A questions arises here: Is God condemning Israel's request for a king? If so why are there rules for selecting a king were given by God in Deuteronomy 17:14-20?
“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,’ 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. 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.’ And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold. “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 the Levitical priests. 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, 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. Deuteronomy 17:14-20
The truth is that Scripture affirms the fact that God had planned for Israel to have a king in Deuteronomy 17. So why does God frown upon the people of Israel? Its not because they sought a king so much as it was the poor condition of their hearts. Their motives where are messed up. They wanted a king because they wanted to be like “all the other nations” or as 1 Samuel 8:5 states: “Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” They didn’t do it because it was a desire to be closer to God, it was a desire to be more like the surrounding culture(s). They didn’t want God’s king they just wanted a king to keep up with the Jones’. Geez…how condemning is this for some Christians today? They want to do the “hip” or “trendy” Christian thing(s) that others are doing so they can look “more Christian” but sadly, they may be copying or emulating poor role models or worse apostate roll-models. Many seeker-sensitive churches and formulaic evangelicals are patterned after this concept. They are designed to capitalize on what people want that attend their services, to draw the numbers but not on what God wants…thereby making God secondary or irrelevant in the equation.
Instead of turning hearts towards God people turned them to other people. After David we see the kings of Israel and subsequently Judah do the same as the people did here. They would do it also when Jesus came. They expect their kind of king not the King that God had planned for them...so they killed God's King...Jesus. Once their hearts went astray it was only a matter of time until everything else would also. God knew this and He knew it in advance. This is why there is a brooding nature in this passage.
Sadly we also see Solomon the immediate heir of David violates the stipulations of the kingship within one generation when he begins to, “acquire many horses for himself” and “acquires many wives” also. The people then, just like the people now mistake people’s acts of administration for God working through those people…when there is little or any of God present in those leaders. People end up worshipping a “cult of personality”. It is not you pastor, king, president or parent that protects you…it is God. Nothing happens in God’s universe without His knowledge or allowance of it. As such, the people thought they were rejecting Samuel but God reminds Him that it is the people rejecting their God…not him
In this story we also see a complete failure to seek God for rule over them. Many today do the same, especially in secular leadership positions. The elders or the aged men (supposedly wise) came to Samuel they just request a king of Samuel. God doesn’t appear to be anywhere in their thought processes for acquiring their king. This flies directly in the face of what God commanded in Deuteronomy when He said he would chose a king, "whom the Lord your God chooses”. The people of Israel had rejected God wholesale. The same as many do today who will suffer the same consequences as Saul, Israel and Judah in the long-run.
It shouldn't be surprising that "like" gravitates towards "like", man gravitates to man. What should be surprising here is that man chose the wrong methods to make it happen. God has rules and expectations…and he expects them to be adhered to and followed. Especially when he has spelled it out for them.