Be careful what you ask for
(1 Samuel 8:4-9)
David Xu May 22, 2016
“So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”
Israel as a nation came to the cross road, to be ruled by the Lord as before or to have a new human king, which path they chose would determine the nation’s future. Today we are studying this important lesson - be careful what we ask from God, for what we ask shows what we choose, and our choice will determine our future.
Request is made – we want a king.
Verse 4-6, tells us all elders came to Samuel asking for a king. In later part of the book, Bible gives us some background, (1 Samuel 12) “But when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites was moving against you, you said to me, ‘No, we want a king to rule over us’—even though the Lord your God was your king. At that time, Jewish people were governed by the Lord directly through Samuel the prophet.
When Jewish people were facing an enemy, they were frightened. They wanted to find solutions. And their solution, instead of going to God for help, was to have a human king. They found themselves 3 reasons:
- Samuel was old, he couldn’t lead us anymore
- Samuels sons did not follow his way, they did evil things, so they couldn’t lead Israel either,
- All other nations had kings, and they seemed stronger than us.
All three seems valid reasons. From what they said, it seems that they were complaining about Samuel, you were old, and your sons were not good judges, therefore the judge system needed to be stopped therefore a king was needed.
However, there is one thing we must know that is Israel had been ruled by God directly through prophets/judges ever since Moses led them out of Egypt.
In another word, God was Israel’s king at the time. Once we understand this point, all the 3 reasons given were invalid. Yes Samuel was old, and his sons were corrupted, but God can raise a new prophet; yes, other nations had their kings, but what king can be bigger, can be more powerful than the Lord?
And noticed this, interestingly why All the elders came to Samuel asking for a king? Why can’t they select a king? Because, they knew they didn’t have the authority. They knew all the authority came from God, in order to find a king who everyone can accept, they had to ask God.
Do you see the dilemma here? Elders knew the authority came from God, yet they refuse God being their king, instead they wanted to have human king. But this human king had to be established by God.
Now let’s come to point 2.
“6But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord.”
Samuel was not happy. So what did he do? He prayed. He didn’t argue with the elders, he didn’t defend for himself, or for his sons, rather he went to God immediately for answer through prayer. When facing pressure, elders chose to find human solution, whereas Samuel went to God for solution. Samuel was a Godly man. His heart followed the Lord. As the prophet anointed by the Lord, he knew that when he had a problem he had to go to God for answer.
We can and shall all be like Samuel, keep ourselves close to the Lord. Run to him if we face danger, pressure, uncertainty or any situation we don’t know how to deal with. Run to the Lord and seek advice and protection from Him. What do children do when they first go to a strange place? They hold on to their parents tightly. They keep looking for their parents. They feel safe when parents are around. That is how we shall be in Lord. That is why it is so important to read Bible, to pray.
How did Samuel has the knowledge of prayer? If we go back of his life line, we knew his mother, Hannah was a beautiful prayer, and God answered her prayer by giving her a son, Samuel. When Samuel was little serving in the temple, God called and spoke to him personally. And later in his ministry, “the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground” (1 Samuel 3:19). By day and day walking with the Lord, listening to the Lord, Samuel learned the secret and importance of prayer.
Samuel 3:10 “The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”. Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
When the Lord called, Samuel’s answer is “your servant is listening”. That is Samuel’s heart, a servant heart, willing to do God’s will not his. What is our heart?
In China, first day of Chinese New Year, thousands of people crowd into temples to pray for money, fortune, good luck, all the worldly things you can name. In order to make their prayer more effective, they buy expensive incense, huge candles, thousands of dollars. They believe the more money you spend the Buddha will return much more to them. If I spend $1,000 today, Buddha would give me $100,000 back. They treat Buddha as their servant, or to the best a business partner.
The Lord doesn’t work this way. He is sovereign; he wants to be our Lord, not the other way around. That is why we say “your will be done” not ours. If we don’t have a servant’s heart, if we don’t seek God’s will, we will be like those elders who wanted a king instead of God.
So what God’s answer to a wrong request?
Point 3 God’s reply and warning
“7And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. “
God pointed out directly what they wanted was to get rid of God. We may hear from time to time, I don’t go to that church because there is someone I don’t like, or I don’t like the pastor anymore so I don’t go to church, or I am too tired this morning to go to church, I have to watch this sport game so I can’t go to church. Some may even say, I don’t like the music played in church so I won’t go to church. Well, let’s ask our conscious, is it church we don’t want to go to, or is it God we don’t want to go to.
What would happen to us if we try to flee from God? We will loose God’s protection, we will be exposed to failure, depression, and we will be defeated by our enemies. We will loose our safe zone, our lives will be like walking through mine fields, we don’t know when we will step onto one.
Deuteronomy 31:17 says, "Then My anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them. And I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them, so that they will say in that day, Have not these evils come on us because our God is not among us?"
Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her "How could God let something like this happen?" (regarding the attacks on Sept. 11).
Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said "I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?"
In NZ, politicians made it illegal to spank your children，a few years ago they made same sex marriage legal,. Now some of them want to make selling marijuana legal. Regardless, scientists warn that marijuana can cause irrevocable damage to human brain and nerves. I am very interesting to see, what politicians want to do next and where they want to lead this country.
Be careful what you ask, because sometimes, God does give us what we ask for even though he knows it is not good for us.
Verse 9 “Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”
God told Samuel don’t blame yourself don’t argue with Israelites, just warn them what would happen to them if they had a human king.
Verse 11-18 God warned them. “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
The king we made would make ourselves salves to himself. The first emperor of China, he slaved hundred of thousands of people to build his tomb, many thousands died. He also ordered to build the Great Wall, some scholars estimated there were one million people died in building this Great Wall.
We become slaves to the King we make. Isn’t this ironical? Originally we want a king to serve us, to lead us, but in the end, we become his slaves. Do we, human beings really know what we ask from God? Do we really know better than the Lord?
And pay attention to verse 18, one day people would regret of their choice, but the Lord would not answer them in that day. This is a serious warning. We may loose God’s protection for what we have done, do we want to go that far?
You may say, wait a minute, isn’t God a loving God, isn’t he ready to hear our prayer? How can he say he won’t listen to our prayer. God of course is a loving God, he certainly loves to hear our prayer. What God really says here is that, in this particular issue, that is choose a human king to rule Israel, when Israelites regret what they did, the Lord would not answer them.
When a child made a terrible mistake, good, loving parents will give the child a lesson so that they can learn from it. Here God wanted to teach Jewish a lesson. Let them learn that it is so important to rely on God, to have God be their king.
But the Lord didn’t forget us, he knew people were suffering under human regime. He has wonderful salvation for us. Many hundred years passed, God sent his only son Jesus to this world. He is to be called, king of kings. As Christians, we only have one king which is the Lord Jesus Christ. Again, the Lord will restore his kingdom on the earth, we as children of God, is ruled by the Lord directly through Jesus Christ. That is why we often say, we Christians don’t belong to this world. Because we belong to Jesus.