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We Want a King!



First Reading

A READING FROM THE FIRST BOOK OF SAMUEL

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 plow 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." 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.]

1 SAMUEL 8:4-11 (12-15), 16-20 (11:14-15)


Sermon: The Rev. Dr. Maryann Amor

Today’s first reading tells of Israel’s demand for a king. They were under the leadership of Samuel’s sons, corrupt judges who took bribes and perverted justice…this upset the people, so they wanted something else, they wanted a king.

 

But when they demand that the prophet Samuel give them a king they add that they also want one so they could be like other nations. Israel was led by judges and an invisible God, but other nations had human kings that they could see, who led them into battle. Israel believes that having this would be so much better than what they have at the moment.

 

Samuel tells God what Israel wants, a king to be like other nations, and God says that their demand is not just a rejection of Samuel's leadership but a rejection of God's kingship. God had supported Israel throughout its history and all God wants is for the people to show complete allegiance to God. But the people consistently fail, regularly sinning and turning against God. Their rejection goes a step further today, they reject how God determined they should be led…they reject God in favour of being like everyone else.

 

Instead of immediately giving into the request, Samuel warns of the consequences of having a king…yes, on the outside, it looks great, but he tells them that the reality is different…a king would draft their sons into his army, take their daughters as perfumers, cooks, and bakers, seize the best of their fields, vineyards, and olive groves, and want a tenth of their grain and vintage. Their servants and the best of their cattle and donkeys would become his property. They would become his subjects, and when they cried out because of the king, the Lord would not answer.

 

But these warnings do nothing. Israel’s longing for a king outweighs the potential costs. So, the Lord gives in, the Lord says they could have a king.

 

It is easy to judge Israel from what we hear of them today, judge them for not accepting God or the governing structure God had set up for them. But I think if we were in their shoes, we would have done the same thing. They look at other people and imagine that they have it better, that a king is way better than judges or a God they cannot see. So, they go after what others have in the hopes that this will improve their lives.

 

So often we, like the Israelites, look at other people’s lives and think, ‘wow, I wish I could have that too, it would be better than what I have now.’ I do this when I look at people who have families. Sometimes, I yearn to have a family waiting for me when I get home from work. I would not be lonely, I would have people to do stuff with, it would be so much better than what I have now.

 

But then, I talk to my sister, who has two children, and she says how much she wishes she had my life. She goes home after work to poopy bums, tantrums, a messy house, bathtime, and cooking. She wishes she could go home, as I do, to silence, a puppy, calmness, and no mess. 


Like the Israelites, looking at nations with kings and wanting one too…we look to what others have and want it. But then we get the warnings, as Samuel delivered to the Israelites, as my sister delivered to me…things might look great on the outside, but this doesn’t mean they are actually great. It is like social media, the pictures of other people’s lives look fantastic, they might make us wish we had something different…but the pictures don’t tell the truth, the pictures hide the warnings.

 

I wonder if the message of today’s first reading is not to be like the Israelites. The Israelites were so focused on getting what they thought they needed, and they took it upon themselves to make sure it happened, ignoring God’s warnings. They didn’t put God first, they put themselves first. So, we need to do the opposite, adopt a different stance in our lives, one that looks for what God has done for us, is grateful, and leaves space for God to bring us what we need on God’s schedule.

 

For example, if we look at the church right now we might think that we need tons of money and hundreds of people to solve our problems, we might stress about it and hurry to act right away to solve all of this fearing that if we don’t everything will collapse…but big churches bring with them their own set of problems, they are not perfect.  Can we look at what we have right now, the gifts God has given to us as a small church, and be grateful? Can we wait for God to act on God’s time to bring us what we need when we need it...to grow the church in God's way, on God’s schedule? 

 

I guess we could also say that today’s reading is about giving up the control we think we have and trusting that God knows what’s best for us. The Israelites didn’t do this and, in the end, it was a mistake…the warnings they ignored came true, the kings took from the people and they suffered. Maybe if they had just looked for where God had already blessed them and been grateful, if they had put their impatience and arrogance aside and had waited for God to shift their political systems, would the outcome have been different??

 

Israel wants a king, they want to be like other nations, and they push for this, forgetting God in the process. The Israelites thus become our example of what not to do. When we look around us and see things we think will make our lives better...be it more money, more people, children, the list is endless. Let us stop and acknowledge the blessings God has already given to us, let us be happy with what we have, and let us wait on God to act in God’s own time. Because God is acting as God was millennia ago when Israel thought it needed a king…they never gave God a chance, they pushed for their king right away, they didn’t wait for God to make it happen at the right time. So we must wait, we must have patience and trust that God will bring us what we need when we need it. God has blessed us and will continue to do this, let us be forever grateful.

Amen.

 

 

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