Author: Richard Rohlin

Warriors and Poets: Israel demands a king (Pt 2)

In 1 Samuel 8, Israel demands that God and Samuel give them a king. We’ve already talked about why, and about the provisions in the Law for kingship. Today, we’ll look at God and Samuel’s response. Israel demands 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.” (1Sa 8:4-5) Samuel reacts Samuel takes their demands personally, as a rejection – possibly even an indictment – of the job that Samuel has done in his years as judge over Israel. On some level, it probably was. Samuel’s sons were not godly men (1 Samuel 8:1-3). In fact, Samuel seems to have this in common with his old mentor, Eli. Samuel’s sons are known to wicked, greedy men, taking bribes and perverting the justice of God. Angry and hurt, Samuel takes his pain before the Lord: But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD. (1Sa 8:6) God responds God does not respond by reaffirming Samuel’s calling or the job he’s done as judge, nor does he reprimand Samuel for the sons he has raised. Instead, helps Samuel out by giving him a bit...

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Warriors and Poets: Israel demands a king (Pt 1)

Recently, we discussed the growing scope of national threats that formed the catalyst for Israel’s demand for a king. This helped us understand why they rejected God’s original model of government. In today’s post, we’ll look at the consequences of Israel’s demand: how God treated it, used it, and judged it. God’s original plan God’s original plan for Israel was that it should be a theocracy, with God Himself at its head, his will expressed through specific revelation and through the Law. The administrative functions of the government would be carried out by the priests and Levites, while the magisterial functions would be performed by “judges” – men and women that God raised up specifically for that purpose. “If any case arises requiring decision between one kind of homicide and another, one kind of legal right and another, or one kind of assault and another, any case within your towns that is too difficult for you, then you shall arise and go up to the place that the LORD your God will choose. And you shall come to the Levitical priests and to the judge who is in office in those days, and you shall consult them, and they shall declare to you the decision. (Deu 17:8-9) But God knew that they day would come when, seeking to be more like the nations around them, Israel would desire a...

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Warriors and Poets: The call of God (Part 1)

We’re all called to different things, as believers. We have different gifts, different scopes of influence, and varying periods of time in which to exercise them. Understand that when we speak of God’s call, I am not talking specifically about the kinds of things that you and I would commonly term “ministry” –the pastorate, overseas missions, etc. Let us not be responsible for propagating the myth that some professions are inherently holier than others. As someone once said, “The only Christian work is good work, well done.” Remember, the first task God gave man was to till the ground, not start a youth ministry. God calls some of us to write fiction, some to pastor a flock, and others to collect the garbage. Some of us were made to be vases in king’s houses – others to be on the bargain shelf at the Pottery Barn. It’s the Maker’s call, really. But as varied as these callings may be, they share many of the same characteristics. A couple of weeks back, we established that Saul was clearly called by God – clearly called to be “captain over his [God’s] inheritance,” as Samuel put it. Examining that calling in greater depth serves two purposes: first, it teaches us something about the means and effect of the call of God upon our own lives – something of which each and every...

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Warriors and Poets: Israel in the Iron Age

Before we dig into Saul’s calling and falling, let us for a moment to get the wider historical context. Israel did not always have a king. In fact, God’s originally stated intent was that He should be their only king – that he would rule over them through the written words of His Law and through the leadership of priests and Judges. But by 1 Samuel 8, as still a relatively young nation, we see Israel demanding a king. To understand why, we’ll need to take a closer look at Israel and the Levant region during the Iron Age. The time of the Judges During the time of the judges, Israel was less a unified nation and more a loose-knit confederacy of tribes, much like the United States under the original Articles of Confederation. Although they faced invasion and enslavement by a number of hostile forces (nomads like the Midianites, or rulers of unconquered Canaanite city-states), Israel had seldom come together as a people since the time of Joshua. During the years between Joshua and Saul, Israel was lead by a number of local spiritual and military leaders called Judges. These men and women – people like Samson, Deborak, Ehud, and Shamgar – led the various tribes in their respective regions and were in many cases contemporaries. The prophet Samuel is the last of the judges, and he is one of...

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Warriors and Poets: Auspicious beginnings

Last week, I said that Saul “gets a bad rap.” It might be more appropriate to say that most of us fail to appreciate Saul for the complex and layered individual the Old Testament presents, or to consider the difficult problems he raises. The matter of Saul revolves around a single question: Was Saul bad in the beginning? I do not mean this in the sense of total depravity – of course Saul began badly because each of us “go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies” (Psalm 58:3). Rather, I mean to evaluate his actions and attitudes as king to try and see whether he was always a bad king, by the standards by which the Scripture judges kings. The answer, of course, is that he was not. There have been some reconstructionist attempts to paint some of Saul’s early, well-intentioned actions to have been as vile and self-serving as the worst of his later villainy. But they presume too much upon hindsight, for nowhere does the text support or suggest this. God called Saul. God chose Saul as king, and God extended to him the offer which he would later extend to each dynasty that would come after him. An understanding of this truth is critical to our analysis of Saul’s rise and fall. If we are to avoid Saul’s fate, we must come to a clear understanding of where...

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