“Give Us a King”
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“Give Us a King”

1 Samuel 8:1-22  (ID: 3370)

As Samuel aged and his succession plan failed, Israel clamored for a new leader. No longer wanting to be distinct, they chose to imitate the behavior of other nations and asked to trade God’s rule for that of an earthly king. While God granted Israel’s request, Alistair Begg explains, it led to great suffering, revealing our need for a perfect king. Only Christ, the one true King, reigns in absolute love and justice--and His rule will never disappoint us.


Sermon Transcript: Print

Now we’re going to read from the Bible, in the Old Testament, in 1 Samuel and chapter 8. And I encourage you, if you’re able, to follow along as I read. First Samuel and chapter 8:

“When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice.

“Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, ‘Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for 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 to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they[’re] also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.’

“So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. He said, ‘These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of 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 orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.’

“But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, ‘No! But there shall be a king over us, that we [may also] be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.’ And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Obey their voice and make them a king.’ Samuel then said to the men of Israel, ‘Go every man to his city.’”

Amen.

Father, grant that the words of our song may be the cry of our heart. We acknowledge that on our best day we are unprofitable servants, but we thank you that we are loved by you. And so, as we turn to the Bible now, beyond the voice of a mere man may we hear from you, the living God. And we humbly pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

Well, 1 Samuel chapter 8. I hope you’ve been reading it in prospect for our study. If you have, then perhaps you did what I did this week, and that is after I’d read it a couple of times, I found myself turning to the twelfth chapter of Romans because of the word that Paul gives there to his readers concerning the danger of being swallowed up by the surrounding culture. And as I often do, I went to The Living Bible, just for the freshness of the paraphrase that Kenneth Taylor gave us. And in the verse which we know routinely as “Be not conformed to this world: but be … transformed,”[1] or “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould,” as Phillips, Taylor paraphrases it, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think.”

Now, Paul writes that because he understood the pressure in first-century Rome to accommodate themselves—for the believers to accommodate themselves—to the lifestyle and the values of a surrounding culture. We, of course, face the same challenge, not in Rome but in twenty-first-century Cleveland. And therefore, we ought not to be surprised that when we go back to the eleventh century BC, the same warning is actually being sounded, in this case by the prophet and the judge Samuel. And I hope that that will become apparent as we look at the chapter.

In chapter 7, which we just concluded, we were introduced to leadership, if you like, at its best. Samuel, you will recall, had preached to the people. He had preached repentance, and they had repented. And Samuel had been praying for the people and with the people, and the Philistine forces had been vanquished without lifting up any armaments to defend or to attack. And then a stone of remembrance was set up—this memorial stone, this Ebenezer—so that it would be there for time immemorial, in much the same way that in this past week, people have stood in Normandy, seventy-five years on from those events, in order to say, “This took place, this really matters, and there are implications that flow from it.” In the same way, this Ebenezer stone, or the accumulation of stones, marked God’s goodness to them.

And the chapter ended with, if you like, a job well done. You’ll remember that at the very beginning of the chapter, it says that the ark had been in Kiriath-jearim for a matter of some twenty years before Samuel steps forward.[2] Twenty years is a relatively long time. And it’s certainly a generation, isn’t it? So you’ve got a whole generation of silence. What was Samuel doing? I think he was walking on the pathway of steady obedience. When we come to chapter 8, the story has advanced again significantly, because Samuel is no longer in his middle years, but now Samuel has become old. And the story told for us in this way advances.

Time for a Change

Now, I’ve broken the chapter down under four headings for myself. And the first one is this: “Time for a Change.” “Time for a Change.” It’s time for a change—at least that’s what the elders of Israel have determined. You’ll see that in verse 4: “Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, ‘Behold, you are old.’”

So what you discover is that there are a number of factors which contribute to this desire for a king. And the first of these, as you see, is that Samuel became old. And, of course, this is what happens: people become old. Leaders who led in their earlier years and were faithful in their middle years eventually become old. And the real challenge, of course, in becoming old is that age brings with it not only advantages but also disadvantages. It brings with it the benefit of experience, which at least counts for something. But it also brings with it the danger that we become old and cold and settled in our ways.

What most of us do in the humdrum nature of our lives, in the private, personal way, in the routine activities that are our days, those are the things that make us.

And so it’s vitally important that we learn to live to a good old age—which is, of course, the title of Derek Prime’s book, which I commend to you. Let me just give you a little piece from his introduction:

Old age may alarm us. It can bring humiliating experiences. Some of its limitations … take away our natural dignity. Worse still is the daunting possibility of dementia, even to the point where we may not remember our own name.

But, while there may be a bad old age, when we feel “weighed down with [the] years” …, there is [also] “a good old age” … to which we may aspire. [And] every period of life has its appointed benefits and excellence,[3]

as Solomon says in the Proverbs.

Well, of course, it’s quite salutatory, isn’t it? I walked down the stairs with somebody earlier today, and I wouldn’t ever say who it was, but I said to myself, “He’s moving much more slowly than before.” And then I said to myself, “You’re not moving that fast yourself.”

Now, Samuel is old, and transitions like this are important. It’s interesting that Samuel’s life is actually marked by long periods of silence and then moments where he comes to the fore. He couldn’t ever come to the fore in such usefulness were it not for the fact that the long periods of silence were marked by steady faithfulness. You see, what most of us do in the humdrum nature of our lives, in the private, personal way, in the routine activities that are our days, those are the things that make us. Those are the things that make us. And it’s certainly true of Samuel.

So Samuel was old. They came to him, verse 5, and they “said to him, ‘Behold, you are old.’” “Look, you’re old.” To which he might say, “Oh really? I didn’t realize that at all.” So the first thing was that Samuel was old.

Second thing was that his succession plan was bad. His succession plan was bad. Although the priesthood was hereditary, the appointing of judges was not. So the priest like Eli would be followed by his sons, as he was. In the case of Samuel, though, each judge was appointed individually. But Samuel, you will notice in verse 1, “made his sons judges over Israel.” And it was a bad plan. They worked in Beersheba, which is a significant way to the south of where he was. They were, if you like, a long way from his ability to observe them, and in many ways, they were a long way from his ability to influence them. That is not to safeguard his integrity. It’s just to acknowledge the fact. I mean, fifty miles may not seem a long way for us. You could just go down to Akron in probably fifty minutes. But on a donkey or walking, Beersheba was a long way away. And they were greedy, they were on the take, they were interested in money, they were susceptible to bribes, and they were involved in corruption. You see why it’s building for a time for change.

Samuel was old, his succession plan is bad, and in fact, his succession plan failed. Because you will notice that it says, “His sons did not walk in his ways.” Now notice that: the “his” is not capitalized. It’s not referring to God’s ways. They actually were God’s ways, but it is pointing out the distinction—and I think an important distinction—between himself and Eli. Eli was somehow or another, in this transition to his boys, he had a measure of responsibility in it in a way that Samuel doesn’t appear to. His ways were clear. They would have been clear to his boys. He administered justice, and Joel and Abijah perverted justice. And as a result, the peace and the security, the prosperity that Israel had known, is clearly not guaranteed in going forward. And so these factors lead to the request, in verse 4, of the elders: “All the elders of Israel gathered together” and said, “Here’s what we want you to do, Samuel: appoint a king to rule over us, just like everybody else.” You see, that’s in verse 5.

Now, a little background on this is not only helpful; it is important. Remember we said when we began 1 Samuel that apart from the wonderful little book of Ruth in between Judges and Samuel, Samuel moves from the last verse of Judges essentially to the first verse of 1 Samuel. And we said that because of the refrain which runs through the book of Judges. For example, you needn’t turn to all of these, but I’ll tell you where they are. Judges 17:6: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Chapter 18 begins, “In those days there was no king in Israel.” Nineteen: “In those days, … there was no king in Israel.”[4] You go on and on; 21:25: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

So it was a kind of system whereby God directly appointed a judge, and that judge ruled. And when you read Judges, you realize that it would go along fairly well for a while, and then the whole thing would collapse. And so the notion that is in the minds of these elders is an understandable notion: “Why don’t we put in place something that will be far more beneficial?” And the idea was that a dynastic monarchy would then solve their problems, secure and establish a solid foundation on which they could go forward.

Now, we should note that it wasn’t wrong for them, it wasn’t wrong for Israel, to have a king. In fact, Moses had anticipated this day. And if you follow this up on your own by turning to Deuteronomy chapter 17, you will realize why I say that. This is Moses speaking to the people. Deuteronomy 17:14, he says, “When you come to the land”—that’s the promised land—“that the Lord your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ you may indeed set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose.” So, in other words, in the Pentateuch, in the first five books, Moses has already anticipated this day. When you read on in 17 of Deuteronomy, you realize that God prescribes the exact nature and way in which this kingly rule would be put in place.

And in the book of Judges, there are a couple of moments where it totters on the brink, if you like, of establishing a monarchy. After Gideon’s success, the people come to Gideon. And “the men of Israel said to Gideon, ‘Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also.’”[5] Well, of course, that’s not how the judges worked, right? Because it wasn’t hereditary. So what are they actually saying? They’re saying, “Become the king. Become the king. You become the king. You’ve saved us from the hand of Midian.” Wrong! He was involved in the great victory as a result of God’s great intervention. You see how quickly people go to a man—to the leader, the pastor, whatever it is? “Put not your trust in princes.”[6] “Put not your trust in chariots.”[7] “Put not your trust in men.”[8] “Trust in God.” So what is the response of Gideon? He says, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.”[9] In other words, “Yahweh is the King. He’s the King. The fact that I was used in this way is a testimony to God’s grace and goodness. But he’s the King. So we’re not going to do this.”

Tragically, as you read on in this story, Gideon, who had a number of wives, had a son by one of his concubines. The son’s name was Abimelech. And when you read the story of Abimelech, you read that it is the story of Abimelech, who has certainly said, “Well, I’m gonna do what my father said he wasn’t going to do,” and as you read that story for yourself, you will discover that it ended up in absolute disaster.[10] It was short-lived and wonderfully so.

That’s the context: time for a change.

Samuel’s Reaction and Yahweh’s Response

Now, when you go on to verses 6–9, I wrote down quite simply what you have there—that is, “Samuel’s Reaction and Yahweh’s Response.” “Samuel’s Reaction and Yahweh’s Response.” They came and said, “Give us a king.” Verse 6: “But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to judge us.’”

Well, understandably so. I’m sure there was a personal element in this, right? He has been the judge of the people. He’s done his best. Chapter 7 has really been quite terrific. It’s gone on his résumé. And he’s gone home to Ramah, and he’s communed with God there. And now these years have advanced, and he’s become old, and so they’ve decided it’s time for a change. Well, it displeased him. That was his reaction.

You will notice that his counteraction was to pray. There’s a little challenge in that—at least I took it as a challenge. I remember when we studied Nehemiah that we pointed the same thing out: that when Nehemiah heard the news that had come out of Jerusalem concerning the destruction and chaos that was there, it says of Nehemiah that he sat down and he wept. But then it says, “And then he prayed to God and fasted for many days.”[11] So his reaction was to weep. His counteraction was to pray.

Here’s the challenge: I’m good at weeping. I’m not real good at praying. Here’s the challenge: When something displeases me, and that’s my reaction, what’s my counteraction? What’s yours? Do you have the same tendency that I have, that when I am displeased by something, I just want to tell everybody how displeased I am—instead of doing what Samuel does? It’s a challenge. Samuel says, “Lord”—and this is my own paraphrase; it’s not here—“Lord, you’re gonna have to do something about this, or things are going to get really out of hand.” It’s great how we try and tell God, who rules the universe, how he ought to do his job.

And so, the reaction of Samuel is then followed by the response of the Lord: “And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they[’ve] not rejected you, but they have rejected me from [becoming a] king over them.’” “Give them a king,” verse 7, verse 8. “Obey them,” verse 9.

Now, presumably… I’d like to have been around when this happened, because Samuel must have been absolutely crushed by this. He could never have anticipated that this would be the response. He was displeased. He’d fulfilled the role of judge. He knew the history of the people. And now he goes to God, and he tells him, and God says, “No, that’s not what I want you to do. Go ahead and give them a king. They’re not rejecting you; they’re rejecting me as their king. They’ve done this from the very beginning.” You’ll notice there in the text: “From the day I brought them out of Egypt until this very day, they’ve been behaving like this, leaving me for other gods. And now they’re doing it to you.”

Well, of course, the history of the people confirms that, doesn’t it? Moses goes up on the mountain. He’s up there for a wee while. The people say, “I don’t know where God is. I don’t know if he’s speaking to us. I don’t know what he’s doing. Aaron, why don’t we have something a little more exciting? Do you have any ideas?” He said, “Well, we could make something. We could make a god we could see rather than a god we can’t see.” People tell me all the time, “If I could only see God, then I would believe.” It’s not true. “Let’s have a God that we can see.” You have gods that you can see. They’re not worth believing. You can’t trust them. No. And so what do they do? And Moses comes down, they’re all dancing around.[12] It’s quite remarkable.

See, the judges had been put in place to exercise leadership under the priority and the absolute authority of God the Lord as King. And now God says to Samuel, “Let them have their king.” But you will notice in verse 9: “[But make sure that you] solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” Now, that word for “ways” is close to the word for “justice.” We needn’t deal with that. You can trust me. And so what he’s essentially saying is—there’s an irony in this: “Let them have their king. And then warn them about the kind of justice they can expect. They want a king like all the other nations have a king? Make sure you let them know that there will be a price to pay.”

When you read on in the story, wonderfully, in chapter 12, we discover that God does not forsake his people, even though they are seeking to reject him. Again, we can just pause for a moment in application. Isn’t it wonderful that the God who saves us keeps us? That the good work that he begins in us he brings to completion at the day of Jesus Christ?[13] That although we are by nature rebellious, though we often go our own way and wander off and come up with our own stupid ideas and live with the implications of that, God, because of the God that he is, is the God who actually restores even the years that the locusts have eaten, as he says in the Prophets.[14] And that’s about to be discovered by these people.

Be Careful What You Ask For

But before we go immediately to that, we have to pause and take the solemn warning. And the solemn warning is very, very clear. So, verses 10–18, under the heading “Be Careful What You Ask For.” “Be Careful What You Ask For.”

In 1 Samuel we see that God does not forsake his people, even though they are seeking to reject him.

What were they asking for, essentially? Well, we have the answer to that in the text. We don’t have to wonder about it. God says to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all they say to you, for they have[n’t] rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.” All right? So he says, “What they’re actually saying is, ‘We don’t want you as our King. We don’t want to be Israel. We don’t want to be this holy people, this distinctive nation, this royal priesthood. We don’t want that. We’d like to be the kind of people that can be absorbed into the culture. We would like to be like everybody else. We would like to have the kind of leadership that is accessible,’” and so on. God says, “That’s what they’re saying.” In other words, “We want to be free of God’s perfect rule.”

God says, “Okay, I’m going to punish you with the experience of getting what you want.” Isn’t that what it says? You see, the Lord’s willingness to grant them a king was an act of judgment on his part—for their foolish, faithless request.

It’s quite alarming, isn’t it, as you reflect on your Christian experience, the times in life where you wanted something dreadfully, and God chose not to give it to you, and there were other times when you wanted something, and he says, “Go ahead; you can have it”? “I don’t want to live under your kingship, living God. I want to be free to make my own choices. I am my own person. I can make my own decisions about who I am, and what I have, and what I believe,” and so on. God says, “Okay, go ahead. And in seeking to be free of me—a perfect, loving, wise, generous God—you will live with the implications of your decision.”

Now, we started in Romans, so we can go back to Romans. Nobody likes to read Romans chapter 1 anymore. It’s arguably one of the most politically unacceptable passages in the entire New Testament. But Paul is making this essential point. We’re not going to expound it. You can read it for yourselves when you get home. What he’s saying in the balance of Romans 1 is that God has revealed himself in creation, he has revealed himself in the moral framework of a man or a woman. In other words, there is a moral compass built into every human person as made in the image of God. So, in creation, there is enough to know that God made you; there is not enough to know to save you. That is why only Jesus can save us—only when we realize that we’re on the sinful side of things and that we need a Savior.

But in the meantime, Paul recounts the folly of humanity—not unique to Rome! Running from the very garden of Eden through the whole history of the world. Verse 21: “Although they knew God, they did[n’t] honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking.” You read on: instead of giving him the glory he deserved, they worshiped stuff. Here we go, verse 24: “Therefore God gave them up.” Be careful what you ask for! He “gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves.” You say, “We don’t want to go with this thing you’ve got going here about the nature of who we are as people, made as male and female, made in your image, made to enjoy the privileges and benefits of sexuality within the framework of marriage. We don’t want to do that.” God says, “Okay, let me give you what you want.” And “they exchanged the truth about God for a lie” and they “worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” And then we go to 26: and “for this reason God gave them up.”

And what happened to “dishonorable passions”? How were they worked out? Well,

their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; … the men likewise gave up natural relation[ships] with women … were consumed with passion for one another, … committing shameless acts with men, … receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

“Who says?” The King says! The people say, “We’d like a different kind of king. We’d like a king like the other nations have a king, with all their gods and all their options and all their possibilities. We are trapped in this thing”—trapped in a beautiful freedom or set free to a dreadful tyranny.

Eleventh century BC. “Things are really going to change,” says Samuel. Yahweh is sanctioning the monarchy, he’s permitting it, but he’s not really blessing it. In a phrase in the Psalms, you have this. Psalm 106:15: “He gave them their request; but sent leanness [to] their soul.”[15] That’s the worst of all possessions. He says, “Go ahead.” And he said, “Go on.” And when you went to take hold of that, there was nothing there. And at the same time, there was leanness to your soul.

Well, so Samuel did what God told him to do. Verses 10–18. We just move through it very quickly. You can read it again for yourself. We don’t need to spend long on it. It’s pretty straightforward: “Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him,” and “he said, ‘These will be the ways of the king.’” All right? Remember he said, “Make sure you solemnly warn them about the ways, or the justice, of the king.” So he said, “Here’s what you can expect.”

And you will notice that this king will be on the take. Ironically, so were Joel and Abijah, his boys. So, the king will be on the take. Verses 11–12, “He’ll take your sons”; 13, “He’ll take your daughters”; 14, “He’ll take your property, your servants, your cattle.” It’s interesting he goes immediately from sons to donkeys, but we’ll leave that aside. “He’ll take your donkeys, and he’ll put them to his work.” In other words, when you go back to the passage I mentioned in Deuteronomy [17:]14, what Samuel is saying is that he will actually do the very things that Deuteronomy 17:14–16 warns about. “He will tax you and cause you to cry.” Notice this: “And in that day you will cry … because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves.” Okay? So where’s the responsibility lie? It lies entirely with them. And what will the impact be? The end of verse 17: “And you shall be his slaves.” In other words, “Welcome back to Egypt.” Isn’t that amazing?

Now, we can’t sit in judgment on this. We can’t. Because the picture of the exodus is the picture of what God has done for us in Jesus in redeeming us with an outstretched hand. By the sacrifice of blood, by the shedding of blood, there is redemption.[16] As the people were brought out, they were brought out, and they looked back, and they said, “Isn’t this fantastic?” And then within about twenty minutes, they said, “You know what? We liked Egypt. The food was much better in Egypt.”[17] Are you kidding? What happened to them? Their minds began to be debased. They stopped thinking. Anytime that you or I are prepared to walk straightforwardly in disobedience to God’s clear dictate to us is an indication that we, like those people, have done the same thing: we have forgotten that we have been redeemed. In the exodus, God heard their cry. In this instance, “the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

So, in search of autonomy, they reject God as King and, in doing so, choose tyranny. It’s the great lie. It’s the great lie that runs all the way through the Bible. We need to say to young people, to teenagers, you know, “God’s way is absolutely perfect. His way is perfect. You know, trust his Word. Trust your dad. Trust your mom. Trust your youth leader. They’re not trying to spoil your life! They’re telling you that in bondage to the rule of God is perfect freedom. In rejection of the rule of God there is absolute tyranny and despair.”

Well, the clarity of the warning in 10–18 is unmistakable, and then verse 19 hits you like a hammer. You would think perhaps, just perhaps, that given the very straightforward way in which Samuel has spoken to them, given the fact that they have respected him so much, given the fact that God has done remarkable things in chapter 7… They need a king to lead them out in battle, they say. Are you kidding me? What did God do in chapter 7? He did it with two milking cows and a brand-new cart! “And we need a king to lead us out in battle.” What, have you lost your minds or something? Yes! That’s what happens!

You see, conversion is a mind-altering reality. And the work of the Evil One is to try and recalibrate our thinking in relationship to the culture around us, so that every day he says to you, “You know, you can’t possibly be right. Think about how many people don’t believe what you believe. You can’t possibly be right. There are many leaders in the world. There are many options in the world. Why don’t you go get one of them?”

In bondage to the rule of God is perfect freedom. In rejection of the rule of God there is absolute tyranny and despair.

Well, the clarity of the warning comes in verse 19: “But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. … They said, ‘No! … There shall be a king over us, [so] that we … may be like all the nations, … that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” “It’s far more appealing than that stuff with these cows and everything. I mean, it was a good time; I admit that. But it’s not as good as when you have somebody up front, you know, and a big champion and so on.”

“And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Obey their voice and make them a king.’” There’s an irony in this, isn’t there? The people refuse to obey the voice of Samuel, and the Lord tells Samuel to obey the voice of the people. What future is there, though, in this monarchy? What future can there be in a monarchy that is established on the basis of the refusal of the people to listen to the voice of God’s servant? What hope is there for something like that? What ultimate hope is there?

The answer, of course, is there is ultimately no hope. We’re going to see that when Saul comes, it goes along. David comes, ups and downs. Solomon comes, we’re moving into the disaster zone real fast. By the time you get to the New Testament, the people realize there’s gotta be a King who out-kings all these other kings. Because we never had a king that could actually fulfill all that we were hoping for. Well, of course it never will, ’cause the only King is Yahweh.

And so, at the end of chapter 7, Samuel goes home. I like that picture in 17: “Then he returned to Ramah.”[18] I really like Samuel. Don’t you like Samuel? I like him as a boy, you know: “Speak, [Lord,] for your servant hears.”[19] And now he went home, and he had his tea, and he communed with God. And now we get to the end of this amazing event, and he says to all the people, “Go home. Why don’t you just go home?”—leaving us wondering, “When will the investiture be, and who will be the king?” Well, that, of course, is next time.

So What?

But then I wrote one other phrase down: “So What?” And then what? Well, so what?

Well, how does the New Testament begin? It begins with a King. “The time is fulfilled,” says Jesus, “and the kingdom of God is at hand. I’m the King.”[20] The triumphal entry. The words of the prophet: “See, your king comes to you on a horse and mounted on a donkey.”[21] What kind of king is this? That same King will be crowned but with a crown of thorns. Because unlike the king that they were going to get who was on the take, this is the King who gives. He’s the King who gives. See, that again is the great lie: “If you trust Jesus, he’ll take away all the good stuff. You won’t have a good time. If you want a good time, go with another leader. If you go with Jesus, it’ll be horrible.”

The reverse is true. The reverse is true! Believe me because the Bible says it, and believe me at the age of sixty-seven. The reverse is true. I have proved it’s true! He keeps what he starts. He fulfills his promises. His warnings are there in bright, flashing lights because he loves us. His judgments are executed in the framework of his mercy, in the same way that parents are supposed to discipline their children because they love them, so that they might be what God has fashioned them to be. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life … a ransom for many.”[22] “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.”[23] “Come to me, all you who are heavy laden and can’t make sense of things and burdened and so on, and I will give you rest.”[24]

You see, Jesus is not like any other king. That’s why when Pilate’s interviewing him, he says, “Now, apparently, the people are saying you’re a king.” He says, “Well, you say so, and it’s true. But my kingdom is not like this world. If it were, my servants would have been fighting.”[25]

Well, here’s the end. No, the end is in a moment, when I finally quote Aslan properly, after two miserable attempts at doing it. So I’m determined to get the quote right. But here’s where we are at the end of a talk like this. It’s about “Who’s your king?”

You know, I have two passports. I have a British passport, I have a European passport; I have an American passport. But Jesus is King. And same is true for you. Some of you here are from different nations; we identify in this way. “But our citizenship is in heaven,” from which “we await a Savior” who will come[26]—the Savior who is the Prophet who spoke God’s Word to us, the Priest who bore our punishment in our place, and the King who comes to reign over all our silly rebellions. And so we’re ultimately able to say “Jesus is King,” or “I don’t want this King. I like it my own way. I’m going to do it my own way. I think what you’re saying is interesting but largely irrelevant.”

Well, it costs to have Jesus as King. That’s why some of us are messed up, because we’re “spiritual.” “I’m a very spiritual person,” they tell me all the time. What does that mean? It means I can do what I want. I’ve created a leader and a king in my own image, so I know what the Bible says about this, and I know what it says about that; I’ve deviated from that course entirely. But I don’t need to worry about it, because I’m a spiritual person.

Is Jesus your King? Any other leader will be phenomenally attractive, but if you go with him, he will disappoint you. The Lord Jesus Christ will never disappoint you.

No, it will cost to have Jesus as King. That’s what’s going on with Susan in the Aslan quote, right?

“He’s a lion.”

“I didn’t know he was a lion,” said Susan. “I thought he was a man. Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you!”[27]

I got a funny thought in my mind right now. You see when our president met the Queen? You could tell he really liked that. And there’s a sneaking thing inside the average honest American: “Man. We should have kept the king! If only we’d kept the king.” We don’t want a king. We want to be like all the other nations.

Well, is Jesus my King? Is Jesus your King? Any other leader will be phenomenally attractive, but if you go with him, he will disappoint you. The Lord Jesus Christ will never disappoint you. You’re a boy here. You’re a girl here. You don’t have to be a hundred years old to sit in your seat as we end this morning and say, “Lord Jesus Christ, you will be my King all my life.” Ah, may it be so.


[1] Romans 12:2 (KJV).

[2] See 1 Samuel 7:2.

[3] Derek Prime, A Good Old Age (Leyland, England: 10Publishing, 2017), 3.

[4] Judges 19:1 (ESV).

[5] Judges 8:22 (ESV).

[6] Psalm 146:3 (ESV).

[7] Psalm 20:7 (paraphrased).

[8] Psalm 146:3 (paraphrased).

[9] Judges 8:23 (ESV).

[10] See Judges 8:31; 9:1–57.

[11] See Nehemiah 1:1–4.

[12] See Exodus 32:1–6, 15–19.

[13] See Philippians 1:6.

[14] See Joel 2:25.

[15] Psalm 106:15 (KJV).

[16] See Hebrews 9:22.

[17] See Numbers 11:4–6.

[18] 1 Samuel 7:17 (paraphrased).

[19] 1 Samuel 3:10 (ESV).

[20] Mark 1:15 (paraphrased).

[21] Zechariah 9:9 (paraphrased). See also Matthew 21:5; John 12:15.

[22] Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45 (ESV).

[23] John 10:28 (ESV).

[24] Matthew 11:28 (paraphrased).

[25] John 18:33, 36–37 (paraphrased).

[26] Philippians 3:20 (ESV).

[27] C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950), chap. 8. Paraphrased.

Copyright © 2021, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.