Cyndi and I recently spent a week in the Carson National Forest of northern New Mexico, where I was blessed to have my feet on dirt trails above 8,000’ elevation, the sort of situation that causes an introvert like me to evaluate his life and faith and trust.
One morning, while running and listening to a podcast, I heard a familiar Bible story from the Old Testament about the government transition that occurred at the end of Samuel’s life. Samuel was the spiritual leader for all of Israel, spokesman for God, and last of the national judges. The text reads: “When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders. The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.” (I Samuel 8:1-3)
I thought it ironic that Samuel’s sons followed the same path as Eli’s sons. Eli was Samuel’s predecessor and mentor, and Samuel got his job because Eli’s sons were so corrupt. You’d think Samuel would have learned something about wayward sons from watching Eli’s family, yet here Samuel is facing the same problem with his own sons.
Samuel should have known his sons were not up to the task before appointing them. I wonder why he did it. Was he blind to their corruption, or did he know about it yet appointed them anyway? Or maybe he had no one else and just didn’t know what else to do, so he appointed them and hoped for the best.
The story goes on: “So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, ‘You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.’” (8:4-5)
When the elders asked Samuel for a king, saying, “You are old and your sons are worthless,” their unspoken charge was that Samuel had failed. He hadn’t arranged for proper succession. He had let them down and now they had no future and it was all Samuel’s fault.
One wonders why the elders of Israel didn’t appeal to God first and ask Him, “What are You going to do with these dishonest sons of Samuel? What is next for us?” Instead, they asked for a king. God gave them free will to decide their course of action and they chose to be like all the other nations. It was peer pressure on a national scale.
Who knows but that they circumvented the will of God by asking for a king. Maybe God had a miracle planned for Samuel’s sons that would turn them around. Or maybe He had another yet-unknown leader picked out that He would call up as national priest, just like He did with Samuel to replace Eli’s sons. But because these elders pushed their own agenda through Samuel and asked for a king without even praying about it, they had to settle for less than God’s best.
So as I ran on that mountain trail in New Mexico, I wondered, how often does the voice in my head reflect what those elders told Samuel? How many times do I get impatient with God and push for my own agenda?
As in, “The people in charge aren’t doing a good job, I’m stuck with the goofy stuff they’re doing. They don’t deserve to be there and I’m just doing menial tasks that don’t matter. I’m tired of all that, and I want something else.” I am pretty sure I’ve prayed that exact prayer more than once in my career.
It would be easier to wait for God’s solutions if we knew for sure what He was going to do and when He would do it. But that wouldn’t be faith. Mark Batterson wrote, “Faith doesn’t reduce uncertainty. Faith embraces uncertainty. Faith has less to do with gaining knowledge and more to do with causing wonder.” (“In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day”)
Jesus never promised security. What he promised was uncertainty. He didn’t give His disciples any details, just told them to “Follow Me.”
How many times have I pushed the wrong solution to a situation because I was in too big a hurry to wait for God to do it His way … and in His grace, He gave me my wish? Maybe His original path would have protected me from the unintended collateral consequences that always seem to accompany my choices.
When I am wallowing in self-pity like that, do I circumvent God’s best and miss his blessings? I hope not. If I am willing to pray for God’s will, something I do frequently, I should also be patient for His will to unfold. It’s often hard to wait, but that is the essence of faith.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
To learn about Berry’s books, “Running With God,” go to www.runningwithgodonline.com , or “Retreating With God,” go to www.retreatingwithgod.com ,… Follow Berry on Twitter at @berrysimpson or on Facebook … Contact Berry directly: firstname.lastname@example.org … To post a comment or subscribe to this free journal: www.journalentries.org