Saturday, May 28, 2005

1 Samuel 12

Samuel begins this chapter with a terrific example of restorative justice. He doesn't claim to have injured no one, but instead asks who he has injured and offers to make whole any injured party. While the list of potential wrongs he offers is brief, it covers most of the sins that the powerful visit on the powerless. Samuel gets the people and Saul to swear that Samuel is innocent of having wronged them. By their own admission, they had no cause to displace him as the leader of Israel in favor of Saul.

Then Samuel convicts Israel of the sin of idolatry in choosing a king.

Astonishingly, Western civilization survived three millenia without absorbing this teaching: if a people trusts in God, then there is no need for a strongman. They can work things out on their own. It's only when they abandon God that they need a strongman.

And then Samuel calls on God to ruin the crops of the Israelites to show them what the source of real power is. Seeing the miracle, they repent, but too late. They are stuck with their king.

But Samuel proves that he is a decent man. Cast off, convinced Israel has descended into idolatry, he still says it would be a sin if he were to fail to pray for Israel.


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