The religious landscape is consumed with discourse over controversial issues of theology and ideology. If you take just a brief moment – which will inevitably lead to the loss of an entire day – to peruse the deep of abyss of Twitter retweets and hashtags, you will undoubtedly stumble across well-reasoned arguments – both conservative and liberal – on such topics as women in ministry, homosexuality, evolution/creation, nationalism, the inerrancy of scripture, ecclesiology, eschatology, etc. This work done by theologians and bloggers is incredibly important and necessary. The Church needs dissenting opinions on all issues in order to develop and sustain a robust, Jesus-centric, transformative theology – one that empowers people and shapes them more and more into the image of the Father.
Yet seemingly, as we cast ourselves headfirst into the rabbit hole and chase the tails of these relevant theological hot spots, we ultimately find ourselves disoriented and disheveled. We feel as if we are Israel, attacked by the Ammonites of theological perspectives. We sit and wonder what we should do. We scour over the potential options of reorientation and cognition. After examining the particulars with care and restlessness, we settle for the obvious course of action.
A king! That is what we need. We need a cause! So, we go to the Driscolls, the Bells, and the catechisms of the world and ask for deliverance from our fraught ways. We learn the rhetoric; we learn to claim what we have is greater than what others have; we claim authority over the Spirit of the living God; we choose our agenda over the way of Christ.
The prophet, Samuel, when dealing with the Israelites desire to have a king, recounts the story of Israel’s unfaithfulness and exile, and God’s kindness in bringing them back into the fold when they inevitably cried out for his mercy. Yet, Samuel strongly suggest the Israelites are now choosing something other than God to deliver them – a King.
12 When you saw that Nahash the king of the sons of Ammon came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ although the Lord your God was your king. 13 Now therefore, here is the king whom you have chosen, whom you have asked for, and behold, the Lord has set a king over you.
The immediacy of a present king, a tangible individual who will lead the troops into battle and ensure the safety of the people, supersedes the work of God. Samuel is disgusted, but not without hope. While Samuel chastises them for their decision to choose an earthly ruler over a cosmic one, he relates to the people God’s conditions concerning the new ruler and his subjects.
14 If you will fear the Lord and serve Him, and listen to His voice and not rebel against the command of the Lord, then both you and also the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God. 15 If you will not listen to the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the command of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you, as it was against your fathers. 16 Even now, take your stand and see this great thing which the Lord will do before your eyes.
Essentially, Samuel exhorts the people to follow God and see his great work. It is as if God is saying, “Even though you are choosing a man over me, if you follow me, I will be with you. Remember the work I did through your fathers, and expect the same work to be done through you. Stand and see the work of my hands – for you!”
As I read this passage in 1 Samuel today, I was reminded of my desire for safety, grace, and knowledge, and how often I try to obtain these things apart from the simple, “Stand and see this great thing which the Lord will do.” I realized how often I choose the things of this world over the work of God.
Now, I’m not advocating a thoughtless faith. I’m not advocating the liberal or conservative views on certain touchy subjects. I’m not advocating sitting back and letting the oppressed suffer unjustly. These are important issues, and they need to be discussed. The conclusions need to be clear and concise for the people of Faith to digest and live out.
But…are they our Kings? Are we jostling for position in order to cover up a wound we received from our childhood denomination? Are we using scripture to satisfy our need for power (fundamentalists and mainline Protestants alike)? Are we hiding behind dogma and tradition out of some fear that Christianity is under attack?
Stand and see the goodness and love of our King. Our God, no matter where we are or what we think in regards to these issues, deserves and desires our worship. The sacred is here and now, with you and me. Revel in it. Relish it…
“deliberately interrupt our preoccupation with ourselves and attend to God, place ourselves intentionally in sacred space, in sacred time, in the holy presence – and wait…become silent and still in order to listen and respond to what is Other than us. — Eugene Peterson
Samuel tells the Israelites to follow God’s commands and the King’s leadership. But, in the moment, he reminds them to attend to God and recognize his goodness. In the heated discussions and debates of our present age, remember to stand and see the Lord. For he is King over our ideology and theology.