Making choices, for yourself and others

Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God. -Leviticus 19:31

Dear members and friends of the SF Swedenborgian Church,

One thing that has always inspired me when reading the Bible is that most figures in the book are just like us: ordinary, flawed, and slow learners. God could have filled this special book with stories of perfectly and completely faithful humans like Abraham, Joseph, and Samuel. But instead, the Bible is filled with stories of ordinary – or sometimes below ordinary – human beings with their failures and struggles. Why? Because the Bible was written for and expected to be read by those who fail more than succeed. It is for those who struggle greatly before reaching the enlightening moment of understanding a truth about life.

King Saul is such a character in the Bible representing many of us. He was careless when he was young, yet was chosen to be among the group of prophets in trance. Then, he was chosen to be the first King of Israel, yet the meaning of such a role was beyond his comprehension. Saul had the wise counselor Samuel, yet most of time he wanted to ignore or avoid meeting Samuel. The only time that Saul would consult with Samuel was when things were not going the way he desired. But when things were going well, he would credit only his own glory. Saul knew God, and was called by God, but he never cultivated his relationship with God. For him, God was probably nothing more than the annoying rule keeper or at best, a wish master when he was in trouble or in need of something.

At the end of the book 1 Samuel, Samuel had passed away and the Philistines were marching against Saul. He was in a desperate need of God’s help, yet he was unable to reach out, or so he thought. So, Saul gave an order to seek and find a medium for guidance. Since he had previously ordered to kill and expel all mediums in the country, he had to disguise himself when he came to see the medium. Though Saul probably wished to consult with the spirit of Samuel, or more precisely to ask God to grant his wishes, the spirit of Samuel simply confirmed the dreadful fate that Saul already suspected.

Personally, what disappoints me about this story is that Saul was selfishly focused on saving his life and his kingship, thus failing to acknowledge the bigger picture: the war was going to cause a great deal of suffering to the Israelites, the very people God chose Saul to protect. I just wonder, what would have happened if Saul accepted his fate and willingly gave up his kingship, praying instead for the safety of his people? The merciful God might have granted his wishes! Even in our own time, if our leaders choose to be selfless and act in interest of the people over their own self interest, this selfless wish might be answered by God in a favorable way. Of course, it may be different depending on who you are and your social position in the world, but your choices affect much more than just your personal life and situation. If you take a step back, you can see how your choices influence others and how deeply and intrinsically our lives are interwoven.

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee