“If everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you jump also?” That might be the question Samuel wanted to ask the elders when they demanded a king “like other nations.” Samuel had served his time as judge, asking God for direction while leading the people.
For years, judges had ruled, resolving disputes as they arose. Samuel had served, and he appointed sons Joel and Abijah to serve in the southern region of Judah. Like Samuel’s mentor Eli, Samuel raised sons who grew to be corrupt, demanding bribes and perverting justice. According to the text, Samuel’s sons did not “follow in [Samuel’s] ways.”
With lament over the ways of Samuel’s sons, the elders approach Samuel with a request from the people. Although they mention the unfaithfulness of Samuel’s sons, they focus on another reason for wanting a king: to be like other nations. They were a people set apart by Yahweh, but they wanted something else. Rather than reveling in their uniqueness, the people wanted to find rest in sameness.
The feeling is not altogether unfamiliar to us today. There is comfort in sameness. In fact, we gravitate toward those who are like us. Whether in our courageous or fearful moments, we may even seek to make others like us.
And yet each of us is loved by God in our very uniqueness. As God called a distinct people, God calls each of us in our distinctness. Even when our calling is unclear, it is ours uniquely. Each of us is chosen and loved by God, not for our conformity but for our unique image of the God of the universe.
Giving and loving God, thank you for creating us each with a unique calling. Guide us as we work to find ways for our uniqueness to be a blessing to others and bring glory to you. Amen.
We sometimes struggle to believe in the power of a God we cannot see. The psalmist declares that God is greater than any earthly king and will preserve us in the face of our enemies. However, in the time of Samuel, the Israelites demanded a human king to lead them into battle. God was not enough for them. Paul admonishes the Corinthians not to repeat this mistake. We should not think that what we see is the ultimate reality. What we see is temporary; what cannot be seen is eternal. Perhaps Jesus is teaching a similar idea in this somewhat troubling passage in Mark. Jesus is not against family, but he is emphasizing that human families are temporary; spiritual family is eternal.
Read 1 Samuel 8:4-20. How are you influenced by the culture around you? What helps you try to align your priorities with God’s?
Read Psalm 138. When you “walk in the midst of trouble,” how do you remember God’s presence with you?
Read 2 Corinthians 4:13–5:1. How do you find yourself being renewed today in spite of parts of your “outer nature” that may be “wasting away”?
Read Mark 3:20-35. Who is your spiritual family? Whom do you identify as your brothers, sisters, mother, and father?
Respond by posting a prayer.