Remembering King Saul, the Amalekites and Prophet Samuel

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The Rev. Naime Garley of St.   Stephen Episcopal Church, Monrovia, in her powerful sermon last Sunday, made a passing reference to King Saul’s disobedience of the Lord’s command.

The Israelites were at war with the Amalekites and the Lord promised Saul and his army victory; but instructed him to destroy utterly all the spoils of war, including the animals.  But after viewing the great livestock possessions of the vanquished Amalekites, King Saul got greedy.  Instead of doing as the Lord had commanded, Saul selected the finest of the Amalekites’ animals–cattle, goats, sheep–and took them with him.  When the prophet confronted the King about his disobedience,  Saul told Samuel not to worry; the animals would be taken to the Temple to be sacrificed unto the Lord.

Samuel promptly asked Saul, “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord?”  The prophet then gave Saul this immortal advice: “Obedience is better than sacrifice, and to hearken (listen) than the fat of lambs.”

Samuel further told the king, “Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, He hath also rejected thee from being king.”
Saul immediately confessed his sin and pleaded for pardon.  But Samuel said it was too late.  As he turned to depart, Saul tore the prophet’s garment.  Said Samuel to Saul at that point: “The Lord had rent (torn away) the kingdom of Israel from thee this day . . .”

Immediately, Saul totally lost God’s favor.

What happened to Saul because of greed is a lesson applicable not to national leaders only, but to us ALL as individuals.  History is replete with people who, because of greed, have lost everything—their respect in society, their wealth, their leadership and their very lives.   Remember American billionaire Kenneth Lay, who built a highly successful industrial company, ENRON?  Success went to his head and though he was already super rich, he wanted more.  In connivance with some of America’s leading

Accounting firms–which also went down with him—he started stealing from his shareholders and even his staff.  Lay was convicted of conspiracy and fraud and faced a lengthy prison sentence but died suddenly on July 5, 2007.

There were many such fraudsters on Wall Street, the world’s financial capital who, caught in scandalous webs of insider trading, lost everything, including their good name and even their freedom and are still languishing in jail.

In our own country, Liberia, we have seen how many have gotten super rich and powerful–so powerful they thought no one was their equal.

Remember Steve Tolbert who built, to date, the largest and most successful Liberian commercial and industrial enterprise?  His brother, President William R. Tolbert, Jr., made him Finance Minister in 1972 and Steve’s enterprise, within three years, grew in value from a US$6 million to US$38 million.  From his privileged position as Finance Minister he was buying up everything in sight and demanding shares in other people’s enterprises; and if they refused, he unleashed the tax dragons, making survival almost impossible.

Soon, he became known as Liberia’s first “prime minister,” the most powerful official in government, who called the shots in every Ministry and Agency of government, incurring the wrath and scorn of his own Cabinet colleagues and of the whole country.

Steve’s brother, the President, (remember?) did nothing to stop these excesses.  When three years later Steve died in a plane crash near Greenville, Sinoe County, the President reportedly announced that he had a share in Mesurado and demanded a sizeable piece.   We all know the end of that story–1980, etc.

We also all know how Samuel Doe, President Tolbert’s successor, and Doe’s cronies turned the economy further into the hands of foreigners and made tons of money from the public treasury.  But to what end?

We further remember how Charles Taylor and his own henchmen ran Liberia and its resources as their personal property–again, to what end?

Those who are running the country today should take note and actively remember others’ mistakes because NO ONE KNOWS TOMORROW!

But civil disorder or national upheaval is entirely unnecessary and should NEVER happen here again. We should do everything to maintain our peace and stability.  All our people—leaders and everyone else—need to do what is right in the people’s highest interest.

A hint to the wise is quite sufficient.

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