The Demand for a King

W.W. Fereday

From "God's Emergency Man"

It is deeply sorrowful now to discover failure in the man of God, especially when we remember the terrible object-lesson which had come before him in Eli and his sons. But where is there not failure in poor frail flesh? Only in Christ has God seen from first to last that which has given joy to His heart; and, blessed be His name, in Him will be gathered up all the broken threads of human history at the finish. All that Adam, Noah, Moses, Aaron, David, etc., should have been, and were not (albeit they were all types of Christ) will be realized at the end in God's Second Man and Last Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Samuel, beginning to feel the weight of his years, "made his sons judges over Israel' (1 Sam. 8: 1) No mention of any word from Jehovah, and no record of any prayer on the part of the prophets. Yet this was the man who was conspicuous in his day for his powerful intercessions. But why appoint his sons? Moses did not do so. When he felt that his term of service was drawing to a close, he said, "Let Jehovah, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in, that the congregation of Jehovah be not as sheep which have no shepherd' (Num. 27:15-17).

This is beautiful, and it shows that a true shepherd heart was found in Moses. But he did not venture to appoint anyone, neither did he suggest his own sons for the service. Indeed, he willingly acquiesced in Jehovah's choice of Joshua. Why did the thought of family succession enter the mind of Samuel? Had not the sovereignty of God been strikingly manifested in his own case when the successional priesthood was in utter failure? In the Book of Acts, the principle of Divine sovereignty in our own era is repeatedly shown. Stephen and Philip were chosen by the Assembly in Jerusalem to look after widows, and were quickly called of God into the very forefront of the testimony, the one in Jerusalem, and the other in Samaria. Barnabas and Saul were selected by the Holy Spirit from amongst a group of prophets and teachers in Antioch to go forth and evangelize the Gentile world. Apollos was abruptly brought upon the scene quite apart from all other laborers; and so on. This is the way of the Spirit of God, but how feebly has Christendom understood it. Successional order has been the established ecclesiastical principle, to the damage of God's saints, and to the hindrance of the work of God.

Yet Samuel's institution of his sons into the judgeship was well meant. His one desire was to make adequate provision for God's people when he himself could serve them no longer. But did not Jehovah know the age of His servant? And did He not care for His people? Let us remember that the people belonged to God, not to Samuel. Do we sometimes feel anxious about the future of those amongst whom we labor? Are we disposed to make provision for them according to our own thoughts? Let us learn the lesson of Samuel's blunder. Creature hands need not be stretched out to support the ark; God is quite able to take care of it Himself (2 Sam. 6:6). Remarkably, the man who spoke of getting old lived nearly fifty years longer. He lived to see his sons run their course, and pass into obscurity; he saw Saul rise and fall; he anointed David to be king in his room; and he afterwards sheltered him when driven from home by his would-be destroyer. It is important to emphasize these facts. The sin of the people in demanding a king is obvious, but it must not be forgotten that the error of the man of God contributed to it. Had Samuel gone quietly on with his service, ministering to the people with such strength as God might be pleased to give, the episode of Saul, with all its disastrous results, might never have been. He Who kept Moses strong and vigorous until he was 120 years old (Deut. 34:7) could have sustained Samuel until God's time arrived for the establishment of the new order. We have already seen that it was God's intention to give Israel a king, and apparently Samuel might have continued to serve the people until David - the man of Jehovah's choice - was ready to occupy the throne. Brethren, let us get on with our ministry as helped by God, and leave the tomorrow of His work to Him. The Head of the body, the Church, is still enthroned on high, and from His own hand and heart gifts will continue to be given to His saints on earth until the need is no more.

It is sorrowful to learn that Samuel's sons "walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment" (1 Sam. 8:3). One wonders that the sons of one so preeminently godly should be so evil. With the lessons of Eli and his sons before him, Samuel surely sought that his own household should be a true testimony for God. Is it possible that his going on circuit from year to year explains the breakdown? May God have mercy upon the families of those who, in our own day are called to travel hither and thither proclaiming the Word of God.

The elders of Israel now waited upon Samuel in Ramah, and said unto him, "Behold, thou art old and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.' The bearing of the clan of God at this moment was delightful. There was no word of resentment at the charges made against his sons, neither was there any effort put forth to bolster up the order that he had so mistakenly established. "Samuel prayed unto Jehovah." How different everything would have been had he prayed before he made his sons judges. Brethren, is it our holy habit to take everything to God in prayer? Have we really learned that we are utterly dependent upon Him for every step?

The hand of Satan is surely discernible in Israel's demand for a king, and especially in the willfulness with which they persisted in the demand after the seriousness of it was pointed out to them. The malignant adversary is ever seeking to forestall God-for mischief of course. The divine purpose concerning a king had now been revealed; Satan would then furnish a king. In like manner he will bring forward the Beast of Revelations 13:1 just before God's time comes to bring out His King of Kings and Lord of Lords. But whatever the measure of forbearance, God always has His way at the last, and every purpose of His love for His own glory, and for the blessing of men is carried into full effect. What rest to the heart to be assured of this.