1 Samuel 8-10. “When Samuel grew old…” At this point the elders of Israel gathered and came to Samuel, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways, now appoint a king to lead us, such as the other nations have. (8:5)” We are headed to another transition. Samuel had been mentored by the high priest, Eli, whose own sons were undisciplined. Samuel too had two sons who were also dishonest and disrespectful of the priesthood. At the same time, the people of Israel are observing the nations around them. Please note that even the most godly men in the Bible had wayward children. Perhaps they were too busy being priests. Perhaps the sons were spoiled by all the perks of being the sons of the high priest. We don’t know but we do know, but the elders thought a new process of leadership was needed.
The request for a king sounds reasonable but note the motivation is to be like the other nations. The human desire to belong, to be like everyone else, is dangerous because it often leads to compromise to fit in. Samuel realized the implicit rejection of God but God allowed the people their king. Samuel warned the people of the dangers but they wanted a king. Tall, handsome Saul was chosen. How often are we so sure of what we want that we cannot listen to honest feedback from our friends? It reminds me of the song, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, that we sang in the 60s. The people were determined to have a king.
When Samuel tells Saul, Saul is speechless, “But am I not a Benjamite from the smallest tribe of Israel and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?” God has again chosen an unlikely person to lead his people, someone with a humble heart at this point but someone who fits the job description of a stereotypical king – tall and handsome!
Growing a nation of loyal people who will choose to follow God’s ways is a process of character formation. We are not the person we were as a youth with our dreams and aspirations to climb mountains and “leap over tall buildings with a single bound” but as maturity settles in and the bumps and bruises of life form us, we become and make choices that keep us moving forward. We may not always choose the easiest route but God works with us, teaching us and loving us. Most of us may feel as unlikely and unworthy of God’s attention but God sees beyond the surface to qualities he wants to work with. I find it comforting that God works with us even in our detours and God always has some unlikely person he is willing to use. It may be you! Winston Churchill is credited with saying, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.”