THE BOOK OF 1 SAMUEL—Week 5
Crisis 5: When a Nation Rejects God (1 Sam. 8-10)
(Key verses: 1 Sam. 8:7, 19-20; 10:6-9)
I think many of us can identify with the concern and anger expressed by Samuel in this week’s passage. When we look around us and see the trajectory of our nation, when we consider the growing open hostility to the Church, it is hard not to be discouraged and angry. Faced with such moral and spiritual decline, the Church needs to understand its responsibility in the midst of such decline and how God’s grace is still at work, even when a nation rejects God’s authority.
Throughout the time of the judges, when the Israelites were oppressed by enemies, they frequently showed regret, but they rarely showed repentance. It is not until the rise of Samuel as a judge in Chapter 7 that we see any record of a national repentance and a putting away of false idols. Thus, Samuel’s leadership begins with a tremendously positive impact on the religious and political life of the nation. However, by the time we get to Chapter 8, towards the end of Samuel’s leadership as a judge and prophet, he has lost that influence. In Chapter 7, Samuel tells the people what God expects of them, and they obey. In Chapter 8, the people tell him what they want, and he is expected to obey. They are still fine with Samuel being a religious leader, but they want to separate their religious life from their political life because of the disappointing decisions he has made. Sound familiar?
We are blessed to live in a nation that has been tremendously influenced by God’s Word and the Church. Many of the freedoms we hold dear are directly attributable to that influence. However, it is undeniable that the Church’s influence on our national trajectory is in decline. In this week’s passage we see Samuel throw his authority behind corrupt political leaders, causing the people to lose confidence in him and in God’s authority. Like Samuel, the Church has in many areas of the national discourse lost the moral high ground because of disappointing choices some of its leaders have made. The Church’s reputation has been tarnished such that it is no longer seen as a bastion of truth and hope. No longer does the Church proclaim God’s will, and the nation obey. Now, the culture tells the Church what it wants, and the Church is expected to obey. So, what is the Church to do?
In this week’s passage, Samuel provides an excellent example of what we are called to do when the nation rejects God’s authority. Even though the people refuse to listen, Samuel nonetheless continues to warn them of the consequences of their decisions. He never compromises or condones. Samuel continues to seek to lead the people spiritually and offers sacrifices on their behalf. Samuel continues to seek God’s guidance in choosing Israel’s king, and once that king is chosen by God, Samuel personally invests in Saul, building him up both publicly and privately. Finally, as we will see when we look at Chapter 12, Samuel promises the people he will never cease to pray for them, even in the face of their rejection.
Though Saul will ultimately prove to be a very flawed king, God displays his grace and love by making Saul a new man and using him mightily against Israel’s enemies. Even though Israel is faithless in this moment, God remains faithful. God has not changed, and he has not abandoned his people. Though we should mourn a nation rejecting God, we should not fear. Let us remain faithful like Samuel and look for how God’s grace is on display, even in the midst of discouraging circumstances.
This week’s topic can elicit a wide range of emotions and political viewpoints. The point of this blog is not politics; it is about caring for a community that is far from God. Rather than providing discussion questions, I would encourage leaders to steer the discussion away from politics to our personal responsibility to be light in a dark culture. I would also encourage leaders to have an extended prayer time for our church, our community, and our nation.