But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be 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.” (1 Samuel 8:19-20)
The motivation behind a question is often crucial. Someone asks for a glass of water, and you assume that they are thirsty so you hand over a refreshing, cool drink. Two seconds later, as you stand dripping, you realise that what they actually had in mind was to tip the thing over you. Motive is crucial.
The Israelites ask Samuel for a king. Now, of course there is nothing wrong with a king per se. Jesus himself is hailed as the son of David, and of that particular king God said: “I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will” (Acts 13:22). Each day we pray “thy kingdom come”. Kings are simply kings.
The problem was that Israel wanted a king because they wanted to be like everyone else. “All the cool kids have kings, and we want one too”. They disregarded the God who had led them out of Egypt, and instead hankered for a king so they could be like the Canaanites.
And - as we read in the books of Kings and Chronicles - unfortunately that’s what they got. Kings who worshipped the Canaanite’s gods. They became like the Canaanites.
Motives are important things.