Last week we saw an amazing display of God’s knowledge and ability when he providentially orchestrated the events surrounding the anointing of Saul. It’s really quite incredible. Today we pick up the story and see how it ends. And it’s ending will give us insight into Saul and much of what is ahead in these stories about Saul in 1 Samuel.
By way of review we read again in v. 1 about –
1aThen Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head and kissed him and said, “Has not the Lord anointed you to be prince over his people Israel? And you shall reign over the people of the Lord and you will save them from the hand of their surrounding enemies.
Right after this Samuel predicts three signs that are meant to fully convince Saul that he is to be king.
1bAnd this shall be the sign to you that the Lord has anointed you to be prince over his heritage.
Remember, he wasn’t looking to be king, he was looking for donkeys. And you can understand some measure of reluctance. And so God is merciful to him to make it as clear as clear can be.
Sign one: 2When you depart from me today, you will meet two men by Rachel’s tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah, and they will say to you, ‘The donkeys that you went to seek are found, and now your father has ceased to care about the donkeys and is anxious about you, saying, “What shall I do about my son?”’
He came to Samuel concerned about donkeys. And he leaves with witnesses attesting that they have been found, confirming Samuel’s word to him.
Sign two: 3Then you shall go on from there farther and come to the oak of Tabor. Three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you there, one carrying three young goats, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a skin of wine. 4And they will greet you and give you two loaves of bread, which you shall accept from their hand.
The items they have are for sacrifice at Bethel. They give Saul two loaves of bread. He came to Samuel without bread and he leaves with bread.
Sign three: 5After that you shall come to Gibeath-elohim, where there is a garrison of the Philistines. And there, as soon as you come to the city, you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them, prophesying. 6Then the Spirit of the Lord will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.
He came to Samuel looking for a prophecy about his donkeys but on his way home he prophesies.
The mention of the Philistine garrison is key. The Philistines were once again ascendant and had a group of soldiers stationed in or near this city, which is Saul’s hometown (It is called Gibeah in v. 10 below. See 10:11 – they knew him. Also see 11:26)
Samuel promises that when the reality of the anointing comes; that is, when the Spirit comes upon him, he will “be turned into another man.” This means that the Spirit will empower him to fulfill his calling of king and deliverer.
Then Samuel shares what Saul is to do after the signs.
7Now when these signs meet you, do what your hand finds to do, for God is with you. 8Then go down before me to Gilgal. And behold, I am coming down to you to offer burnt offerings and to sacrifice peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, until I come to you and show you what you shall do.”
The phrase, “do what your hand finds to do, for God is with you” implies that Saul is to do something. What he is to do, is to attack the previously mentioned Philistine garrison. And after he provokes them, he is to gather the Israelite army and go to Gilgal. And he is to wait seven days for Samuel to come to give further instructions. (These instructions are referred to again in chapter 13. Even though there it is Jonathan, Saul’s son who attacks a Philistine garrison and so provokes them, both Saul and Samuel know that now these instructions come into play. And Saul does not keep these instructions and is judged.) (I am indebted to V. Philips Long in his book, The Reign and Rejection of King Saul for this interpretation.)
This is how his anointing is to be made public.
Well, sure enough everything comes true.
9When he turned his back to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart. And all these signs came to pass that day.
Everything happened just as predicted. (The statement “God gave him another heart” is probably summative of the events of the whole day, or the change began then and continued on through to his Spirit experience – see 10:6)
And then the third sign’s fulfillment is narrated.
10When they came to Gibeah, behold, a group of prophets met him, and the Spirit of God rushed upon him, and he prophesied among them. 11And when all who knew him previously saw how he prophesied with the prophets, the people said to one another, “What has come over the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” 12And a man of the place answered, “And who is their father?” Therefore it became a proverb, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”
As predicted “the Spirit of God rushed upon him” and he prophesied. This prophesy was an outward sign of his possession of the Spirit, even though it was temporary. (This is similar to what happened in Numbers 11:25ff, when the Spirit came upon the elders of Israel and they temporarily prophesied as a sign of their being chosen.)
Those who knew Saul from before are witnesses that the Spirit is upon Saul and they are surprised. They say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” He was not known to be a prophet, nor perhaps anyone in Kish’s family. But then someone suggests, “And who is their father?” referring to the other prophets, making the point that prophecy isn’t hereditary. The basic point of the question, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” seems to be that someone unexpected has the Spirit working through them. (This is repeated in 19:20 when Saul was hostile to the prophets and so again his prophesying here is very unexpected. This phrase appears with Saul’s first and last encounter with the Spirit.)
Here again, with these three signs, we see God’s providential oversight.
- Samuel predicted he would meet two men who would say such and such, and it happened.
- Samuel predicted that he would meet three men who would give him two loaves of bread, and it happened.
- Samuel predicted that he would meet a band of prophets and he would prophesy, and it happened.
I just have to say, wow! Isn’t God amazing?
But then we come back to our story and Saul’s missed opportunity.
13When he had finished prophesying, he came to the high place. 14Saul’s uncle said to him and to his servant, “Where did you go?” And he said, “To seek the donkeys. And when we saw they were not to be found, we went to Samuel.” 15And Saul’s uncle said, “Please tell me what Samuel said to you.” 16And Saul said to his uncle, “He told us plainly that the donkeys had been found.” But about the matter of the kingdom, of which Samuel had spoken, he did not tell him anything.
He didn’t attack the Philistine garrison. He was told to “do what your hand finds to do.” But he does nothing. So there’s a disconnect. And since this was how he was to make public his role as king, and he didn’t do it, he hid his anointing and what Samuel said about kingship from his uncle. And so the story just kind of fizzles out.
I want us to focus on this, because we can learn from it. Here we begin to see –
Saul’s core weakness
As we will clear soon enough, Saul ends up being a failure as a king – rejected by God and a scourge to God’s people. And it all stems from his inability or unwillingness to deal with his core weakness, which is fear.
He was afraid to act even though he was given very clear confirmations that he was to be king and the job description of a king included delivering Israel from the Philistines. And he was next the the outpost in own hometown after the Spirit came on him, and he did nothing.
And this will become a characteristic throughout his story – fear that leads to not carrying out God’s will.
- fear of the Philistines (here and in chapter 13)
- fear of even being king (the rest of chapter 10)
- and fear of his own people (chapter 15)
As the story goes on from here – the question for the first time reader is, “Which way will Saul go? Will he overcome? Or will he be overcome?” Well, we already know, but we will find out what his failure looks like in great detail in chapters 13-15 and beyond.
But let’s not just focus on Saul.
What is your core weakness?
We each an area (at least one) that can keep us from being all that God wants us to be; where we struggle to be faithful; that can keep us from fulfilling God’s purposes. We all struggle with whether we will overcome it and be fully faithful to God or whether it will get the best of us, so that we don’t do God’s will.
Do you know what your weakness is? Are you attending to it to make sure that it isn’t keeping you from doing God’s will? Are you praying to be strong, seeking God’s help and the help of others? Are you asking to be filled with the Spirit to overcome your weaknesses? Saul received the Spirit but failed to do his part. When the Spirit comes to help you, do you do your part to step out in faith to act? (Dave Weaver)
What is the story of your life? Of victory or defeat? Will you be a Saul who fails or a David who succeeds despite failure along the way?
Well, your story isn’t over yet, and so I encourage you this morning to press on and to be an overcomer.