It’s Good To Be the King

Patrick Stewart as King Richard in Robin Hood: Men In TightsThe people of Israel have been told all along that they are a chosen people, set apart by God for a special purpose. However, in this chapter, we find them wanting not to be separate, but to blend in. They want a king, so that they’ll be like the other nations around them. Samuel tells them that this is contrary to God’s will, because God is their only king, but they won’t listen. So God tells Samuel to go ahead and give them what they want, provided that they understand just what it is that they’re getting. Samuel rattles off a series of things that the king is going to expect of them, and the people happily agree.

The thing that really struck me about this is that the things the king was going to expect, e.g., service of their sons and daughters, the best of the harvest, etc, is not different than what God was asking in any substantive way. So they’re trading in their allegiance to the God who saved them from their enemies, and getting in return a mortal man, and then asking him to take the place of God.

That sounds like a very bad deal, and Samuel would agree with that. The thing is, I can understand it. Of course, God can do things for them that no mortal could accomplish, but I think a key to understanding this comes earlier in the chapter, during the call of Samuel. 1 Samuel 3:1b reads

The word of the LORD was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.

Visions were not widespread. The people didn’t SEE God. They could SEE Saul, the chosen king. He could inspire the people. Of course, I’m not suggesting that the people made the RIGHT decision. Only that I can understand WHY they did what they did. I think that we, today, would probably do the same. That visible symbol (one might even say idol) gives is something to focus on. Something to rally around.

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