By Dane Neufeld

A Reading from 1 Samuel 8:1-22

1 When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. 2 The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beer-sheba. 3 Yet his sons did not follow in his ways, but turned aside after gain; they took bribes and perverted justice.

4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, 5 and said to him, “You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.” 6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the Lord, 7 and the Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 8 Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. 9 Now then, listen to their voice; only — you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” 10 So Samuel reported all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; 12 and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. 15 He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. 16 He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” 19 But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, “No! but we are determined to have a king over us, 20 so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.” 21 When Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. 22 The Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to their voice and set a king over them.” Samuel then said to the people of Israel, “Each of you return home.”


Many of us believe, in reflecting on the course of our lives, that God has been guiding our paths and leading us. We believe this in spite of the fact that we probably made many bad decisions along the way that were motivated by fear, envy, greed, or ignorance. It is impossible to say where we would be if we had not made such decisions, but I feel a sense of profound gratitude that I am where I am in light of everything that could have happened.

Israel made a regrettable choice in requesting a king, and they did it for reasons that were beneath their calling. They wanted to be more like their neighbors, rather than be a light to the nations. It is hard to imagine the Bible without this decision; the monarchy and everything that came with it seems so central now to the biblical narrative. While we can imagine an alternative universe where Israel never requested a king, there is only one history recorded in Scripture.

Even though Israel’s choice is distressing to Samuel, the Lord does not abandon Israel but continues to work with them, even though the path they have chosen was not the one he desired for them. On this new path, there would still be a scope for faithfulness. None of us are living the perfect and ideal version of our lives. We are at least somewhere down the paths of our own stubbornness or fear. But the Lord walks with us still, and in every circumstance we are invited to follow him with our whole heart.

The Rev. Dane Neufeld currently serves as the incumbent of St. James, Calgary, after serving seven years in Fort McMurray in Northern Alberta.

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Today we pray for:

The Episciopal Church in Minnesota
The Diocese of Chubu (Nippon Sei Ko Kai)