Take These

BEST I CAN REMEMBER, I was about 40 when my body began to repay me for the abuses I had wreaked upon it. Thankfully there are medications. But damn the side-effects.

I saw a lovely ad on TV, a happy looking, senior couple, pulling their new Airstream to a pastoral setting alongside a stream. Apparently the old guy was suffering from an arthritic hitch in his get-along and his doctor prescrbed a medication. It was an inspirational scene until the narrator began the fast talking litany of potential side-effects. I don’t remember them exactly but I think they included: loss of hearing and hair, foaming at the mouth, irritability, frequent going, abnormal urges, dizziness, your favorite NBA player betraying you to put on the enemies uniform, and death.

This morning, I was thinking about the state of things and listening to the promises of our political aspirants. So I turned to First Samuel Eight in The Message version of the scriptures (or as one political aspirant might say: "One Samuel".

When Samuel got to be an old man, he set his sons up as judges in Israel… But his sons didn’t take after him; they were out for what they could get for themselves, taking bribes, corrupting justice.

Fed up, all the elders of Israel got together and confronted Samuel at Ramah. They presented their case: “Look, you’re an old man, and your sons aren’t following in your footsteps. Here’s what we want you to do: Appoint a king to rule us, just like everybody else.”

When Samuel heard their demand—“Give us a king to rule us!”—he was crushed. How awful! Samuel prayed to God.

God answered Samuel, “Go ahead and do what they’re asking. They are not rejecting you. They’ve rejected me as their King. From the day I brought them out of Egypt until this very day they’ve been behaving like this, leaving me for other gods. And now they’re doing it to you. So let them have their own way. But warn them of what they’re in for. Tell them the way kings operate, just what they’re likely to get from a king.”

So Samuel told them, delivered God’s warning to the people who were asking him to give them a king. God said (the side-effects may include), “This is the way the kind of king you’re talking about operates. He’ll take your sons and make soldiers of them—chariotry, cavalry, infantry, regimented in battalions and squadrons. He’ll put some to forced labor on his farms, plowing and harvesting, and others to making either weapons of war or chariots in which he can ride in luxury. He’ll put your daughters to work as beauticians and waitresses and cooks. He’ll conscript your best fields, vineyards, and orchards and hand them over to his special friends. He’ll tax your harvests and vintage to support his extensive bureaucracy. Your prize workers and best animals he’ll take for his own use. He’ll lay a tax on your flocks and you’ll end up no better than slaves. The day will come when you will cry in desperation because of this king you so much want for yourselves. But don’t expect God to answer.”

But the people wouldn’t listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We will have a king to rule us! Then we’ll be just like all the other nations. Our king will rule us and lead us and fight our battles.”

Samuel took in what they said and rehearsed it with God. God told Samuel, “Do what they say. Make them a king.”

And some lifted their red hats in the air, the ones that read “Make Israel Great Again”, and beat their chests. Others yelled, “We want a Queen this time around”. And others looked at the ground and thought, “Oh dear God, is the cure sometimes worse than the illness?” (This paragraph is not actually in the scripture.)