Fear drives us to do unthinkable things. We fear getting sick, losing our life, our children being hurt and our plans falling apart. This kind of fear comes with being vulnerable to outside forces and not having control over our destiny. Another kind of fear comes from losing what we already have, especially power and wealth. We fear the unknown. We fear change. Fear drives the ethic of our families and of our societies so that we become consumed with eradicating it. This fear, when it is the ethos of an entire nation, starts to take particular shape over time. Germany was driven to fear a Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy to take over the world, putting Germany’s survival at risk which meant extreme measures were necessary. Our neighbours (USA) have been driven by similar fears, leading to all sorts of “anticipatory self-defence” invasions and wars.
What has fear driven us to do?
One of the key defences that we have against our fears is to give ourselves a leader. Not just a wise person one goes to for advice but someone who will make decisions, take responsibility, fight battles and bring victory. This leader can be blamed when things go wrong and celebrated when things go right. For Germany, it was a dictator. For the USA, it is a president. For a church, it might be a pastor. For Israel, it was a king.
1 Samuel is a very important piece of Israel’s story as it narrates the transition from Israel’s tribal confederacy to having centralized leadership and a king. Today, for theStory, it is also an important piece as we transition from having more centralized leadership to a non-hierarchical model. We start to see Israel’s story unravel into a wild and unpredictable narrative of good and corrupt kings, becoming a nation that wants to be just like everyone else. If we can appreciate the questions that are raised in Samuel, then we can embody similar ones for our own future.
“Samuel tells a story in which one world gives birth to another, it offers wisdom for Christians as we grope our way through (and, hopefully, out of) our present ecclesiastical crises toward the light. It points to the things we must do if we want to see the lamp burning again, if we hope to see the barren give birth.”
– Peter Leithart