1 Samuel 15:22-31; Ephesians 5:1-9; Psalm 23
I feared the people and obeyed their voice
1 Samuel 15:24
The stories of Books 1 and 2 of Samuel depict the first kingships of Israel, with Samuel — prophet, priest, war leader, judge — advising them along the way. The reading today shares a glimpse from the end of the reign of Israel’s first king, Saul, who has not been listening to what God is saying to him, by way of Samuel. Samuel takes him to task in 15:22-23, accusing Saul of being more interested in offerings than obedience — in the performance of piety rather than action.
Saul is hardly the first (or the last) character in the Bible to find himself in this situation; getting caught up in doing what looks right instead of what is right strikes me as a very human problem. But what I find fascinating about this instance is Saul’s reasoning as he repents: peer pressure. He admits that he strayed away from what God wants because he was listening more to what the people around him wanted.
And man, what a 21st-century problem. Saul feared and obeyed the voices of people in his immediate vicinity, and maybe larger communities through a representative. He didn’t have social media, cable news, push notifications, Google, algorithms, or Amazon to contend with — it’s a wonder any of us can hear God at all! But we have to keep trying, right? And keep talking about it together in community — Saul strikes me as a pretty lonely guy.
Gracious and loving God, we know sometimes we fall short of following your way. Help us to support one another during this Lenten season and beyond as we discern your path for us as individuals and as a community, and remind us of your never-ending grace. In the name of your son Jesus we pray. Amen.