over them. No matter if there is a king, God is still sovereign and has the ultimate power over nations and national leaders (v. 13).
Four conditions for God’s continued blessings were given (v. 14). Both the people and their king must fear the Lord. Then, in reverential awe of God, both people and king must worship the Lord (Romans 12:1-2 instructs us on how to worship). Obedience is a third requirement. Believing and obeying the Word of God is absolutely necessary for both king and common man. Finally, they are reminded that they must not rebel against the Lord. God requires total allegiance to Himself for both the national ruler and the people. The king would have much influence over the people, and both he and the people must remain dedicated to God.
God warns us not to rebel against Him. The Israelites had seen the hand of God’s judgment against the Philistines when they took the ark (I Samuel 5:6,9,11). God’s disciplinary action would touch their entire family structure. This is as true today as it was then (v. 15).
You have heard of people asking God for a “sign” in order to determine His will. God indeed gave a sign of His mighty power when, using Samuel’s ministry, He caused a great storm of rain and thunder. The most convincing element of this demonstration was its timing. During the harvest season, rain was quite uncommon. God’s immediate answer of Samuel’s prayer struck fear into the heart of the people. As a result, the people greatly feared God and Samuel. They knew they had sinned in asking for a king. They knew they were in the very presence of God (vv. 16-18).
So shaken were they that they confessed their sin and begged Samuel to pray for them. Samuel comforted them, and exhorted them not to turn away from the Lord but to worship Him with all their hearts. Again, we are reminded of God’s great sovereignty, His mercy, and His love. For His name’s sake, He will not abandon His people (vv. 19-22).