1 Samuel 8: 1-22
May the Lord be with you! (And also with you…)
If some of our verses of Scripture sound really familiar this morning, it’s because we’ve had a bit of an overlap between this week and last. Last week we ended with the verses telling us of how God had told Samuel how it was essentially ‘fine with him’ to go ahead and listen to what the people wanted and to appoint a human king, and that what the people were rejecting was God himself, not the judgement, wisdom and leadership of Samuel. Last week we talked about how Samuel became Israel’s head judge and then how he was able to really restore the nation of Israel back to God by having people realize from just actually where their provisions come, and that truly, God was and is the great adoring parent of humanity, and that it truly is ONLY God that deserves our undying faith.
But then you may remember that the people started to change, to kind of drift off, AGAIN, as they always do. You know it’s amazing the prioritizing thoughts that run through a person’s head when their challenged verses what goes through their head and how they act when they feel like everything is generally going their way, when maybe they have just about all of the creature comforts they basically want to make their existence seem comfortable. Comfortability usually pulls people away from God, while challenge in this life usually, but not always, but usually draws them nearer to their Creator. It’s just the way it’s always been and probably always will be.
But so, now this week we’re beginning with last week’s ending verses and continuing on to see that yes the Israelites start changing, they’re getting comfortable, nobody is attacking them on regular intervals, they start thinking that their God really isn’t all that important to them, that truly – only they are really in charge of their own destinies. And then on top of all of that, the Israelite leadership begin believing that Samuel’s sons, who traditionally would take over from him after he dies, can’t take over from Samuel the way they’re looking for their leadership to be. And really, in many ways, they are justified in thinking and feeling that way. According to the storyline, Samuel’s sons in many ways do end-up being similar to Eli’s sons; pretty corrupt and certainly not being faithful to the God that had provided their positions to them. So instead, the Israelites justifiably want someone who’s fair and just, someone who’s a servant and a leader all in one. They’re happy with Samuel, but they don’t trust his sons, and in essence, this means that they’re not trusting in God to either change or replace these children of Samuel as their leadership. And on top of it too, they decide that they don’t want to have to be going through with this finding of a new leader every couple generations or so, they don’t want to be put into a situation in which they might feel like they’re sinking backward. So what do they conclude? A ha, we’ll get a king, a king is not like a judge, a monarch is a god on earth, and then we’ll be as strong and as responsibly led as all the neighboring peoples that we see living around us. A king has greater authority than a judge ever thought about having, a king truly is connected to God.
Now I know that this is something that makes us here in the US literally scoff, at least just a bit, but do realize that really just up until the last one or two hundred years or so, but that for the four thousand years before, that kings and queens were solidly believed to be directly lineaged from God himself, and this really was a common thought amongst peoples around the world in regard to their monarchs. For us our best and most recent example could be taken from seventy-five years ago with Emperor Hirohito in Japan, think about how the Japanese believed of him. Many of the Japanese people completely believed that he was a god on earth. And then maybe closer to home for us sitting here, the English felt the same exact way about their King George; the King George who reigned at the time of the American Revolution. He was believed to be very similar to the biblical David; appointed by and representing God himself, and the proof was in the fact that England was an empire where the sun never set. Look it up in the history books, it’s all pretty fascinating stuff. And I will toss one more example in there to think about, ..how is it that the pope has traditionally been looked at in the Catholic Church? I know growing-up I was always told that the pope is God’s representative on earth, having a direct line of communication with the Amighty. It’s a very similar thought and belief that has been carried down through the millennia.
But to get back to where we left off with the Israelites, they want to have this type of human leadership, instead of just a judge who tells them what to do. And remember, a king will essentially be God on earth for them, he’ll provide and take care of them, protect them, just like all good kings do. It is in this more human king that they feel their faith must be put, they can see a human king and have a human king speak to them so that they can all literally hear.
God basically says, “Okay, let’s give them what they want. BUT, make sure they realize that a king from amongst themselves is not going to protect or provide for them the way I do. They don’t want me, okay fine.” ..You know, I’m well aware that I’m about to repeat myself, or at least repeat an idea, but I just have to; ‘it’s always so easy for us to lose sight of our real needs when suddenly we’re feeling comfortable and secure’, we think we suddenly know it all and no one can tell us. Man, we do have short memories…
And God very specifically warns His people, ..that warning is almost half of our reading. And I won’t re-read those verses, but just the main points God gives are; you’re going to be drafted into the king’s army, you’ll have to essentially pledge your allegiance to him instead of to me your creator God, you’ll have to give a human monarch of the labors that you work so long and hard for, and it won’t be you deciding what to give, the king will take the best of what you have and leave you with the weakest and worst. The populace will be made into essential servants for the king. And your children will be taken from you; your sons to be soldiers and your daughters for whatever the king decides for them. And these words of wisdom are not just words of wisdom or advice from God, but they’re easily seen to be the case from those who live as their neighbors, this was often the way a king would rule…and always has. But none of that seems to matter, because it’s a king that they want.
You know, I don’t ever believe that politics are something to be put forth from the church pulpit on a Sunday morning, unless there’s a real connection to a very human justice topic. That I have done before to a certain extent. But I’ve been here now for four and a half years, speaking to you every single Sunday except for literally a couple Sundays each year, and I’ve always practiced that belief. But I have to tell you that with the election that’s playing out on our televisions right now in front of us, I’m really worried about our society, scared even, and what’s so crazy is that we just seem to be never, ever learning from the history that we’ve made to be our own story. We as our US society in particular seem to me to be so mirrored right now in our biblical verses for this morning in how it was that the Israelites were acting when demanding a king. They were essentially in a very comfortable position and situation at that time. There were no wars, food was plentiful, trade was happening between all of the peoples that lived in the region, there was a sense of freedom that the people had gotten very comfortable with. Things were generally considered to be pretty good. And granted they didn’t have electronics or even electric, but that’s all relative. The bottom line was that people were comfortable and didn’t see anything as responsible for that sense and reality of comfort except for themselves. God was not an important part of their picture, God was an after thought for most all of he people, and for us..for us, are we really any different? And let’s not try to say that things are so difficult here in our country, go to an actually poor country in our world and see how people really live, it’s not like here. Are there poor, are there stranded people here, yes, that’s everywhere, but the majority live an essentially pretty comfortable life, we as a society really are a bunch of spoiled children.
And we often talk about God and religion ad nausium in our society, yet I find that it’s few and far in between that actually practice what it is that we preach. We turn on our televisions and have the likes of Jim Bakker selling his latest wares and laughing all the way to the bank, we have a large portion of our society that insists that they’re the definition of Christian, but then they want to ban certain groups and peoples from being given the privilege of being in our presence, many insist on having as many guns as their bank accounts can muster, they’ll demand that we be able to put people to death for criminal acts, and then will turn around in the same breath and try to claim to be pro-life. And then I turn on my television yesterday morning and see the insanity that continues to break out at political rallies and I can’t help but to wonder if this is how the Israelites were rallying when calling for a king. What I see on my television are large groups of people completely and utterly bypassing any of the thought they try to claim to have when it comes to their supposedly Christian upbringing. They’re shouting, “We need someone strong to lead us!, We need someone that will protect us!, We need someone to show the rest of the world that they can’t mess with us!” And really, I couldn’t care less where you may fall on the silly party lines that exist, but is this healthy or necessary on any level? This type of thing has happened before, ..when will we learn our lesson on how to be with each other? When will we learn that we already have a king, a king who is Jesus Christ, and that we need to have some faith and that we need to live Christ’s lessons that he taught, lessons that clearly we seem to forget about when it’s convenient?
This past Wed. at the Lenten service, I was sharing from Matthew 6 and 7, and the final verse that I read was “Do unto others as you would have done for yourself, it is this commandment that all the law of the prophets rest.” Should we discuss, should we strive for intelligent and responsible leadership of our nations, yes we should, it’s utterly necessary. But we already have a king, maybe what needs to really happen is that we need to grow up and start acting like the people that we most often claim to be. Perhaps in an effort to be a bit prophetic, I’m sure that God is not very impressed with us right now.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.