Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 36; 127:12-20, 1 Samuel 8:1-22, Acts 6:15-7:16, Luke 22:24-30
After the death of Joshua, who succeeded Moses, the twelve tribes of Israel fractured and many people – despite warnings from God – began to worship Ba’al in the custom of the other nations around them. Because of their unfaithfulness, God let their enemies overtake them. Eventually God pitied them and raised up a series of Judges (part military leader, part legal arbiter) to restore them. Both the people and the Judges were unsteady in their faithfulness, and often relapsed to Ba’al worship and corruption.
Samuel, a righteous man and Judge, was the father of the last two judges. His sons, nothing like him, “took bribes and perverted justice.” The people demanded Samuel instead appoint a King. Samuel and God were displeased the people were rejecting God as their king. Speaking for God, Samuel told them what kind of king they could expect: one who took their property and harvests, conscripted their sons into military service, forced their daughters to labor for him, and generally abused them for his own gain.
The people refused to listen, saying “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.”
God let them have their king.
How often we choose affection for a king (or president, coach, etc.) over the blessings of the Lord. As long as we feel someone will lead our tribe to victory (be that in elections, ball games, or culture wars), we overlook that person’s ruinous flaws even when we’ve been warned about them. In the end the institution we claimed to want to protect is tarnished at best or gutted at worst.
We can do better than willful ignorance and hollow victory. Our triumphs don’t come from bringing our enemies low at any cost, but from holding our integrity high at every cost. Placing our trust in God rather than kings frees us to tell the emperor he has no clothes. The price we pay today will be much lower than one that comes due later.
Comfort: Choosing integrity is its own reward.
Challenge: Don’t follow authorities blindly, even when you agree with them.
Prayer: O continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your salvation to the upright of heart! (Psalm 36:10).
Discussion: Have you ever found yourself questioning someone you once put on a pedestal?
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