Despite the prophetic warning of Samuel, the Israelites rejected God and demanded a king. Israel’s new king, Saul, immediately led the people into war (First Samuel 11) and won decisively. The king’s pride swelled while his character and integrity crashed.
The prophet Samuel called the people together as he prepared to settle into retirement. He reminded the Jews that God was still on the throne, and no man could dare try to take His place. Every blessing and prosperity of the nation had come from God, not from their labor, their intelligence, or their greatness. And if the nation turned it’s back on the God of their forefathers, He would be great calamity and remove the blessings of His providence (1 Samuel 12:6-11).
Previous leaders had not always lived up to expectation or to God’s standard, but rather than thanking God for His grace and provision, and trusting in Him alone, they demanded a king of their own. They traded their God and dependence upon Him for the leadership of a government and a mere man.
Samuel challenged his nation to accept the consequences of their rejection of God: wars, high taxes, loss of private property and freedom, but to remember that if they obeyed Him, God would step in and help (1 Sam 12:20-25). No matter what others did, Samuel proclaimed his solitary allegiance to God. And with a broken heart, he prayed that the people would see their folly and turn back to God.
But Israel continued in their disobedience and hardhearted sin. God’s warning in Deuteronomy 28:36, The Lord will bring you and the king whom you set over you to a nation which you nor your fathers have known …. eventually came true.
But what if the nation had turned to God? What if they had realized their folly? What if they had sought for God’s man to lead them? We’ll never know, but we could know for our own nation.