5 2016-07-20 Audio
Major Theme #2: THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Made for Kingdom
We were made for kingdom life. We were made to live and serve in perfect harmony, under perfect rule. The beauty of diversity and the delight of love have always been the design and glory of God’s kingdom. The destiny of the God’s people is not one that epitomizes self or individualism, but embodies a multiplicity of diverse interpersonal enjoyments. God is at center and every created being lives in perfect concord for Him and one another. God’s kingdom is the ideal of collective human existence.
No Centralized Government in Israel
During the time of the Judges, there was no centralized government. When Gideon was a judge in the land, the people then requested him to rule over them as king. Gideon refused, saying to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you” (Judges 8:23).
Israel was to represent to the world, the Kingdom of God on earth. The Lord is the King and Israel was to be a priestly kingdom among the nations to manifest a picture of God’s sovereign rule and kingship on earth.
“You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.  Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine;  and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” (Exodus 19:4-6)
Judges were raised as deputies of God’s judicial government. There were no legislative or executive branches of government, only judicial. Samuel reminded the people that they had made their request for a king ("a king shall reign over us"), "when the LORD your God was your king" (1 Samuel 12:12). The failure was that "in those days there was no [earthly] king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25).
The Failure of the People
Chapter eight begins by noting that “when Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel.” This sets the scene for complaint since Samuel’s sons followed the pattern not of their father but of the judges a generation before.
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. (1 Samuel 8:4–6)
While Samuel’s sons were plainly corrupt, the real problem was with the people. The people did not take ownership of their own moral failures and contributions to the decline of the nation. They supposed that an external change in their governmental leadership would cure their troubles. We should discern this to be exactly what sinful men tend to in every age. One lesson we should take away from this study is that political action cannot solve the problems of a nation when their problems are essentially moral and spiritual in kind.
Samuel points out that their misery was owing to the sin of their hearts—they “forgot the Lord their God”:
And Samuel said to the people, “The LORD is witness, who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your fathers up out of the land of Egypt.  Now therefore stand still that I may plead with you before the LORD concerning all the righteous deeds of the LORD that he performed for you and for your fathers.  When Jacob went into Egypt, and the Egyptians oppressed them, then your fathers cried out to the LORD and the LORD sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your fathers out of Egypt and made them dwell in this place.  But they forgot the LORD their God. And he sold them into the hand of Sisera, commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab. And they fought against them.  And they cried out to the LORD and said, ‘We have sinned, because we have forsaken the LORD and have served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. But now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, that we may serve you.’  And the LORD sent Jerubbaal and Barak and Jephthah and Samuel and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and you lived in safety. (1 Samuel 12:6–11)
New leadership or not, Samuel reminds the people that their obedience is key: “But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king” (1 Samuel 12:25). Yet the people characteristically refused to listen to Samuel, insisting, “No! But there shall be a king over us” (1 Samuel 8:19). What’s more is that their reasoning is clearly not motivated by moral concern for the nation, but rather political. They said, “we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles” (1 Samuel 8:20).
Every political campaign alike starts out with the best of professed intentions, offering the people something better than they already have. Notice the demands: “judge us” and “fight our battles.” These are the fundamental elements of government, internal order and external safety. Add to this the constitutional covenant and written law (Torah)—the greatest written governmental code in the world, unprecedented in history and unique among all the nations—and you have three essential branches of government: judicial, executive, and legislative.
Consider the lessons to be learned in Samuel’s response to human government:
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.” (1 Samuel 8:14–18)
Alva McClain reflects on this passage by suggesting that “only fools suppose that by committing a matter to the government, they can get it done for nothing. Still worse, human government not only makes the people pay for everything done for them, but it always makes them pay more than it should cost. For only a part of the wealth taken by the government ever comes back to the people in services” (McClain, 108).
Government “like the nations”
Samuel responds to the people with an insightful warning. By insisting on an earthly king, to be like the nations, Israel would be beleaguered by the tendencies inherent in all government under sinful men. Samuel outlines several:
a. Military Service
Human government requires that the people be enlisted in military services for the protection and order of the nation amid other nations. This is evident in 8:11, “… he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen …” Military service is not in and of itself contrary to God, but is a mark of a less than universal kingdom.
b. Civil Service
Another tendency of human government is to enlist its subjects to its own service. In this case, it included agricultural, manufacturing, food processing, and personal servants.
And he will appoint … 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. (1 Samuel 8:12)
With the appointment of departments, offices, and growing services, a principle of bureaucracy is established. A bureaucracy is a system of government that involves decisions and actions implemented by state officials rather than elected representatives. Bureaucratic governments do not voluntarily downsize; it is the inherent nature of such a system to grow, and this too poses a challenge to the people being governed. So again, the government the people are demanding will “appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties” (8:12), inflating the number of officials needed by making each given unit smaller. He will also appoint men “to run before his chariots” (8:11), a job that has been described as “a perfectly useless procedure, except for creating public attention" (McClain, 110).