The book of Judges is a book that speaks to the peaks and valleys of the nation of Israel. They came out of the wilderness into the land of promise only to struggle for hundreds of years both physically and, even more important, spiritually. The reason for this struggle experienced is told to us twice in the book: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:25).
This history was fresh in the minds of the Israelites; they tired of the struggle. In order to move beyond such experiences, the people decided that it must be the Lord who was the problem (1 Samuel 8:7)! Thus, they wanted a king like the other nations that were surrounding them (1 Samuel 8:5). From the outside they looked at other kingdoms and said to themselves, “Surely, they don’t experience what we are; it must be the case that it’s because they have a king to lead them.”
The people’s rejection of their holy King brought much heartache to the people through the years. Whatever joys might have been experienced by the nation, quantitatively speaking, there was more pain and heartache. Samuel’s exhortation to them before they had their first king was simple: “Serve only the Lord by putting away idols and preparing the heart for holiness” (cf. 1 Samuel 7:3). Still a good exhortation for us today!