Who can lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed and be guiltless? As surely as the LORD lives,” he said, “the LORD himself will strike him; either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the LORD forbid that I should lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed. (I Samuel 26: 9b-11a)
I have heard so many religious leaders use this term for suggesting that they, as religious leaders, are to be immune from action against them from their followers. Since the context is about killing, I guess I could agree. Religious leaders should not be killed by their followers.
But how far beyond that can one take this passage? In the context, David saw Saul as the anointed king of Israel, anointed by God, and so did want to be the one who killed him. Seemingly, he was okay if someone else would kill him, but he did not want to do it himself. I reckon that is commendable. However, it must be noted that David, in almost every other way was insubordinate to King Saul, having an armed force that worked outside of Saul’s rule, and even for a time served the enemies of King Saul. And David also chastised Saul publicly.
So, if one wished to apply accrurately the words and actions of David to King Saul, to a strictly religious setting, then a follower can avoid laying a hand “on the LORD’s anointed” and still:
-Disobey the religious leader
-Chastise him (or her) publicly
-Form factions to undermine the leader’s authority
-Serve the enemies of that leader
Of course, some of this may be questionable. But this is part of the problem of (mis)using an piece of Scripture for a very unrelated setting. But that then brings up the question of what one SHOULD do? What does it mean to be a good follower of a religious leader.
I believe a good follower should love and support his religious leader. But what does that entail
- A good follower holds his leader accountable. Leaders need help to avoid straying from their true calling. They need people who will support them so as not to stray. They don’t simply need fanboys.
- A good follower holds his faithfulness to God as inviolate… but his faithfulness to the leader as contingent. Followers sin when they follow a leader’s path into sin.
- A good follower neither demonizes nor glorifies the leader. The leader is human and so fails. The job of the follower is to help the leader do what is right, not find excuses for why the leader did wrong (or trying to justify why the action is not wrong).
- A good follower recognizes that the leader is NOT more important than God, and is NOT more important than the congregation.
- A good follower seeks to maintain the good reputation of the leader by helping the leader to do right, rather than to cover-up what is wrong.
In the Old Testament, there were Free Prophets and Court Prophets. Court Prophets served in the court of the king. He or she was a counselor to the king. Court Prophets often had the reputation of being sycophants— saying what the king wants to hear, and agreeing with what the king does and thinks (think of Hananiah in the book of Jeremiah). The Free Prophets, on the other hand, had the reputation of being a thorn in the sides of their kings. That was because they said what God wanted them to say, and God’s message is normally to motivate the king to change rather than to say, “You are doing well… keep up the good work!” Jeremiah then is the contrast to Hananiah in this regard.
Free Prophets were the real supporters of the King. Far too many of the Court Prophets (Nathan being a good exception) were not supporters… only fans.