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.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but 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. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”
This story gives an account of Samuel showing us what it means to be a good godly leader. Samuel was a judge over Israel, and the nature of his position can be explained best by perusing the book of Judges. That historical account displays a pattern not unusual for God’s people throughout the Old Testament. They would disobey, He would punish them, they would seek forgiveness and deliverance, and He would appoint someone to lead the people in that. Samuel was one of the judges God appointed to lead his people as a result of this kind of behavioral pattern, and their request of him here is just another instance of them abandoning the Lord. Samuel’s proper response was to seek God for guidance.
It was one thing for Israel to want a king in opposition to what God wanted for them. It was quite another thing for them to ask Samuel to appoint the king. In doing so, Samuel himself would have been opposing the leadership model that God wanted for his people. Samuel understood that this was not about letting the people have what they want but about him actually facilitating and enabling that bad choice. This was not something Samuel wanted to do because he knew it could not end well. We do not know what he prayed, but God’s response gives us a clue. Although Samuel was the mediator, this was a conflict between the Lord and Israel, and it was no reflection on Samuel’s own faithfulness.
Samuel understood that being a godly leader meant putting God first. Those whom he led would have their requests, but it was for Samuel to determine what was best for them. In doing this work, he could not defy God to please the people. If he did, he would be leading them away from the Lord instead of toward him, and we see that happen with other leaders in Israel’s history to their detriment. Today’s compromises in the Church show us that this kind of leadership is lacking and must return. A wayward shepherd raises only wayward sheep. Father, pour a renewed wisdom over your leaders in the Church, that they would fear and follow You and not submit to the whims of the masses.