In Sunday’s message, we talked about Israel’s demand for a king in 1 Samuel 8:5. In spite of their sinful motivation, God still granted their request. He knew they needed a king—just not for the reasons they thought they did.
We saw how the book of Judges prepared us for this, by helping us recognize that a good king would bring some much-needed stability and leadership to the nation (Judges 21:25).
But if we go even further back then this, all the way to Deuteronomy 17, we’ll discover that God had long foreseen that Israel would ask for a king, and He decreed back then—before they had ever crossed the Jordan—that the king was to have a crucial role in leading the nation in faithfulness to God’s covenant.
Deuteronomy 17:14-15 says, “When you come to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ you may indeed set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you” (Deuteronomy 17:14–15).
And then after warning them about the kinds of things the king should not do, the Lord says this in verse 18: “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel” (Deuteronomy 17:18–20).
God knew that Israel would eventually want a king, and so He declared that this king was to be a man of His word, a man who knew and kept the covenant—and thus, a man who would lead the nation to do the same. His rejection of Saul and choice of David (1 Samuel 13:14) shows His determination to give Israel this kind of king.
There’s a wonderful irony at work here—Israel’s desire for a king, which was in many ways the capstone of their rebellion against God (1 Samuel 8:7-8), was at the same time the very thing that would secure their obedience to God.
By trying to push God away, they found themselves closer to Him than ever before.