|Make the “right” choice. We want decisions vindicated by their outcome. Demonstrating good judgment. Those we have selected, and invested in, to be successful. Choosing well. And we occasionally think that we can exert influence to steer people in the right direction.|
Poor Samuel. He had similar struggles. As high priest, he really wanted people to make good choices. He was distraught when Israel insisted that they wanted a king like all the other nations. Judges and priests arose organically to (sometimes!) meet the need for leadership; it was imperfect, but dynamic.
It seemed very bad to Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us,” so he prayed to the Lord. 1 Samuel 8:6 (CEB)
Often we have difficulty moving on to the new. We are invested in the system that produced us; we want it to work! Fear for the future. Inability to envision a different ordering of our world.
But God is not afraid to change course. Despite the downsides. Moving on to the next plan. And if we can listen and consent, spurring us ahead as well. Anointing the leaders of the future.
Saul seemed so promising. But he never saw himself the way God saw him. He was persistently insecure. (Maybe he would have been helped by You Say, as we heard from various voices this Advent.) Always grasping. Seeking personal glory, rather than to serve people and follow the Lord. Saul wouldn’t listen and obey. He always had excuses.
Then the Lord’s word came to Samuel: “I regret making Saul king because he has turned away from following me and hasn’t done what I said.” Samuel was upset at this, and he prayed to the Lord all night long. 1 Sam 15:10-11 (CEB)
Fascinating. What does it mean that the Lord regrets doing something? But I don’t want to get sidetracked with the theological complexity of the Lord’s regret. Because God doesn’t get stuck there. In regret. God keeps moving forward. Which is hard for us. And for Samuel. What part of this is so upsetting to Samuel?
I wonder if Samuel replayed conversations with Saul in his mind. Did he second-guess the anointing? Wish he had said something that would have helped Saul make better choices? Samuel was invested in this king selection. But Saul couldn’t live into the potential that Samuel saw.
Then Samuel went to Ramah, but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah. Samuel never saw Saul again before he died, but he grieved over Saul. However, the Lord regretted making Saul king over Israel. 1 Samuel 15:34-35 (CEB)
Again the Lord’s regret. And Samuel’s grief. Things had not worked out as they had hoped. They had invested in Saul. Blessed him. Told all of Israel that he was the right one for the job. Did Samuel feel like he failed? Did he blame himself? For not mentoring Saul better. Or setting him up for success.
But we can’t force others to make good choices. Or see themselves as the leaders they could be. We can give people an opportunity. Call out the good. Recognize their potential publicly. Bless them with our words, support, and time. But we can’t make them listen. To us or to God. They have to work that out themselves.
The Lord said to Samuel, “How long are you going to grieve over Saul? I have rejected him as king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and get going. I’m sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem because I have found my next king among his sons.” 1 Samuel 16:1 (CEB)
God did not get stuck in regret. But Samuel was having trouble moving out of grief. And he was afraid. Scared of Saul. Of public opinion. Perhaps of being wrong. Of choosing someone who might not work out. Fear paralyzes us.
Perhaps there are some decisions you regret. Some outcomes that you grieve. Situations that you wish you could have changed. Exerted your influence to help people make better choices. You may be stuck. Paralyzed by the past. Fearing the future.
May we continue to see potential in others. May we continue to anoint, bless, support. May we release our choices, and those of others, into the Lord’s hands. May we trust God with the outcome. And may we have the courage to move forward when the Lord says to get going again.
Order of Service: 1/19
Sermon: Collaboration: A New Vision for the Body