Well, it’s all over but the shouting … but I guess we have gotten used to the shouting by now.
I thought it was interesting timing to be reading the story of Samuel and Saul on the week of a Presidential election here in the United States. Especially intriguing was to read Samuel’s description (perhaps better described as a warning) of a king in 1 Samuel 8:11-17.
He will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and courtiers. He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.
All we need now is for the next verse to read, “I’m the prophet Samuel, and I approved this message”.
Samuel was not talking about a particular party or a particular king. He was talking about any king, every king. Israel was looking at a king as the solution to all their problems. Samuel used “negative campaigning” to try to show Israel that a king would bring a whole new set of problems.
Then, on the day before Samuel anoints Saul as king, God says to Samuel, “He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines; for I have seen the suffering of my people, because their outcry has come to me.” Guess what? The king can do some good!
A lot of Biblical interpreters talk about how the Bible preserves the historical tension of whether kings in Israel were the cause of their problems or the promise of salvation. Maybe part of the reason for preserving the tension was to challenge everyone’s expectations about the king.
We live in times right now where we tend to talk about our leaders in broad brush strokes. “Our guy” is the nation’s only hope, while “their guy” will put us on the path to ruin. All Republicans are old, white, rich militants and all Democrats are atheist communists. We won, and everybody else is wrong. We lost, and everybody else is stupid. Does this sound like your Facebook and Twitter feed?
Reading these stories today, I feel challenged to consider that our government leaders are people just like you and me. There is not a one of them that is perfect. Each and every one of them can do something that someone can justifiably yell and shout about; but each and every one of them is just as capable to do something that can make a positive difference in somebody’s life. Maybe part of what the story of Samuel and Saul should do is temper both our celebration and critique of all of our leaders. Yes, they carry big responsibilities as well as big expectations. But, and this is the point that 1 Samuel makes abundantly clear, they are not God.
Let’s put down the broad brushes of deification and demonizing. Let’s pray for the men and women, all of them, who have been chosen to lead at every level of government. Let’s pray that they will do more good than harm, more right than wrong. Let’s pray for wisdom, for unity, and for peace. Most importantly, let’s pray that we would never lose sight of Who is truly in control of the Universe. May He be our King of Kings!
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8)