As Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons to be judges over Israel. Joel and Abijah, his oldest sons, held court in Beersheba. But they were not like their father, for they were greedy for money. They accepted bribes and perverted justice.
Finally, all the elders of Israel met at Ramah to discuss the matter with Samuel. “Look,” they told him, “you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.”
Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the LORD for guidance. “Do everything they say to you,” the LORD replied, “for it is me they are rejecting, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.”
So Samuel passed on the LORD’s warning to the people who were asking him for a king. (1 Samuel 8:1-10)
God has no grandkids. You can’t pass on your relationship with God to your children. Just because you were a good Christian, just because you had a good relationship with God, doesn’t necessarily mean that your kids will, too. They have to forge their own relationship. Conversely, just because your parents were missionaries, just because they were faithful church goers, just because they gave a fortune to the church, doesn’t mean that you’ll receive a get out of jail free card. God isn’t into nepotism. Each person stands before God alone; each person must live their own lives, develop their own relationship with God. You can’t depend on someone else and get by on account of what they did. There’s no spilling over, no coattails. You get elected on your own—or not.
Samuel had been raised by Eli, whose children had been corrupt and evil. Samuel did not have a good role model in Eli on how to raise children, and sadly, Samuel’s children turned out much as Eli’s had. The people of Israel had no complaint with Samuel, but Samuel’s children were clearly never going to be the spiritual leaders that he was. They could not become the next set of judges. And so they asked that Samuel would find someone to become king for them instead.
Samuel was reluctant and God warned them that a king would not fix things. After all, a monarchy is hereditary; the king’s children would take his place when he died. And if Samuel, as good as he was, produced children that they didn’t want ruling over them, what really made them think that getting a king, however good he might be, would solve that fundamental problem?
God compared their request for a new king with their continual problem with idolatry. Why? Because they kept looking to someone other than God to lead them and to fix their problems. They weren’t willing to follow God at all, and so Samuel wasn’t being rejected, even though their words had hurt him and made him think that maybe they thought his life had not been worthwhile. It was God who was being rejected. It wasn’t about Samuel at all. God can use people to solve problems. The mistake comes in thinking that people can take the place of God altogether.