We left off last post right before God gives in and gives the Hebrews that king they've been wanting. This week we learn that Samuel's sons follow the wicked son pattern I mentioned in the past 4:4 post, not living up to the reputation of their father. But it wasn't just that Samuel's sons were dishonest judges. The Jews have been wanting to have a king like their neighbors for quite a while now. It just happens that this is the moment when God is going to give in to them. But the thing He says to Samuel about it is so telling and sort of heart-breaking.
And the LORD told him: "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.If ever I am tempted to believe that God's ways are so much higher than our ways that He's not affected by the choices we make, verses like this remind me that God desires relationship. He wants to be exclusive, and when we want to play the field or keep our options open or see other people, it matters to him. He's the Creator of the universe, and our rejection hurts Him. He gives us that power to hurt Him because His love is too big for it to be any different. And sometimes that's scary for me to consider, but it's also comforting to know the depth of His love. It's a love that inspires me, at least it does when I'm not completely overcome by my own selfishness. And thankfully, it's a love that makes me want to overcome my selfishness.
*****Surprised blogger's note: Often I have no idea where these project 4:4 ramblings will lead, and such is the case at the moment. When I read I Samuel 8:7 a few nights ago, it did not jump out at me in a special way. I've read the verse many times before, and sometimes that lessens the power for me. But when I got to the end of the week's reading and went back to start this post, I started with Saul. Thinking about his kingship led me back to why Israel got a king at all, and when I reread that passage tonight, it led to way more than Saul and kings and such. It's moments like this that make this blogging project worthwhile for me, and I appreciate you, imaginary reader, for humoring me by taking the journey alongside me.*****
Saul enters the scene in I Samuel chapter eight as a humble, obedient man, a man who follows our reluctant leader pattern by pointing out his own insignificance and the insignificance of his family and tribe. And even after he's anointed by Samuel and witnesses the kingship-affirming signs that come true, he's still hiding among the baggage on the day when all Israel gathers to choose the king. It seems like a good start, like God has chosen a man who is head and shoulders above his fellow Israelites in more than just height.
But Saul's just a man, and to expect perfection from him is to miss the point of God's warnings about kings. Even if Saul had avoided some of the pitfalls of power that we'll see him fall into, he'd still be imperfect. As it is, he starts off well, coming to the aid of his people when they are threatened, rallying the people to fight together against their enemies, and showing compassion those who initially rejected him as king. Good on ya, Saul. It makes us see why God chose you. But the danger of success with kings or pseudo-librarians or bloggers or internet contest winners is that we can sometimes claim our victories for ourselves rather than acknowledging the source of our strength, intelligence, and blessings. And Saul begins fairly early in his career to suppose that his judgment is just as good as God's command.
As a result of Saul's presumption [Free-associating blogger's note: If things go as planned, my imaginary readers will soon be enjoying the first post by a guest blogger. Cousin, scholar, theologian and #1 blog fan will be bringing us some thoughts on Saul in the near future. I thought of that because I learned to use the word presumption in relation to Saul from the guest blogger himself.], God chooses not to let Saul's line continue as Israel's king. So Samuel is called into action to anoint a new leader, and this time God makes it clear that he's going to be looking at more than just height in one of the most comforting and most terrifying verses of the OT:
But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."On the one hand it affirms all that "it's what's on the inside that counts" rhetoric that our moms and elementary school guidance counselors thrust upon us, but it also comes with the certainty that God truly can see our innermost thoughts and attitudes, which is a scary prospect in my head. But God chooses David for his heart, and that's something that's generally going to work out well for them both. It'll be pretty decent for us too, actually.
I discovered upon this reading that I had a bit of I Samuel chronology mixed up in my head. For some reason I didn't have David playing the harp to soothe Saul's evil spirit until after the Goliath thing . . . which actually makes a better story. In my version, David's a complete unknown when he takes on the giant
What more can I say about that?
The week of reading goes past Goliath, but it's all tied up in Saul, and I've got another week of David reading next week, so I think I'm going to hold off and finish out David all at once.
But before I go, I do have one more thing I want to mention in this transition-less ramble:
Samuel gives his farewell address in chapter 12, though he won't be gathered to his people until the next day that I read. And you know how I like a good farewell address. In Samuel's I think we see a bit of his hurt feelings that the people asked for a king while he was still acting as their judge. God told him that it wasn't about him, but there's something in Samuel's words here that makes it seem as though he took that personally--and it would be hard not to, I'd say. But he stands before Israel and asks them to call him out if he's done wrong, and no one steps forward to accuse him. Samuel has been a faithful servant of God and His people since his mother dedicated him as a pup. And he makes Israel swear that it's so. And then he reminds the forgetful Hebrews who their God is and what He's done for them. For one second, they finally see how they've rejected God by asking for a king, and Samuel lays the pressure on them to do right. And that lasts for about a second too. But it's a great speech, nonetheless.