As Samuel become an old man, the fledgling nation of Israel is thrown into turmoil. Who will lead us now? And how will they lead us? Despite the warning given by Samuel, the people are determined to have a king “like other nations”. In doing so, they reject God as their ultimate ruler.
Eventually God decides to re-enter the fray and make a new and decisive claim to the kingship, in the coming of Jesus the Christ, who announces and enacts the coming of the kingdom of God. Although this is a political statement showing that the kingdom of God stands in opposition to the kingdoms of this world, Jesus ordains a new style of kingship, a new understanding of the sort of leadership which the kingdom of God engenders.
One researcher says that people believe in leaders who exercise three qualities; courage, compassion, and connection – and these are certainly present in the heart of Jesus’ leadership.
Those of us living today who have a faith in Jesus Christ are members of the kingdom of God and participants in its work and the kingdom of God requires of each and every one of us that we demonstrate the leadership that is needed to enable the kingdom of God to become more established in this world. We must be the ones who show leadership with courage, compassion, and connection so the kingdom of God can make continuing inroads into the injustice, pain and apathy of this world.
1 Samuel 8: 4-11, (12-15), 16-20, (11:14-15) (NRSV)
Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, ‘You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.’ But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to govern us.’ Samuel prayed to the Lord, and the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. Now then, listen to their voice; only—you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.’
So Samuel reported all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, ‘These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plough his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.’
Israel’s Request for a King Granted
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.’
Samuel said to the people, ‘Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.’ So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the Lord in Gilgal. There they sacrificed offerings of well-being before the Lord, and there Saul and all the Israelites rejoiced greatly.
Our prayer is best summed up in the words of a song from Nicaragua and the World Council of Churches translated by Jorge Maldonodo.
Sent by the Lord am I; my hands are ready now
to make the earth place in which the kingdom comes.
The angels cannot change a world of hurt and pain
into a world of love, of justice and of peace.
The task is mine to do, to set it really free.
O help me to obey, help me to do your will.
Let that be our prayer today and always, “Help me to do your will.” Amen.