We want to be like everybody else!
Israel did have something of a revival for several decades after the ark came back. The people repented at Mizpah, defeated the Philistines at Ebenezer (“ ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us,’ ” 7:12), and enjoyed the peace of God in the covenant community. But they wanted to be glamorous and successful like other nations. They wanted their own king. Samuel was aging and his sons were not much better than Eli’s. So the elders began to think of what came next (8:1–6). God gave them what they wanted, but warned them of trouble to come, and noted that this meant the Israelites had rejected not Samuel but God Himself as their King (8:7). They got their Hollywood image king in tall Saul (9:2), but it was to be false start with sad lessons along the way.
Have you noticed, in all this, that God also answers the prayers of unbelief? The Philistines got their victory (at first). The men of Beth Shemesh got to see into the ark (but died). The people of God got the king they wanted (the wrong one). Even the lost in hell get their way. In this world, they “pray” for God to get out of their lives, and God grants their wish for the next world also! No one in hell can say, “I asked Jesus to be my Savior, but He wouldn’t accept me and sent me away against my will.”
Before you say, “Just give us what we want,” you should rather ask, “Lord, what do You want,” and then confess: “I want what You want. You are the Giver of every good and perfect gift. I want to be like You” (James 1:17).