Home > Uncategorized > Sermon for Wednesday in Pentecost 9

Sermon for Wednesday in Pentecost 9

israel-demands-kingSermon on 1 Samuel 8:1-22

Heavenly Host, 2013

Click here for mp3 audio Sermon for Wednesday in Pentecost 9


Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Samuel’s sons, had great names, pious names.  Joel means “Yahweh is God” and Abijah means “My father is Yahweh.”  But they were men of God in name only.  Samuel’s sons “did not walk in the way of the Lord.”  And what’s ironic is that Samuel had seen the wickedness of Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phineas.  The Scripture point blank says they were worthless men and did not know the Lord.  (1 Sam 2:12).  And yet Samuel raised two sons who were equally corrupt, who did not “walk in the way of the Lord.”  The charge against them is clear.  They have perverted justice and taken bribes.  They stand in clear violation of Deuteronomy 16: 19 “You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous.”  It’s pretty clear what they’ve done and it’s pretty clear that the fallout from this is enough to break the hearts of the people.

Let’s be clear about what’s happened here with Joel and Abijah.  Their perversion of the Lord’s justice has caused the people to forget the promises of the Lord and prefer a human king.  Dr. Luther keeps us focused here.  “Their sin was not their desire to have a king, for after all God gave them one, but rather, that they set their trust on human help and government when they should have trusted in God alone. This was a grave sin” (AE 52:187).[1]  The elders of Israel want a human king like the other nations have and a king to lead them in battle against their neighboring enemies.  They actually were breaking the First Commandment, trusting in something other than God alone.  So like I said, let be clear here.  The people are not just rejecting Samuel and his leadership in the name of the Lord, they are rejecting the Lord Himself.  While we might focus on the sin of the people who are rejecting the Lord’s rulership, it might be helpful if we were to look at Joel and Abijah and the fallout over their unfaithfulness.  Rather than their sins being merely private weaknesses of faith or morals, their unfaithfulness caused others to question the goodness of the Lord and even reject his leadership and those who serve in His name.

I don’t know that we spend very much time thinking about such things in the church.  I know that we rather often lift up living a Christ-like life as a light to the world, but what happens when those who are in positions of leadership and responsibility don’t just fail to meet goals but sin and sin grievously?  What’s the fallout?  If a once highly thought of pro basketball player really goes off the deep end, it might turn a person off basketball.  If a pastor or teacher or lay leader sins, it could be that it doesn’t just turn someone off church but away from God altogether.  You and I are still getting to know one another but if you want to know something about how I think, this is the kind of thing that terrifies me if I sit and brood on it too long.  Joel and Abijah’s sin caused all of Israel to doubt the goodness of the Lord.

But look closely again at the reading for tonight.  See again the longsuffering of the Lord for the sake of His people.  The Lord tells Samuel to agree to the elder’s request for a king, but also to warn the people about what a king will do.  What will a human king do?  “He will take.”  Count up the number of times that phrase occurs in this little section.  I counted 6 times the king “will take…”   He will take your sons, your daughters, for his armies.  You want a king who will fight for you?  He will take your sons and put them in his army.  He will take the richness of the land and use it to supply his armies.  The best of your fields, your vineyards, your olive orchards, another tenth of your grain and your vineyards, and it goes on and on.  A human king will take and take and keep on taking leaving you little and less and lead you into nothing but a life of war among your neighbors.  This is hardly the picture of the Promised Land the Lord gave His people.  It’s hardly the picture of living in the Shalom of God.  Whether anything that can be said of Israel then can be said of our nation today, I’ll leave to you.  The Lord warns them through his man Samuel of what comes with kings and the elders of the people say they still would rather have a human king and the Lord gave them one.

This can be one of the hardest things for us to understand, that the Lord sometimes gives us what we say we want even when it is not the best thing for us.  Too often our lips may say. “Not my will but Thine, O Lord,” but our actions often say to God, “Not Your will, but mine be done,” as we insist on things that may not be good or salutary for us.  And yet, God is surprisingly generous too.  While it’s not recorded in the reading tonight, we know that out of this human line of kings, comes not just King David for Israel, but David’s descendant, Jesus of Nazareth, king and creator of the universe born in human flesh in David’s lineage to be the true king of Israel.  God is not just king in name only.  Jesus comes to be a heavenly king, not one who raises an army and leads His followers into total war against one’s neighbors but the king of peace in whom we can find reconciliation with our neighbors.  He comes as Yahweh-King in human flesh to be God for His people and to show them the depths His willing heart will endure to win His people back from their defiant high-treason.  He comes as a Redeemer-king, one who dies at the hands of violent men to undo the pain of violence itself.  Tonight, He comes as our King, welcoming us not just to the royal heavenly table He has declared us worthy not just to attend but providing His very body and blood as kingly feast.  And He comes as King to rule, not just in name only and certainly not as dictator but as the very picture of benevolent king wanting the very best not just for His people but for the neighbors of His people that He might win them to His kingdom as well.  Rejoice, dear Christian friends, the Lord our God is king.

Even though we are often like the sinful elders who have lost sight of the goodness of the Lord and His provision and want what only they can see, the Lord still graciously provides and gives us what we truly need—eternal life and salvation and the restoration of the Lord’s kingdom in the coming of King Jesus in flesh and blood for us as our Redeemer-king who has fought our battles over our greatest enemies, sin, death and hell, and He has already won.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

[1] Edward A. Engelbrecht, The Lutheran Study Bible (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2009), 444.

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