By Dane Neufeld

A Reading from 1 Samuel 9:15-10:1

15 Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed to Samuel: 16 “Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be ruler over my people Israel. He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines; for I have seen the suffering of my people, because their outcry has come to me.” 17 When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord told him, “Here is the man of whom I spoke to you. He it is who shall rule over my people.” 18 Then Saul approached Samuel inside the gate, and said, “Tell me, please, where is the house of the seer?” 19 Samuel answered Saul, “I am the seer; go up before me to the shrine, for today you shall eat with me, and in the morning I will let you go and will tell you all that is on your mind. 20 As for your donkeys that were lost three days ago, give no further thought to them, for they have been found. And on whom is all Israel’s desire fixed, if not on you and on all your ancestral house?” 21 Saul answered, “I am only a Benjaminite, from the least of the tribes of Israel, and my family is the humblest of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin. Why then have you spoken to me in this way?”

22 Then Samuel took Saul and his servant-boy and brought them into the hall, and gave them a place at the head of those who had been invited, of whom there were about thirty. 23 And Samuel said to the cook, “Bring the portion I gave you, the one I asked you to put aside.” 24 The cook took up the thigh and what went with it and set them before Saul. Samuel said, “See, what was kept is set before you. Eat; for it is set before you at the appointed time, so that you might eat with the guests.”

So Saul ate with Samuel that day. 25 When they came down from the shrine into the town, a bed was spread for Saul on the roof, and he lay down to sleep. 26 Then at the break of dawn Samuel called to Saul upon the roof, “Get up, so that I may send you on your way.” Saul got up, and both he and Samuel went out into the street.

27 As they were going down to the outskirts of the town, Samuel said to Saul, “Tell the boy to go on before us, and when he has passed on, stop here yourself for a while, that I may make known to you the word of God.” 1 Samuel took a phial of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him; he said, “The Lord has anointed you ruler over his people Israel. You shall reign over the people of the Lord and you will save them from the hand of their enemies all around.”

Meditation

There is a chicken and egg question that pertains to certain people who hold high office: Have they always been that way, or do politics or leadership fashion people into a certain mold? I don’t know the answer, but the temptation toward entitlement, self promotion, ambition, and contentiousness does appear to be particularly enticing in the higher realms of power.

There is nothing in the early days of Saul to suggest that he would one day become an angry and insecure tyrant, but leadership can change those who take on its mantle. In today’s passage it says Saul was humble, conscious of his simple upbringing, and deferential to those in authority. This would eventually change as circumstances transpired and unraveled around him. The Lord’s anointing rested upon Saul, but the anointing did not provide a guarantee that he would perform his role with integrity.

It’s not really clear why the Lord chose Saul, other than that he was the one revealed to Samuel. Aside from being tall and handsome he had no obvious qualifications. For a nation that had never had a king, Saul’s anointing would illustrate for the first time not only the demands of such a role on the people, but on the king himself.

In the Church, the call to varying forms of leadership is solemn and God-ordained. But those who take it on can expect to face certain temptations that were previously unknown or not fully understood. Calling or vocation or election are obviously not guarantees that any one person will be faithful in their leadership role. Faithfulness requires consistent vigilance in prayer, good and wise counsel, and a humility before the Lord in all things. As Christians we are called to pray for the protection and integrity of our leaders, so that the body of Christ will be built up and strengthened.

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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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

Church of St. Edward the Martyr, New York, N.Y.
The Diocese on the Coast (Church of Nigeria)