Things were not going well. Selfish decisions, benefitting few, were ruining the lives of many. All around them things were falling into chaos, there was little action they could take and even less hope to be found.
Does this sound like our recent economic woes? This was the time Samuel’s sons were the judges of Israel. Corrupted by the authority of the office, they took advantage of many for their own gain and pleasure. For many, this sounds familiar, especially if you have been laid off in this recession. I know all too well, as I was laid off earlier this year.
As Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons to be judges over Israel. Joel and Abijah, his oldest sons, held court in Beersheba. But they were not like their father, for they were greedy for money. They accepted bribes and perverted justice.
Finally, all the elders of Israel met at Ramah to discuss the matter with Samuel. “Look,” they told him, “you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.” 1 Samuel 8:1-5
In my case, especially with a son in college, the obvious answer was to find a new full-time job (with benefits, of course) like the jobs my friends and family still enjoyed. For the Israelites, the desire was for a human king, like the neighboring countries had. For them and me, particular individuals created the problem and the best perceived solution was in finding new human leadership to guide and correct the situations.
God responded to Samuel: “Do everything they say to you,” the LORD replied, “for it is me they are rejecting, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.” (v.7-9)
I obsessed over my predicament in the job search, despite encouragement from friends to start my own business. Even after I gave in and began consulting work, I felt it was a stop-gap until “the job” arrived. Never mind that every client I had came to me by way of referral, that my son stayed in college, that we were able to help relatives that also were laid off, that all the bills were paid and no meals missed… yet it was not enough. I was still looking for my own “king” in the form of a new full-time job.
The Israelites felt the same way. Despite Samuel’s warnings of the sacrifices the people would have to make with the imposition of royalty, they said, “Even so, we still want a king… We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will judge us and lead us into battle.” (v.19-20)
Reading this chapter opened my eyes to what I was seeking: trading the absolute reliance of the One True God for the “security” of another steady paycheck. God had provided new clients as our circumstances required. None of the consulting work or new jobs I sought on my own came to fruition. I never made it to a second interview but our needs were met. And still are being met.
The Israelites got their wish in Saul. I have realized I already have my wish in the One who has met our needs and promises to continue doing so in the future!