The More Things Change…

The More Things Change… April 10, 2024

Photo by Alec Krum on Unsplash

The old saying goes, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Today’s passage from 1 Samuel 8 illustrates that in a powerful way!

Scripture:       

1 Samuel, chapters 8-10; 2 Corinthians, chapter 10

1 Samuel 8:1-9 (CEB):

Now when Samuel got old, he appointed his sons to serve as Israel’s judges. The name of his oldest son was Joel; the name of the second was Abijah. They served as judges in Beer-sheba. But Samuel’s sons didn’t follow in his footsteps. They tried to turn a profit, they accepted bribes, and they perverted justice. So all the Israelite elders got together and went to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “Listen. You are old now, and your sons don’t follow in your footsteps. So appoint us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.”

It seemed very bad to Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us,” so he prayed to the Lord. The Lord answered Samuel, “Comply with the people’s request – everything they ask of you – because they haven’t rejected you. No, they’ve rejected me as king over them. They are doing to you only what they’ve been doing to me from the day I brought them out of Egypt to this very minute, abandoning me and worshiping other gods. So comply with their request, but give them a clear warning, telling them how the king will rule over them and operate.”

Observations – The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

At the beginning of 1 Samuel, God calls the young boy Samuel to speak for him. The message was not a pleasant one: the current priest/judge, Eli, had two sons who were wicked. God had previously warned Eli, but Eli hadn’t done anything to correct his sons’ sinful behavior. So God told Samuel: “I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of all who hear it tingle! On that day, I will bring to pass against Eli everything I said about his household – every last bit of it! I told him that I would punish his family forever because of the wrongdoing he knew about – how his sons were cursing God, but he wouldn’t stop them. Because of that I swore about Eli’s household that his family’s wrongdoing will never be reconciled by sacrifice or by offering” (1 Samuel 3:11-14).

And that’s exactly what happened; Eli’s sons were killed in battle when the Ark of the Covenant was captured. When Eli heard the news, he fell off his chair, broke his neck, and died (1 Samuel 4:18). And Samuel became the priest and judge for the people of Israel.  But in today’s passage, we see that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Samuel was old, but his sons didn’t follow in his footsteps. They tried to turn a profit, they accepted bribes, and they perverted justice. But this time, God didn’t pronounce judgment. Instead, the people of Israel said, “Give us a king to judge us.

“It Seemed Very Bad to Samuel

When the people asked for a king, Samuel knew that was a bad idea. But he was focused on the fact that it seemed that the people were rejecting him.  God refocused Samuel’s attention: they haven’t rejected you. No, they’ve rejected me as king over them. God’s plan was that He would be the King over Israel, and that He would appoint priests and judges to lead the people according to His commands. When the people asked for a human king to lead them, they were rejecting God’s leadership.

That wasn’t a surprise. As God said to Samuel, “They are doing to you only what they’ve been doing to me from the day I brought them out of Egypt to this very minute, abandoning me and worshiping other gods” (emphasis added). And it was clear from the people’s request: “Appoint us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.” God didn’t want His people to be like all the other nations – but they refused to acknowledge God as their King.

Application – The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Where do we begin with the parallels between this story and today’s world? I start with this: I’m afraid that the Church has tried too hard to be like all the other nations. We want to be seen as “cool” or “relevant.” We measure “success” in human terms rather than in terms of obedience to God. Are we following in “Samuel’s footsteps,” or are we following his sons – trying to turn a profit, accepting bribes, and perverting justice?

I’m also afraid that the Church has become too comfortable saying, Give us a king to ruler over us. We give our allegiance to human rulers who tell us what we want to hear. Too often, though, what they tell us is not consistent with who God calls us to be. I’ve reflected on this numerous times in prior posts. Political leaders to use fear to motivate us. They appeal to our baser, selfish motives, trying to divide us and turn us against one another.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45). Yet how often do we hear “leaders” spurring us to hate others – those who are “not like us”?

It Seems Very Bad to Me

When I hear fellow believers insist that some political leader is “the answer,” it seems very bad to me.Just to be clear, I feel that way about both of the candidates who are seeking to lead our nation, and about many of those aligned with them. As followers of Jesus, we need to ask: where are they trying to lead us? Is that where Jesus leads us? Are they trying to lead us where He wants us to go?

Prayer:

Father, forgive us for the times when we have deceived ourselves into thinking that someone other than You is “the answer.” Help us not to be misled onto a path other than the one that Jesus forged for us. Your standards have not changed; help us not to let human standards replace Yours. You call us to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with You (Micah 6:8). Help us to seek first Your kingdom and Your righteousness, and trust You with everything else (Matthew 6:33). Amen.

 

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