When it comes to discussing leadership, the request of the people of Israel to Samuel comes to mind: “Therefore all the elders of Israel assembled and went to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Now that you are old, and your sons do not follow your example, appoint a king over us, like all the nations, to rule us” (Samuel 8:5).
Samuel, as you might imagine, was decidedly not amused – not only were the elders making a crazy demand, they threw in a little personal insult to boot! But as he prays to the Lord, God points out that it is not Samuel they are rejecting, but Him. And so the Lord – even as He grants their request – delivers this warning through His prophet Samuel:
He told them: “The governance of the king who will rule you will be as follows: He will take your sons and assign them to his chariots and horses, and they will run before his chariot.
He will appoint from among them his commanders of thousands and of hundreds. He will make them do his plowing and harvesting and produce his weapons of war and chariotry.
He will use your daughters as perfumers, cooks, and bakers.
He will take your best fields, vineyards, and olive groves, and give them to his servants.
He will tithe your crops and grape harvests to give to his officials and his servants.
He will take your male and female slaves, as well as your best oxen and donkeys, and use them to do his work.
He will also tithe your flocks. As for you, you will become his slaves.
On that day you will cry out because of the king whom you have chosen, but the LORD will not answer you on that day.”Samuel 8:11
The next time you have to pay your taxes, serve in mandatory civil work, see your family & friends sent into battles chosen (or even started) by rulers – remember this moment in the history of God’s people. I certainly do!
The thing is, I’m just as guilty as they in rejecting God as my king. Despite the audacity of their request, at least the Israelites were open about it. How often do we do the same, but in ways that are less open & honest – at least to ourselves?
And so we come to the second of our O Antiphons, offered this evening at Vespers: “O Leader of the House of Israel, giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai: come to rescue us with your mighty power!” Perhaps now more than ever, we know that we need the One who can lead us with perfect goodness (dare I say, we need a hero!). May we invite the Lord to take His place as our leader & guide.