1 Samuel 8:4-22
Last week we began looking at how God leads us through the transitions of life, and how even when those transitions come in the midst of the cracks in our lives, when we choose to listen for God’s voice, to embrace and help others embrace the transitions, the light of Christ’s love for us and for others shines so brightly others are drawn to figure out why we are not crushed when hard pressed on every side, how we avoid despair when perplexed, how we are always in community even when persecuted, how we keep from being destroyed when struck down.
In essence, we looked at the “What” to which we are called. This week we look at ways we can work with the “Why?” questions which often follow our recognition of “What” transition through which we are moving.
We all have “Why?” questions. Anyone with a young child in the house knows that there is an endless stream of them. Each answer shared bringing another “why?” until we suggest they go ask someone else because we ran out of answers or stamina. “Why are zebras black and white? Why does soda fizz so much? Why does Winnie the Pooh like honey so much? Why do people get sunburned? Why?
This morning we heard the people of Israel ask “Why?” “Why can’t we have a king like other nations?
Samuel was getting to a point he could no longer meet the demands of leading the people. The elders, sensing a transition needed to take place, didn’t wait for a word from God, which was how Samuel came to be God’s prophet. They determined for themselves change was necessary and they wanted a king like their neighbors had. During the time of the judges, of which Samuel is part, Israel had been a theocracy, ruled by God. The elders point out that Samuel’s sons aren’t fit for the task because they are more interested in leading in such a what that they benefit personally from their decisions.
On the surface that may be a reasonable reason to ask for a king. But it doesn’t take into consideration that God had handled that same kind of situation when he called Samuel, instead of allowing Eli’s sons to be God’s voice to the people. Samuel had remained faithful to God and to those he served. There was no reason to doubt God could take care of this situation as well. Only a desire to have what other nations had, an attitude of their knowing better than God what was the best for them.
Focused on having their own way, they reject God’s way. They pattern their plans after the world rather than living into God’s kingdom.
Samuel’s not as ready as Eli is to embrace the transition. He may think he can get his sons to do the right thing, or maybe he understands the change to a King is not faithful to God’s plan. God’s reassurance that the people are rejecting God, not Samuel, and God’s encouragement to Samuel to outline exactly what the consequences will be, indicate it is more about following God’s plan than about not accepting that his sons have messed up, although it may be a little of both.
Samuel is likely full of “Why?”s Why did my sons decide to serve themselves rather than God? Why are the elders picking now to push for a transition? Why, when I’ve done everything God asked of me, are we facing this request? Why, do the people want a King? Why don’t they listen?
Many of the children among us and perhaps a few adults, love Kings and Queens, Princes and Princesses. The stories of magnificent palaces, grand balls, wonderful things to eat and beautiful clothes to wear, important position and power, all draw us into the fairy tale.
The Israelites didn’t have Disney princesses or Meghan and Harry, but the kings they saw in the neighboring communities drew them to consider it preferable to a prophet-led government. Their neighbors had armies and weapons. Thinking they could protect themselves armed with nothing but a prayer probably didn’t make much sense to them.
Their world was changing, nomadic life was giving away to more centralized power, they were under siege and having a difficult time finding hope in their reality. Although God’s faithfulness and power was part of their experience, they decided it wasn’t enough and they wanted what they wanted when they wanted it. They tackled their “Why?”s by what seemed to work for their neighbors.
We often face “Why?”s Why do we struggle financially and the person down the street lives in a big house and drives a fancy car? Why aren’t there more people joining us in church on Sunday morning? Why does it seem there is always one more health problem to contend with? Why did another friend or family member just die way too early? Why?
We can choose to address those “Why” times by looking for answers according to the wisdom of the world in which we live.
We can choose to do what Samuel does. We can pray, working through what we are experiencing with God. We can hear God’s word for us in the face of our “Why?” We can hear God reminding us of our role, and God’s, in the midst of our situations. Maybe we can sense God reminding us that God still has good work for us to do, even it it’s not what we’ve been doing and even if the outcome of our work won’t be what we had hoped for. Maybe we can sense God nudging us, just a bit, to get over ourselves enough to let the healing of our hurt begin, and to let a new chapter begin to unfold.
Asking “Why?” helps us work through those overwhelming times of transition, when we work through those “Why?”s with God and the resources God sends our way, particularly others who make it a practice of seeking God’s will in their lives.
There are no quick fixes to the “Why?” seasons of our lives. But when we are led by the Spirit in prayer, God answers in God’s time and Jesus holds us safe no matter how long it takes. When all “Why?”s lead to prayer, we will find God’s way through. Not easy, but always a better choice than the world’s way.
 Third Sunday after Pentecost 2018 – Preaching Notes – Discipleship Ministries