by Christopher Harbin

Rejecting God for Politics
Christopher B. Harbin
1 Samuel 8:4-20

Politics... in our house, it is a source of jokes, laughter, frustration, face-palms, and much shaking of the head. It is a necessary ingredient in the public life of a nation, but it is often the source of so much contention we wish it could just go away. It matters little one's political party, at some level we understand that politicians say what they think people want to hear, what they think will allow them to continue in office, win a new election, or somehow gain more power, influence, or wealth. At the same time, it is all too easy to be taken in by a party affiliation according to one or another platform piece. In many ways, we just want to simplify what we know to be a complicated mess down to a simple litmus test. Then we can feel justified in ignoring all other issues, and it quickly gets us into trouble.

Years back I heard the story of a rural county in Georgia electing a known criminal for sheriff over a man known to be an upright, solid pillar of the community. When asked why they would elect a known crook, the locals responded with, ''Well, we didn't want to ruin a good man.'' Too often that kind of shortsightedness is emblematic of our relationship between politics and our responsibilities toward God.

The prophet Samuel stood at an historical crossroads in the life of Israel and its political structure. He was the last of the judges from the period after Moses and Joshua. As such, he was the last of the nationally recognized leaders before the institution of the monarchy in Israel. Beyond that, he was also the chief priest for Israel. With the coronation of a king, he straddled the line between the period of judges and kings, taking on the role of the prophets during the monarchic period. He was a man of transitions from the priesthood of Eli to the monarchy, including a transition from the reign of Saul to that of David.

When the issue of a king arose, Samuel took it pe ...

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