Truth and Power
“As Samuel turned to leave, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore.” – 1 Sam 15:27
He was there for the inauguration, standing before him for the prayer service. He anointed him King before his people. Sure, he had his reservations. He knew this represented a drastic change in how leadership functioned for his people and he was . . . concerned.
Nonetheless, he had access. And, in his way, the king usually listened to him. But as the king continued to make misstep after miscalculation, the prophet worried.
The relationship between Samuel the Prophet and Saul the King was always complicated.
Saul was crafty – his military successes showed as much. But craftiness would take him only so far with a God who expected faithfulness and obedience above strategy and political savvy. So, as the story goes, eventually God had had enough. As Saul campaigned to settle an ancient score against the Amalekites, who had brutally attacked Israel during the Exodus trek through the wilderness, Saul successfully overcame his enemies. Alas, he accomplished this without following God’s explicit instructions. Rather than doing precisely what God had instructed, Saul decided to improvise. While God called for a swift end to this conflict, Saul tried another tactic: milk the spoils of his conquest for maximum yield.
At last, the prophet had to speak an inconvenient truth to his king: Saul’s cynical cunning had cost him his reign.
It’s not unusual for kings to think that they know better than God. What is unusual is for the messengers of God to have the courage to speak truth to power – not just once, but consistently. Until the job is done.
God, amplify the voices of your prophets so that the kings can finally learn. Amen.
Kaji Douša is the Senior Pastor of The Park Avenue Christian Church, a congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, in New York City./div>