Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights" (1 Samuel 8:9 [NIV]).
The Israelites wanted a king just like all the other nations had. It’s hard
to fault them since, many times, we want a king, too. We want someone to
inspire us. We want someone to protect us. We want someone to make sure
justice is served and everything stays fair. We want a king to take care of us
in ways we cannot take care of ourselves.
Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who
were asking him for a king. He said, "This is what the king who will reign over
you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with
his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he
will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others
to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war
and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and
cooks and bakers.” (1 Samuel 8:10-13 [NIV]).
The problem with a king, however, is that he will not just take care of,
protect, and give. Instead, a king will take from, enlist, and put to work. A
king demands allegiance. That means he will take something from us. That
something might be a someone…like a son or a daughter. We don’t just get a
king. We serve a king.
“He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and
olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain
and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your male and
female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own
use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his
slaves” (1 Samuel 8:14-17 [NIV]).
The Israelites learned this the hard way. Their sons and daughters were
pulled into service just as God warned them would happen. The tenth of
everything was not just a transfer of what they were already paying.
(Israelites already gave a tithe, which is 10% or a tenth, of their income to
God. They brought it to the tabernacle as an act of worship and to support
God’s workers: the Levites.) No, this did not transfer the money from God to
the king. It doubled the amount of money they would now pay. A tithe would be
brought to God and another tenth would be paid as a tax to the king. Israel
would learn that having a king came at a price.
“When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from
the king you have chosen, but the LORD will not answer you in that day" (1
Samuel 8:18 [NIV]).
How about you? Do you serve a king? Do you serve more than one? What does
it cost you?