Last week we finished up the story of Saul’s anointing to be king. We learned that God’s choice of Saul was made evident through a number of providential acts of God surrounding this event. And we learned that this calling was confirmed to Saul himself through three signs that Samuel predicted that all came true.
And even though at the end of the story, Saul hesitated to act after the Spirit came on him, to provoke the Philistines and then gather Israel’s army to deliver Israel, God has not set aside his plan for him.
Coming to our passage for today, since Saul’s anointing was still a private act known only to Samuel and Saul, something more needs to be done. So in this story –
Saul is chosen by lot
– as a public recognition that he is God’s choice for king.
17Now Samuel called the people together to the Lord at Mizpah.
Back in chapter 8, when Israel demanded a king, Samuel had dismissed everyone at Ramah so that a king could be selected. Here he is calling them back together at Mizpah to reveal God’s choice.
18And he said to the people of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all the kingdoms that were oppressing you.’ 19But today you have rejected your God, who saves you from all your calamities and your distresses, and you have said to him, ‘Set a king over us.’ Now therefore present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and by your thousands.”
This confirms again why God is unhappy with their demand for a king. They thought God couldn’t take care of them and so they wanted a human king with a standing army. Human kingship isn’t wrong in itself, but their lack of trust in God is evil and a sin (12:19-20). It was a rejection of God as their king.
So God reiterates that he has been more than sufficient to care for them, delivering them from Egypt and from all their enemies; “from all their calamities and distresses.”
20Then Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. 21He brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its clans, and the clan of the Matrites was taken by lot; and Saul the son of Kish was taken by lot.
Casting lots to discern God’s will was not uncommon in Israel. (Leviticus 16:8-10, Joshua 7:10-26, 18:6, 19:51; 1 Samuel 14:41-42, 1 Chronicles 24-26, Nehemiah 10:34, Psalm 22:18, Jonah 1:7, Nahum 3:10 See also Proverbs 16:33 and Acts 1:21-26) They were probably stones or pieces of wood with marks on them that were thrown like dice. And depending on which marks came up, they would select one option between two choices.
It began with the 12 tribes, then down to the clans of that tribe, then to families and then to any sons in that family. And Saul was chosen.
Now, what do you think the odds are that among all the possible choices the lot would fall to Saul? We are talking about thousands and thousands of people. But God was in this. Saul was already chosen, and God used the lot to affirm this choice before all the people. God orchestrated all of this.
But when they sought him, he could not be found. 22So they inquired again of the Lord, “Is there a man still to come?” and the Lord said, “Behold, he has hidden himself among the baggage.” 23Then they ran and took him from there.
Saul is afraid of being king. Of course, he already knew he was the one and thus knew the result that was coming. And he hides. And so they ask, “It’s supposed to be Saul, but he’s not here – is there another?” This then requires a word from the Lord to tell them where to find Saul.
This is another indicator of Saul’s core weakness, fear, which we talked about last week. Instead of stepping forward in faith to fulfill God’s purpose for him, he hides and hopes they will find someone else.
And when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. 24And Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen? There is none like him among all the people.” And all the people shouted, “Long live the king!”
Height was seen as a positive attribute for leaders in the ancient world, so Saul’s height acts to confirm his being chosen as king.
Samuel strongly affirms Saul as God’s chosen. The phrase “there is none like him among all the people” isn’t just a reference to his height. God really has chosen the best person for the job. And then Saul is acclaimed king.
25Then Samuel told the people the rights and duties of the kingship, and he wrote them in a book and laid it up before the Lord.
It’s not clear what was in this book. It seems to define the rights of a king, which were talked about in chapter 8. But here these rights are balanced by the “duties of the king” for the people, which would include providing good order and delivering them from their enemies. (Perhaps we should see the phrase in 8:20 – “to judge us and go out before us and fight our battles” – as a summary of these duties.)
Then Samuel sent all the people away, each one to his home. 26Saul also went to his home at Gibeah, and with him went men of valor whose hearts God had touched.
It’s interesting that Samuel is still in charge, he dismisses the people. As we will see, before Saul is fully established as king, he will need to pass a test to show that he is able. And that is what happens in the next story in Chapter 11.
Everyone went home, including Saul, but he goes with “men of valor” who become the nucleus of a standing army for Israel.
A story about hiding . . .
I think we should all be able to relate to Saul.
We all have fears that can keep us from doing God’s will
What has God called you to do, but your fear has stopped you from obeying?
God loves to challenge us; to stretch us and help us to grow in terms of our character and our capacity to serve him. He often calls us out of our comfort zones, and to do things that are beyond what we would ever imagine we could do. Now, we can be like Saul and hide out of fear. Or we can step out in faith to do what God wants us to do.
And so I ask, What are you hiding from?
- talking to a neighbor about Jesus?
- standing up for your faith?
- doing the right thing when no one else is?
- beginning a new ministry role?
Hiding doesn’t work. God knows about it and has ways of calling you out. What we all need to do is let go of our fears and step out in faith to do what God wants us to do. It may seem impossible, but God doesn’t ask us to do things we can’t do; we can do whatever he wants with his help and strength. With the calling comes the anointing, just as in the case of Saul. And so we should act.
Let me end with a word of grace. Just as with Saul, if you have failed to act in faith to do God’s will or you are currently hiding from doing God’s will, this doesn’t mean that God is done with you yet. God is merciful and every day is a new day to make things right by stepping out in faith to do God’s will. And I encourage you to do just this.