*It is a beautiful day here in Madison. I am running a little late with my post. I am looking forward to our time looking into the monarchy of Israel. Yesterday, we heard the people of Israel say: "We want a king!" Today, they get one.
"There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish...He had a son named Saul, an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites-a head taller than any of the others. 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 look for the donkeys.'" (I Samuel 9:1-3)
The story continues with Saul and the servant looking everywhere for the donkeys, but not finding them. The servant eventually suggests that they go to a seer and ask for help. In trying to locate the seer they encounter Samuel who has been advised: "About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him leader over my people Israel...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." (I Samuel 9:16a,17) I can just hear Saul; "Um, I just want to find my donkeys. Then I want to go home." Keep in mind as the story unfolds, Saul had no intentions of being a king. He has been chosen by God. And, always remember, it was the people who wanted a king. God is giving them what they want. And, if you are going to give someone what they want you are going to go all out, correct? Correct! Well, God does just that. In fact, we are told that Saul has no equal. One might suggest that he was "tall, dark, and handsome." He was appealing to the eyes. *This will really stand out later. Saul (King Saul) is not the only Saul that we discover in the Bible. Just wait until we get to the New Testament. Guess what the name Saul means? In Hebrew Saul is Sha-ul, which means "desired one." O.k., so God gives the people their desire. This young man has it all going for him.
I won't go into every detail regarding Saul's reign. I would encourage you to read through his story. The story of Saul is a tragic tail. If you recall the theme of Hannah's Song you will remember that it implies that some will rise while others fall. One has to expect that if the people get what they want then what they want is probably not what's best for them. But, they seem to have to learn the hard way. In the beginning Saul has the acclaim of the people. He is on top of the world. I guess we can say that he was in the "honeymoon period." The honeymoon period is always fun. In the beginning Saul has the support of Samuel. However, this support is short lived. What happened to Saul? Well, Saul was given power. Yes, power. That is such a powerful word. (sorry) Keep in mind, when Saul is chosen he is completely innocent and appears to be humble. Saul even asks: "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..?" (I Samuel 9:21) I have to wonder, did God know how Saul would end up? Or, was this an experiment regarding the use of power. What happens when you take a young lad from an insignificant place and clan and make him ruler of a nation?
Now, I have for a long time felt sorry for Saul. I have considered the idea that God chose Saul and by doing so knew he would fail. In other words I dealt with God setting Saul up to fail. However, I no longer believe that was what happened. When any of us are given power of any type we are given the opportunity to do good. We are given the opportunity to make a difference. The kingship does not begin and end with Saul. There is really no evidence that God gave Israel a king in order to teach the people a lesson. Then, once they learned their lesson, no more kings. No, kings will rule Israel for years to come. And, a few of them will be good. And, the kings are considered "good or bad" based on what they do "in the eyes of God." So, the king is really an instrument of God. Or, that's what the king is supposed to be. But, with power their is always the temptation to exploit it.
In chapters 13-15 things begin to turn in the wrong direction for King Saul. Saul, though not a priest, performs a sacrifice. It is never a good thing to be asked: 'What have you done?" But that is what Samuel asked Saul. (I Sam. 13:11) Saul's skills at leading a battle also come into question. In one battle he makes the foolish decision to decree that his soldiers fast. Then, when he had the chance, and order, to annihilate Israel's oldest enemy, the Amalekites, he did not. And, he took the spoils of war for himself.
"You acted foolishly," Samuel said...But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord's command." (I Sam. 13:13a,14)
Here we see that the Lord would have allowed Saul's kingdom to flourish had Saul obeyed the Lord's commands. Samuel is furious with Saul and he condemns Saul and tells him that Yahweh has now rejected him. God has appointed someone else. Now, this someone else does not appear for a little while. Saul is still king. He will be king for a while longer. In fact, we are told that Saul rules over Israel for forty-two years. (Sam. 13:1)
What we will discover in the next few days, starting tomorrow, is a very sad story. One of the saddest in the Bible. It will also be a case study as we follow the lives of two men going in opposite directions. It is a story that will cause us to look at an interesting question, or two. For instance: "Why did God completely abandon Saul? Especially, after Saul repents?" This will get good, and then it will get even better. Please join me. -Pastor Rick