Samuel said to all Israel, ‘I have listened to you in all that you have said to me, and have set a king over you. See, it is the king who leads you now; I am old and grey, but my sons are with you. I have led you from my youth until this day. Here I am; testify against me before the Lord and before his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Or whose donkey have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed? Or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? Testify against me and I will restore it to you.’ They said, ‘You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from the hand of anyone.’ He said to them, ‘The Lord is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.’ And they said, ‘He is witness.’
Samuel said to the people, ‘The Lord is witness, who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your ancestors up out of the land of Egypt. Now therefore take your stand, so that I may enter into judgement with you before the Lord, and I will declare to you all the saving deeds of the Lord that he performed for you and for your ancestors. When Jacob went into Egypt and the Egyptians oppressed them, then your ancestors cried to the Lord and the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, who brought forth your ancestors out of Egypt, and settled them in this place. But they forgot the Lord their God; and he sold them into the hand of Sisera, commander of the army of King Jabin of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab; and they fought against them. Then they cried to the Lord, and said, “We have sinned, because we have forsaken the Lord, and have served the Baals and the Astartes; but now rescue us out of the hand of our enemies, and we will serve you.” And the Lord sent Jerubbaal and Barak, and Jephthah, and Samson, and rescued you out of the hand of your enemies on every side; and you lived in safety. But when you saw that King Nahash of the Ammonites came against you, you said to me, “No, but a king shall reign over us”, though the Lord your God was your king. See, here is the king whom you have chosen, for whom you have asked; see, the Lord has set a king over you. If you will fear the Lord and serve him and heed his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well; but if you will not heed the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you and your king. Now therefore take your stand and see this great thing that the Lord will do before your eyes. Is it not the wheat harvest today? I will call upon the Lord, that he may send thunder and rain; and you shall know and see that the wickedness that you have done in the sight of the Lord is great in demanding a king for yourselves.’ So Samuel called upon the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel.
It’s come to the crunch. The people wanted a king, and Samuel did not like that one little bit. The people had followed spiritually gifted and insightful people, but that was no good to them. Samuel spells out God’s guidance and goodness towards them – how he’d protected them from their enemies and taken them through daunting challenges. But the Ammonites worried them – seriously. The Israelites wanted something, or someone, more “tangible” to follow, to meet the new challenge.
Samuel is very unhappy about pandering to this demand – he cannot believe that it will be a happy arrangement, with someone claiming and receiving the loyalty and obedience due to God. But God has told him to grant the wishes of the people, and give them a king.
After claiming his own credentials as a just and honest leader of the people, Samuel tells them that they, and their king are under God and are to do his will. That way they will prosper. And he rounds off his speech by calling on God, who sends thunder and rain.
We cannot all be leaders – most of us are destined to be followers, at least to some extent. But we are all called upon to be discriminating about whom we choose to follow. My own lifetime alone has seen the tragic results of leaders unworthy of the name and the trust bestowed upon them by their followers. Leaders who have led their followers to tragedy and destruction, hate and dissension. If our ultimate leader is God, we can be discriminating about those earthly leaders who seek our allegiance.
God spurns the quick fix. He challenges us to the hard path of obedience love, selflessness and inclusivity. The going is tough but the goal is so worth while.
You call us to be disciples, to be followers. Deliver us from the temper that latches on to the deceptive promises and the quick fixes. Give us the resolve to spurn the easier byways on our journey, and the mindset to beckon others to join us. May your Holy Spirit grant us the courage for this, and the humility to give glory where it is most justly and appropriately due.
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