Summary: Saul is chosen to be King but noone knows. God works in secret and he works through the indwelling of his Holy Spirit to change Saul so he can be King.
If you were God, how would you respond to a people who refused your leadership and instead asked for a king to be given to them? You might expect that God would give them a hard time. Samuel certainly did! Or he might have given them someone they’d regret having as king just to teach them a lesson. He might even have let the Philistines come and attack them as they were discussing their ambit claim with Samuel. But in fact none of those things happen. Instead God gives them just what they’re looking for. Well, almost.
Look at how this section begins. "There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish, ... a man of wealth. 2He 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; he stood head and shoulders above everyone else." Now if you were looking for someone to lead the army against the Philistines who better to choose? He’s young. He’s good looking. He stands head and shoulders above the rest. Here’s someone the whole army will look up to, literally. It’s almost as if God is saying, "If you want a king, I’ll give you one. And he’ll be just the sort of king you’d choose if you were doing the choosing" There’s nothing half-hearted in the way God selects a King for them. This is as good a king as you’d hope for. Sadly though, as we’ll see in the next couple of weeks, his performance wouldn’t match his image, but that’s another story.
God has chosen Saul, but how is he to bring his choice into operation? As it turns out, in a fairly mundane, prosaic way. At first at least. Kish’s donkeys have gone for a wander so Saul is sent out with one of the hired servants to look for them. They travel a fair distance looking without any success, until at last Saul suggests they turn back before his Father sends a search party out to look for them. At that point the boy brings his local knowledge to bear. He tells Saul about a man of God who lives nearby. This man has a reputation for being a seer whose word can be trusted.
Notice though, the way the boy puts it. He says "Let us go there now; perhaps he will tell us about the journey on which we have set out." Now the boy probably means perhaps he’ll show us the way to go. That’s how the NIV translates it. But in fact as we’ll discover in a moment Samuel will tell them much more than which way to go. He’ll tell them about the journey that Saul is just beginning, a journey that will end with him being made king of Israel.
So off they go. But first Saul realises that he needs to take with him a gift to give the seer. This was the custom of the time. But Saul has nothing to offer so the boy offers to use the quarter shekel silver coin he has on him, and off they go. Now this is a small detail but because it’s here in the text it’s worth asking why? Why does the author tell us about this small gift of a little silver coin? ??
- shows the extent of his insignificance - along with other details - search for donkeys, asking directions from some girls (v11). Although Kish is described as a man of wealth, the picture we get of Saul is someone who’s fairly ordinary. The sort of person who gets sent off to look for donkeys! Who doesn’t have even a small silver coin in his pocket! Yet this is the man whom God has chosen to be king over Israel!
Well let’s read on to see how such a thing could be. Saul goes up the hill to the town and just as he enters it he finds Samuel, just as the girls had told him. Samuel is on his way to the sanctuary at the top of the hill where he’s to offer a sacrifice.
Then we discover an interesting thing. There’s no coincidence about what’s happened so far. You might wonder why Saul has been wandering all over the hills looking for his donkeys. But the answer is here. God has brought him here for a reason. Saul thinks he’s here looking for donkeys, but he’s actually here because God is looking for him! In fact God has told Samuel about it the day before. ’15Now the day before Saul came, the LORD had revealed to Samuel: 16"Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be ruler over my people Israel."’ The people had asked for a King and here was the man that God had chosen. And notice what comes next: "He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines; for I have seen the suffering of my people, because their outcry has come to me." What does that remind you of? Well, it probably should remind you of the call of Moses or the raising up of judges to save the people when they cried out to the Lord. In fact the word King isn’t used here at all. The word ruler that’s used here has much less of the status of a king about it. It’s much closer to the idea of a judge. Saul is initially just another in the mould of the judges or Moses as a leader among leaders.