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.” – 1 Samuel 8:7 ESV
There are several verses in the scriptures that promise answered prayer. These are not unconditional, however. We must delight in the Lord, and then he’ll give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4). Another references says that we must ask according to His will (1 John 5:14). That same author says a little before that we must ask and obey His commandments and do the things that please God (1 John 3:22). So we know that we don’t just get to demand our way and have the Great Vending Machine in the sky spit out our heart’s desire. 1 Samuel gives us another scenario: demanding our way when it’s not God’s way and God giving it to us anyway. What happens then and what can we do to avoid finding ourselves in this position?
In 1 Samuel 8, we meet a great prophet, the namesake of this particular book, and he is getting old. He has a couple sons who should be the ones taking over the job of judging Israel, but they aren’t godly. They put personal gain first and pervert justice by taking bribes (v. 3). The elders of Israel, trying to avoid that problem, go to Samuel and ask him to anoint a king (v. 4-5).
Samuel goes to the Lord with this request and the response is not promising. The Lord essentially tells Samuel not to take it personally; they’ve rejected God, not Samuel. In addition, if they ask for it give it to them (v. 7,9).
Samuel goes back to the people and tries to warn them away from this course. He tells them all the troubles a king could bring, and all the things they’ll lose by being ruled by a man instead of God (vs. 10-18). This doesn’t sway the people, however. They want to be like the other “cool kids” of the time who have a king. After double checking with the Lord and confirming the first response, Samuel agrees to find them a king.
This scenario is useful for us to understand our own requests to God. In particular, request that are something we want, but that God says isn’t best for us. This passage tells us that the people are pulling away from God (v. 8). They don’t remember what God did for them and they don’t care. They want to have what they view as valuable: someone to rule over them and fight for them (v. 20). Never mind that God did that for them. They want a real flesh and blood person they can see.
How many times do we do this in our lives? We say we believe the Lord, but when we can’t see Him moving or understand His plan, we doubt and try to find a solution we can touch and feel and understand. Willingness to trust Him comes at the cost of control. We want to know how things turn out and we want a guarantee that it will be pleasant as we go. However, God doesn’t give us those things. (In fact, there’s more promises of unpleasantness than not. For example, John 16:33).
When you are pulling away from God or when you’re feeling negativity, like fear or anger, stop and check what you’re asking God for. Why are you asking for it and are you willing to take no for an answer. God is making you in the image of Christ, but only if you’re willing. We must chose to commit our lives to the Lord and choose to accept His answers for us. If you’re not, you may get what you ask for anyway, to your detriment.
Even though Israel demanded a king here and there were probably more bad kings than good ones, God still used the kings to bring about His plan. The first king Samuel appointed, Saul, ended up going a little crazy. The second king, David, brought about a time of prosperity that was only increased by his son, Solomon. The line is also the line that Jesus was descended through, as God promised David (1 Chronicles 17:11–14).
God’s plan will be fulfilled and our sin or selfish requests won’t keep Him from His plan. However, God’s ways of doing things are always better and are always worth whatever we feel like we have to give up to follow Him.