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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | 1 Samuel 8:4–20

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the Lord, and 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. Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. Now then, listen to their voice; only—you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” So Samuel reported all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, “No! but we are determined to have a king over us, so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.” (NRSV)

At first, the Israelites ask the prophet Samuel for a king “to govern them, like the other nations.” It’s a seemingly normal request. But as they get specific, their motives become ever clear. The Israelites ask for a king who might govern and also go out to fight their battles. The people desire a king who will build a strong military and go out to wage war for them. The people of God were in an era of great peace, and yet they clamored for an earthly leader who would ready and arm them. Perhaps they held a false sense of insecurity—fearful of their neighbors who differed from them. Maybe they thought having a king and a military would make them equals in the eyes of those around them. Ultimately the people of God wavered in their ability to trust that God would guide, provide, and sustain. Can you blame them?

I have to admit that trusting God is one of the hardest things about this curious Christian life. Like the Israelites, I am often tempted to find quick fixes to assure me that all manner of things will be well. I place my trust in mortal, earthly sorts of things rather than God. We all do it. We store away our money and food, fearful we might run out. We stay away from certain neighborhoods, concerned that we will be unsafe. We dig our heels in the ground and refuse to change our ways, thoughts, or traditions, worried that somehow we will lose a piece of our identity. In our fear and anxiety, we silence the invitation to enter fully into companionship with God.

Trusting in God is a difficult thing. But if we do, if we submit ourselves fully to God, then we find ourselves fully free. We will find ourselves liberated from the fears and ills of the mortal life and wondrously alive to the promises and hope found in God.

O God, you are my true sovereign in whom I yearn to place my trust. Still my mind and heart when earthly fears take hold, that, by your grace, I may fully rest in your eternal love. Amen.

Written by Shawn Fiedler, Worship and Adult Education Coordinator

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