Here in the U.S. and in many countries around the globe, hardly has one election ended before voters begin agonizing about the next one. More and more it seems, elected leaders spend less time governing than they do running for re-election. The 24-hour news cycle and the media empires that fuel it are, in part, to blame for this dynamic. It’s human nature to believe that things can always be better, if only someone else were in charge. Speculating who that someone else might be is big business in a hyper-partisan world.
“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.” 1 Samuel 8:7
In this part of God’s story, the people are unhappy with their leaders. Samuel has been a good and faithful judge but his sons, whom he has appointed to take the reins, are not nearly as honorable or trustworthy. God’s people demand a change to the succession plans. And God is frustrated.
God’s people seem to forget that God is still God and are seeking safety and security from someone other than God. All the neighboring nations have kings, so God’s people also want a king to lead them. Before agreeing to their request, God instructs Samuel to make one more attempt to convince the people that having kings will not be in their best interest. He gives a speech (vs. 10-18) that list all the ways in which being subject to a king is exactly the opposite of how God blesses God’s people.
“But the people refuse to listen…” (v. 19)
I fear that’s the biggest challenge we continue to face in the continuing political drama of this hyper-polarized election cycle. We refuse to listen. We’re not listening to each other and we’re certainly struggling to listen for God. As a result, the leaders we do have don’t get the chance to lead but are instead compelled to keep posturing for some idealized future reality that would result from holding on to power. This isn’t leading, it’s kicking the can down the road, to be dealt with later and not now.
What if we asked our leaders to start listening to us? What might be possible if we stopped worrying about who the next leader will be and started listening to the ones we have? How might God’s vision for the world be made more obvious today rather than tomorrow? These are questions not just for the people and prophets of the Old Testament, they’re questions for today.
May God’s peace find you this day. -Pastor Peter
Let us pray…
Gracious God, help us to listen. Your word and your wisdom have been made known to us in the witness of Jesus and the on-going presence of the Spirit. Keep us open to the possibilities you’ve already put before us and guard us from over-valuing the unknown and the untested. Give us the patience to ask better questions of those we’ve asked to lead and give us the courage to follow them where they hope to go. Amen.