Summary: A study of the pitiful account of Saul's disobedience of the will of God and what came of him.

“So, Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the LORD in that he did not keep the command of the LORD, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance. He did not seek guidance from the LORD. Therefore, the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.” [1]

“Therefore, the LORD put him to death.” This is the divine rationale provided for the death of Israel’s first king—it wasn’t so much that he died in battle, it was that God did not permit him to continue living. Saul had been chosen by the LORD, and he was put to death by the LORD. It is not as though God struck Saul dead; but, the hand of the LORD was against him. Thus, it is quite legitimate to say that the LORD put him to death.

Almost from the start, Saul created trouble for himself. In this respect, he was somewhat like so many of God’s people to this day. They believe the message of grace, but they want to be “hands on” Christians. If God fails to come through according to their idea of “coming through,” they will take control of life. The problem with that approach to life is that the cost is always far higher than we imagine. Saul discovered that with great blessing went great responsibility. However, he was incapable of accepting the great responsibility that his position imposed.

SEARCHING FOR DONKEYS, FINDING A KINGDOM — Let’s begin at the beginning. We meet Saul, the son of Kish, for the first time in the Book of First Samuel. “There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth. And he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.

“Now the donkeys of Kish, Saul’s father, were lost. So, Kish said to Saul his son, ‘Take one of the young men with you, and arise, go and look for the donkeys.’ And he passed through the hill country of Ephraim and passed through the land of Shalishah, but they did not find them. And they passed through the land of Shaalim, but they were not there. Then they passed through the land of Benjamin, but did not find them” [1 SAMUEL 9:1-4].

It was a morning like perhaps any other morning. Saul busied himself with the responsibilities of the day until his father, Kish, told him that the donkeys were missing. Perhaps it was during the night that the donkeys had wandered off, perhaps they had been frightened by a wild beast and rushed headlong away from their familiar home; whatever the cause, the donkeys were missing. Kish told Saul to take one of the hired hands and go look for the donkeys. For the next three days, Saul and the hired hand would travel over sixty miles looking for those donkeys!

They passed through Ephraim and the land of Shalishah, but did not find the donkeys. Following the donkeys, they drew near to Ramathaim-Zophim in Zuph. Samuel lived in this town situated about seven or eight kilometers north-west of Jerusalem. Saul, worried that his father would be concerned that they were gone so long, was prepared to give up the search; however, the servant suggested that since they were near the place where Samuel lived, perhaps they should consult him. Saul readily agreed to this suggestion and so they hurried into town.

It so happened that Samuel was home; in fact, he was officiating at a sacrificial meal that very day. Saul, having never met Samuel, had no idea who he was looking for. As he approached the city gate, an older man was exiting the city and Saul asked the old man, “Where is the house of the seer?” The meeting was strange, to say the least; it was as if Samuel had been looking for Saul. Samuel responded to the query, “I am the seer.” However, it was the instructions which followed that stunned the young man, for Samuel continued without pausing, “Go up before me to the high place, for today you shall eat with me, and in the morning, I will let you go and will tell you all that is on your mind” [1 SAMUEL 9:19].

Of course, none of that addressed the concern about the donkeys. There is where it becomes just spooky! Samuel then said, “As for the donkeys that were lost three days ago, do not set your mind on them, for they have been found” [1 SAMUEL 9:20a]. Saul likely stood there, his mouth agape, but Samuel wasn’t finished. He continued with what can only be said to be an enigmatic statement, “And for whom is all that is desirable in Israel? Is it not for you and for all your father’s house” [1 SAMUEL 9:20b]?

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