Tuesday, November 6, 2012

For Want of a King

On this election day, I'm reminded of the story about Israel demanding that God put a king over them. Up until that point they had been ruled by "judges" who were unofficial leaders in their communities with an internally recognized hierarchy, but no official centralized authority. These judges usually emerged in times of crisis, but were looked to for leadership even during peace time. Together with the spiritual leaders of Israel (priests and prophets), Israel maintained order...and even prospered (much of the time anyway). But as one of the most respected judges grew older, Samuel, and the newly appointed judges proved of questionable moral fiber (Samuel's sons), the people began demand that a king be set over them. Even after they were warned by God that a king would ultimately bring pain and suffering, they persisted.
"No!" they said. "We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles." Samuel 8:1-22
The Israelites were convinced that an answer to their problems would be found in a king...in a leader. They wanted someone else to "fight our battles." And in the end, that is what God gave them...he gave them King Saul. But also in the end, as God warned, Saul was shallow and morally weak and brought war and death to Israel. And sadly he wasn't the only king of Israel for who that can be said.

But there were good kings too (David...mostly...and Solomon...mostly). Honest kings...noble kings. They followed God...obeyed God...and in return their kingdom was blessed. So it is not that leaders can't help. They can...but by themselves, they are not the answer.

So here we are in the United States...in this land of democracy and freedom...and I can't help put feel we have started sounding like the Israelites. We too, it seems, have a tendency to look for leaders rather than solutions...myself included. We see the huge challenges facing our country (or our own lives), and we think that the solutions have to be huge as well....like government. And of course we aren't wrong that the answer is big...we're just wrong to think that it is manmade. The truth is...the answer is God made...the answer is us.

Leaders, be it kings or presidents, will bring prosperity and decay. They will build up...and tear down. They are not 100% bad...nor 100% good. They are men and women just like us...and they have lives to live...choices to make. Just like we do. And just like our kings and presidents, we can make a difference.

We have the ability to bring prosperity to someone...maybe to a few people. We have the power to build up...to support...to help up. We have good that we can do. We just have to recognize it...and accept it.

Now of course we need leaders. And of course we should all exercise the freedom so many have died to preserve and vote today...and every election. But I pray that this election day leads us all to pause and consider the possibility that maybe presidents and senators and mayors are just a small part of the solutions we seek. The biggest part...the most critical piece...I believe...is ourselves.

What choices are we going to make when we see someone in need? What are we going to do when we encounter someone who needs help? When its the money in our pocket that can make a difference or its our free time that is needed...what will we choice then? Together the needs and challenges facing the country are overwhelming. How many million people need food...need shelter...or just need someone to listen? But at the local level...at our level...the scale is a bit different. We can do a lot...if we just love those that God brings into our lives. He knows how much we can do...He knows how much we can handle. And so whatever need we face, whatever problem we encounter, He'll provide the solution. In fact He already did...we just might not have known it.

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