They wanted a king. That doesn’t sound like such a bad request, does it? All the other nations had a king and seemed to get along just fine and after all, Samuel son’s who were to lead Israel after Samuel were not behaving appropriately either. So demanding a king be given to govern the people shouldn’t have been such a big deal…but it was!
It was a big deal for God. Israel had demanded that Samuel appoint a king to rule over them. This upset Samuel and sent him praying to God about the matter. God responded by telling Samuel that Israel’s demand for a king wasn’t a rejection of Samuel but a rejection of God as their king, a rejection God had become accustomed to from the Israelites (1 Sam 8.7-8). God told Samuel to oblige Israel but to warn them of what the earthly kings would do for them and so Samuel does. You can read the entire story in 1 Samuel 8.
One of the amazing things about this story is how much Israel thought they knew what was best for them. “Give us a king to lead us” they demanded but given the history of Israel’s monarchy, we know how wrong they were. Yet even though the demand for a king was not God’s desire or will, God was willing to let them call the shots and get what they wanted.
That’s an important lesson to be reminded of. Whether as a church or as individuals, we must discern between right and wrong, wise and unwise, good and bad. Sometimes, perhaps most or all of the time, God will let us make those decisions whether they are his will or not. We would like to believe that every decision we make is of God’s will because then we can live with it. But this is not the case. It wasn’t for Israel and it’s not for us either.
So we cannot say that what happens is necessarily God’s will. It may be God’s will but it may be our own will and the two wills are not always the same. Sometimes we elect for our will against God’s will and God allows it and accommodates it. Sometimes our will is an outright rejection of God’s will even if we cannot tell at the moment. In that case, our will is a choice to walk in a different ‘truth, way, and life‘ than that of God. Yet, as with Israel, even when God does accommodate to our will, the result often comes with tragic consequences. That means we must be very wise and discerning as to what is and is not the will of God.
This was originally published as a bulletin article (June 12, 2011) for the Randolph Church of Christ. I have made a few additions but the article is basically the same.