Summary: This sermon is a relentless drum beat of negativity concerning America’s political predicament with a brief flicker of hope at the end. Theme: Demigods disappoint and enslave.
In the early days of our Republic pastors would set aside the Sunday before election day to preach a sermon about the coming vote. In those days they would name names and tell the congregation who to vote for. Now, thanks to a 1954 law, churches can no longer speak out in the same way. If they do they could be visited by thugs from the IRS who would take away their nonprofit status and make sure they repaid all those uncollected taxes that they were previously exempt from.
Don’t worry. I’m not going to endorse or condemn a candidate. I’m not even going to tell you what criteria to use when you vote. Heck, I don’t even care if you vote. I’m going to stand by my pessimistic sermon title. No matter who wins, you’re going to lose. Why? We have elevated our political leaders, particularly presidents, to semi-divine status. They have become a combination of sugar-daddy and warlord. We’ve increasingly given our federal government unchecked power to take care of us and relieve us of personal responsibility. The politicians who rise to the top today are the ones with the prettiest picture and the most appealing promises.
But no matter who wins in this election you and I are going to lose. Why? Demigods disappoint and enslave. They cannot deliver the blessings of God that we seek. But they try and in the process they rob us of our freedom.
As a nation we are less free now that at any time in our history. Here’s just one example: The 850 billion dollar bailout passed by Congress a few weeks ago, went through against the wishes of over 90% of the population. Where’s that money going to come from? Your paycheck. And your children’s paycheck. And perhaps your grandchildren’s paycheck. If the taxation rate feels too steep the Federal Reserve will simply print the money that’s needed, increasing inflation, and reducing the value of your savings. That’s economic enslavement and it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
We can’t blame our leaders. They’re only doing what the people have mandated they do – take the place of God in our lives. Provide for us, protect us, give us hope for the future. At the very least they’re demigods. Demigods disappoint and enslave.
We are very much like the Israelites who demanded a king. Samuel had been a faithful leader for them, but then he became old (and we know that old people shouldn’t lead). His sons were corrupt and the Israelites feared national disaster. This had happened before when Eli the priest put his corrupt sons in charge a nearly a generation earlier. The Israelites were decimated in a battle with the Philistines and actually lost the Ark of the Covenant for a brief period of time. Seeing Samuel’s old age and the corruption of his sons produced an insecurity that led to the call for a king. They were unsatisfied with God’s method of leading them to repentance during times of distress and then raising up a powerful leader to rescue them from the oppressor.
Please understand that asking for a king was not a sin in and of itself. The Law of Moses, written before Samuel’s time, contained God’s promise of a future king. The problem was that the Israelites asked for a king with bad motives and a bad vision of what their monarchy should look like.
The Wrong Criteria for Choosing a Leader
1. Craving the prosperity of other people
Here’s the first explicit reason the elders gave Samuel for desiring new leadership:
“Appoint a king to lead us such as all the other nations have.” 1 Samuel 8:5
The Israelites looked around and noticed the seeming prosperity of the Canaanite and Philistine people groups surrounding them. They seemed secure, strong, and comfortable. The only difference they could discern was government. The nations had a king and all they had was God. Look how far that had gotten them … 3 centuries with no political unity or cultural advancement. They were tired of waiting for God to save them. They knew that He required revival and repentance in the land. The Lord demanded that the Israelites take personal responsibility for their sins before He would act on their behalf. Why not rather have a king, a human being do for them what God refused unless they had a change of heart?
Forget the fact that God had called them to be His unique community. Never mind the fact that He’d promised to dump blessings into their laps for simple obedience to His covenant. Who cares that He’d wanted them to be a light to the nations? They wanted the seeming good life of their neighbors without having to take personal responsibility for themselves and their lives before a holy God. It was easier to adopt the customs of the other nations and reap the same benefits.