1 Samuel 9

Sermon preached on November 9, 2008 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2008. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

For a time earlier this week I thought that, at least in one respect, King Saul was better than my daughter Patricia. Patricia is in Europe on a ten day trip. She's traveling alone and of course that's a little disconcerting to Marg and me. We'd be much happier if she was traveling with a group. But she wanted to go alone. But we told her that we wanted her to keep in touch a lot and she found out that text messaging wasn't too expensive so she said that she would text every day. Last Sunday we I suggested that she text us every morning and she agreed to that. Patricia is very organized and reliable and on Monday when I got up there was a text from her. I was very happy to receive it. Then late Monday afternoon we got another text from her that she was traveling all night from Munich to Berlin. She wrote it from the train in Munich and with the six hour time difference she had written that just before midnight. But when I got up on Tuesday morning there was no text from her. So I texted her and asked her what she was up to. But there was no reply. I waited a few hours and when I still hadn't heard from her I texted her again and asked her why we hadn't heard from her. By late Tuesday afternoon I decided to phone her—but there was no answer. I tried to phone again a couple of hours later, but still no answer. By Tuesday evening I was getting really concerned. We thought that maybe she had lost her phone, or it was out of battery and she couldn't get it charged. But that didn't really help because Natalia had been in Berlin last year and said that all the hostels had free Internet and computers, so we knew that she could have sent us an email from there. We just didn't understand why we weren't hearing from her. Perhaps she had an accident. And of course Tuesday was the day in which there was a big bus accident in Germany and over 20 people were killed. Knowing that didn't help. I was wondering if the train broke down and they put everyone on busses.

All in all it was a very stressful day. It wasn't until 4 the next morning that I woke up and checked my phone and there was a text from Patricia. She was having a great time, really enjoying Berlin and seeing a million sites. She explained that after she arrived in Berlin she locked her phone in the locker at her hostel and went sight-seeing without it. Why would anyone do that? Later I found out that she did send me a text when she arrived at her hostel but that text got lost somewhere. I still haven't received it.

So for a time I was thinking that King Saul was better than Patricia in at least one way—for when Saul was away, he knew that after a time his father would start worrying about him—and he was keen not to have his father worry—so he wanted to hurry back home so his father would know he was safe.

This chapter of 1 Samuel is our introduction to Saul. As we will see, he's a wonderful young man who possessed many admirable qualities. It's remarkable that we're introduced to such a man right after the sin of the people in asking for a king like they did. This passage has much to teach us about what God is like and how we should serve Him.

So let's get right to it.

The main thing I want you to see here is that what we essentially see in this passage is

God being merciful to the people of Israel in spite of their sin.

The people sinned in asking for a king like they did. They wanted a king like the other nations—to go out before them and fight their battles.

Now the request for a king wasn't wrong in itself. Indeed, the people had a good reason to ask God for a king because in chapter 8 we see that Samuel's sons were dishonest, accepted bribes and perverted justice. The people reacted against that and asked for a king in connection with what Moses had told them. In Deuteronomy 17:14-17 Moses said,

"When you enter the land
the LORD your God is giving you
and have taken possession of it
and settled in it, and you say,
'Let us set a king over us
like all the nations around us,'
be sure to appoint over you
the king the LORD your God chooses.
He must be from among your own brothers.
Do not place a foreigner over you,
one who is not a brother Israelite.
The king, moreover,
must not acquire great numbers of horses
for himself or make the people
return to Egypt to get more of them,
for the LORD has told you,
'You are not to go back that way again.'
He must not take many wives,
or his heart will be led astray.
He must not accumulate large amounts
of silver and gold."

David M. Howard, Jr. writes, [WTJ 52:1 (Spring 1990) p. 101-115, The Case for Kingship in Deuteronomy and the Former Prophets]

"God's plan throughout Israel's history included the monarchy as a means of accomplishing his purposes for humanity…"

So the sin was not in asking for a king, but what was sinful was that they rejected God and His rule. In chapter 8 God said to Samuel, (verse 7)

"it is not you they have rejected,
but they have rejected me as their king."

The people were in essence rejecting God and His rule. They wanted a king like the other nations. The kings of the other nations acted independently of God. They didn't consult Him but acted according to their own wishes—relying on their own strength. That's what the people of Israel wanted. In 8:20 the people said,

"Then we will be like all the other nations,
with a king to lead us
and to go out before us
and fight our battles."

That's not what God intended for them when He told Moses that He would provide a king for them. Even when they had a king they were to trust in the Lord.

The fact that the people should trust in the Lord and not put their confidence in earthly things—like kings, horses, the greatness of their army—is a theme that we see over and over again in the Old Testament.

For example, you'll remember when the people left Egypt and they looked up and saw that Pharaoh and the Egyptians were coming after them. They complained to Moses and said, (Exodus 14:11-12)

"Was it because
there were no graves in Egypt
that you brought us to the desert to die?
What have you done to us
by bringing us out of Egypt?
Didn't we say to you in Egypt,
'Leave us alone;
let us serve the Egyptians'?
It would have been better for us
to serve the Egyptians
than to die in the desert!"

But Moses said to the people.

"Do not be afraid.
Stand firm and you will see
the deliverance the LORD
will bring you today.
The Egyptians you see today
you will never see again.
The LORD will fight for you;
you need only to be still."

Then the Lord worked a great miracle by having a pillar of cloud come between them and the Egyptians and opening up the Red Sea for the Israelites to cross over safely. The Lord had promised to fight the people's battles. He told them that He would take care of them. That didn't mean that they would never have to do any fighting—but it did mean that even while they fought their battles they were to know that God was the One who gave deliverance and that they were always to trust in Him for it. They were to trust in God for deliverance and not in men. David knew that. As he stood before Goliath he said, (1 Samuel 17:45-47)

"You come against me
with sword and spear and javelin,
but I come against you
in the name of the LORD Almighty,
the God of the armies of Israel,
whom you have defied.
This day the LORD will hand you over to me,
and I'll strike you down and cut off your head.
Today I will give the carcasses
of the Philistine army
to the birds of the air
and the beasts of the earth,
and the whole world will know
that there is a God in Israel.
All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves;
for the battle is the LORD'S,
and he will give all of you into our hands."

King Hezekiah also knew this truth and we see it in his words in 2 Chronicles 32:7-8 when Israel was threatened by the mighty Assyrian army. He encouraged his men by saying,

"Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid or discouraged
because of the king of Assyria
and the vast army with him,
for there is a greater power
with us than with him.
With him is only the arm of flesh,
but with us is the LORD our God
to help us and to fight our battles."

Hezekiah trusted in the Lord and the Lord delivered them from the Assyrian army.

But the people of Israel in Samuel's time didn't want to depend on God. They rejected Him and His rule. They wanted a king instead.

But the great point to see here is that

in very real ways God showed them mercy in spite of their sin.

This section is mercy and God's goodness to the people. This is clear from verses 15-17. We read,

"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.'
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.'"

Even though the people sinned by not trusting in God, God was still going to deliver them from the Philistines. The people were forsaking God, but God wasn't forsaking the people.

Now don't misunderstand me. There was going to be much suffering because of their sin—but God was faithful to His covenant even though the people weren't. God showed them mercy in spite of their sin.

There are two parts to this.

The first one is that in giving Israel a king,

God chose the best that Israel had to offer.

The man that became the first king of Israel came from a good family and had many excellent qualities.

Let's consider some of the things that our text tells us about this.

The first thing we see about Saul was that he came from 'good stock'. Saul's father was Kish, and verse 1 tells us that he was a Benjamite, 'a man of standing' or 'a man of substance'. This title originally had a military sense and is used in Judges to refer to Gideon and Jephthah and others. There it referred to 'a mighty warrior'. David Tsumura writes, (The First Book of Samuel, p. 263)

"But its meaning had broadened and had come to refer to men of high social standing with economic power, that is, to aristocrats or wealthy citizens."

In other words, Saul came from a prominent, and by implication, a good family. He was, in effect, a member of the nobility. (Tsumura)

The second thing we are told about Saul is that he was an impressive young man, without equal among the Israelites—a head taller than any of the others. He was a handsome and striking young man.

The third good quality about Saul is that he was respectful and obedient to his father. Or as Eugene Peterson says, Saul is described as a man, (1 & 2 Samuel, p. 60)

"who knows how to be obedient to authority."

Even though Saul was an adult at this time, when his father's donkey's were lost and his father asked him to go look for them—Saul did it without question.

The fourth good quality that we see about King Saul was that he was considerate about his father. When they didn't find the donkey's after searching for them Saul said to his servant, (verse 5)

"Come, let's go back,
or my father will stop thinking
about the donkeys
and start worrying about us."

The fifth good quality that we are told about Saul was that he was respectful toward Samuel, who was a stranger to him. When the servant suggested that they go to see the seer and ask him about the donkeys, Saul didn't want to go without a gift for the seer.

Sixthly, we see that when Samuel honored Saul, Saul was modest and humble about it. We see the same thing in the next chapter when he was chosen to be king. He was hiding among the baggage. He was very unassuming.

Now the point of all this is that

God chose the best from Israel.

When God was choosing a king for Israel He chose the best that Israel had to offer. God was not being mean to His people here. They asked for a king and God gave them the best they had to offer. He was giving them the best to lead them against the Philistines to deliver them from their oppression. He was blessing them with the best that Israel had to offer.

Now the great lesson for us from this is that this shows us that

your best in not enough.

Like Saul, you're here to serve God. He has a job for you to do. Perhaps you're very gifted. Perhaps like Saul you have many remarkable qualities.

But Saul's life shows us that own strength is not enough. Saul failed in his mission. He died at the hands of the Philistines. He shows us that our strength and natural abilities are not enough. Unless we have God at our side we are nothing.

We need Jesus and His power. Without Him we can do nothing but fail. You'll remember what Jesus said in John 15:5.

"I am the vine;
you are the branches.
If a man remains in me and I in him,
he will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing."

But with Him we can do great things. As the apostle Paul said it Philippians 4:13

"I can do everything
through him who gives me strength."

How much we need God's power in our lives. He is our strength.

If you're not a Christian this passage teaches you that

there's only success in life in Jesus.

God chose the best that Israel had to offer. Saul was the best. But he perished. He had everything—except a heart that loved the Lord. He had everything except a 100% commitment to the Lord.

What a tragic ending he had. He had such great gifts. He started so well—but he finished so horribly. Don't let that happen to you. Go to Jesus and find the success to life in Him.

The third lesson we see from this is that you need to

be careful what you set your heart on because you may just get it.

Be careful what you ask God for because you may just get it.

The people rejected God's rule over them and they wanted a king who would be like the kings of the neighboring lands—and that's what they got.

The second thing we see in terms of God showing mercy to Israel is the fact that

God's providence led Saul to Samuel.

God used the seemingly ordinary things to bring Saul to Samuel to be anointed king.

Consider the steps that led Saul to Samuel. First of all, we read that the donkeys belonging to Saul's father were last. They wandered off. Was this an accident? Was this mere chance? As incredible as it may seem what we see here is that God's providence encompasses the wanderings of donkeys.

Secondly, we see God's providence in the pattern of their search. They went through Ephraim and then Shalisha. Then they went through the area of Shaalim. They only thing they had in mind was trying to find the donkeys. Then, just when Saul was going to call off the search—they happened to be near Samuel's village. It was no co-incidence. So the servant suggested to Saul that they ask the man of God. But Saul hesitated because they had no gift to give him. But the servant literally says,

"There is found in my hand a quarter of a shekel."

It's like he just came across it and was surprised that it was there. The money turned up almost miraculously. It's like nothing can stop them from going to meet Samuel.

The fact that all these things are controlled by God's providence is confirmed by verses 15-17. We read,

"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.'
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.'"

So the whole thing was orchestrated by God. The donkeys wandering off and them come to Samuel—it was part of God's plan. It was part of God's plan of grace to Israel. Saul was appointed by God to deliver the people of Israel from the Philistines.

Now the lesson we should learn from this is that

we should be confident that God's providence encompasses us.

Gods' providence is active in our lives. God led Saul to Samuel. It was part of God's faithfulness to Israel.

What you should understand from this is that God takes care of you in the same way.

There are some Christians who believe that God's providence only encompasses some of the major figures in the Bible—people like Abraham, Joseph, Saul and David.

But the Bible teaches that His providence reaches to all of us. In
Proverbs 16:9 we read,

"In his heart a man plans his course,
but the LORD determines his steps."

And in Proverbs 20:24 we read,

"A man's steps are directed by the LORD.
How then can anyone
understand his own way?"

Acts 17 tells us about the apostle Paul's words to the wise men of Athens. Paul said about the true God, (verses 25-28)

"And he is not served by human hands,
as if he needed anything,
because he himself gives all men
life and breath and everything else.
From one man
he made every nation of men,
that they should inhabit the whole earth;
and he determined the times set for them
and the exact places where they should live.
God did this so that men would seek him
and perhaps reach out for him
and find him,
though he is not far from each one of us.
'For in him we live and move
and have our being.'"

Do you understand what Paul said about God's providence over your life. He gives you every breath you take. He has determined the time of your life. He has determined the place where you live—it was part of God's providence that brought you there. You live your life in God's hand.

So Christian, take comfort from this. God is with you. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He is leading you. Trust Him. Walk with Him. Take comfort that the things that happen to you are part of His plan for your life. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:28,

"And we know that in all things
God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called
according to his purpose."

The things that happen to you are not accidents. God is in control of your life. He is taking care of you. He is training you, preparing you, fitting you for glory.

Isn't it wonderful that

God is merciful to sinful people?

Now I don't want anyone to misunderstand what I'm about to say. I'm not recommending sin. I'm not trying to minimize sin. You should fight against sin with everything in you. But what we should see from this passage is that, (Dale Davis, 1 Samuel, p. 97)

"These foolish, stubborn people do not cease to be objects of Yahweh's compassions." "your sin does not dry up the fountain of his compassions, that his pity refuses to let go of his people."

If you've sinned and disappointed God—that doesn't mean that there's no hope for you. As we read in Psalm 103:11-13,

"For as high as the heavens
are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed
our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion
on those who fear him;"

Go to God in repentance. He will forgive and restore you.

The last thing I want you Christians to see from our text is that

Saul's father's worry about him points us to Jesus and his parent's concern about Him.

You'll remember the story. When Jesus was 12 His family went to the Passover Festival as they did every year. When they started out on their journey home they assumed that Jesus was with the traveling party, with some relatives. After a day's journey they looked for Him and didn't find Him. So they returned to Jerusalem to look for Him. After three days they found Him in the temple complex sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. All those who heard Him were astounded at His understanding and His answers. When His parents saw Him, they were astonished, and His mother said to Him,

"Son, why have You treated us like this?
Your father and I
have been anxiously searching for You."

Jesus said to them,

"Why were you searching for Me?
Didn't you know that I had to be
in my Father's house?"

But they did not understand what He said to them.

They were concerned about Jesus and in a way rightly so. Herod had already tried to kill Him.

Jesus was doing His Father's work. He was seeking the lost sheep of Israel. He came to suffer and die in the place of sinners. But in a very real sense when the Father sent the Son He was lost—until He defeated death for us. Christian, understand how much the Father loves you. He gave Jesus for you. John 3:16,

"For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life."

Rejoice it Jesus.