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SAMUEL ANOINTS SAUL AS KING

1 Samuel 9:1-11:15
Key Verse: 10:6

In chapter 8 the people of Israel asked Samuel for a king to lead them so that they would be like all the other nations. This displeased Samuel and also God. However, God would give them what they wanted and had requested. They were choosing a hard way to know what a blessed life it is to live under his kingship. That’s sinful human beings’ tendency. Today’s passage tells us how Samuel meets Saul and anoints him king over Israel. There is a long description of Samuel’s meeting Saul and conversing with him. And Saul is privately anointed, publicly assumed, and reaffirmed as king. The passages show Saul’s human character, and more importantly God’s equipment for him to be a king. And the passage also shows God’s heart for his people.

First, Samuel meets Saul (9:1-27). Look at verse 1. “There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Becorath, the son of Aphiah of Benjamin.” Saul’s father was a man of standing, in other translations, “a man of power” (KJV), “a man of wealth” (ESV, RSV). So Saul had a good family background. he himself was introduced as an impressive young man without equal among the Israelite—a head taller than any of the others.

Then verse 3 says, “Now the donkeys belonging to Saul’s father Kish were lost, and Kish said to his son Saul, ‘Take one of the servants with you and go and look for the donkeys.’” How did Saul carry out this task? In verses 4-5, “So he passed through the hill country of Ephraim and through the area around Shalisha, but they did not find them. They went on into the district of Shaalim, but the donkeys were not there. Then he passed through the territory of Benjamin, but they did not find them. When they reached the district of Zuph…” We see Saul’s industrious effort to somehow find the lost donkeys, searching through even five different places, the hill country of Ephraim, the area of Shalisha, the district of Shaalim, the territory of Benjamin, and the district of Zuph. He was not an easy-going man, who tries once and then says, “I did it”, but an obedient and hard-working man who endeavoured to complete a given task. And he was not just hard-working, but mindful of what was more important. Verse 5 says, “When they reached the district of Zuph, Saul said to the servant who was with him, ‘Come, let’s go back, or my father will stop thinking about the donkeys and start worrying about us.” He had proper respect and love for his father.

In verses 6-10 there is a nice conversation between Saul and his servant. They agreed to go to see the man of God, who they believed would tell them what way to take in that situation. In so doing Saul also knew how to come to the man of God. That was with a gift expressing gratitude and thankfulness for the service of the man of God.

Saul and his servant set out for the town where the man of God was. As they were going up the hill to the town, they met some girls coming out to draw water. Saul also seemed to know how to talk with girls, keeping his heart and making a proper distance. The girls were very nice and kind, telling them to hurry up to meet Samuel who was coming to the town on his way to the high place. Yet Saul did not get sidetracked because of the kind-hearted girls, but kept his way acquiring necessary information, surely giving them due thanks. Then verse 14 says, “They went up the town, and as they were entering it, there was Samuel, coming toward them on his way up to the high place.”

So far the story is a plain human story with only human characters: Saul’s father Kish, Saul, his servant, girls and Samuel, about how Saul could come across Samuel on his way to the high place. But now a divine intervention comes. Look at verses 15 and 16. “Now the day before Saul came, the LORD had revealed this to Samuel: ‘About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him leader over my people Israel; he will deliver my people from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked upon my people, for their cry has reached me.’” In this God’s message to Samuel, we see God’s heart for his people; “my people” is mentioned three times in this short message. In the matter of whom he would appoint king over Israel, his shepherd heart for his people was emphatically expressed with the wish that he would be a right king. Indeed in the process of the appointing of king over Israel, his people were in his heart.

When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the LORD said to him, “This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people.” Again, The LORD mentioned, “my people.” In this encounter of Samuel and Saul, God seems very happy, saying, “This is the man I spoke to you about.” Then Saul approached Samuel in the gateway and asked, “Would you please tell me where the seer’s house is?” It was the right time for Samuel to reveal himself. So Samuel replied, “I am the seer.” Then he continued, “Go up ahead of me to the high place, for today you are to eat with me, and in the morning I will let you go and will tell you all that is in your heart. As for the donkeys you lost three days ago, do not worry about them; they have been found. And to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you and all your father’s family?” In this way God’s calling to be king of Israel came to Saul through Samuel. In this calling, all other problems would be resolved.

At this calling Saul answered, “But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?” It was good that Saul had a humble start in God.

Then Samuel brought Saul and his servant into the hall and seated them at the head of those who were invited—about thirty in number. Samuel said to the cook, “Bring the piece of meat I gave you, the one I told you to lay aside.” So the cook took up the leg with what was on it and set it in front of Saul. Samuel said, “Here is what has been kept for you. Eat, because it was set aside for you for this occasion, from the time I said, ‘I have invited guests.’” Samuel was following Leviticus 7:28-36. Samuel received the thigh, the portion of the sacrifice reserved for the priest. Samuel’s giving of this choice piece of meat to Saul was a distinct honour and reflected Saul’s new status as the designated king. Thus Saul dined with Samuel that day. How Saul could dine with Samuel was written in detail, which showed God’s honour and love for Saul, who would govern the people of God.

Then after they came down from the high place to the town, Samuel talked with Saul on the roof of his house. The roof of Samuel’s house provided a place for Saul and his servant to sleep for the night. They rose about daybreak and Samuel called to Saul on the roof, “Get ready, and I will send you on your way.” When Saul got ready, he and Samuel went outside together. As they were going down to the edge of the town, Samuel said to Saul, “Tell the servant go on ahead of us”—and the servant did so—“but you stay here awhile, so that I may give you a message from God.” How Samuel came to talk with Saul was also described in an intimate and detailed way.

In this part we learn how precious God’s calling is, and that when he calls someone, God has his people in heart for the called to serve. God’s intimate love is there for the one who is called. And he calls in the ordinary activity of human life. May we be assured of God’s divine specific calling—that is one in love and with a clear purpose to serve his people.

Second, Saul is anointed king over Israel (10:1-11:15). In verse 1, “Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, ‘Has not the LORD anointed you leader over his inheritance?’” The Lord chose Saul to be the leader over Israel, and now let him be privately anointed by Samuel. Here we also see continually God’s shepherd heart for his people in this anointing, for Samuel said, “Has not the LORD anointed you leader over his inheritance?” The inheritance was God’s nation, Israel, in the sense that she uniquely belonged to Him. Moses said in Deuteronomy 4:20, “But as for you, the LORD took you and brought you out of the iron-smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to be the people of his inheritance, as you now are”, and in 9:26, “I prayed to the LORD and said, ‘O Sovereign LORD, do not destroy your people, your own inheritance that you redeemed by your great power and brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand.”

After anointing Saul, Samuel further told him about what would happen to him, particularly three signs to be fulfilled, so that Saul might be sure of this anointing from God. The first sign would be his meeting two men who will say to him that the lost donkeys have been found,” and the second sign, three men meeting him and giving him two loves of bread. The third sign was an interesting and important one: he would meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, tambourines, flutes and harps being played before them, and they would be prophesying. They were young men being trained by Samuel for the prophetic ministry (19:18-20). In the Bible, prophets are known as those who delivered the word of God to their people. Samuel was a prophet at Shiloh: he gave the word of God to his people. And he delivered God’s message to his people at Mizpah so as to lead them to true repentance. The prophet Nathan delivered the message of God to King David when he had committed sin against God by committing adultery (2 Sam 2:1). Sometimes their prophesying was accompanied by music (1 Chr. 25:1). Here, prophesying connotes praising God and instructing the people with musical accompaniment. Then Samuel said in verse 6, “The Spirit of the LORD will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person.”

The Holy Spirit would enable Saul to declare the Word of the Lord with the prophets. And Saul would be changed into a different person. In this way Saul would be equipped to be king over Israel, God’s chosen people. Then in verse 7, “Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.” This was the message Samuel delivered to Saul privately at the time of anointing.

Then in verses 9-13, “As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day. When they arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came upon him in power, and he joined in their prophesying. When all those who had formerly known him saw him prophesying with the prophets, they asked each other, ‘What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?’ A man who lived there answered, ‘And who is their father?’ So it became a saying: ‘Is Saul also among the prophets?’ After Saul stopped prophesying, he went to the high place.” What an interesting event! What never happened before took place in Saul according to God’s promise and the people around him were very much concerned about it with surprise.

Then now Samuel publicly lets the people know how God chose Saul as king. Samuel summoned the people of Israel to the LORD at Mizpah and said to them, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you. But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your calamities and distresses. And you have said, ‘No, set a king over us.’ So now present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes and clans.” When Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, the tribe of Benjamin was chosen. Then he brought forward the tribe of Benjamin, clan by clan, and Matri’s clan was chosen. Finally Saul son of Kish was chosen. We don’t know how the tribe of Benjamin, the clan of Matri and then Saul was chosen. But the author’s point is that Saul was chosen by God in his grace.

Then what happened after Saul was chosen? The people looked for him, but he was not found there. This was an unusual thing. So they inquired further of the LORD, “Has the man come here yet?” And the LORD said, “Yes, he has hidden himself among the baggage.” This shows Saul’s humble and shy character. He was a bashful boy. At this they ran and brought him out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others. Outwardly he looked impressive but inwardly he seemed to be too weak to be a king. Samuel said to all people, “Do you see the man the LORD has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.” Samuel had faith in God’s choosing. The people shouted, “Long live the king!” Yet there were two kinds of people. Valiant men whose hearts God had touched supported him. But some trouble-makers said, “How can this fellow save us?” They despised him and brought him no gifts. However, Saul kept silent.

Then in chapter 11 what happened is this: Nahash, meaning “snake” was king of the Ammonites, the descendants of Lot, who lived east of the Jordan River. He went up and besieged Jabesh Gilead. When all the men of Jabesh asked him for making a treaty with them to be subject to him, he threatened them, saying, “I will make a treaty with you only on the condition that I gouge out the right eye of every one of you and so bring disgrace on all Israel.” When the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul and reported these terms to the people, they all wept aloud. But to Saul, who was just returning from the fields with his oxen, their weeping was not right. When Saul heard their words and came to know the situation, the Spirit of God came upon him in power, and he burned with anger. He took a pair of oxen, cut them into pieces, and sent the pieces by messengers throughout Israel, proclaiming, “This is what will be done to the oxen of anyone who does not follow Saul and Samuel.” Then the terror of the LORD fell on the people, and they turned out as one man. When Saul mustered them, the men of Israel numbered three hundred thousand and the men of Judah thirty thousand. In the power of the Spirit, Saul dramatically gathered such a large number of fighting men, who came together as one man, to save his people. The next day Saul separated his men into three divisions; during the last watch of night, 2 – 6 am, they broke into the camp of the Ammonites and slaughtered them until the heat of the day, and completely defeated the Ammonites. Thus he rescued Israel and his kingship was to be reaffirmed. All the people went to Gilgal and confirmed Saul as king in the presence of the LORD. They thanked God and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration.

In this part the author stressed the Spirit of the LORD coming in power upon Saul. In 10:6, “The Spirit of the LORD will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person,” and in 10:10, “When they arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came upon him in power, and he joined their prophesying” and in 11:6, “When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came upon him in power, and he burned with anger.” The Spirit of God would equip Saul to bear his kingship beyond his human qualification and any other preparation.

In the Old Testament the Spirit of the LORD, the Holy Spirit, came upon only specific people, kings and prophets and priests. An amazing thing happened in the New Testament: The Holy Spirit would come to all those who repent and believe in Christ Jesus who died for men’s sins and rose again from the dead. It is because all the believers in Christ Jesus are God’s chosen people and kings and priests and prophets in God’s sight as 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.” At Pentecost Apostle Peter said to the people, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” This promise is based on God’s promise in the Old Testament, Joel 2:28-32, “In the last days I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” After Jesus’ death and resurrection those who were filled with the Holy Spirit became powerful witnesses of Jesus, speaking the word God boldly and powerfully. It is in accordance with what Jesus promised to his disciples at the time of his ascension, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 2:7, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline”, and in Ephesians 5:18, “…be filled with the Spirit.” Being filled with the Holy Spirit is related to being led by the Spirit (Gal 5:16), namely, keeping in step with the Spirit (5:25) in our practical lives as we studied in Galatians. And Spirit-led life goes together with the life of obedience to the word of God. The life of obedience is expressed this way in the Old Testament, in Numbers 9:17-23: “Whenever the cloud lifted from above the Tent, the Israelites set out; whenever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. At the LORD’s command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the LORD’s order and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the LORD’s command they would encamp, and then at his command they would set out. Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning, and when it lifted the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out. At the LORD’s command they encamped, and at the LORD’s command they set out.” God wants us to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit through the obedience to his words. We also need to pray constantly for the filling of the Holy Spirit, holding on to Jesus’ words of promise, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk 11:13).

In this passage we learn that God chose Saul and appointed him as king over Israel and equipped him with the Spirit of the LORD, beyond his human character and qualification, so that he might serve his people as a king. Thank God for making us his chosen people and kingly priests. May we all the more pursue to be filled with the Holy Spirit through the life of obedience to his word and prayer, so that our inner persons may be changed to be more like Jesus and we may have power to serve his people in our time, especially students on our campuses.

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