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“When All Is Lost” // 1 Samuel 8

Mary Ellen Ermis November 20, 2022 sermons, 1 Samuel, cityrise, houston, Kirby Follis, West U Baptist, When All is Lost,

The following is a manuscript of the sermon presented by Executive Pastor Kirby Follis on Sunday, November 20, 2022 at our West U Baptist campus. To view the sermon in full, check out the link below.

Good morning! We continue our Flourishing Life study today in 1 Samuel.  Why don’t you go ahead and find that in your Bible – it’s the 9th book into the OT.  This is part 2 of a subtheme titled “When All is Lost.”  Last week we focused on a broken system in chapters 4-7 and this week on a broken nation and government.

We ended last week’s message with a question of application – when you are at your lowest, will you press into or pull away from God?  Crosspoint Campus Pastor Chris DeArman supported his message’s theme that God is at work in the lowest parts of our lives through the following five points:

God is at Work in the Lowest Parts of our Lives

  • God DISCIPLINES you because He DELIGHTS in you
  • God never FORGETS or DISOWNS you
  • God FIGHTS for you because He is FOR you
  • God has RESTORATION for you
  • God has PEACE for you

It is vital to note that as recently as in chapter 7 of 1 Samuel, Israel has experienced miraculous victory, full restoration and peace because of God’s hand upon them.  Check out the supporting scriptures for these last three points:

1 Samuel 7:10

As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. 11 And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them…

That’s God fighting for you…the Israelites get no credit for this – only God does.  God thundered the Philistines into confusion giving Israel the upper hand to utterly route them.

1 Samuel 7:14a

The cities that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath, and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines.

All that they had lost in the way of property and cities was fully restored.  This is one of many biblical accounts that affirm God has a plan for restoration.

1 Samuel 7:14b

There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites.

Finally – peace comes to Israel.  All of this because chapter 7 records that they begged Samuel not to stop crying out to the Lord on their behalf.  So he did.  He cried out and sacrificed a nursing lamb to God and the results are what we have just read.  Chapter 7 ends with the return of the Ark of the Covenant, the nation of Israel confessing and repenting, and God defeating the Philistines.  The tide was turning, hope was restored and the nation was at peace.  It was all good right?  WRONG!  The people of God, THEN AND NOW, are never satisfied.  We ARE NEVER satisfied – are we?

Then we venture into chapter 8, where the fickleness of the hearts of God’s people is again revealed.  About 25 years have passed between chapters 7 and 8.  Let’s check out the first few verses:

1 Samuel 8:1-3

1 When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice.

Samuel is old and his two boys, Joel and Abijah, are now adults whom he has set up as judges over Israel.  We have come to know Samuel as a great role model reflecting genuine repentance and worship but he is not without flaws.  It wasn’t that many chapters ago that we came in contact with the priest, Eli, and his ungodly sons, Hophni and Phinehas.  The two of them were killed in battle when the Ark of the Covenant was lost and Eli died tragically just after that.  Here, we discover that likewise Samuel’s son’s did not walk in his ways.

Despite God’s blessing and peace, and the leadership of the prophet and judge, Samuel, the people wanted more.  God had always been King but they wanted an earthly king – they wanted CONTINUAL GUARANTEED protection from their enemies.  As we jump into this chapter, we see the people of Israel FINALLY standing up against bad leadership which they should have done much earlier with Eli’s sons.  However, that doesn’t justify their WE-WANT-A-KING demand.  I want us to look at the tension they faced when choosing their path and use it to inform our own path-choosing dilemma through the following grid:

If We Desire a Flourishing Life, We Must:

  • Avoid Choosing Our Own Way
  • Count the Cost of our Choices
  • Trust God Fully for What is Best

I. If we desire a flourishing life, we must avoid choosing our own way

1 Samuel 8:4-5

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.”

What is right about this statement is that they are calling out the despicable lack of leadership and integrity in Samuel’s sons Joel and Abijah.    What is wrong with this statement is that in light of all the victory and freedom that was recorded in chapter 7, Israel demands yet more.  One illustrator likened this to breaking INTO Alcatraz, as opposed to breaking out.  This is a graphic picture of a people of FREEDOM leading themselves to BONDAGE.  Historically, this is not the first time Israel has made this request.  How many times is it recorded in Scripture that they cried, “we should just go back to Egypt – at least we had a place to live and food to eat there?”  And check out…

Judges 8:22-23

22 Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” 23 Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.”

Gideon was a judge over Israel and was used mightily by God but he refused to become their king and pointed them back to God just as Samuel will do here in 1 Samuel 8.

So how does this look for us today?  Think for a moment about our level of dissatisfaction, our desire for our someone else, including government to fix all of our problems.  Think about the self-gratification that leads us to accept less rather than God’s best.  It is too easy for us to consult God last in this area of our lives…to try every other option first.  And what we realize is that everyone else, including we ourselves, leave us disappointed and lacking.

What was true for Israel is often true for us today.  In spite of the fact that we know blood and flesh leaders have shortcomings and cannot provide true satisfaction or fully protect us, we still clamor, at some level, for more from them.

Let me provide you just a bit of context for this time in the Israeli nation.  There was no centralized government.  The tribes operated independently and the prophets and judges often gave oversight to multiple cities or regions so they traveled between and were not always accessible locally.  Since there was not centralized leadership, there was also no centralized army or other resources.  Obviously God didn’t need a centralized form of government to bring about victory, restoration and peace, but that didn’t stop the people from desiring a different way – and the way they wanted was the one they saw in their neighboring nations, including those that were their enemies.

We discover next how this makes Samuel feel and what God has to say about it in…

1 Samuel 8:6-8

But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. 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. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you.

The statement in vs. 6 begs us to recognize the difference between a king and a judge.  A judge was a leader raised up by God, usually to meet a specific need in a time of crisis.  Often when the crisis ended, a judge returned to what they were doing before.  A king not only held his office as king as long as he lived, he also passed the throne to his descendants.  This was reflected in the account from Judges about Gideon and his sons and grandsons.  The people cry “give us a king to judge us” – in other words, not you Samuel, and not God either.  This leads to Samuel’s displeasure and he takes his hurt and the people’s request in prayer to the Lord.

In summary, God replies to Samuel – “these people have done nothing but forsake me and serve other gods since I brought them out of Egypt even until now.  And God comforts Samuel saying, “they didn’t reject you, they rejected Me.”  They were stubborn and chose to put ungodly trust in a king rather than godly trust in the Lord.  Pastor and author…

J.D. Greear describes their rejection of God like this…It was not total rejection, as if they wanted nothing to do with God.  It was rejection through demanding that God give some other sources of happiness and security.

This is perhaps the greatest caution to us…to decide we need God AND something else comes with a high price.  It bears consequences that we are going to cost us and perhaps for a very long time.  What we CAN glean from Samuel’s maturity and response here is that, like the judge, we SHOULD take our troubles to God FIRST and FOREMOST.  Remember that the name Samuel means “God hears.”  God heard Samuel and responded to him.  Notice the rest of God’s response…He told Samuel to give them their request – not because God thought they were wise or right but because He would use their inappropriate request to teach them.  Don’t think for a moment He won’t do that with us today as well.  This leads us to our second point of teaching…

If We Desire a Flourishing Life, We Must:

  • Avoid Choosing Our Own Way
  • Count the Cost of our Choices
  • Trust God Fully for What is Best

II. If we desire a flourishing life, we must count the cost of our choices

There is an old saying, “be careful what you wish for.”  In a story told of two 60 year olds celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary, a fairy appears and offers to grant them both a wish.  The wife, wishing to travel, receives her request for two tickets for a cruise around the world.  The husband, without giving too much thought says “I really want to have a wife who is 30 years younger than me.” POOF!  The fairy made him 90 years old.

It is likely Israel is concerned now that Samuel is old and his sons are useless as judges that they will not continue to enjoy God’s protection and provision upon his death.  While these things may have been worthy of some consideration, in their contemplations they bypassed the best and most obvious solution seeking instead a solution of human ingenuity – WE NEED A KING!

History is FULL of these kinds of solutions – solutions that are worse than the problem.  In the 1800s in large cities like New York and London, people were living farther from work and needed a reliable form of transportation to get there and back.  They largely relied on carriages and buses drawn by horses.  What you may not know is that in a city like New York, there were as many as 150,000 horses by 1880.  Great news is that they didn’t produce CO2 or particulate pollution – BAD NEWS is they dropped a collective 3,000,000 pounds of manure a day – well OVER 1 BILLION pounds of poop a year.  And how did they clean this up?  By bringing in wagons pulled by guess what – horses!!  While a very modest percentage of the waste could be sold to farms for fertilizers, there were entire teams of people dedicated to trying to keep a poop-free passage on the sides of the streets for pedestrians.  In addition to the manure problem, about 15,000 horses a year died in the streets. Because it was incredibly difficult to remove them, they often lay unattended for days or weeks spawning pests and infection.  Not knowing the invention of the car was just around the corner, they predicted that in 50 years, the streets would be 9’ deep in horse manure.  Fun, right?

God tells Samuel to give the people their SOLUTION.  BUT, he also tells them to SOLEMNLY WARN THEM about the costs involved with getting what they wished for.  Let’s read it…

1 Samuel 8:10-18

10 So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. 11 He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. 12 And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15 He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. 16 He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men[a] and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

That’s pretty straightforward, isn’t it?  This CHOICE is going to COST YOU BIG!  While God directs Samuel not to talk them out of their demand, He does want them to make an informed choice.  In issuing this series of warnings, God and Samuel make the people accountable for the choices they are making.  The irony of the verses we just read is that 6 times in describing life under a king’s rule, Samuel says “HE WILL TAKE.”  Most kings are takers, not givers.  Most kings come to be served, not to serve.  Greear states that the irony deepens when we understand that “they want a king who will guarantee prosperity and security, but they will receive a king who will take those things from them – he will take sons and daughters, crops and lands, and the best years of their lives.  They want a king they can control, but instead he will control you.” There is ONLY ONE KING who would truly be different than this and we see him depicted in…

Mark 10:45

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Is there any way we can draw truths out for ourselves from this passage?  Greear upholds that this is an OT version of a NT principle:  “When you have other kings besides God, those kings do not save you, they tyrannize you.  Whatever you depend on for happiness and security, you become the slave of that thing.”  This begs the question, what thing or things, what person or people do you look to for security and happiness?  Where do you seek to find your ultimate validation?  In a spouse, a friend, a supervisor?  While these people may play a significant role in our lives, they cannot fully complete us.  We must look to the only source of abundant life – Jesus Himself.

God wanted the Israelites to be special – a treasured possession among all peoples…a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.  But they just wanted to be like everyone else.  Ouch – that hurts doesn’t it?  How often in our temptation to compare with others do we just wish we could have what they have?  How often do we lament our own standing and the position of our lives and wish fervently that it could be different?

1 Samuel 8 depicts clearly that we can go OUR WAY, THE WRONG WAY or we can go GOD’S WAY, THE BEST WAY.   When the Israelites looked at their neighbors, they saw pageantry, might, protection and prosperity.  They only saw what they believed was the UPSIDE – really they saw what they wanted to see.  And even after Samuel’s warning, what was their response?

1 Samuel 8:19-20

19 But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20 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.”

With their statements they declared, “God does NOT know best; the man of God does NOT know best – The rebellious hard-hearted people know what is best.  That is something that has not changed between then and now.  Our hearts can easily be broken frequently by poor decisions we see made all around us that affect homes, health and children.  We must come to the conclusion that GOD’S WAY IS ALWAYS THE BEST WAY!  This leads us to our last point of study for this morning and it stands in stark contrast to the demand of the Israelites…

If We Desire a Flourishing Life, We Must:

  • Avoid Choosing Our Own Way
  • Count the Cost of our Choices
  • Trust God Fully for What is Best


It would be easy to miss an important truth in this conversation between Samuel, God and the people.  God had already promised that He would establish a king over His people.  Wanting a king was not the foundational problem they had – wanting to choose a king according to the nearby nations in a process devoid of God’s leading was.  Check out God’s plan in…

Deuteronomy 17:14-20

14 “When you come to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ 15 you may indeed set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16 Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ 17 And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold. 18 “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by[a] the Levitical priests. 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, 20 that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.

God had already planned to provide a king but He allowed childish and pagan motivations of the Israel to prompt the timing.  He knew that the Messiah would be the Son of David and all the events that would lead up to that time.  He also knew that about the same time Saul was anointed king, David was born in Bethlehem just 10 miles down the road.  God is sovereign and does all things well.  However, like Adam and Eve and many others before us, we still doubt God’s Word and His heart.

When James Earl Jones was offered to voice Darth Vader for the first filming of Star Wars, he had the option to be paid $7,000 OR receive a small percentage of the gross.  He chose the $7K not knowing a small percentage of the Star Wars franchise would have netted him MILLIONS of dollars.

The here and now can be so overwhelming that we miss God’s best.  Both then and now, God often allows His children to get what they want instead of what they need.  Saul starts off well as the king and they initially experience success.  Later, he places a heavy tax burden and conscription to the army upon them.  He becomes ruthless, arrogant, self-centered, and worst of all, he leads them away from their true King – God!

As we conclude, let’s compare the King Saul to King Jesus:

How Do King Saul and King Jesus Compare:

  • Saul thought of his own interests; Jesus put others needs first
  • Saul made Israel servants; Jesus came not to be served, but to serve
  • Saul’s sinful choices would cause many Israelites to die; Jesus’ loving choices would bring life to many
  • Israel had to die for Saul’s sins; but Jesus died for our sins
  • Saul was harsh and unforgiving with those who disappointed him; Jesus laid down His life for those who disappointed and rebelled against Him
  • Money says “find me and you will be happy; marriage says the same; fame, success and independence all make similar claims; Every “king” says that if we please him, we will be guaranteed happiness; but these “kings” also say, “If you disappoint me, I will make you miserable.”  ONLY JESUS CAN SATISFY AND SAVE US!

Many times I’ve grieved over a missed opportunity because of my stubbornness, or pride or greed or laziness.  And I’ve heard numerous others confess the same.  What if that is you?  God even brings good from our study today.  Though they suffer through Saul and later through Solomon and the divided kingdom, they do experience David and God’s favor.  If that is you, turn to the Lord today,, confess your disobedience and trust Him to lead forward.

Others of you are at a crossroad and you are debating whether to truly trust God with your profession, your finances, and your family or to continue down a path of self-rule according to what you see around you.  GOD’S PLAN IS STILL THE BEST WAY!  Don’t allow bad past decisions to define you.

Maybe you’ve been wanting to know Christ personally but didn’t have the words.  Robby and Ben will be here to pray with you – to lead you if you want. We would love to share the way to salvation in Christ.  Maybe you just want to use this alter as a place of personal prayer today – come by yourself or with someone else.

Maybe you’ve been looking to join a family.  One that would love and encourage you and push you to grow your faith.  Come join our West U Baptist church family.  We want to walk together with you as we work to make a difference in this world for Christ’s kingdom.  Whatever your need, whatever your decision, let’s stand and sing and you respond!