Samuel was a prophet in Israel and came to this role in the eleventh century B.C. He was the last leader of the nation before the first king, Saul, was appointed.
The times during which Samuel acted as national leader were not good times. Fraught with idolatry and rebellion, the nation repeatedly lost her way and suffered horrible consequences as a result.
The writer of Judges summarized the times in this way. “After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel.”
Near the end of Samuel’s life the nation of Israel began to ask to be ruled by a king rather than by prophets and priests. It was, in effect, a rejection of God’s leadership of them and a move to political reign and dependence on totally human initiative.
Samuel was not happy when this request was made to him. “You don’t know what you’re asking for,” was his response. “A king will draft your children forcing them to fight, plow fields, cook his meals, make his perfumes, and other menial labor. He will take your fields, a tenth of your harvest, and your livestock. You will beg for relief from this.”
Israel ignored Samuel’s advice, and Samuel’s warning became a reality. Israel’s kings built a palace for their residence, collected wealth, formed bad alliances with surrounding nations, and led the nation into evil practices.
The story of Samuel and Israel sounds like a page ripped from today’s newspaper. Our nation begs for a leader without any regard for the implications of the choice. It sounds like Huey Lewis’ 1983 song, “I want a new drug.” In the song Lewis pines for a drug that won’t make him sick, make his eyes too red, make him nervous, or cost too much.
Only in the 2016 version he’d be pining for a new politician that’s anybody but______. (Fill in the blank.)
In today’s version of Samuel’s speech to Israel, Samuel would say to us, “This is how that candidate will rule over you. He will make you a laughingstock on the world stage. He will discriminate against the poor and weak. He will lay waste to trust and respect.”
Aren’t we better than that?