1 Samuel 8-10, 13, 15-18: “The Battle Is the Lord’s” (June 13-19)

Samuel Anoints David,” by Antonio Gonzalez Velazquez

The children of Israel wanted a king. Samuel tried to persuade them that it was a bad idea, but his own credibility had been diminished by the corruption of his sons, whom he had appointed as judges. (See 1 Samuel 8:1-5.) Under God’s direction, Samuel identified and anointed Israel’s first two kings: Saul and David.

Both of them initially saw themselves as unqualified for the role. But they were both able to accomplish great things as they relied on God for help.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned from this week’s reading:

1. Power corrupts.

Samuel saw the danger in concentrating power in the hands of one person. He explained to the Israelites some of the consequences they would endure if they chose to have a king, warning them that this decision could not be easily unmade (1 Samuel 8:10-18).

Several Book of Mormon prophets likewise warned of the dangers of having a king, including Nephi, Alma, and the brother of Jared. (See 2 Nephi 5:18, Mosiah 23:6-13, Ether 6:22-30.) King Mosiah abolished the monarchy, establishing a system of judges selected “by the voice of the people,” and explained to his people why this system of government would serve them better. (See Mosiah 29.)

Here are some of the reasons to avoid giving one person too much power:

2. God sees our hearts.

Saul may have been tall and strong, but he saw himself as the lowest of the low. “Am not I a Benjamite,” he asked Samuel, “of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin?” (1 Samuel 9:21). After his anointing, God gave him a new heart, and he received the Holy Ghost and prophesied (1 Samuel 10:9-10). Years later, as Saul became proud and headstrong, Samuel lamented the loss of his earlier humility: “When thou wast little in thine own sight, was thou not made head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed thee king over Israel?” (1 Samuel 15:17).

David was also an unlikely choice. A humble shepherd, he was the the youngest in his family, so young that his father didn’t even think to include him initially as he introduced his sons to the prophet Samuel. But God knew better. “Man looketh on the outward appearance,” He explained to Samuel, “but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Here are some implications of this principle:

3. It’s important to respect the people God has chosen as prophets and leaders.

Saul called Samuel a seer, and the author of 1 Samuel explained that this was an ancient title for a prophet. (See 1 Samuel 9:9, 11, 18-19.) In the Book of Mormon, Ammon identified King Mosiah as a seer and explained to King Limhi that “a seer is a revelator and a prophet also” (Mosiah 8:13-18).

Samuel appointed both Saul and David as kings by anointing them. David had a particular respect for this action, referring to Saul as “the Lord’s anointed” and showing respect to him even as his decisions became increasingly chaotic and harmful. (See 1 Samuel 24:6, 10, 1 Samuel 26.)

Here are some principles I’ve learned from these passages, with relevant blog posts:

Blog Posts: June 14-19

My Ebenezer

Near the end of Joshua’s life, he called his people together and challenged them to commit to follow God. They made a covenant to obey and serve God. In order to remind them of their covenant, Joshua “took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the Lord.” He told…

The Voice of the People

When the prophet Samuel was old, he tried to appoint his sons to succeed him as leaders over Israel. But the Israelites were not willing to follow his sons, and they requested that he appoint a king. Samuel was troubled. He didn’t think it wise to give one person that much power, and he thought…

“The Lord Looketh on the Heart”

As we grow closer to God, we learn to see other people differently. When Samuel met with Jesse in the small town of Bethlehem, he brought his own preconceptions and biases to the task of selecting a new king. The current king, which he had also selected, was tall and strong. He stood out in…

“I Feared the People”

Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point…. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, 161 Saul may have been the king, but he was afraid of his people. The first time he failed to follow instructions from the prophet…

The Lion and the Bear

An awareness of prior miracles we have experienced can strengthen our faith to meet new challenges. When David saw his compatriots cowering before the giant Goliath, he was perplexed and disappointed. As he explained to King Saul, he had no doubt that he could defeat the giant with God’s help: Thy servant kept his father’s…

Thousands vs. Ten Thousands

How easily we can become unsettled when we compare ourselves with others. Saul, who was king of Israel, heard that women across his country were singing, “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” How could this be? He was the king; he was supposed to get the most “likes.” He thought to himself,…

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