This chapter begins with Samuel enjoying the success of having led the people back in the right direction. He effectively retires and has his two sons judge over Israel. Unfortunately they are not good stewards of this responsibility and they seek dishonest gain, take bribes, and participate in perverted justice.
Israel rightly seeks better leadership. They go to Samuel and ask him to appoint them a king. Instead of looking to God, they have taken to noticing the kingdoms around them and they desire a king like the idolatrous nations around them.
Samuel brings this to God and God surprisingly tells Samuel to give the people what they seek: a king. But this gift comes with a disclaimer: this king will take many valuable things from them (I Samuel 11-17). Even though Samuel tells the people that “…you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day,” the people persist in their request for a king. They are looking for a king to protect them, to fight their battles. With so many examples in their relatively short history of God fighting and winning their battles for them, it is perplexing that they would be so adamant in their request for an earthly king. Their stubbornness speaks to the mighty powers of envy and worldly influence.
The people have good intentions in that they want to be governed properly, but they are seeking governance from the wrong source and based on the wrong example.
Sometimes the thing we are asking for, the thing that we think is good, is actually the worst thing for us. To avoid this pitfall, we should ask ourselves, “what is the source of inspiration for this desire?” Is it based on an idea to do good? Have we considered whether or not it honors God?
If the source of inspiration is sinful, or even just seemingly harmless, envision the outcome. What do you see happening? Do you see a greater belief in God or a kind of departure from God? There can be many different ways to accomplish a task or establish a path. The onus on us is to examine the intent of our decisions. We can all easily claim good intentions, but we need to make sure that our methods are also good.