• Joseph Durso

The Value of a Judge Over a King

A Account of Four Kings series

"Now Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life." (1 Samuel 7:15)

Samuel's story is certainly not unique because certain fundamental elements are true of all people called by God. However, his life concludes God's use of judges in Israel's land and begins the kings' rule. Samuel's story starts with his mother, who is understood to be a very godly woman and so grateful that she dedicated Samuel to God all the days of his life.

Key elements to understand about Samuel, primarily his call, had nothing to do with him, his choices, or goodness. God is sovereign, and His decisions always come first. Throughout the age known to the Bible as Judges, men rose by God to rescue Israel from affliction by, surrounding nations. These men also judged Israel for their behavior, which was the primary cause of their miseries.

Before Israel called for a king, the ark was stolen and caused great suffering among the Philistines. When it returned to Israel, some men looked into the ark, and then we read the following.

"He struck down some of the men of Beth-shemesh because they had looked into the ark of the LORD. He struck down of all the people, 50,070 men, and the people mourned because the LORD had struck the people with a great slaughter" (1 Samuel 6:19).

Israel is God's chosen people, but not because they are better or free from sin, but because of God's unmerited favor and incredible grace. However, God's peoples can incur God's chastening hand due to sin. We must always remember that the nation of Israel as a whole was not God's people but only a remnant.

For this reason, judges were appointed and necessary. God raised prophets to reprove the people and tell the truth in the land. We live in a world of evil that began with lies, and in this way, it continues.

In Romans 1, Paul expressed this truth with such phrases as, "men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness ...they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened ...they exchanged the truth of God for a lie." The result of our choice to believe a lie is the loss of our ability to reason. "God gave them over to a depraved mind (unable to reason)" (1: 28).

Throughout the time of the judges, sin increased from generation to generation. "They did not do as their fathers" (2:17) proves the point. Furthermore, God was with the judges, but we read of a most unfortunate recurrence. "But it came about when the judge died, that they would turn back and act more corruptly than their fathers..." (Judges 2:19).

Sin is like deadly cancer that continues to spread until it destroys its host.

Finally, Israel, unable to reason, made the most ungodly choice possible. "Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and they said to him, "Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations." (1 Samuel 8:4, 5)

God's response to this unreasoning request was to Samuel. "Listen to the voice of the people in regard to 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). They wanted a king to fight their battles. What king fights battles so that the people won't have to; is that unreasoning or what?

Only one king in all human history fought the battle for His people. Such a king was supremely called by the Father and chosen to take first place among the people He redeemed. Unlike all the other kings in human history, this king was perfectly good, served men like no other, and was rejected and nailed to a piece of wood.

There is only a place for one king; that king is our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thoughts to Ponder:

  1. The people saw that Samuel's sons did not follow in his ways. However, nowhere are we told that God chose his sons to take Samuel's place.

  2. God always chooses judges, prophets, and teachers whom he first makes holy.

  3. God raises men who serve the people and speak the truth.

  4. False prophets do not speak for God.

  5. Kings constitute a dynasty; therefore, some will be kind and godly, and more will be self-serving and evil.

  6. When Israel chose a king and, therefore, a dynasty, it decided not to let God lead.

  7. God is sovereign even over a royal dynasty, but men pay the price for rejecting God as their one true king.