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Everybody loves a superstar. Nothing wrong with Michael Jordan … greatest basketball player of all time. Spawned a whole series of TV commercials – Nike, Gatorade … you name it … a whole generation of kids growing up with the mentality:

“I wanna be like Mike!” The problem comes when we take a Superstar paradigm and apply it to the realm of spiritual leadership with no regard for God’s revealed model.

– We are going to look at the will of the people back in the days of Samuel when Israel rejected God’s design for theocratic rule and demanded a king like all the other nations around them.

– Then we are going to make application to God’s people today in the context of the local church where God’s clearly revealed pattern of plurality of elder government has been replaced by the Superstar Syndrome of a Senior Pastor model with helper elders.

My thesis will be that these 2 situations (which in both instances became the norm rather than the exception for God’s people) are remarkably parallel. For some reason, God’s people are incredibly blind to the warnings and the exhortations which God provides in this crucial area.

However, God is gracious to continue to work and bless in a program that at best can be called “Second Best.” Deviation in this one area is not a fatal flaw for either the nation of Israel or the local church. There are many other criteria for God’s favor and blessing. However, that doesn’t excuse us from seeking God’s best in this area as well and expecting that despite our natural pragmatic thinking to the contrary, God’s way will actually turn out to be most fruitful when judged from God’s perspective.


A. (:1-2) Samuel’s Transition Plan for Leadership Continuity: Appoint His Sons as Judges

1. (:1) Insufficient Preparation

Samuel waited too long to do the necessary discipling work with his sons

“And it came about when Samuel was old that he appointed his sons judges over Israel.”

2. (:2) Mechanical Attempt at Implementation

No appointment by God; no divine calling

Same problem that Eli experienced – his sons lacked the character for the job

B. (:3) Failure of That Plan: Corrupt Leadership

1. Summary: Did not emulate the godly example of their father Samuel

“His sons, however, did not walk in his ways”

2. Root Problem: Rebellion / Disobedience

“but turned aside”

3. Motivation: Selfish gain

“dishonest gain”

“took bribes”

4. Result: No righteousness in the land

“perverted justice”


A. (:4-5) The Voice of the People Present a Plan that Sounds Reasonable and Pragmatic

1. (:4) Proper Approach to Appeal to Authority

“Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah”

But inherent danger of democratic type of representative government:

– The will of the majority can be at great odds with the will of God!

– We need safeguards in a structure where the voice of the people can become more powerful than the voice of God.

– What happens when you have the inmates running the insane asylum?

Deffinbaugh: “At first glance, it seems as though only the elders of Israel are demanding a king. As the chapter unfolds, it is very clear that all of the people of Israel are behind this movement to have a king. This indicates to me that Israel is functioning here somewhat as a democracy. Their elders are not leading, as much as they are representing the people.”

2. (:5a) Accurate Assessment of the Situation

“Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways”

3. (:5b) Logical Conclusion Based on Worldly, Pragmatic Model

“Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.”

– A sense that under theocratic rule they were missing out on something;

– A preference for the visible and the impressive over the invisible and the spiritual

– A lack of discernment over the dangers of monarchy

– A denial of their mission to be a holy people ruled directly by God

B. (:6) The Discerning Ear of the Prophet of God Immediately Recognizes Deviation from God’s Program

1. (:6a) Immediate Reaction on the Part of Samuel

“But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel …”

2. (:6b) Mature Reaction on the Part of Samuel

Did not react defensively, but sought counsel from God

“And Samuel prayed to the Lord”

Victor Yap: “Samuel was feeling deeply hurt, backed into a corner, and disrespected in the worst way. No one came to his defense, all elders had the same thinking, and options were not on the table. He did not threaten to quit or call it quits, announce or take an early retirement, or leave without a word or trace. He didn’t think it was necessary, time, or wise, but Samuel did was what his mother did, what he saw his mother did, and what he had learned to do all his life — when he led the revival early in his ministry (1 Sam 7:5), when he underwent this crisis midway in his ministry (1 Sam 8:6), and when he bid them farewell in his twilight years (1 Sam 12:19, 23)-; he prayed. Samuel was attested by prophet Jeremiah as a great man of prayer (Jer 15:1).”

C. (:7-9) Sometimes God Has Had Enough of Rebellion and Stubbornness

1. (:7) Sad Reality of Rejection

“they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them” (Luke 10:16)

2. (:8) Sad Pattern of History of Rebellion

“Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day—in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also.”

3. (:9) Acquiescence of the Lord / Yet Graciousness of Warning

a. Acquiescence of the Lord

“Now then, listen to their voice”

b. Graciousness of Warning

“however, you shall solemnly warn them and tell them of the procedure of the king who will reign over them.”


Deffinbaugh: “The ‘principle of proportion’ is always an important clue to the meaning and interpretation of a text. In our chapter, we know that Israel’s demand for a king is idolatry, idolatry of the same kind Israel has practiced since the exodus (8:7-9). We know that when Samuel speaks to the people, he tells them ‘all the words of the LORD’ (verse 10), but what is written and preserved for us is the content of verses 10-18, which is a detailed description of the costs of a kingship. The cost of kingship is the emphasis of Samuel’s words in this chapter.”

A. (:10) The Complete Disclosure by God’s Prophet

“So Samuel spoke all the words of the Lord to the people who had asked of him a king.”

B. (:11-17) The High Cost of Leadership Abuse

1. (:11a) Government characterized by Dominion Rather than Servanthood

“This will be the procedure of the king who will reign over you”

Jesus had to warn the disciples that His pattern for spiritual leadership was completely opposed to the pattern of the Gentile world

Matt. 20:25-28; cf. 3 John

2. (:11b-13) Drafting people into positions of service to benefit the king

(including military service)

3. (:14-17a) Taxation to support the administration of the leader

Appropriation of Personal Property (land, animals, etc.)

4. (:17b) Summary: Servitude rather than Empowerment and Personal Liberty

“and you yourselves will become his servants”

Interesting that the Messiah would come to present Himself as the rightful King of the Jews but would be rejected by His own people. He would have none of these negative qualities of monarchy and yet would not be recognized as legitimate.

C. (:18) The Deaf Ear of God When You Realize Your Plight

(the pain of being stuck with your bad decision)

you will have to sleep in the bed which you have made

Don’t put yourself in the position of God saying “I told you so”

1. Cry for Deliverance

“Then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves”

Hindsight is always 20/20; Monday morning quarterbacking won’t win any games

2. Deaf Ear of God

“but the Lord will not answer you in that day”

The time to listen and respond is when God is speaking


A. (:19a) Stubborn Refusal to Follow God’s Plan

“Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel”

B. (:19b) Insistent Demand that the People Know Best

“No, but there shall be a king over us”

C. (:20) Pragmatic Motivation to Trust in the Visible Superstar

“that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

When someone asks? “Who’s the pastor at your church?” We like to say: “Pastor X — who is very impressive in XYZ” rather than try to explain: “In reality the Lord Jesus Christ is our Shepherd. He is working through a number of undershepherds (pastors, bishops, overseers, elders) who operate under His designated authority and who use their manifold spiritual gifts to provide the leadership and direction we need.”

Cf. modern day statements of justification for Senior Pastor model:

– Any organization needs 1 person at the top of the command hierarchy or nothing will get done

– You cannot have doctrinal unity unless you have one main leader pointing the way

– How can so many churches be wrong? They all have this same setup … I don’t know of any functioning plurality where anything is really happening …

D. (:21-22) Closing of the Window of Opportunity

Samuel went back to the Lord to make sure of his marching orders.

The Lord told him to give in to the demands of the people and allow them to settle for second best (which really is a misnomer).

Guzik: “God told Samuel to fulfill the people’s request. This was not because their request was good or right, but because God was going to teach Israel through this. Sometimes, when we insist of having something bad, God will allow us to have it, and then learn the consequences.”

Very sad watershed in the history of Israel. Theocratic rule was never again even an option until the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.