All of us who are concerned for peace and triumph of reason and justice must be keenly aware how small an influence reason and honest good will exert upon events in the political field. ~Albert Einstein: (1879 – 1955: was a German-born theoretical physicist)
Scripture Text: (1 SM 8:4-7, 10-22A)
All the elders of Israel came in a body to Samuel at Ramah
and said to him, “Now that you are old,
and your sons do not follow your example,
appoint a king over us, as other nations have, to judge us.”
Samuel was displeased when they asked for a king to judge them.
He prayed to the LORD, however, who said in answer:
“Grant the people’s every request.
It is not you they reject, they are rejecting me as their king.”
Samuel delivered the message of the LORD in full
to those who were asking him for a king.
He told them:
“The rights of the king who will rule you will be as follows:
He will take your sons and assign them to his chariots and horses,
and they will run before his chariot.
He will also appoint from among them his commanders of groups
of a thousand and of a hundred soldiers.
He will set them to do his plowing and his harvesting,
and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots.
He will use your daughters as ointment makers, as cooks, and as bakers.
He will take the best of your fields, vineyards, and olive groves,
and give them to his officials.
He will tithe your crops and your vineyards,
and give the revenue to his eunuchs and his slaves.
He will take your male and female servants,
as well as your best oxen and your asses,
and use them to do his work.
He will tithe your flocks and you yourselves will become his slaves.
When this takes place,
you will complain against the king whom you have chosen,
but on that day the LORD will not answer you.”
The people, however, refused to listen to Samuel’s warning and said,
“Not so! There must be a king over us.
We too must be like other nations,
with a king to rule us and to lead us in warfare
and fight our battles.”
When Samuel had listened to all the people had to say,
he repeated it to the LORD, who then said to him,
“Grant their request and appoint a king to rule them.”
The world can be a scary place. It is true today as it was four thousand years ago in the time of Samuel the prophet. The Hebrew people had occupied the Promised Land, more or less. They were united in language and in their shared experience of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But they lived in separate clans, on both sides of the Jordan River away from the Mediterranean Sea. The coast was still controlled by the Canaanites. To the southwest was the powerful kingdom of Egypt and to the north and east the ancient civilization of the Sumerians. For two hundred years the Hebrews maintained their freedom, uniting temporarily under a “judge”, a tribal chief who had the ability to lead in war. This ad hoc arrangement was deemed unsatisfactory by “thoughtful” men, the elders, who come to Samuel to ask for a king.
What does God think of civil authority and power? Obviously the writer of first Samuel had his concerns. Civil power and authority can be abused and given human nature probably will be. Our text has the Lord almost reluctantly saying: “Grant their request and appoint a king to rule them”.
2016 is an election year for us in the United States. The question of leadership is on the minds of Americans. In prayerful reflection each of us in conscience will participate in primaries and then in the November general election to choose a president for the next four years. Like the Hebrews four thousand years ago, it is important for us and the world that we choose well.