Summary: Our God is a God who uses even our rebelliousness to bring about his purposes for his people. The people have abandoned God as king, but he doesn’t abandon them. He continues to deliver them, now using the king they’ve asked for as the avenue through whic
If you thought it was hard to go from a monarchy to a republic, it seems it’s just as hard to go to a monarchy from a Theocracy. You would have to say that Saul has it hard. It takes him three goes before he’s really made king. But then again maybe he was hoping it was all a bad dream so he didn’t mind.
Saul has been anointed as king by Samuel, but in secret. Now it’s time to make God’s choice known. So what’s Samuel going to do? Well, he could call the people together and simply tell them who God has chosen, but that may not be enough to convince the people. Remember that although the elders have asked for a king, they’re not actually used to the idea of one man ruling over them. Up until now they’ve been this disparate group of tribes ruled over by tribal elders, responsible only to themselves. And you’d have to say that when they ask for a king, they don’t really know what they’re asking for. And as in any large organisation there are some, as we discover as the story unfolds, who don’t agree with the leadership in any case.
Well, Samuel calls the whole nation together at Mizpah. You may recall that this is where he called them together back in ch 7 to call them to repentance over their worship of Baal and Ashtoreth. And again, as they gather, he preaches to them. He summarizes the history of Israel up until this point in 2 succinct statements: "God has done everything possible to save them;" and "Israel has stubbornly rejected God’s ways." He says: "today you have rejected your God, who saves you from all your calamities and your distresses." God has answered their request for a King, but that doesn’t remove the taint of their request. Here of course is the gospel in miniature. We reject God, but God never rejects us. We rebel against his rightful rule, and he sends his son to die to take the punishment for us. The people of Israel reject God’s rule over them by asking for a king, yet God still grants their request.
Well, Samuel, having finished his sermon, begins the process of identifying the one God has chosen. He knows who it is, as does Saul, but it’s important that all the people understand that this is not just Samuel’s choice.
So the lot is cast and first the tribe of Benjamin is chosen, then the family of the Matrites and finally Saul is chosen. But where is he? No-one has seen him. In fact just to reinforce the fact that Saul is to be King as a result of God’s grace from start to finish, they even have to resort to praying to God to ask where Saul has got to. Again, God graciously condescends to do for them what they can’t do for themselves and the answer they get is almost comical.
Where is this man who will be King over Israel? Hiding among the baggage! Hoping he might escape notice. What a contrast to the previous chapter when he was dancing in a frenzy prophesying in the name of the Lord!
Saul has been anointed, he’s received the filling of the Spirit and here he is hiding among the luggage. Has he been listening to what Samuel had to say, perhaps, and is now scared to be the one to lead the people into rebellion? Or does he just have cold feet at the thought of leading all these people?
Well, whatever the reason, Saul is brought out and Samuel presents him as the one God has chosen and all the people cry out "Long live the king." Well, most of the people anyway. There are still some disbelievers who doubt that Saul can bring them victory. Anyway Samuel instructs the people about the rights and duties of the king and even writes them down. Again, we see the way God provides for his people even in the face of their rebellion. They’ve never had a king before so they need rules to govern how the king is to behave. So even as they move to the rule of a king, we see God’s rule remaining primary. This is always the case of course. All authorities in this world are set up by God and are under his authority and subject to his judgement. It’s just that here we see it a bit more clearly.
Well, where do you go if you’re the king but there’s no palace for you yet, no royal court? You go home. And that’s exactly what Saul does. This is the first time Israel has had a king so there’s no precedent to follow.
A band of fighting men go with him, those whose hearts God has touched. But when he gets there he doesn’t have any kingly work to do. The job description obviously wasn’t clear enough. So he goes back to what he knows - to farming.