Scripture text for Tuesday, February 16th, 2010: 1 Samuel 8:1-10:27
In this section, the Israelites come to Samuel at the end of his life and demand a king to rule over them. They have been threatened by the Philistines for a long time and still feel that threat. A consistent ruler, with the authority and power necessary, will surely make them safer. This may have been the predominant reason, but surely there were others. But of course it was in one way an odd request for the people of Yahweh to ask for a King, as Samuel tries to make clear. Yahweh is their king! Samuel does not wish to pursue this path but the Lord tells Samuel that this desire is just another example of the people failing to trust in Him. He tells Samuel to warn the people that if they are granted a king to rule over them, he will in fact do that, demanding their sons for his army, their daughters for service to the monarchy, and the best of their fields and resources for his kingdom and army. The response of the people to Samuel once he has explained this is telling: “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles” (I Samuel 8:19-20; see also 10: 17-19).
We read this story knowing how this plan turned out: horribly! Saul will struggle and ultimately fail as King, David will do great things, yet experience a dramatic fall, Solomon’s reign will end with the division of the nation into two competing monarchies.
This narrative reminds me how easy it is to look for a new and smoother path to success and happiness in life; one that avoids the hard work and faith that the true path does. The Israelites truly thought they had the solution to their struggles and fear. Tellingly, they saw it in something/ someone other than themselves and their commitment to Yahweh and the covenant they had with him. We too must be careful not to become attracted to or fall for solutions to our struggles and promises in life that fall outside our commitment to the Lord and our commitment to others in our marriages, families, and church. Israel had everything it needed in the fearful situation it faced, you and I do as well.
Devotion prepared by Dave Timmerman