Monday, June 11, 2012

Sermon Starters: 1 Samuel 8

I preached yesterday at College Wesleyan in Marion on 1 Samuel 8.  I imagine the sermon will be available on iTunes in a few days:

The text is where Israel comes to Samuel wanting a king.  Here are some of my notes.  The passage is a paradox because Israel's desire for a king is a rejection of God.  Yet for Jesus to come as messiah, a king must be established.  Thus, paradoxically, Israel's rejection of God is the path by which God brings about his plan.

The bottom line of the sermon was thus that no one need worry about messing up God's plan.  God will get the world where he wants it to go.  I likened God's interaction with the world to a chess player who knows every possible (and actual) move we will make and already knows what counter-move he will make in response.

1, The people illustrate that it is not just enough to have a good strategic plan.  Their plan in itself was very sound.  A strong central leader who is full-time, around the clock, and you know where to go to find him (it was a him they were looking for) is not a bad organizational move.  After all, the charismatic prophets were not centralized and God raised them up here and there on a "need to have" basis.

From the perspective of Israel, they only rose after they were already in trouble, often for decades (from God's standpoint, Israel only got in trouble because of its sin).  The external threat was real, as the Philistines were fierce, scary dudes who were in on the Iron Age from the ground floor.  And Samuel's sons weren't going to be the ticket in next gen leadership.

So the people's plan was very reasonable.  1 Samuel just seems to indicate that it wasn't God's timing, that they didn't trust God, and probably they didn't want to hear what his plan was.

2. Samuel has God's mind on what's going on. The people are rejecting God. But Samuel has missed a few things too. He's trying to set up his own succession plan in his sons, not dissimilar from the kind of royal succession plan the people are interested in.  He doesn't acknowledge their corruption in the story.

And of course, from a canonical perspective, he doesn't see the whole picture of God's plan. He seems to know nothing of Deuteronomy, and he certainly knows nothing about some future messiah.  He comes off as being someone who wants to keep things the old way, the prophetic way and doesn't realize that, even if the timing is off, there is a new way coming in God's plan.

He illustrates that none of us knows the whole plan, the whole story.  We need each other.  We all have blind spots that the loving (and sometimes not so loving) words of others can reveal.

3. Meanwhile, God is in control.  He is not fooled.  He knows the heart.  He is concerned with us but we can't knock him off track. He often lets us experience the consequences of our actions (and unfortunately the consequences of the actions of others).  He does not force us to take his preferred route.

The ideal is for God to work through us, where we are on the same page with his plan.  But if not, he will work around us, like an artery of the heart that grows around one that is clogged.  Unfortunately, if we are not attuned to God, we may not even realize that the blood no longer flows through us, that God is flowing around us.
This is a great text.  I tried to preach it in a way that swam in the waters of historical and theological complexity in which these waters swim.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

There is a wide spectrum of understanding concerning "God's interaction/intervention" in/with the world. This is true.

The broad range of opinions in America range between Amish/Mennonite dis-engagment to secular humanism. And each one can find a place in America.

One's view of "God" and "His Kingdom" also varies in Protestantism, which is "liberty of conscience". I do not think it is conducive to say that desiring "good leadership" is rejecting "God", though. Everything "hangs" on leadership from the beginning of life in one's family to the present conflicts around the globe.

Leadership, too, has various meanings or understandings, which can't be "spritualized" as these are practical matters...of family and the nation state.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Religious people love to use "God" as a means to do what they want and justify it as "from God". But, I must add that secularists do this too, as Marx stated that "religion was the opiate of the people". Either way, leaders do as they please concerning policy issues and expect compliance wthout resistance...

Our nation's ideals, though, was to allow for individual conscience which can't be legislated IF we want conscience to mean anything about liberty as justice for ALL (Amish/Mennonite to the secular humanist).

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Many would question whether allowing "conscience" to dictate one's choices might lead to atrocities, such as parental exemption from vacinating their children or limiting education to "The Bible". These are issues that impinge upon society at large, because it affects others when people are limiting their knowedge to "ancient texts", or allowing their children to carry diseases becasue of some understanding of "God" and his "protection" or "truth".....

But, liberty is also a question about the "free market" and whether taking advantage of human desire creates overexpenditures and financial diress and whether "society" "should" be concerned for all of its citizens, an how to "fix it"...or not.

One has to do with a lack of exposure and sophistication, while the other has to do with self-control and human compassion.

Liberty allows choice, while laws prevent them. Should we limit choice to "protect" people from themselves, or "should" we leave people to live with the consequences of their choices?

davey said...

The Jews had not been barred from having a king at all (somewhere in the pentateuch). And, it's not clear Jesus had to be a king, or Messiah, in order to fulfil his mission.

John C. Gardner said...

The idea of freedom of conscience, according to John Witte of Notre Dame, was drawn from both religious and secular sources(think of Protestant dissenters such as Baptist Isaac Bachus and deist Thomas Jefferson). Even secularist such as Jefferson and Madison saw a role for Christianity. For example, the first amendment restricted religious restrictions at the national level and the establishment of a national church. Thomas Jefferson predicted the decline of religion and that it would move in the direction of unitarianism. But, the country began a Second Great Awakening at Cane Ridge Kentucky in 1801. I am a first amendment absolutist and oppose restrictions on all religions(unless their behavior involves items such as violence). The Civil Rights movement was rooted in the black churches of the South and the abolitionists movement was largely rooted in northern protestant evangelicalism.