Scripture: 1 Samuel 13:5-18
Key verse: (13) Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which he commanded you…”
Reflection: This story might not be familiar to you but it’s a pivotal moment in the history of Israel. Saul was the first king of the nation, becoming king after the people asked for a king so they could be “like other nations.” Samuel was the spiritual prophet over the people.
Saul and his son Jonathan led Israel in battle with the Philistines. After Israel had an early victory in the battle, the Philistines gathered a mighty army that looked overwhelming and frightening. In response, the Israelites ran and hid. Saul, their king and military leader, waited for Samuel the prophet to come to make a ritual offering to God. But Samuel didn’t come. Saul, caught between his own frightened people and the threat of the Philistine army, ordered the ritual offering to be made without Samuel’s leadership. When Samuel finally arrived, he judged Saul for doing this and told him that the consequences would be harsh. Saul would lose the kingship and a new king would lead the people. We, who know the stories that are coming, realize this new king will be David, the one remembered as the greatest king over Israel.
This story about Samuel and Saul is an early hint of the tension between the church and the state. Saul was desperate. He panicked and tried to force God’s hand to aid Israel. Unfortunately, throughout history, rulers and political leaders like Saul have tried to use God to serve their own interests. When political leaders feel insecure, they might turn to religion and use it as a panacea for the people. Political leaders can overstep and claim God’s endorsement for their own human ideas. If we are honest with ourselves, we are all tempted to use God to defend ourselves. We are tempted to use our faith as a rallying cry for our own opinions. We are tempted to react in fear instead of trusting in God. Samuel teaches us that powerful lesson that God refuses to be used! God refuses to be manipulated for our purposes.
Prayer: O Lord, your glory shines throughout the entire world. You are the ruler of all the peoples of the earth. We commend our nation to your care. Guide all those in authority that they will serve your people faithfully. Teach us to trust you with our lives. Amen.
Author: Millie Snyder
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].