“And the Lord said to Samuel….they have not rejected you but have rejected me…..forewarn them and show them the behavior of the king…” 1 Samuel 8:7,9
“This will be the behavior of the king……He will take your sons…..He will take your daughters…..He will take the best of you fields…..” 1 Samuel 8:11, 13, 14
“For they bind heavy burdens hard to bear and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they will not move them with one of their fingers.” Matthew 23:4
“Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme the noble name by which you are called?” James 2:6,7
There is danger in human strength. There is personal danger in wanting to obtain human strength. There is personal and societal danger in looking for, admiring and coveting after and/or following human strength. Why or what is that danger?
First, we are in the midst of many contests and conflicts in our current time. There are political contests, business contests and competitions, there are geopolitical contests, some involving the use of arms-in other words wars. And what I find to be an overarching theme in these contests, in some cases it’s an individual boast, in some cases an overwhelming search to find, in some cases almost a worshipful admiration when found, in some cases a begrudging admission of defeat, is that human strength is the overall arbiter of a successful outcome, thus human strength is the most desired personal or communal strength; that is that someone or something is “strong”. This is not new.
Samuel was a prophet of Israel. As such, Samuel spoke with and then passed on God’s words to His people. At that time, there was no one higher or more powerful in Israel society than the prophet. Now the prophet was not supposed to take advantage of this or literally “profit” off the people as he carried out his charge from God. Naturally, this was an unusual governmental in general during that time. The gentiles, those who were not God’s chosen people, who did not have or were supposed to have, at least, a close personal relationship with God, had a more familiar governmental process, normally revolving around a king. As time, went on, as Samuel got older, he set his two sons as judges over Israel but they did not walk in the ways of Samuel and the Lord. So instead of coming to the Lord about this, the people cried out for a king. They saw that the lands around them had strong armies, seemingly strong prosperous cities and felt they needed someone of earthly, human strength to lead them as well. God decided to grant them their request but wanted them warned a head of time what the price of having an earthly strong king would be. He warned them about how a human king, a human person of human strength and power would treat the very people who wanted him king.
Jesus confronted this same earthly strength and power that led to miscarriages of justice in the Jewish, religious leadership in power in His day. He spoke of how the religious leaders, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and others would bind heavy burdens while at the same time getting royal tributes, alms and adulation from the crowds. Yet they did nothing with what they were receiving to help the burdens they themselves had placed on the people they were supposed to be serving.
There are so many instances great and small throughout history where the seeking for, then following people of strength, allowing them to wield power has led to horrific results. Remember that the Pharaoh did not enslave the Jews until they had lived in the land for some time. Think of what Hitler did in Europe, Stalin in Russia, Mao Tse-Tung in China, more recently Pol Pot slaughtering millions in Cambodia and even today, the devastation being wrought by the dictator Bashar al-Assad.
The thing it is so critical for us to remember is that for someone, anyone, to show human strength, they have to enforce their will in whatever brutal form necessary to show that someone else is weaker. In our rush to embrace human strength, we must understand how often it is that those who face the wrath and consequences of the person of strength are most often first within their own family, organization or society. So here’s the very ironic thing, those to include you and I, who follow and allow this person of strength to become a person in power, may very well be turned on and turned against if we are believed to be in any way a threat to that person. How quickly an ally can become an enemy through no fault of their own is exemplified in the story of David having faithfully served under King Saul, only to become hunted with the hope of David’s death at the hands of the king.
So if it is not earthly, human strength we should seeking for ourselves and/or looking for, supporting and/or following in others, what type strength should we be looking for? For the answer to that, look no further than Jesus Christ. Remember of course, if anyone had/has claim to power, it is Jesus Christ; for He was fully God, with all that power come to earth. Yet how did Jesus use His power? Did Jesus Christ seek out a weak area of society to make an enemy and completely squash? When Jesus was confronted by an enemy did He call power down from heaven utterly exterminating them? Hardly, for Jesus didn’t shun the weak or use them as some evil rallying cry. Jesus met with the weak, He ate with the weak, He used His power not to exterminate them, but to heal them, to teach them, to lift them up. When He was confronted by enemies within His own people He patiently listened to them and then showed them the error of their ways. In the end, when He could have called down legions of angels to reek havoc and desolation on those who were planning to kill him, instead Jesus, died for them, He forgave them, as He died for all of us and His blood washes us clean. That is true strength, true power.
Thus Dear Sisters and Brothers, let us first reflect on ourselves. Then let us also look to those whom we support, who we look up to to see how they wield strength and view power. Do we and those we support use strength to lift up and protect the weak instead of crush them? Do we look to find strength in bringing all together versus only those who think and/or look like we do? Do we see strength in victory at any cost, no matter how much damage or hurt is caused or do we see strength in sacrifice? When or if in doubt ask yourself, can I see Jesus Christ doing that; saying that? Then follow those for whom you would answer yes.
Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we humbly proclaim that You are all powerful and the only strength we should seek comes from You. Forgive us when we forsake You and look to ourselves or other worldly persons to find necessary strength. Give us the strength to live the example of Christ, using our given strength to help those in need and bring together not separate. Give us the strength to love like Christ loves. That the lives lived with that strength will bring praise to Your Most Holy Name. We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen