1 Samuel 10:20-22

Sermon preached on November 23, 2008 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2008. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Gary Francis Powers was best known as the U-2 pilot that was shot down over Russia on May 1, 1960. He died on August 1, 1977 when his helicopter ran out of fuel and crashed in California. One story has it that his helicopter fuel gauge had been broken for some time and that it actually read much lower than it actually should have—that when it read empty one actually had a half hour of fuel left. The problem with something like that is that you adjust to it. If you knew that your car still had a quarter tank of fuel left when the gauge got to "Empty"—you'd adjust. You wouldn't mind it creeping down to "Empty" because you knew that you had lots of fuel left. Apparently Francis Gary Powers made that adjustment on his helicopter. But a mechanic fixed the fuel gauge and didn't tell Powers about the fix. So when Powers was called to cover a brush fire, he thought he had a lot more fuel than he did. But he ran out in midair and the helicopter crashed and he and a cameramen were killed.

If that story is true one of the things that is clear from it is that whoever didn't notify the Powers did him a great disservice. It cost Powers his life. They weren't good to him at all.

In our text we see something of how good God was to His ancient people. They had rejected God and asked for a king. What we are shown here is the absence and inadequacy of the king. Saul is chosen to be king. But where is he? He's hiding. For some reason Saul made himself absent. The scene must have been remarkable. It's the big moment. But they can't find their king. How sad and yet how telling. It reminds me of what the prophet Elijah would say to the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel when Baal didn't answer them. Elijah mocked them because at best, Baal was an absentee god. Elijah said, (1 Kings 18:27)

"Perhaps he is deep in thought,
or busy, or traveling.
Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened."

God gave them a king and the king is nowhere to be found. It was a portent of King Saul before Goliath. Israel needed an answer to Goliath and their king, Saul, was not that answer. He quivered before Goliath's challenge. Although he was there, he was no help to the Israelites. For forty days Goliath challenged Israel and Saul did nothing except be afraid and dismayed.

What a contrast to Yahweh. In Psalm 121 the psalmist said,

"I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over
your coming and going
both now and forevermore."

God was never unavailable to help His people. God was faithful. He was always there to quickly help His people. In Psalm 81:13-14 God said,

"If my people would but listen to me,
if Israel would follow my ways,
how quickly would I subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes!"

God was always present to speedily deliver His faithful people. As God said to the people through Samuel in verses 18 and 19,

"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.'"

Right at the beginning of the kingship of Israel the people were shown that this would not be the case with their earthly kings. What an inauspicious beginning. The people of Israel couldn't find their king. They looked for him but they couldn't find him!

Our text illustrates two great truths.

How much we need God's grace and how generous God is with His grace.

This is a doctrine that we should pay close attention to for it can be of great practical help to us. If you know that you need grace, if you know that the Christian life is all about grace, if you know that your standing and falling as a Christian is all about grace—then the one thing that you will do is to stand close to God and depend upon His strength. This doctrine has the potential to save you from great sin and hardship—so it is exceedingly valuable.

If you understand this doctrine you will not at all be puzzled by Paul's command that we are to, (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 ESV)

"pray without ceasing".

If you understand how much you need grace—that command will make perfect sense to you.

If you know how generous God is with His grace, this will help you to not be afraid or embarrassed about asking for grace when you need it. Rather, you will draw near to Him and His strength and be able to enjoy His protection.

So let's look at our text. As I've said, this passage shows

how much we need God's grace.

In verse 21 we read,

"Finally Saul son of Kish was chosen.
But when they looked for him, he was not to be found."

They looked everywhere they could think of but they couldn't find Saul.

This is significant. Dale Davis suggests that this shows, (1 Samuel, p. 109)

"how Israel is utterly dependent upon Yahweh, even to the point of finding their king once he has been chosen. Israel cannot manage apart from Yahweh even in the simplest matters."

The ancient people of God wanted to be somewhat independent of God. They wanted a king like the kings of the other nations. So God gave them a king. Samuel had already anointed Saul in a private ceremony. Saul knew that he was chosen to be king. When Samuel called the people together to reveal their king to them and the lot fell on Saul—they couldn't find him. They looked and looked, but finally had to come back and ask God where he was.

This is so telling. What an inauspicious beginning. What can God's people do without Him? Nothing at all! They can't even find the king that was chosen.

Do you know many times in the New Testament epistles do Paul, Peter and John open their letters to Christians with the words,

"Grace and peace to you…"?

Thirteen of the epistles begin with this greeting. Rom. 1:7, 1 Cor. 1:3, 2 Cor. 1:2, Gal. 1:3, Eph. 1:2, Phil. 1:2, Col. 1:2, 1 Th. 1:1, 2 Th. 1:2, Titus 1:4, 1 Pet. 1:2, 2 Pet. 1:2, Rev. 1:4) It's interesting that many of them (and some others, like Hebrews) end the same way. They begin with a prayer for grace and they end with a prayer for grace. For example, Romans 16:20 says,

"The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you."

1 Corinthians 16:23 says,

"The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you."

2 Corinthians 13:14 says,

"May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
be with you all."

I could go on and on in book after book of the New Testament. Now, aren't those things significant? Aren't the apostles trying to tell us something very important there? They begin and end praying for grace for the people. Christian living is all about grace. How much we need it. And we're not to think that we need just a little bit of it—we need a lot, a lot of grace, with many different workings, or manifestations.

Jesus is our life. He is our strength. As 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."

How weak we are in ourselves. Doesn't the story of Samson's hair teach us the same thing as we see in our text? Samson was a Nazirite, set apart to God and no razor was to be used on his head. But when he told Delilah his secret and she had his hair cut off, he could do nothing against the Philistines. Without God's strength being with him he became as weak as any other man.

How weak we are without grace. We see this as well in Mark 9 where the disciples couldn't cast a demon out of a boy. The demon used to throw the boy into the fire or the water to try to kill him. The boy's father brought him to the disciples but when they tried to cast the demon out they failed. Later they asked Jesus about it and He said to them, (Mark 9:29)

"This kind can come out only by prayer.'"

How weak we are without grace. You'll remember Peter, James and John and how in the Garden of Gethsemane they couldn't keep awake. When Jesus found them sleeping he said to them, (Matthew 26:40)

"Could you men not keep watch with me
for one hour?"

Then He said to them,

"Watch and pray so that you
will not fall into temptation.
The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."

We need to pray so that we will not fall into temptation. Leon Morris writes, (Pillar Commentary)

"prayer recognizes the limitations of the human frame and seeks divine assistance."

The body is weak. The Greek word that Matthew used there is 'sarx' which literally means 'flesh'. The flesh is weak. Morris continues,

"Jesus recognizes that the disciples wanted to do as he had asked, but that they were not strong enough. Their physical bodies let them down. It has well been remarked that just at the time when Jesus was showing the victory of spirit over flesh, the disciples were manifesting the victory of flesh over spirit. But Jesus' words will also have relevance to what his followers would face in the future. Because of the frailty of human nature there is the constant need for prayer. A willing spirit is not enough; it must be supplemented by prevailing prayer."

How much we need grace. The flesh is weak. We need to be in continual prayer.

This is further illustrated by the fact that

we need much grace when God is being very good to us.

I believe that we subconsciously think that if God is being very good to us, that we don't really need to pray very much for grace at that time because God is already being gracious to us.

But there are a number of New Testament incidents that show that

grace is multifaceted and that it's often not enough to receive only one kind of grace.

For example, in Luke 17 we have the story of the ten lepers that begged Jesus to have mercy on them. It's an amazing story. When they cried out for mercy, Jesus said to them,

"Go, show yourselves to the priests."

As they went they were cleansed. Only one of them turned back to Jesus. The rest of them kept going to the priests. It's interesting that they were doing what Jesus told them to do. Yet, when that one man, a Samaritan, went back to Jesus, Jesus asked,

"Were not all ten cleansed?
Where are the other nine?
Was no one found to return
and give praise to God except this foreigner?"

The other nine probably thought they were doing the right thing—because they were doing what Jesus told them to do. But the best thing to do was to go back to Jesus praising God and thanking Him. Nine of them got it wrong—got it very wrong. Jesus was amazed that all ten of them didn't come back to thank Him. He was amazed, that nine of them, probably all or most of them being Jews—who had the teachings and traditions of the Old Testament—didn't come back to thank Him. They got grace, but only one facet of it. Nine of them lacked the other grace that was given to the one.

It's so interesting how people can
have great grace in a certain area at one moment and yet appear not to have any the next moment in a different context. For example, in Matthew 16 Peter gave his great confession of Christ. When Jesus asked them who men said He was and then who they said He was, Peter answered,

"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

What a confession! What grace was given to Peter. Jesus said to him,

"Blessed are you,
Simon son of Jonah,
for this was not revealed to you by man,
but by my Father in heaven."

Yet, very shortly after this, Jesus began to tell His disciples that he had to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. But Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke him. He said,

"Never, Lord!
This shall never happen to you!"

Jesus had to rebuke him. He said to Peter,

"Get behind me, Satan!
You are a stumbling block to me;
you do not have in mind the things of God,
but the things of men."

How could he have so much grace in one area—knowing who Jesus was and loving Him so much—yet to be completely lacking grace in another area in that He was not at all receptive to Jesus calling and work? He had so much grace in one area, but at the same time he was completely lacking of grace in another, so much so that Satan was using him.

How much we need grace even when God is blessing us. Remember how on the Mount of Transfiguration Jesus took James, Peter and John with Him and they saw Him transfigured before them, with His clothes becoming,

"dazzling white, whiter than anyone
in the world could bleach them.
And there appeared before them
Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus."

How good God was being to them. Peter knew it and he acknowledged how good it was for them to be there. But then he made a great mistake. He said,

"Let us put up three shelters—one for you,
one for Moses and one for Elijah.
(He did not know what to say, they were so frightened."

Peter failed to acknowledge the superiority of Jesus. Peter couldn't even get it right when he was in the midst of being greatly blessed.

We see much the same thing in King Nebuchadnezzar. God had been so good to him in making him the ruler over the greatest kingdom in the world. One day he was walking on the roof of his palace and he said, (Daniel 4:29-30)

"Is not this the great Babylon
I have built as the royal residence,
by my mighty power and for
the glory of my majesty?"

He became proud. He suffered because of it. How much we need grace.

The second great truth we see from our text is that

God is generous with His grace.

When the people couldn't find Saul they asked the Lord where he was and God told them. We read (1 Samuel 10:22)

"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.'"

How good God was to them. The people sinned against God. They rejected God. Yet when they went back to God for help He helped them. This shows us that God is so generous with His grace.

Now there are great lessons for us here.

First for Christians,

this shows you that you should not be content with grace in one area of your life.

It's not much good to be strong in two or three areas of your life and be wide open to sin and temptation in other areas. It's not much good if you have many gifts and talents from God and yet at the same time be conceited and arrogant about yourself.

You Christians need to be well rounded. You need grace in so many areas of your life. Be asking God for much grace, for multifaceted grace.

Secondly, for those of you who are not Christians,

what you should understand is that you need saving grace more than anything else.

King Nebuchadnezzar thought he had everything, yet he was a fool for being so arrogant.

You have been given so much by God. His grace may be strong in you. You may be intelligent, you may be healthy, you may be talented, you may be well off—but what good is all that without the most important thing in the world? In Mark 8:36-37 Jesus asked,

"What good is it for a man
to gain the whole world,
yet forfeit his soul?"

Don't you be so foolish as to be content with anything else. You need salvation for your eternal soul. You need Jesus and the salvation that only He can provide. Ask Him, beg Him, implore Him to give you the grace of salvation.

Thirdly, this passage teaches us that

we should be filled with humility.

The people couldn't do anything without grace. They couldn't even find their king.

Everything you have is from grace, from God's goodness to you. In 1 Corinthians 4:7 the apostle Paul asked,

"For who makes you different
from anyone else?
What do you have that you did not receive?
And if you did receive it,
why do you boast as though you did not?"

How weak we are in ourselves. In Romans 8:26 the apostle Paul said,

"the Spirit helps us in our weakness.
We do not know what we ought to pray for,
but the Spirit himself intercedes for us
with groans that words cannot express."

What grace we need. We don't even know what we ought to pray for.

Summing up his life Paul wrote, (1 Corinthians 15:10)

"But by the grace of God
I am what I am, and his grace to me
was not without effect.
No, I worked harder than all of them
—yet not I,
but the grace of God that was with me."

We are all like that. Therefore no one should boast, but we all should be filled with humility. In 1 Corinthians 1:31 Paul wrote,

"Therefore, as it is written:
Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."

Where would we be without grace? We'd be lost. Remember that later Jesus said to Peter, (Luke 22:31-32)

"Simon, Simon,
Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.
But I have prayed for you, Simon,
that your faith may not fail."

We are saved and kept by Jesus the Good Shepherd. It's all of grace.

Fourthly, this shows all of us

how we need to walk with dependence upon God.

You can't do anything without Him. You need God to be with you to give you grace every step of your way in everything you do. His strength can be made perfect in our weakness.

John Stott writes about that prince of preachers, Charles Spurgeon and his high pulpit, (Between Two Worlds, p. 334)

"Fifteen steps led up to it on each side, in a great sweeping curve, and I have heard it said (but have been unable to confirm) that as Spurgeon mounted those stairs, with the measured tread of a heavily built man, he muttered to himself on each one, 'I believe in the Holy Ghost.'"

You need to walk that way. May God gives us grace to do so.