"Well, uh, we certainly do appreciate your work and your dedication. And, you've been a great example of a hard worker. But, uh, we think the time has come, that we need someone else to, you know, to fill your role. We think it's time for someone who is younger. You know, uh, more charismatic -- someone who connects with people better. We want someone more like, well you know, more like what the people around us have. We want a king!"
Take the word 'king' and substitute any other title; coach, preacher, principal, teacher, leader, boss, government official, receptionist, or maybe the job you worked at for years; only to find yourself on the outside looking in at what used to be your job.. Your role.. Your identity.
These words (or something similar to them) were said to Samuel, the great leader of God's people over three thousand years ago. The only difference was that Samuel had to find his own replacement. He had to anoint and empower the new king who would replace him.
After serving God's people for decades, after helping turn around the disorganized and dis-unified tribes of Israel and after calling them to a more holy purpose in serving God, the people he helped asked Samuel to find them a king. And he did:
Samuel said to all Israel, "I have listened to everything you said to me and have set a king over you. Now you have a king as your leader. As for me, I am old and gray, and my sons are here with you. I have been your leader from my youth until this day. Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these things, I will make it right" 1 Samuel 12:1-3
When King Saul, rebelled against God and began his long spiral into madness, Samuel was still needed. Not needed to resume leadership of God's people, but to help the people find a leader after God's heart who could step into the role of king. This new king would be David the son of Jesse, the shepherd and warrior and singer whose rule as king would forever redefine God's people..
The hero is not David, but Samuel. Samuel was God's bridge from chaos to stability, from disunity to an organized and aligned kingdom, from being a battered collection of tribal groups to an army and nation to be feared and respected..
Samuel's power was his integrity as a leader and the power of God's anointing of Samuel's life and ministry:
The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel's words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was a prophet of God.. The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word..
What strikes me as most honorable about Samuel was his unwillingness to simply vanish into the twilight of rejection and old age.. He was hurt.. He was offended.. He felt insulted and unappreciated.. He talked to God about it. God talked to Samuel about it. But most importantly, Samuel didn't sulk, run off, and spend the remaining years of his life in bitterness and blame. Instead, he tried to help Saul by being a righteous example and spiritual mentor.. When this failed (because of Saul's rebellion and madness) God had Samuel find Israel's next king..
So at great personal risk Samuel anointed, encouraged, empowered, and supported David.. David's rule is on the rise and Samuel's mission is largely accomplished when his body gives out and he dies.. By the time Samuel's life ended he had accomplished his life's mission and offered himself as the bridge between the chaos of the judges, the bridge over the crisis caused by Saul's failures, and the bridge that brought God's people to a stable leader, a protected land, true worship, and the promise of God's better future.
Sometimes we believe that we have a particular role to play.. It's a role we want, a role we are sure we would be good at.. Maybe it's a role that makes us look and feel important.. But sometimes our role is to make someone else look and feel important.. Sometimes God uses us as a bridge to lead someone else to greatness.. I think it's times like these that teach us humility..
When we can learn to look beyond ourselves and our own positions we can begin to see our role as one for God's master plan, and then be grateful that God chose us to play a role at all..