1 Samuel 8: God and Government

Krissa Lox

Active Member
1 Samuel 8

And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel. Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: they were judges in Beer-sheba. And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgement.

Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto 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. But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord.

And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.

Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them. And Samuel told all the words of the Lord unto the people that asked of him a king.

And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.

And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.

And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants. And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day. Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; that we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.

And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city.

While God is certainly not a supporter of anarchy, He also has never been a fan of centralized national government either. After all, if even the spiritual leaders among His followers struggle with disorder and corruption, how much is empowering a non-spiritual institution over them really going to help? More likely it will eventually turn into the pearls cast before swine, who not only lack the ability to value what they have been given stewardship over, but will turn and rend those who empowered them in the first place.

This is not to say that government is inherently evil (though Luke 4:5-8 seems to imply Satan holds some sort of given authority over them), but possesses the same flawed spirit of all mankind combined with a concentration of power and resources that will present temptations requiring a much higher level of spiritual wisdom and integrity to be able to wield rightly, and a really high risk of disastrous consequences when it fails.

However, the United States has held a unique position where government is concerned, in that our guiding authority has been vested into a document rather than a singular human executive, and power is diffused across multiple agencies and areas of responsibility to prevent corruption from gaining an easy foothold from which to try to take control over the whole. This doesn't make us immune to evil, of course, and it does confer a measure of personal responsibility that any corruption that does find some place of entrenchment within the system is firmly acknowledged and unseated to stop its spread lest we face even greater difficulties in having to reap what we've allowed to be sown, but at least evil has to work a lot harder to gain ground here and we the people have more avenues of recourse against it.

From the beginning, we have been a nation of rebellious people, preferring the responsibilities of self-government over the promises (often unfulfilled) of centralized control, preferring the eternal wisdom of God over the temporal wisdom of men, and looking to Christ as our Savior rather than the government. In some respects, the turmoil we are experiencing now can be seen as a return to our foundations rather than an attack on them, to have pushed material distractions to the wayside to give serious consideration and debate to matters of spiritual importance and where we want to go from here.

Yes, there are disagreements, and not all of them minor, but such was the case for the Founding Fathers too, and they still managed to create a workable union that would bless many generations to come. Whether our current rebellions will serve to continue or improve upon such blessings for the future or destroy them entirely depends upon our maturity in choosing what to rebel against, our integrity in the actions we take to pursue our rebellions, and the faithfulness with which we steward the results.

But, as in all things, salvation ultimately lies with God and the degree to which we are serving Him, not in any institution of mankind, no matter how noble, acting alone.

2 Chronicles 7:14: If my people, which are called by name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.