This past week, I spent time in 1 Samuel. In the midst of the all that is happening in the news, I read about the internal struggle that God’s people felt when leadership was found wanting.
In 1 Samuel 8:1, the Scriptures show a time when Samuel, a judge of Israel, appointed his own sons as his successors. This was problematic for a couple of reasons. On one hand, judges at this level were appointed by God. They were not meant to have the torch passed generationally, strictly due to blood relation, and yet that is what Israel’s elders had set before them. There was a knowledge that these sons of Samuel were not hand-picked by God.
Not only that, but verse 3 states, though they were to follow in their father’s footsteps vocationally, they did not walk in his ways. They “turned aside to dishonest gain, and they took bribes and perverted justice.” If you have read much of the Old Testament before, or the New Testament for that matter, you recognize that God cares very deeply about these things in the midst of his people. The elders of Israel knew that they could not put their trust in these men and they found themselves in a difficult situation.
In verses 4-6, the elders came to Samuel. Being distracted by the governmental systems of the world, they suggested that the answer to these poor excuses for judges would be their own king. They wanted someone who, in mirroring the worldly power of the neighboring nations, would rule them less in accordance with God’s will and more in their own power and authority.
Samuel gives the people a king, as God directed him to, but God also gave the people a list of warnings that came along with giving their allegiance to such a king. There were downsides to giving themselves over to this kind of a leader, but the people gladly took on those burdens. As a result, they not only sacrificed much from a societal perspective in giving over their children to war and labor, giving the best of their economic interests, and even giving over their own freedom to serve this king, but they would sacrifice so much more when Samuel says in verse 18, “you will cry out on that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you on that day.”
Unfortunately, verses 19 and 20 tell us that the people yet refused to listen to Samuel and continued in their demands for a king “so that we also may be like all the nations, and our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”
We find ourselves this week in a difficult spot because many of us are of the opinion that we have a leader who has “turned aside after dishonest gain, and [he] took bribes and perverted justice” just as Samuel’s sons had done (1 Samuel 8:3). Many of us find ourselves in the same position as the elders of Israel, seeking another solution; hoping for an answer to what so frustrates us in what unfolds around us.
What we might fall into, though, is the same mistake that they made as well. So often, when politics are involved or even when they’re not, our minds are limited to whatever worldly answers we can find. We’re tempted in these situations to suggest that we need a “king” who would have done things differently. We need our “king” who would have conducted things as we would have liked. And we find ourselves suggesting that God made a mistake in leading us to where we’re at.
The answer to Samuel’s sons is not our own king. The answer to what we feel is corrupted worldly authority is not to find another man who can push back that corruption. That individual should not have our allegiance. Neither that individual, nor any human being, deserves that kind of faith and trust.
There are many Christians currently who are speaking to their friends and family about the circumstances in Afghanistan and the conversation stops at who else may have done it better. Could the conversation move beyond that point? Could the discussion point to a greater hope? Could the answer to our problems here on this earth be, not a politician or any other man, but be Jesus Christ, our Messiah? Should our conversations lead our friends and family to hearing that Gospel truth?
In God’s eyes, Afghanistan is not about global politics. It’s not about humanitarian injustices that occur against people on the ground. It’s not about terrorism or American personal freedoms. Afghanistan is, to God, a darkness that points to His light. It is a moment in this material history in which spiritual truths shine through. It is a call for us, as believers, not to present empty human power as our hope, but to seek the only One whose fingerprints mark eternity.
Only Christ will wipe away every tear and make us all whole again. Only Christ will destroy broken man-made governmental systems of every kind. Only Christ will discontinue natural disasters. Only Christ will end persecution. Only Christ can save.
We are living in a time in which that truth can be on our lips when we speak with those we come in contact with. That is the most beautiful truth that we can share and it may even open their eyes to the beauty of the God of the universe.
Love you all,
Young Adult Minister – Evan McNeff