Give Us a King! Good Leadership: A Christian Perspective

Maple Grove United Church, Oakville, Who Would Be King
Give Us a King! Good Leadership: A Christian Perspective

About the Author

Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

The Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes is the Minister of Maple Grove United Church, and is a member of the Interfaith Councill of Halton. A chatty extrovert with a conversational preaching style, a multi-tasker who is a “multi-worrier” when it comes to caring about people’s problems, and a leader who treasures teaming with the lay people in her church, Morar says that at Maple Grove she has experienced “a deeper level of ministry than I thought possible.” Anyone who has personally received Morar’s deeply compassionate caring and wise counsel will testify to what an inspirational, healing and encouraging ministry it is.

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We enter into the story of the people of Israel when Samuel, is an old man. 1 Samuel 8.4-20, I Samuel 11.14-15

Judges sat at the gate of the city: they listened to people’s disagreements, complaints, struggles with one another, and pointed to God’s way in each specific situation.

God liked Judges.

When things really got out of hand, which they had in Samuel’s time, and people were worshipping idols, ignoring the law, acting badly in groups and even as a nation, God sent a Prophet to speak God’s words to the people.

God liked Prophets.

Samuel was both: the last of the Judges and the first of the major Prophets.

But the people pressure Samuel to appoint a king.

“You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.”

Samuel thinks this is a terrible idea and tells God so.

I God doesn’t like Kings.

But God says, ‘give them a king. It’s not you they are rejecting; it’s me. Give them what they want, but warn them they will come to rue the day they stopped following me.’

Our passage skips over the process of getting Saul ready to be king, but ends with the people — and Saul of course — rejoicing greatly.

Why didn’t Samuel want to appoint a king?

Because he was devoted to God. He saw the dangers of placing one’s trust in a king — he saw the worship of idols all around him, and knew people would worship the king in the same way.

And what would the king do? Use up the people and their resources, and foment war with others.

And that’s what happened. People put their trust in a man instead of in God.

We’ve been doing it every since.

I remember when I first experienced placing my desire, trust, hope in a person. It was the night of the Liberal Leadership Convention that replaced Lester Pearson with Pierre Trudeau as leader of the Liberal Party. My mom and I watched it on television and were caught up in the excitement that came to be called Trudeaumania, dancing around the room.  Whatever good or bad Trudeau’s government did or didn’t do, I came to see that it was false to think that one man could do all that we had hoped for. So it was with some reservation that I watched the election of President Obama. I kept saying to my husband, “but no one can do what people think one man can do!”

Between Samuel’s time and ours, people have pretty consistently placed their trust, allegiance, hope and faith in people instead of doing what is more difficult: following God’s law and purpose. Samuel would call that idolatry, and it’s the worst kind of sin.

Placing your trust in a king, or any leader, at the expense of struggling yourself with God’s purpose for you is a dangerous enterprise.

The really interesting part of this story for me is that, despite God’s dislike of the people’s desire for a king, God goes with the people. Samuel doesn’t want to. But God goes with the people into this bad decision.

Samuel does what the people ask. But in his farewell sermon In chapter 12, he tries one last time to get them to see his point:

“If you will fear God and serve him and heed his voice and not rebel against the commandment of God, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow God, it will be well; but if you will not heed the voice of the God, but rebel against the commandment of God, then the hand of the God will be against you and your king.”

And just to remind them what fools they have been, he calls on God to flood the wheat on the day of harvest.

But … even though the people have done all this evil, Samuel tells them,

“God will not cast away his people, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.”

God goes with the people because God has made Israel a people for himself.

II God goes with people into their bad decisions.

Have you made decisions that have been self-serving rather than life-giving?

Have you made a decision and needed help with living with the consequences?

Have you made a bad decision and found some good consequences?

Last week I suggested that being filled to the brim with God’s spirit would push out the evil caused by being filled to the brim with yourself.

But when we make bad decisions, it’s not the end of our relationship with God.

No matter what, God is with you.

And Samuel can no sooner abandon his people than abandon his God.

“Moreover as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against God by ceasing to pray for you; and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. Only fear God, and serve him faithfully with all your heart; for consider what great things God has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.’

Two things to remember:

  1. Harder though it may be, taking responsibility for the future in a close relationship with God is preferable to placing your trust in any human leader.
  2. No matter how bad your decision is, God will be there with you.
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