I wrote about Eli, the priest whose sons were corrupt and who were put to death by the Lord. Eli was, at the time he was not apparently training his own sons, training up a baby named Samuel, who had been dedicated to God by his mother. Samuel was raised to be a prophet and a judge over Israel, and he became a godly man, to whom the Lord spoke directly. Yet, Samuel, having grown up with Eli’s sons, noting their corruption, failed to train his own sons.
“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. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” 1 Samuel 1-9.
Israel was a nation apart from other nations…. in a good way. God was their ruler, but instead of forcing them to act righteously, which He could have easily done, He graciously allowed them to go their own way, and then to suffer the consequences of their “human wisdom”, then rescued them from their suffering after they repented…for about 15 minutes. They would sin again, forget the Lord’s blessings, suffer, repent, be rescued, repeat. Much like Samuel didn’t learn from the lesson of Eli’s sons, Israel didn’t learn from the lesson of their fathers’ failures. That’s just what people are–slaves to their own desires. Or as the apostle Paul said, “slaves to sin.” Samuel tried to explain to Israel that a king would not only fight their battles, he would enslave them. Freedom or security? Freedom or slavery?
Samuel 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.” 1 Samuel 8:11-18.
Only a tenth of their grain, vineyards, orchards and flocks? When a tenth is given voluntarily to God it’s called a “tithe”. It’s a way of acknowledging that God owns everything and you show gratitude by giving a tenth to God’s work (just make sure it really is His work and not enrichment of a shyster’s lifestyle). In the above case, it was not voluntary, it was taxes. Note whom the king gave the best stuff to: His officers and his servants. Like today, his tax code would benefit cronies. Still, who wouldn’t wish for a ten percent tax rate today? Perhaps our slavery is greater than that of Israel under their king. The United States had three federal crimes when the constitution was ratified: treason, piracy and counterfeiting. A few years ago there were more than 300,000 federal crimes in the US Code. Freedom means responsibility, and a citizenry that demands security over freedom will soon become slaves.