But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, ‘No! but we are determined to have a king over us, so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.’ When Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. The Lord said to Samuel, ‘Listen to their voice and set a king over them.’ Samuel then said to the people of Israel, ‘Each of you return home.’
Israel is persistent in its call for change. Their system of haphazard leadership is creaking at the edges to say the least and people are unhappy. They have turned to Samuel as it is the appointment of his sons and their behaviour that seem to be the source of the disquiet. However, despite Samuel’s advice the people refuse to listen and are determined to be ruled like other nations with a monarchy. The people focus on the negatives of what they have and seek something different but do not really seem interested in the detail and the potential consequences.
It is interesting to recognise parallels in the behaviour of people in Old Testament narratives with that of the people’s behaviour today. It is always dangerous to base a decision by focusing on the negatives and disregarding the positives, especially when the details and consequences of the outcome are not properly listened to, considered and thought through.
For the people petitioning Samuel the attraction of a king is all positive with expectations of a more stable, equatable and reliable form of governance as well as clear leadership in battle. Yet up until this point the system they had seems to have served them well and they seem blinkered to risks such as personal gain and control by a few, which a monarchy would bring. Their driver is to be like others.
The people are persistent and determined and so as Samuel conveys this to God they are eventually granted their desire for a king. It is a huge change that will shape the Biblical narrative that follows.
Despite the lack of thought and despite the risks, God listened to the people, grants them their request and then works with it.
Ever present God, when I think I know best, when I fail to listen and fail to see the bigger picture; show me patience. Show me understanding. Work with my misjudgments and mistakes to ensure your will is done. Amen
The Rev’d David Scott, Minister, Duke Street & Saughtonhall URCs Edinburgh