Comment from the author: As a political geek, I’ve always been fascinated by the biblical story of Samuel. He was a man who oversaw the transition of Israel to a monarchy. He warned his fellow countrymen of the dangers of abandoning God and allowing power to rest in a single individual. In this very short story, Samuel is reflecting on these events. While we’ll never know Samuel’s every thought, I tried to capture a few central themes described in 1 Samuel. I hope you enjoy the story…
Fading rays of light outlined the high wispy clouds drifting across the prismatic sky. The sun’s daily journey was complete, but its brilliant colors still displayed a semblance of the fading day.
Shadows advanced across the landscape, slowly consuming remaining light; each object surrendering to darkness.
“A beautiful sunset on the eve of kings,” whispered Samuel as he admired the closing day. “Storm clouds would be more appropriate Lord.”
He lifted his chin skyward and inhaled the cool evening air. Slowly exhaling he let his mind drift and embrace the magnificent site of Israel before him. His eyes had grown week in old age, but they were still clear enough to take in the beauty of his homeland.
A smile crept across his wrinkled face, remembering his youth when God first spoke to him as a child.
“Samuel!” The Lord had called so many years before.
Samuel thought his mind had been playing tricks as the Lord worked to get his attention. With each call Samuel went to the priest Eli, thinking he was the one calling him. Eli, finally realizing the miracle before him, told Samuel to respond.
The moment had been awesome and forever shaped his life. However, it also came with a message of judgment against Eli and his sons, a message that Samuel had to deliver himself.
Samuel had struggled with the message. How could he break the news to Eli? When Samuel’s mother dedicated him to the Lord, Eli was the man who took him in. He was his mentor and in many ways, his father.
The next morning Eli had been excited to hear about Samuel’s experience. But, his excitement quickly turned to grief as Samuel delivered the news. Eli hid his grief, silently acknowledging his own sins, and surrendered his emotions to the will of God.
In the end, Eli and his sons were destroyed and Samuel eventually rose to be Judge of Israel.
“You’ve blessed my life Lord. I’m now an old man, but I thank you for all you’ve done.”
He stared across the land and his smile faded from his face as he thought of the reality of the day. As Judge of Israel, led by God, he was responsible for governance of his beloved promised land, a land that was now in jeopardy of slipping into tyranny.
“Tyranny.” He thought. Most people would accuse him of being overly dramatic using such a word.
“What do they think a king will bring?” He knew the elders were concerned about his age and who would replace him as Judge. But he was shocked when they revealed their desire for a king.
“God, you are their king.” He shook his head and gazed at the ground. Anger and frustration slowly boiled beneath the surface of his soul. The whole idea of king seemed so unnatural. It was even harder to face when they explained that his sons were not fit to be Judge. He understood his own failings as a father and in his heart he knew they were right. But to hear the words from his fellow countrymen, men he respected, made him grimace in disgust.
“I should have been a better father… maybe things would’ve been different. I should have worked harder for you Lord.” He couldn’t let go of the thought that he had failed somehow.
His mind continued to spin with doubts. He raised his head. The sky was almost dark, but he couldn’t bring himself to go in yet. The air was perfect and soothed his depressing thoughts.
“I know God… You said that it is not me they reject, but you. I just can’t shake the guilt that I failed you in some way.”
He sighed and continued to stare into the night. He worked so hard today trying to convince the elders not to accept a king. He warned them that they would be nothing more than slaves. A king would force their sons to serve in his wars; make their daughters into perfumers, cooks, and bakers; take the best vineyards and olive groves and give to those whom he favors most; he would have the power to take what he pleases.
“Lord, one day they will cry out for relief from their king and you will not answer. Do they not remember Eden?” He thought. “Our fallen nature makes us all prone to abuse of power. While you God are impartial, your laws are perfect, and allow each man to choose the life he wants to live. We can either make ourselves a slave to your grace, righteousness and glory, or to the imperfections and corruptions of man.”
He shook his head, struggling to understand the logic of those who wanted a king.
“They have a choice, freedom in God or tyranny of man. Well Lord… I’ll follow your lead and begin anew tomorrow. I’ll make sure Israel finds her king.”
A tear slid down his cheek as he took one last look at a free Israel, a premonition that other beautiful lands would suffer the same fate. People would again, one day, abandon God and allow man to rule their hearts.