Now that the election is over, candidates in Boston and elsewhere in the country are all taking the next step in the process—preparing for their transitions—including getting office space, hiring staff, and fine tuning plans for making good on campaign promises.
How does this connect with the world of faith? Well, the Bible wasn’t devoid of stories that made reference to governments and leaders of that time. In fact, the Old Testament devotes considerable space to describing all the ups and downs and turn-arounds of numerous kings of Israel—especially the the more memorable ones like Saul, David, and Solomon.
The making of a king
Saul’s was an interesting story. At one point in Israel’s history, when it came time to select the next leader, it was decided that they wanted a king. But who would that be? The hunt for a king wasn’t anything like our elections of today. Basically, God, through the prophet Samuel, picked out Saul, had him anointed privately, and then arranged for a public event in which Saul would be introduced to the people.
One problem, though: after the various tribes of Israel had been brought together, and the dramatic tension heightened as the different families were called out, one by one, until it was time to shine the spotlight on Saul, everybody looked around, and there was no Saul in sight! Where could he be? So God responded, “go look around the luggage” (to paraphrase a bit). And what they discovered was young Saul, hiding out among the people’s assorted bags, bales, boxes, and other supplies of the nomadic tribes of Israel (who obviously did a lot of traveling).
It could have been that Saul felt he wasn’t worthy of such an office, and so took himself out of the picture. But God found him anyway, and so did the people of Israel. And the rest was history. Saul’s term as king was followed in later years by David, and Solomon, who each had impressive stories of their own.
Comparing Saul to modern-day officeholders
Saul, like today’s new senators, representatives, and officials of all ranks, no doubt faced plenty of challenges, including figuring out how to govern, what goals he wanted to pursue, and where to find people to help him in this new undertaking.
And, from what we know of the religious life of Israel, Saul certainly relied on God for inspiration, comfort, and company when the going got tough. Perhaps more so than our leaders of 2012, he spent time in prayer, conversing with God in ways that we “moderns” would not fully understand or appreciate. Ever heard of a president-elect praying over the choice of who his new cabinet members would be?
If Saul were praying today
Just imagine Saul as our new president (or senator, or governor, selectman, or whatever). If Saul were starting off his new term, his conversation with God might sound a little like this:
Saul: “God, I’m still not sure I’m the right person for this job. But you, and Israel, selected me. So I guess it’s time now to get down to work.”
“If you don’t mind, God, I could use some advice. I’d like to find some other people for my team, to help me get this new kingdom off the ground. But how do I find them? I don’t want to just hire relatives, or friends. Nor should they be “yes-men” who don’t think for themselves, and just do what I tell them. If that’s who they are, they’ll be so obsessed with buttering me up, feathering their own nest, or keeping their own place in the pecking order, that they’ll forget that the real reason they’re here is to help serve the needs of the people—not themselves.”
“So, where do I find staff like that, God? Any tips on what to look for?”
It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that God might then reply to Saul:
God: “Very wise, thoughtful questions, Saul, my son. It shows me that I did make a good decision in choosing you as king. You aren’t in this just for yourself. You’re thinking of others. And, you are obviously very conscientious. You want to do a good job. And you want people around you who think that way, too. So here are my commandments:”
1. Find people of good character, who serve others as they like to be served.
2. Do not choose those who care only about how the position will profit them.
3. Look for people who will give you an honest day’s work—and who aren’t afraid of spending a little extra time when warranted, to get a job done.
4. Make sure they have a good spiritual foundation—not necessarily following all the letters of the law to a “t” – but following My example in showing heavenly love and concern for all of my children, regardless of whether they’re in the ruling party, the loyal opposition, the also-rans, the uncommitted, the new generation, or whoever.
5. Finally, make sure they have a sense of humor. Taking yourself (and your job) seriously is quite important, of course. But I also believe in having fun sometimes – why else would I have created platypuses, butterflies, flamingos, chimpanzees, and other curious creatures? So encourage your staff to use their time off wisely, like being with family, enjoying life, and in general being as playful as your Creator. Because you’ll certainly need every last bit of playfulness, ingenuity, and creativity you can possibly muster as you begin tackling the job of governing the people.”
God: “ So, Saul, go forward, with My blessings. Show them what kind of a great leader you really are.”
Good commandments for our present age, and for our current leaders, it would seem!