Connections 06.09.2024: God Gives the People a King

1 Samuel 8:4-11, 16-20

Communities of people need leaders. They need perceptive, intelligent, compassionate, wise individuals to make big decisions on the community’s behalf and take responsibility when things go wrong. They need someone to be the voice of the community to the larger society around them, expressing the community’s opinions and desires. They need someone to advocate for their best interests. Without leadership, communities can’t exist in cooperation for long.

Despite the incredible upheaval in the United States of America over the past decade—and, if we’re honest, in all the years of this country’s existence—the nation has always had at least a few good leaders. In comparison to citizens of other countries in the world, people in the US have cleaner drinking water, a higher standard of living, and better job opportunities (“United States”). There will always be areas for improvement—the Better Life Index highlights disparities in education, safety, and work/life balance—but overall, the country’s leadership must be doing something right. Even if we don’t care for the president at any given time, the checks and balances in our government often help the nation avoid extremes.

Leaders are essential to a healthy society, so why didn’t God want Israel to have a king? It seems that the problem was not lack of leadership but lack of commitment to God (v. 7). Rather than trusting God to lead them through the individuals God equipped, the people demanded “a king to govern us, like other nations” (v. 5). God told Samuel to warn them against this (vv. 9-11, 16-18), but they didn’t heed the warning (vv. 19-20). And God gave them what they asked for (see v. 22).

In the United States, we also get what we ask for. We are fortunate enough to be able to vote for the leaders we prefer. Although the system is flawed, it’s better than it used to be. The problem is often the choices we are offered; in some elections, there is no best option. Even so, term limits are in place, and each president is surrounded by an elected group of leaders who push and pull against each other in a way that we hope leads to healthy compromise. As Christians, may we pray for our leaders of all parties and put our utmost faith in Jesus Christ, working toward policies that express God’s love and care to “the least of these” (see Matt 25).

Source: “United States,” OECD Better Life Index, https://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/countries/united-states/.

Discussion

• What leaders in your lifetime have exhibited perception, intelligence, compassion, and wisdom?
• What hinders good leadership?
• Have you ever wished, like the people of Israel, for what other nations have in terms of leadership? If so, how do you think that would change your community?
• It is easy to get disillusioned about our leaders, especially considering the upheaval in the world today. Why is it still important to be engaged in what is happening, to vote in elections, and to contact representatives about difficult issues?
• How can you work to change your mindset about the leaders in your life and see them as Jesus sees them?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University (BA in English, 2000), has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theatre productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she always has one book going and several more waiting to be read!

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