14 January 2022
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.
From 1 Samuel 8:4-7,10-22, NRSV
Surrounded by the threat of attack from the Philistines and other neighbours, the elders of Israel approached Samuel to ask for a king to lead them. Perhaps they wanted the security of a leader who they thought would possess the power and strategic understanding that would protect them from attack. Samuel understandably took this as a rejection of his own leadership. During a difficult time in their history, Samuel had helped the people of Israel to preserve their religious heritage and identity, but now they seemed to want a more secular leader. Samuel took his concerns to God who instructed him to listen to the voice of the people. Samuel attempted to to warn the people against the appointment of a king, pointing out the many ways in which they could be subjected to abuse and the consequences of abandoning their reliance on God. However, the people persisted in their request and from then on the people had to live with the struggle of balancing loyalty to God with loyalty to their kings.
- Why do you think God instructed Samuel to grant the demands of the people?
- When have you been aware of any tension between your belief in God and in the values of the secular world?
Pray today for those who suffer discrimination or oppression in the practice of their religion.
Image – 17th Century Icon of the Prophet Samuel