So Samuel spoke all the words of the Lord to the people who had asked of him a king. He said, “This will be the procedure of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots. He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and of fifties, and some to do his ploughing and to reap his harvest and to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots” (I Sam.8:10-12).
The Bible is clear that when a people has departed from God, the majority of their choices will be bad ones, leading to harm and pain. This is because “the wages of sin is death…” (Ro.6:23). The Bible also tells us, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good who are accustomed to doing evil” (Jer.13:23).
Politics and religion really are inseparable, but for the Christian, religion has to come first. The person who claims that “my politics comes before my religion,” is essentially a humanist, preferring that God must be subject to man. His god is not the God of scripture, and the religion of the State (which has been with us since at least the Pharoahs) has never made good on its messianic promises. They always fall apart with shattered dreams.
Astonishingly, this was the level of corruption Israel had descended to. God’s first sentence of description of this novel king should have warned the people, for He spoke of this king’s desire to take from the people their sons. Not only was this theft through conscription (compulsory military service), but it clearly had nothing to do with the defence of the nation.
Ambitious kings need those who would fight for them in their wars of aggrandisement, and God speaks here of an ambitious king. We’ve had plenty of them in the modern era, and they are always destructive.
But there is more. Mention of horses and chariots should have alerted the people of Israel to the passage in God’s law dealing specifically with these subjects. In Deuteronomy 17:16 he said of the king that Israel could choose in future:
…He shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the Lord has said to you, “You shall never return that way.”
The elders who came to Samuel were representatives of the people. They would have known what God’s law said about kings and horses, but despite Samuel’s warning about the painful outcomes of their rebellious choices, they stubbornly refused.
…No, but there shall be a king over us, that we may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles (I Sam.8:19-20).
Israel was determined to reject God’s way for them. It wanted to conform to the pattern of the world rather than God’s Word, so from this point on, the prophet of God was not going to have a lot of joy, when it came to the state of the nation.
A thousand years later, Paul explained to the Romans,
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Ro.12:2).
Four chapters later, Samuel explained their motivations even more fully:
When you saw that Nahash the king of the sons of Ammon came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ although the Lord your God was your king (I Sam.12:13).
In the state that Israel was in having rejected the fear of God, they chose the fear of men. Israel’s strength was no longer in God, and their solution to their problems was conformity to the world and military power. Thus all the foundations were being laid for the modern humanist, socialist State.
The quality of government diminishes with the expansion of government, but godless governments cannot believe such a notion. They cannot accept that their problems are within their own ranks, let alone their own hearts. For them, bigger must always be better, and though this idea is easily sheeted home to wicked governments, it actually begins with the community, and specifically the church. Israel’s decline had been initiated where? In the priesthood’s corruption. So pagan rulers are merely an outcome, they are not the cause of the problem, and we are the ones who have sinned against the Lord.
The structure of authority in the modern church is socialistic. The Protestant church provided the operational model for socialism’s graduated income tax. Everyone votes, and those who do not tithe have more votes than those who do tithe. The church set the standard for politics. The Protestant church adopted democratic socialism as a government ideal long before the modern State did.
This is why the key to real change in the West, lies in the church making radical, wholesale changes within itself. But even here, it must begin within the hearts and minds of individuals and families. Governments will continue to expand, be corrupt and to dominate, while ever the church refuses to accept its mandate, do its job and accept its responsibilities before God. The salt and light has to come back to the church.
Irresponsibility and faithlessness is the death of organisations, it’s progressively brought about the decline of the church, and it has to change. The rot has to stop, somewhere.
The decline of Israel in I Samuel was evil and avoidable. It has been reflected in the church of our era. Responsibility has been an uncomfortable term for the modern church, for we have ignored many of God’s commands to us. And it will not do to blame the humanists outside the church for our problems, because the humanism we may be so upset about, has found a secure lodging place in the house of God for generations.
It is we who will need to go to work cleaning the rubbish out of the house of God, and that can only commence with individuals, families and churches repenting of evil, and picking up our Biblical, God-ordained responsibilities once again in the world He made.
If that’s what you’re ready for, you’ll be kept busy.