Last week in Gospel Doctrine class we were talking about the transition from judges to kings in the Old Testament. There was a lot of humming and hawing about how maybe this was necessary, etc., the judges weren’t that great, etc. My comment was something along the lines that, taken as a whole, in addition to being a lineage of the Messiah, a secondary overriding theme is how utterly terrible kings and tribes are.
Yesterday while waiting for stake conference to start I looked through every chapter heading from 1 Samuel to 2 Kings. It’s just a series of absolute disasters caused by these kings. And the first three were carefully hand picked, but even they turned out really bad and caused unspeakable suffering. I know God sanctioned, selected and had these guys anointed, but I imagine it somewhat in the character of providing I.V. drug users with clean needles. “If you’re going to do this really awful, dumb thing, then at least make sure that…” etc.
Kings and tribes are unmitigated disasters. And why wouldn’t they be? If we are children of a perfect and loving god, tribalism, racism, and nationalism have to be viewed as wicked. Moreover, lifting up one man and his descendants as above the law, better than everyone else, able to boss people around and steal from, enslave, kidnap, and rape them at a whim are likewise wicked. And yet we have this human tendency to want kings, strongmen, and celebrities. We are also incredibly susceptible to believing in tribes, races, and nationalities.
I keep coming back the the lyric of the reggae classic from Carlton and the Shoes:
“God made man and He gave them all
An equal share of blessings.
Some men want to take it all and
Keep the rest of the world in
Bondage and oppression.”
The song ends with a hopeful note though:
“But the Father, He’s not sleeping.
He’ll set his people free.
Better days are coming,
Better days for you and for me.”