Whose Idea Is This Anyway?

Tuesday, November 7, 2000

1 Samuel 8:4-9 – All the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, "You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have." But when they said, "Give us a king to lead us," this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. 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. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do." (NIV)

My eight-year old daughter, observing the grassy roadside plastered with posters on poles, asked as we were driving along the highway: "Daddy, what are all the signs for?"

We live only twelve miles from the Canadian/American border, and with local, state, and federal election campaigns in full swing, a plethora of choices confronts the voters. Our friends in the United States go to the polls today; we here in Canada are slated to do so in a federal vote on Nov. 27th, and, in some jurisdictions, in a municipal ballot before then.

Pointing out that most of signs sported the name of an individual, I explained that various individuals seeking varied offices all had a simple message to communicate: "Vote for me!"

Many politicians are reluctant to resign willingly, few die in office, and it is a rare one indeed who successfully grooms a suitable successor, so elections are often marked by one or more persons attempting to unseat an incumbent. Regardless of who is seeking election or what the office is, the message in some form or other is designed to call attention to self over others: "Choose me!", "Elect me!", "Vote for me!"

In reflecting on today's scripture passage, one is struck by the contrast between the desire of the Israelites to dump Samuel as their God-given leader, and the displeasure of God with their decision. To be like everyone else — in this case the surrounding nations with their warrior kings — is the hue and cry. Yet in the search for a human hero, the beloved and chosen people of God are justly charged with forsaking their greatest leader: God himself.

In a free and democratic society, those with the right and responsibility to vote are called to evaluate the candidates for various established offices on the basis of who they are and what they pledge to do. Christian citizens are called to do so prayerfully, with discernment, seeking to support candidates who are conscious of their accountability not to the popular will but to the One to whom we shall all render our account. We are then called to pray for those who are elected, recognising the authorities as appointed in the permissive will of God. Yet beyond this, the Spirit through Samuel challenges us to review in whom our real confidence resides. Is it in the candidate for office, or is it in the God who works through his chosen instruments?

Let us pray, and let us vote, but let us also remember that we need to guard against misplacing our trust by placing it anywhere than in God alone, who is in Jesus Christ both the King of kings and our quiet, humble, servant. He let others write the placard which appeared at the top of his pole — the cross — and though apparently the loser on Friday, was by Sunday undeniably victorious.

Prayer: O God of all the nations, give us leaders who govern in righteousness, truth, and love. Even more, grant your people to centre our confidence, not in any candidate either vanquished or victorious, but in Jesus Christ, who at your right hand fills perpetually the highest office. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

1 Timothy 2:1-2 – I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

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About the author:

James T. Hurd <jthurd@sympatico.ca>
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

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