Odds are that you have heard the old statement from your parents – “If your friends wanted to jump off a cliff, would you want to as well?” I am guessing that you have probably heard this as a kid. I know I heard it when I whined that I wasn’t going to get to do whatever “all my friends were doing”. And, if you have kids, you have probably said it to them, multiple times. It’s an oldie, but a goodie.
How old? What if I told you it’s over 3,000 years old and probably older? Yep – wanting to do something because everyone else is doing it is timeless. Let’s look at the story of the Israelites and Saul in the book of 1 Samuel where God is the parent, the People of Israel are the child and “getting a king” was the cliff they wanted to jump off of.
This story begins with Samuel who, for years, had been a prophet of the Lord and who eventually led the people of Israel in a revival – turning away from their false gods and turning towards the one true God. Once the people began to serve the Lord only, Samuel led them to overthrow the Philistines who had controlled them for over 20 years. From them on, through all of the rest of Samuel’s life, the Israelites enjoyed freedom and prosperity from the Philistines. God was the king of the Israelites and Samuel was the go-between. When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons to take over for him and this is was when the trouble began.
Maybe it was too many years of prosperity, or maybe it was that Samuel’s sons were scoundrels, who knows, but the Israelites began to look at the green grass in their neighbor’s backyard. If social media had already been invented, the Israelites would have been overly liking pics from the Proto-Geometric Grecians or the Zhou Dynasty’s Mandate of Heaven leaders. Simply put, the Israelites had enjoyed God as their king and that closeness had ended beginning the era of Israel’s kings.
So the Israelites saw that all the peoples around them had kings and they didn’t, so they made a demand of Samuel – and the Lord.
4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 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.”
– 1 Samuel 8:4-5
Samuel was really frustrated, he knew what would happen. He could see it coming. He prayed to the Lord for wisdom and the Lord confirmed his concerns. The Lord asked Samuel to explain to the people all the things that were going to happen if they installed a king. Samuel laid it out to them without any sugar-coating.
13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 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.”
– 1 Samuel 8:13-18
Did Samuel also say those infamous words? Probably, It’s is not documented in the Bible. Unfortunately the Israelites would not listen. You can almost hear their temper-tantrum.
19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”
– 1 Samuel 8:19-20
Samuel had sacrificed everything (in this case literally) for his people and they just wouldn’t listen. What’s a good prophet or parent to do? Ground them in their homes? Sacrifice their animals? Take away their Insta access? Please, they weren’t barbarians like the Amalekites! What are we supposed to do as parents when we have tried everything and we are at wits end? We should do what Samual did – He took it to the Lord.
21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. 22 The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”
– 1 Samuel 8:21-22
What is the Lord saying? Is He actually recommending that Samuel give in to the people? I’ll give you a clue. Sometimes the best thing for people is that they get exactly what they have been asking for.
Continued in If Your Friends Wanted to Jump off a Cliff… Part 2