Bible Readings for August 16th
In 1 Samuel 7, we see the last iteration of the cycle of Israel’s judges: Israel sins, Yahweh delivers Israel to their enemies, Israel cries for deliverance, and Yahweh sends a judge to reform Israel. In 1 Samuel 7:3, Samuel instructs the people to reform their worship in order to regain the blessings of Yahweh: “If you are returning to the LORD with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” As under the leadership of previous judges, the people again repent and return to Yahweh, and when the Philistines attempt to come up against Israel at Mizpah, Yahweh throws the Philistines into confusion with mighty thunder from heaven and Israel routs the army of their oppressors (1 Sam. 7:10).
But this is where Israel exits the death spiral they have experienced under the leadership of their judges. It is striking that not even Samuel can shepherd Israel away from doing whatever is right in their own eyes, despite the fact that Samuel is the greatest of the judges and a mighty prophet. Even Samuel’s own sons are corrupt and do not walk faithfully before Yahweh (1 Sam. 8:1–3). If even Samuel couldn’t bring about obedience, who could?
Simply put, Israel needs a king. This is not a new concept, since Yahweh had given laws concerning what his kings should be back Deuteronomy 17:14–20. In fact, Yahweh had foretold that kings would arise from his people back in the days of Jacob, who had prophesied in Genesis 49:10 that a scepter would never depart from the tribe of Judah.
And yet, when Israel asks for a king, Yahweh recognizes that Israel is rejecting him (1 Sam. 8:7). It’s not that Israel wants a king—at least, they do not want Yahweh’s idea of a king. It’s more that Israel wants someone other than Yahweh. The hearts of Israel are so stubborn that they are desperate for any kind of loophole that will allow them to avoid serving Yahweh at all.
What this means is that Yahweh’s king has a double challenge. Not only must the king govern Israel well, but he must somehow transform the hearts of God’s people so that they want to obey Yahweh. No ordinary king over Israel will be up to this challenge, but instead, Yahweh will eventually send a very different and special kind of king: his own Son. Jesus will not merely constrain his people from disobedience but he will transform his people’s hearts so that they will want to do what is right in God’s eyes.
But first, many kings will fail—including Saul, Israel’s first king, whom we will meet in tomorrow’s reading.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.