Now we arrive at 1 Samuel 8: Israel’s rejection of God as king and the appeal for a civil ruler—really a warlord—like the pagan nations around them. This chapter is what those of you who want some openly political application have been anticipating. I will divide this chapter into two sermons: the first covering verses 1 through 9 and focusing upon the root causes and conditions which drove Israel to such a fateful and damaging choice. Afterwards, we will cover the remainder of the chapter which deals with the social fallout of that decision. In each of these we will see striking parallels to our time and situation.
For starters, then, let us consider 1 Samuel 8:1–9. From this passage we learn some elements preceding national apostasy: a once great nation that loved and served God and executed justice in the land falls to the complete and utter rejection of God as their civil leader. In the space of less than a generation in this case, four distinct failures of faith contribute to this crucial national failure:
- The forgetfulness of God’s goodness and power in the past.
- The waning of an especially beloved administration.
- Corruption in the legacy government.
- Trust in military might for victory.
Coming as it does immediately after the great national revival in chapter 7, the narrative of these failures is all the more striking and, to the same degree, provides a stern warning to us in our own time.
Rejecting God often begins with forgetting God. Former Soviet prisoner Alexander Solzhenitsyn was awarded the prestigious Templeton Prize in 1983. He related his experiences of persecution under atheistic communism. During his address he pronounced the following now-famous words:
More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened. . . .
[I]f I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened. . . .
And if I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire twentieth century, here too, I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy than to repeat once again: Men have forgotten God.
The sayings highlight the truth of the proverbs, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34), and “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he” (Prov. 29:18 KJV). If we would but remember Him and keep His law—the perfect revelation of social order—our society would be exalted and happy. But when men forget God, it results in great disasters—not just personally, but in society, law, and government.
This is not only true of twentieth century atheistic communism, it can be true in any once-godly society. Here it is a fitting description of Israel in our passage. The fundamental failure of the Israelites here was to forget their God. This forgetfulness manifested in the other points mentioned. Verses 1–5 read:
When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. . . . 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” (1 Sam. 8:1–5).
In reading this account quickly in the space of just a few verses, we probably do not understand the full weight of the situation. As I said a minute ago, this change signals a drastic swing in the faith of Israel compared to the great revival of the previous chapter. After all, Samuel set up the stone called Ebenezer specifically as a memorial device so Israel would not forget what had happened. And now here we are a couple decades or so later witnessing just that: Israel forgetting God. Nevertheless, just from what we have read so far in 1 Samuel, not to mention the victories followed by lapses of faithfulness repeated throughout Judges previously, we are beginning to get used to this pattern. Israel would receive God’s favor and blessing only to forget Him and indulge in sin. God would then judge them with invasions and other scourges, and eventually send a faithful judge to call them back to repentance. This pattern is exactly what God told them to avoid when they first approached the land:
You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God (Deut. 8:18–20).
Despite the warnings of the Law and Samuel the judge, Israel forgot. Their forgetfulness manifested in society in characteristic ways that make up the other three points in our list. They can all be summarized under the heading of “faith in man” instead of God. Or, if you prefer, we can simply call it a plunge into humanism.
The first of these three points is that the trusted leadership, Samuel, who had brought them so far, was getting old and by implication beginning to wane. There is no doubt that Samuel’s leadership had been established among the people. They trusted him or else they would not still have come to him for approval even though they were about to sell him out. The problem here is that the people apparently did not learn the heart of the lessons Samuel had led them through. The mighty revival in chapter 7 was all about God’s presence and particularly God’s preeminence in all things. The Israelites in 7:11 would not have been able to rout the Philistines as they did had not God first moved with a great thunder to put the enemy in a flight of terror (7:10). We recall that the chapter 7 episode was a return to God’s Law and the idea that the battle is the Lord’s (Deut. 20:3–4). But now how far have they come from that reality? Now it appears that it was Samuel himself whom they had ben trusting all this time, for the moment he begins to show signs of aging, they start to fear about their future. Had their faith been squarely in the God to whom Samuel pointed, their concerns would have been quite different. Instead of inquiring about a king, they may have been resolved in the fact that God Himself was their king, and that they needed nothing else but to trust in Him.
Adding to the elders’ fear, however, and to their condemnation, is the fact that they assessed their chances for the future upon their current corrupt leadership. Samuel had appointed his two sons as judges under his command. Despite their wonderful names—Abijah (“My father is Yaweh”), and Joel (you can’t get a much better name than Joel, or “Yaweh is God”)—they failed to live up to them or to walk in the righteous ways of their father. They reversed the reign of justice that Samuel had established in chapter 7. They accepted bribes, a vice which perverts justice in favor of those willing to pay. This favors the wealthy who will pay large sums to sway a decision. It also crushes the poor who are either found unfairly on the losing end of such suits, or who must scrape together and sacrifice virtually their life savings to get a favorable ruling. In the end, bribery means that justice according God’s Law is superseded by the material gain of the judge. The elders had enough moral sense to know that this practice was wrong. They did not want a society in which it was perpetuated. But again, they were focused upon the men and not upon the God who had previously delivered them. Thus, instead of turning to God, they despaired and turned to human devices.
One of the ironies in this event is that the elders had properly assessed the outward facts of the situation. Samuel was indeed aging and the young judges were indeed corrupt. These were accurate descriptions. But what made them jump to the conclusion that the remedy would be to install a king like the pagan nations? It was their misplaced trust. They were judging by the men around them and according to human wisdom, not according to God’s Law and the experience of His divine favor and victory. It was a misplaced trust, and it was about to set the course of their history on a trajectory for state-slavery that would characterize most of the next 430-plus years, even under the better of the kings, and which would only end in an even greater captivity to Babylon in 586 BC.
From forgetting to rejecting
It is already apparent from the corruption of Abijah and Joel that some of Israel’s leadership had forgotten God. It is also apparent from the elders’ reaction to this that they had forgotten him as well. But most importantly, it is when we forget God yet then proceed as purported leaders actually to try to solve problems on our own that we move from forgetting to actively rejecting God, as well as leading others to do so. Here is how that process manifested in this passage:
Notice that the elders gathered together with each other before they came to Samuel. Then all the elders of Israel gathered together (8:4). And what was the nature of this meeting? What transpired? We know that they came to Samuel, but they had to go through some process of calling themselves together first. It is good to have a multitude of counselors, and it is good that their end goal was to go to Samuel. But they arrive to him with a demand. This shows they had already gathered together without him first in order to form their own agenda. They do not arrive before Samuel with an inquiry; they do not care to ask advice from the only prophet and visionary of God in the land. No, they arrive with an assessment, a plan, and a demand of their own devising. They did not come before the man of God humbly, but in presumption and self-assurance. They did not come seeking Samuel’s counsel, but to impose their own political will. They did not want to hear the Word of God; they wanted Samuel’s authoritative religious sanction for their abandonment of that Word.
They gave Samuel a classic political pitch: they couched their true desire in the language of the importance of good government and the restoration of justice. This was likely formulated during their meeting as well. “You’re old, Samuel. We need to have continuity of righteous government. You’re not going to be around forever. But this younger generation (ahem—your own sons, by the way) have perverted justice. They’re obviously no substitute for you.” There was no denying any of this, as with most political ads. It was factual on the surface, perfectly righteous as far as it went, and no one could argue against it. It even included a little element of guilt.
But the remedy the elders demanded and the later dialogue between these parties reveals that there was an ulterior motive: “There shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles” (8:19–20). Ah, now we get the rest of the story. For their remedy was disproportionate to the problem they needed to solve. If the problem is a bad judge, you replace the bad judge with a good judge. It’s a simple fix. You do not need to create a centralized monarchy to overrule all other civil structures throughout the nation. The appeal for such a behemoth governmental apparatus could only have other motivations. Sure enough, it was the elders’ desire to have a government like other nations as well as have a powerful central military force to lead Israel’s battles. Both of these desires were direct violations of God’s Word. It is no wonder they pitched them under the guise of perfectly reasonable reforms of government. Slick political ads and clever campaign management are nothing new.
Notice also that their safety and security was the primary fear they expressed. Nothing will put a nation into a position more susceptible to centralization and tyranny than the widespread fear for safety. To paraphrase a well-known quotation from Ben Franklin: “Those who would trade essential liberty for temporary safety deserve neither.” And “neither” is usually the outcome in such tyrannies: the people are enslaved by a multitude of laws, oppressed by a variety of taxes, society is militarized, and welfarism soon abounds; yet for all of this, the people are no safer than before, and in fact, due to increased militarism abroad, foreign hostilities and terroristic attacks increase, making people at home less safe than before. The government which people embraced for the promise of safety has become a detriment to public safety—and at the expense of individual liberty and treasure.
Thus does the failure of forgetting God manifest as in acts of rejecting God in society. Forgetfulness seems passive at the time, but it is in reality an active neglect of one’s duty to love God with your whole heart (Deut. 6:4–6).
Real political evil
The translation is correct when it reads the thing displeased Samuel, although it is worth noting that the word for “displeased” is literally the word for “evil.” The literal reading could be, The saying was evil in the eyes of Samuel, when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” Samuel was contemplating the highest political evil there is: the national rejection of God by means of a humanist government, which is to say, an idolatrous government. And the demand for an idolatrous government can only be the product of an idolatrous people. It was displeasing to Samuel in the subjective sense because it was evil in the objective sense.
But unlike the elders who had reacted to a problem by devising an agenda of their own wisdom, Samuel reacted as he always had: in prayer. The Lord responded by affirming the godlessness and idolatry of the decision. This was nothing less than Israel has done from day one, He said:
they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you (8:7–8).
As the Lord had witnessed the evils of unfaithful Israel all along, now Samuel would be witness to political evil for the rest of his days. When a society full of God’s people apostatizes, the faithful remnant among it is especially sorrowful. The result is a small group of people who know better and who shout warnings from beginning to end, but to little avail.
Samuel’s particular distress lay in the fact that he knew what the elders really wanted, especially after God called their request for a king a rejection of Him. The elders no longer wanted Hebrew theocracy, which was the freest form of civil government devisable. They wanted a king, but not one bound by Yaweh. They did not want the strictures of having their champion subject to Yaweh’s Law for kings. They wanted power, therefore, decreed by themselves, for themselves. They did not want God to be in control; but even worse, they wanted to play God by taking the ultimate throne of power and glory over the land and using it according to the fashion of pagan empires. They were guilty of doing things in a way just the opposite of how God commanded. Israel was to be a bright shining light unto the pagan kingdoms around them (Deut. 4:1–8). Instead, they constantly abandoned God and served idols, baals, Ashtaroth, and now they also wanted to mold and shape their national civil power according to the image of those pagans around them. Samuel understood this, and it was confirmed directly by God. Samuel was destined to live through the drama of such a rebellious and idolatrous nation. As we shall see, he would not do so without a fight for faithfulness and the maintenance of God’s Law.
As we already said, a corrupt government is the product of a corrupt people. Forms of government arise from a cultural mandate from the masses, in this case through a republican form of government (the elders were representative heads from across the land). As H. L. Mencken once wrote, “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what They want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” So was God’s answer to this rejection of Him: if that’s what they want, that’s what they get, good and hard. So often does God punish our sins with our sins: the further we go, the more we indulge in our own destruction. As Paul wrote of the pagan nations,
God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. . . . And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done (Rom. 1:24–28).
The thrice-repeated “God gave them up” is what is significant here. When these pagans indulged in their idolatrous sins, God simply let them go. Human autonomy became its own punishment as the pagans delved deeper and deeper into the ignorance resulting from their own sin, only hurting themselves in the long run. But this type of judgment is not reserved only for pagans. God did the same with Israel. They wanted to act like pagans and have such a king, so God told Samuel, Obey the voice of the people. It was democratic republicanism in the service of a faithless people. The results would not be pretty.
1. Be wary of proposals made in times of crisis and fear
There are always people in society, usually already in the ranks of government, who wish to exploit crises in order to expand their power and agenda. This has long been a part of secular political philosophy. The German philosopher G. W. F. Hegel systematized a general theory of change that has since become known as the “Hegelian dialectic” involving “thesis > antithesis > synthesis.” That’s a little abstract, I know. But the Marxists got a hold of this concept and applied it to social change in the material world, and what emerged was a social-control process often called “problem > reaction > solution.” In short, a problem appears is society, then society reacts in fear or even panic, then the government proposes a solution. When the people are naturally fearful in the face of a crisis, they will also naturally accept almost any solution that appears feasible and offers a way out of the great fear. If the problem presented is serious enough, the people may even be willing to give up essential liberties in exchange for the security of the solution. A group of leaders who have their own agenda absolutely delight in the emergence of such crises. For decades now, they have learned to have those agendas prepared in the form of legislative bills, executive orders, etc., in anticipation of any crisis they can use to advance them. Further, the process creates such a real and viable path forward for tyrants, some critics note that these leaders have a vested interest not only in the emergence of crises, but even of the creation of them if they could get away with it.
But we need not rely on a conspiratorial note; we have a direct endorsement of this type of thinking. During the heart of the financial crisis in November of 2008, Barack Obama’s then-Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel made a now infamous comment:
“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. . . . Things that we had postponed for too long, that were long-term, are now immediate and must be dealt with. This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not do before.”
The seizing of a crisis is a classic political tactic to force a quick decision upon a momentous issue, and usually in conditions stacked in such a way that the only viable choice at the moment has already been chosen for you. The tactic aims to skirt wisdom, deliberation, and debate by turning the moment into an emergency, the only apparent remedy for which is to cede more power to a government, etc. But these are not true emergencies. They are manufactured or exploited for preconceived political purposes. In most cases, we have people trained to handle real emergencies. Politicians are not those people. Just like with the Israelite elders, in such a moment you can bet there has already been a meeting, and an agenda has already been laid out.
Such attempts at “solutions” are often identifiable in that they are out of proportion to the purported problem at hand. At the same time, however, the disproportionate fix is also part of a well-known agenda held by those suddenly urging its immediate necessity. ObamaCare was a classic example of this. There is a legitimate problem in society in that some people suffer because they cannot afford basic health care needs. In some cases these needs are genuine necessities. But the number of these genuine cases is not as large as some want you to believe, and the problem would hardly be insurmountable in a free society. Yet the “solution” called for was a 2,000-page piece of legislation that entails all sorts of new bureaucracies, welfare systems, invasions of privacy, increased costs, and a shortage of doctors. And yet it doesn’t even completely solve the problem for which it was introduced. To make matters worse, everyone knew this was no real crisis, but that socialized health care has been part of the leftist agenda since the New Deal.
To be an equal-opportunity critic, another classic example of this pattern was in our own constitutional convention. The main social problem before the convention was the states’ debasement of currency in lame attempts to pay off their war debts. Many could not, and bond-holders were taking a major hit. But the federal government under the Articles of Confederation did not allow the central government easily to consolidate the debts into a single pool, nor to levy taxes to pay them off. The bankers and financiers holding the war paper were stuck. And you know how American politicians love their bankers. So, a few of the most ambitious of them pumped the crisis enough to get congressional permission to “revise” the Articles. They then called a convention, locked the doors, took a vow of silence, threw away the Articles, and proceeded to write a whole new document afresh—a document which vastly centralized government power over the states, over taxation, the courts, interstate commerce, and the military. These were vast new powers that had not existed before. The solution was certainly disproportionate to the need. Sure enough, it turns out that it was not just a solution to that one little problem after all. It was the long-term agenda of a few people seizing the opportunity of a faux “crisis” to advance their agenda for bigger government. As one opponent of the move wrote at the time,
The plan of government now proposed [the Constitution] is evidently calculated totally to change, in time, our condition as a people. Instead of being thirteen republics, under a federal head, it is clearly designed to make us one consolidated government. . . . This consolidation of the states has been the object of several men in this country for sometime past.
While that’s a painful truth to accept regarding our beloved Constitution, it is a fact. It greatly centralized political power in this country (as I have documented in Restoring American One County at a Time), and has since been a key enabler of all the great tyrannies that have subsequently plagued American history, including ObamaCare.
The key factor is such crisis-mongering is the leveraging of fear. Expanding state power can best be done by offering state solutions to a fearful populace. To do so, however, the people must be put into a state of fear, and specifically a state of fear in which the only solutions appears to be bigger, stronger government. This tactic was classically exploited in Nazi Germany, and readily admitted by Hermann Goering during the Nuremberg trials:
[I]t is always a simple matter to drag people along whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. . . . [V]oice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.
The susceptibility to advanced tyranny is one reason we should be highly wary of changes in government or law proposed during times of crisis. We should very leery of proposals based on fear, especially when we are given little time to deliberate and debate the merits of such proposal.
Instead of knee-jerk reactions and instead of allowing politicians and tyrants cajole (or herd) us into attempts at political salvation, our response to genuine social problems should be to turn directly to God. Like Samuel, we can listen to the political pitch, but we see through the pretenses and rise above the fray. We immediately pray and seek God’s Word in the matter. If the proposed agenda rejects God’s Word, or cannot be revised to conform to God’s Word, then we must reject it.
2. Be critical of all political discourse
We are customarily skeptical and dismissive of any political discourse coming from the other side, but remember that the elders in this narrative were presenting a conservative argument. They wanted to restore justice, ensure continuity of just government, and ensure strong national security. And yet beneath the surface, they really had abandoned God in their proposals. They were admiring pagan notions and seeking humanistic means for military empire. The point is that often conservative politicians are no more trustworthy than those dreaded opponents on the left. The lesson is not to trust any political pitch from any politician or party without understanding all the facts, principles, and implications involved.
This is especially true when candidates and causes present their positions in the name of values and morals which we would normally consider Christian. This can easily be a façade as well, as religious language is one of the best public relations tools politicians have. But beneath the surface, again, things can easily be different. Are such people really led by a biblical worldview, or are they just using religion to lend credibility to an unbiblical position or candidate and deceive Christians into supporting them? On most issues, the true biblical position should be not to have civil government involved in the first place.
Like the Hebrew elders, modern politicians seek religious sanction for unbiblical ideas, including outright godlessness. Indeed, people today rarely come before men of God seeking to be informed and led; they arrive with an agenda of their own, plans of their own, already self-assured they have solved their own problems—even if they do not state such a thing in such clear terms. They do not come to be examined, challenged, disciplined by God’s Word. They arrive to have their preconceived notions, no matter how biblically awry and humanistic, given the blessing of their pastor, elder, or denomination. When this malady infects the church’s elders, too, they must be assessed as having rejected God. They have become nothing more than fronts for the godless state, in the name of God, and buffers to insulate misguided and even corrupt politicians from the stinging critique of God’s Law.
Christians are called to “test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess. 5:21–22). It is time we did this honestly and radically across the board. Otherwise we end up giving our own forms of godless government a religious sanction merely because they’re not as bad the other guys. Again, we must be like Samuel who turned immediately in prayer and sought the Word of God. That Word is our standard. It must be where we begin and where we end in evaluating political positions.
3. Beware the lust to rule
It was bad enough these elders had a preconceived agenda to press upon Samuel; that they were essentially ousting God from the public square and assuming His seat was even worse. St. Augustine opened his classic work The City of God by delineating between two cities: one ruled by God and another which is itself “ruled by the lust to rule.” We can concur that these are basic aspects of fallen human nature: 1) that fallen man lusts to dominate other men and to be praised, and 2) that this lust itself is a force to which fallen men are inescapably subject except through God’s grace. Even as Christians, we still face a contest with our fallen natures which we must crucify daily. Even good Christian rulers and leaders can be subject to and even driven by this lust to rule. The fall of man was at its root a rejection of God’s Word in favor of man’s wisdom. It was man’s lust to rule. The Hebrew elders show us here that this lust to rule is not just a spiritual component; it goes on to manifest in civil affairs as well.
As Christians we must be ever vigilant to affirm and stand firm for just the opposite: the subjection of us and all rulers to the absolute sovereignty and authority of Christ the King. We confess this and we work to manifest it in society. We do so in regard to ourselves as well as all rulers. Salvation is of God. God alone is our ultimate ruler. The moment we default to man’s wisdom and power, we reject God, create demigods out of sinful men, and institute a state-tyranny in the land. R. J. Rushdoony recognized these truths as deriving from the Christian doctrine of Christ as both fully man and fully God—the only perfect man with divine power and authority:
Western liberty began when the claim of the state to be man’s savior was denied. The state then, according to Scripture, was made the ministry of justice. But, wherever Christ ceases to be man’s savior, there liberty perishes as the state again asserts its messianic claims. Man is in trouble, and history is the record of his attempt to find salvation. Man needs a savior, and the question is simply one of choice: Christ or the state? No man can choose the one without denying the other, and all attempts at compromise are a delusion.
Further, this is why the church confesses the ascension of Christ into heaven, and His rule of earth from heaven at the right hand of God.
Unless the ascension and session of Jesus Christ be confessed, men will seek their own ascension into omnipotence and their own session of absolute power over man. For a man to confess Christ and to espouse statism or socialism is to involve himself in a serious contradiction and the practical denial of Christ. . . . The essence of the humanistic and socialist state is that it is the enthronement of a man into the government of heaven and earth. The consequence is warfare against God and Christ. There is no victory possible for men who wage war against God.
The church, which has largely abdicated its prophetic stance toward the state, needs to recover these doctrines and their political outworking. It needs to pronounce to the state and society today that the government is not a savior, and we cannot solve man’s problems by the coercive arm of the state, especially when animated by the fallen wisdom of man. The church and her leadership must acknowledge that where we have neglected to uphold these truths, neglected to hold the lusts of our civil rulers at bay, and have neglected to proclaim the full Kingship of Christ over every area of life, we have engaged in the “practical denial of Christ” as Rushdoony so provocatively put it.
There is no doubt that we have legitimate problems today—morally, socially, legally, and more. But to attempt to go beyond the limits and purposes which God has revealed for civil government in His Word is to attempt to save ourselves by abandoning God. It is to say that we are wiser and more capable than God in the area of civil government. Our fears and self-assurances come together to create the same sinful forces which motivated the Hebrew elders. It is nothing less than the lust to rule driving us to presume the role of God once again. And we propose the same type of solution as did those elders: a coercive government based on our observation of pagan political systems. It is a call for godless government, and as such, we can rest assured that God’s assessment is the same as that of the Hebrew elders given to Samuel: a rejection of God.
4. Government must be transformed by God’s Word, not conformed to this world
The only godly direction for civil government is to return to God’s Law. We must conform government to God’s standards rather than man’s. This is nothing less than the maxim later expressed by Paul, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Rom. 12:2).” In the very next chapter he affirms the role of the civil ruler as “God’s servant” who is to protect “good” by punishing that which is “wrong.” One must ask: by whose standard shall God’s minister determine that which is good and that which is evil?
But we find so many justifications for departing from God’s standards. The Israelite elders wanted to test the waters of political theory. They were inspired by their pagan neighbors and desired to install a ruler like what they had seen. Never mind that many of these rulers called themselves divine or claimed to be in direct connection with the chain of being of divinity. Never mind that such worship of man was rank idolatry. Never mind that such states de facto usurped the role of the Messiah. It looked so much more effective and glorious than that with which God had provided them: a pure theocracy bereft of great monuments, pyramids, forts, armies, air shows, first ladies, and all the things that to fallen men bespeak national greatness. Yet these elders were not only in error in this regard, they were in open satanic rebellion.
Satanic nevertheless, many theologians and pastors today agree with the Hebrew elders. They think that pagans and non-believers have a better understanding of law, government, and justice than God does. They even use the same justifications as the elders before Samuel: “God’s Law is old and outdated, we need something new.” “We’ve tried theocracy and it didn’t prevent problems like bribery and injustice.” “We need to compete with other nations, and thus we need a military, central bank, and government like they have.” “Look how good big government’s worked over there in Egypt: just look at the size of their economy and low unemployment numbers!” These men and women believe it is imperative that we set aside the Law of God in order to follow pagan philosophies that derive legal and political philosophy from nature, humanity, pragmatism, or some other humanistic ideology. They want a government like other nations. Yet the thing was evil in the eyes of Samuel, and atheism in the eyes of God.
In the face of this, God’s people ought to be as greatly disturbed and distressed as Samuel upon first hearing it. We ought to reject the notion outright as evil and godless. The state is not the means to solve our spiritual and social problems, and certainly not when we remove God from it and insert ourselves in His place. We will create ever-compounding problems and institute ever-creeping tyranny trying to solve them. In fact, we have already done so. We have gone from a generally free and once-great nation to a largely socialist empire riddled with state-imposed immorality and verging on a police state. The only answer is to strip the state of its vast undue powers and return to the representative jury society submitted to the theocracy of Christ the King and His Word. His Word, not ours. His means, not ours. His throne, not ours. Until Christians at least begin to see this as the goal toward which we are to aim, the godless elders have won out, and the remnant will remain prayerful, but saddened. But it won’t go down quietly. It will predict what will come, and it will say “I told you so” when it comes, as we shall see Samuel do in our next installment.
 This is my assumption and is a general estimation. Samuel was a young man when the 20-year wait occurred in 7:3. Thus he would have been probably between 30 and 40 years old in chapter 7. Now in 8:1, we find him described as “old.” It would be safe to assume he was at least 60 or so. This leaves roughly a two-decade gap.
 If there is any questionable mark anywhere upon Samuel’s life and career it may be here. How had he failed so as a parent that his sons were beset by the most common of temptations for judges—that being the taking of bribes? And how did he not recognize their susceptibility before appointing them judges? And why did he as a judge himself not move to correct their crimes?
 Gerald F. Seib, “In Crisis, Opportunity for Obama,” The Wall Street Journal, November 21, 2008; http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122721278056345271.html (accessed April 24, 2013).
 Either that or the alleged problem is magnified out of proportion to the point that a rational person with access to the facts could easily smell something fishy.
 The Federal Farmer, in The Complete Anti-Federalist, 7 vol., ed. by Herbert J. Storing (University of Chicago Press, 1981), 2.8.4.
 Quoted in G. M. Gilbert, Nuremberg Diary (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 1995 ), 278–9.
 R. J. Rushdoony, The Foundations of Social Order: Studies in the Creeds and Councils of the Early Church, 3rd Ed. (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1998), 67.
 R. J. Rushdoony, The Foundations of Social Order: Studies in the Creeds and Councils of the Early Church, 3rd Ed. (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1998), 140.