Samuel the prophet was God’s spokesperson to the nation of Israel. He was called and equipped by God to speak the words of God. Those who rejected the words of Samuel were actually rejecting the words of the one who called Samuel.
God’s people had rejected God’s prophet. For many years, Samuel had served the nation of Israel. Though his sons had proven wayward, he himself had remained faithful. He had served well. He had spoken the words of God to the nation. He had appointed judges to govern them. But still the day came when the people rejected him.
“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 Samuel 8:4-5). Samuel had appointed judges, but now the people demanded a king. This displeased Samuel. Literally, “the thing was evil in his eyes.” He knew that the people had rejected him, that they were repudiating him. They were expressing discontentment with his leadership and longing not only for a new leader but for a whole new system of government. Their rejection and his dejection was complete.
Samuel did the right thing—he took his concerns to God. God spoke to the prophet and encouraged him in an unusual way. God’s encouragement was that the people’s rejection was not first a rejection of Samuel the prophet, but of God the king. “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’” (1 Samuel 8:7). While Samuel may have been right to be offended by the people’s demand, God had far more more right to be far more offended, for while Samuel had ruled imperfectly, God had only ever ruled perfectly. While Samuel’s time had been short, God had a long and unblemished legacy of loving, guiding, and protecting his people. Still, “Obey their voice,” he said, “and make them a king” (1 Samuel 8:22).