“According to the eternal purpose” (Ephesians 3:11)

By Bob Myhan


When God made His covenant with Israel at Sinai, the law He gave them made no provision for an earthly king. This [plus the fact that for about 350 years they did not have one] suggests that such was not God’s original intention for them. Thus, Israel was a theocracy, at first, rather than a monarchy. That is, God was their king. However, God [or at least Moses] did foresee that they would one day desire an earthly king. Shortly before he died, Moses had said,

"When you come to the land which the Lord your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, 'I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,' you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the Lord has said to you, 'You shall not return that way again.' Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself. Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.” (Dt. 17:14-20)

The United Kingdom Period

From the death of Joshua till the time of Samuel, the nation of Israel had been under priests and judges.

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6; 21:25)

Now it came to pass when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice. Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, "Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations." (1 Sam. 8:1-5)

The last in a long line of judges and the first in a long line of prophets, Samuel took the request of the people to God in prayer.

But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to judge us." So Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, "Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day--with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods--so they are doing to you also. Now therefore, heed their voice. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them."

So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who asked him for a king. And he said, "This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day." Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, "No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles."

And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he repeated them in the hearing of the Lord. So the Lord said to Samuel, "Heed their voice, and make them a king." And Samuel said to the men of Israel, "Every man go to his city." (1 Sam. 8:6-22)

There were only three kings during the United Kingdom period: Saul, David and Solomon. Each had his own distinct personality and character.

King Saul was a man’s man (1 Sam. 9:1-2). He had a humble start (1 Sam. 9:15-27; 10:1, 17-24) but—after reigning only two years—pride raised its ugly head. Not only was he removed from the throne but none of his sons was to ever sit thereon (1 Sam. 13:1-14). Saul learned, too late, that “to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:1-23).

King David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:21-22). He sinned grievously (2 Sam. 11:1-27) but he repented (2 Sam. 12:1-14; Psalm 51). He was blessed mightily by the Lord, both during his life and after his death (1 Sam. 17:31-51; 18:6-7; 2 Sam. 7:1-13).

King Solomon was both a wise and a foolish man. He asked God for wisdom to judge Israel (1 Kings 3:5-9). God gave him not only wisdom but also riches and honor (1 Kings 3:10-13; 16-28; 4:29-34). God would have also given him a long life if he had been more like his father (1 Kings 3:14). In his personal life, however, Solomon did not exhibit wisdom but foolishness (1 Kings 3:1-4; 11:1-8). Because Solomon foolishly worshiped idols, God would divide the kingdom of Israel (1 Kings 11:9-13).

As mentioned previously, God’s choice of the nation of Israel was not an end in itself but a means to an end. The eternal purpose of God was to “give eternal life” to those who choose to hear His Son’s voice and follow Him (John 10:25-28; 17:1-3; Titus 1:1-2). God’s promise to make of Abraham a great nation had as its object the blessing of “all the families of the earth” (Gen. 12:1-3). This blessing was justification by faith.

And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, "In you all the nations shall be blessed." (Gal. 3:8)

It was, therefore, necessary to preserve Abraham’s physical descendants till “the fullness of the time” (Gal. 4:4).

[To be continued]