8:4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, 5 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.” 6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the LORD, 7 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. 8 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. 9 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.” 10 So Samuel reported all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 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; 12 and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. 15 He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. 16 He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 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.” 19 But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said “No! but we are determined to have a king over us, 20 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.” 11:14 Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship. 15 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. [NRSV]
Erma Bombeck’s The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank, McGraw-Hill, 1976., is a true observation. Things that look so good from one perspective have a foundation that hides some ugly facts.
It was during Annual Conference twenty years ago that I wrote a letter to then Governor, Zell Miller, sharing the eighth chapter of First Samuel with him as a warning that there are trade-offs, temptations and hidden costs to a state run lottery that I appealed to him as a fellow United Methodist to reconsider his support.
I never received a letter from the Gov. Miller nor his office. But in the past year when looked back at a score of the state’s poorest and least educated folks linning up multiple times each week to fund the demenishing scholarships promised to the state’s brightest students. Yes there are many great things that have been provided for kindergarten and college students alike. But at what cost?
Samuel’s first concern is very personal. He becomes aware that the majority, or at least the squeaky wheels, did not like the subjective and fluctuating leadership of judges and heros or heroins. The opposition wanted a king. And they didn’t want Samuel.
This next week marks the final week from some pastor’s and their families at their churches and some in their careers. In some cases both congregations and clergy want a change of leadership in hopes of getting what they are lacking, wether perceived or real. We want a change.
Change is not what we always hoped for. (Yes that is a political statement as well) Samuel first has to deal with the personal part of the complaints… The people have lost trust and Samuel had lost respect.
He goes to God and says, “What are you going to do about this mess?”
God sends Samuel to warn of the cost of change, the cost of a king, the cost now and the cost for future generations.
Samuel’s warning speaks to our generations today. We want our economy fixed, but they will cost someone a great deal at some point. It will cost the rich and the poor, the boss and the laborer. The owner, the investors, visitors and children’s children’s children.
When we skip ahead to the cost of building and maintaining King Solomon’s temple, projects, politics, festivals and lifestyle we see that it becomes corporately and completely unsustainable. If Samuel were still alive he would sing all seven verse of the great hymn of self-justification: #147 “I Told You So, You So in So.”
Now that is not actually a hymn but some folks live with hope of singing it, rather than looking at the need for changes in the world and reality and instead asking God a different Question: What is required to change? and What is required of we never change a thing?
The reality is the world was transforming and the nation of God’s people….. we don’t want change for the sake of change, we want what is Good… Good for God, Good for now and Good for the future.
The reality is that there is ALWAYS a cost.
Back to my lottery story, is that education will always cost money, yet spending money on education is not the only side of the coin, as we have the second highest spending out of every dollar and our result is in the bottom five percent of results.
God’s warning through Samuel is that the cost of good leadership will effect every part of life. No one will escape its reach. It is not simply one part of the community, but all parts of the community that will have an investment.
At the heart of this chapter of warning is a stewardship, economics lesson.
A secondary lesson is, the majority, the masses, the squeaky wheels, don’t always have it right.
Saul became the first king and his reign ended in jealousy, anger, and rage. Not good traits for any leader, king or president.
1Sam8 is window into the past that might help us learn for the present and the future:
The current leaders didn’t want to see the people were lacking
The people didn’t always know what they needed
The grass is greener over the septic tank, because the pretty is on the outside, under the hood is where things get messy.
They jumped in to what ‘they’ wanted without consulting God.
God lets them, and us, try to learn from our success and mistakes…
At stake is that we may never learn, if we never ask God to reveal what is best for us from God’s perspective and not just our own.