1 Samuel 8:7 And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.”
What the Lord said to Samuel can be very important for leaders to understand. If a leader is genuinely submitted to God, (and that can be a very big IF) then rejection of their leadership really is rejection of God. There are of course leaders who are presumptive, who aren’t submitted to God, and often they are more likely to claim this verse than those who are humble! No leader is perfect, and that obviously included Samuel, because of the behavior of his sons. Had he done better by them, then the people probably would not have responded this way. However, those being led have a responsibility to pray for their leaders, so that they would be true to God and receive His wisdom and guidance. We all tend to take people’s responses too personally, thinking we deserve all the credit when we are liked and acclaimed, and thinking it’s all our fault if people fail to follow. Samuel didn’t seem to have much trouble in the first response, but here God was cautioning him about the second. Everyone, both leaders and followers, needs to remember that God is the ultimate authority. All authority in the temporal realm is strictly delegated, and needs to be treated as such. If we are rightly related to God, then we will relate rightly to the human authority figures in our lives as well.
This is a complicated area for me, as I think it is for a lot of people. As a pastor and as a secular teacher I am an authority figure to a lot of the people I relate to every day. I’m used to it, but it isn’t always comfortable. There are times when I would much rather just follow, but there are also times when I get headstrong. I need to remember the centurion whom Jesus commended for his faith. (Matthew 8:5-9) He understood authority and leadership, and I feel sure he was well respected by those under his command. I need to focus first on my own submission and obedience to God, but then be unafraid in exercising the authority He has delegated to me. I am often painfully aware of my own imperfections, and I must always be open to correction. However, I must be more focused on God, and allowing His power, wisdom and authority to flow through me.
Father, You know better than I do the struggles I have with exercising authority. Help me be fully and properly focused on You, not taking things personally, so that I get either conceited or depressed, but allowing You to use me to accomplish Your will on Your schedule through me, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!