Bible passage of the month: How to choose a king.

The proper way to choose a king is not by caucuses, conventions and elections; it is by ascertaining the will of the Almighty. The Bible tells us to consult a prophet, as the Israelites did; Samuel the prophet accordingly anointed Saul as their first king, then foretold to Saul the signs that would indicate divine confirmation during his journey to the Hill of God, where stood, appropriately, a garrison of Philistines:

You will meet a band of prophets, in a prophetic state, coming down from the high place, with a stringed instrument, a tambourine, a flute and a harp before them, and they will be prophesying. Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man . . . And so it was, when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, that God gave him another heart. (1 Samuel 5-9)

Applying this passage to current politics requires great care, because our situation is crowded and confusing.

* Most candidates insist they were selected by God, so we must believe the prophet rather than the candidate.

* We have many prominent prophets. Which Samuel should we consult?

* Bands of secondary prophets are even more numerous, and they are usually accompanied by ecstatic music. Although the biblical description sounds like Charles Lloyd's current ensemble, the great woodwind player has endorsed no candidate or prophet.

* We must watch for a hopeful who has been turned into another man ("The Manchurian Candidate") and/or given another heart (most U.S. presidents since FDR have been treated for cardiovascular ailments). Spiritual and philosophical metamorphoses are too numerous to list.

* Even if we follow God's instructions, we may end up with a king as faulty as Saul. (William Blake's image above shows Samuel returning from the dead to castigate Saul for his faithlessness.)

Let's pray on it.