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SEEKING ASSES AND FINDING A KINGDOM
The drama in this chapter and the next disposes itself into five scenes: We have first the country lad seeking his father’s asses (1 Samuel 9:3-5 ). Like the cattle on our western plains they were allowed to roam at will during the grazing season and were brought home at its close.
Secondly, there is the meeting with the prophet (1 Samuel 9:6-21 ). That he should have been consulted on so trifling a matter, and that it should have been thought proper to offer him so insignificant a present as “the fourth part of a shekel of silver,” perhaps fifteen cents of our money, seems strange to us; but probably we appreciate Samuel’s greatness better than his contemporaries. Moreover eastern ideas are different from ours. It was probably the peace offering that was to be presented on this occasion, which under special circumstances seems to have been permitted at a distance from the sanctuary.
“Now the Lord had told Samuel in his ear a day before” (1 Samuel 9:15 ). How intimate this expression! In Psalms 103:0 it is written that God “made known His ways unto Moses, His acts unto the children of Israel,” and here He is honoring Samuel in the same way. His acts are what men see, His ways are the reason and foreknowledge of them, and to them that fear Him such secrets are still given (1 Corinthians 2:9-12 ).
Samuel’s words to Saul in 1 Samuel 9:20 are “a covered and indirect promise of the royal dignity that awaited him.”
Thirdly, the introduction to the people (1 Samuel 9:22-24 ). The things here recorded were intended to show honor to the young man, and in so far prepare the people to receive him as king. For example, his being received into the apartment assigned to the special guests, and given a high seat among them (1 Samuel 9:22 ); and his being offered the choicest portion of the feast (1 Samuel 9:24 ). The words “that which is left” should be rendered “that which is reserved.”
Fourthly, the communion on the housetop (1 Samuel 9:25-26 ). Oriental houses being low and flat-roofed, the roof offered the most desirable place for quiet conversation and rest in the cool of the day. Here the prophet instructed Saul in the way of the kingdom, pointing out to him, perhaps, the religious decline of the people, and the need of a leader obedient to God.
Fifthly, the anointing with oil (1 Samuel 9:27 to 1 Samuel 10:1 ), which was the ancient ceremony of investing with the royal office. This was followed by predictions of what
should be met by Saul on the way home, which, as they came to pass, by testifying to Samuel’s authority as a prophet, would confirm Saul’s reliance upon what he had declared concerning himself.
1. Have you looked up the location of Kirjath-jearim?
2. What does “Ashtaroth” stand for?
3. In what sense was Samuel a “circuit” judge, and what institution may have grown out of that fact?
4. How would you expound Psalms 103:7 ?
5. In what manner does Samuel distinguish Saul at this feast?
6. What was the significance of the anointing with oil?
7. How was Samuel’s authority certified to Saul?
SAUL CONFIRMED AS KING
THE PEASANT BECOMES A PRINCE
There was one verse in the last lesson (1 Samuel 10:6 ) we should think of more fully. When Samuel said the Spirit of the Lord would come upon Saul and he would be turned into another man, it is not necessary to suppose it meant his regeneration. There is a question as to whether Saul ever was regenerated, for his life-story would not lead us to believe he was.
The Spirit of the Lord coming on a man is one thing, and the Spirit of Lord coming into a man is another. He comes on a man for service, He comes in him for salvation. We saw Him coming on Balaam, enabling him to prophesy, although the event shows that Balaam was not in fellowship with God, and so it may have been with Saul, and so it may be with any man. Service should not be our first desire, but salvation.
Saul had been a farmer’s son, with no training for a monarch’s throne, but the Spirit of God “rushed” upon him, as the word means, and endowed him to act in a manner far superior to his previous character and habits. Instead
of the simplicity of a peasant he now displayed the wisdom and energy of a prince.
THE CHOICE OF THE LOT (1 Samuel 10:17-27 )
The event here illustrates of the relation of divine sovereignty to human free agency. It was God’s purpose that Saul should be king as indicated in His earlier selection of him and yet, as far as we can see, the people who were ignorant of this were perfectly free in casting their lot. So in the case of our salvation. “No man cometh to the Father but by me” (John 14:16 ), and yet, “whosoever will may take of the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17 ).
Note that the “Magna Charta” of the kingdom was laid up “before the Lord,” placed with the other sacred records for safekeeping and transmission. We mentioned earlier that this bears upon the history of Scripture.
That is a beautiful expression in 1 Samuel 10:26 , showing how God provided for the suite of the new sovereign and the dignity of the kingly state. These men feared God and honored the king (1 Peter 2:17 ). There were others, however (1 Samuel 10:27 ), but Saul in his treatment of them showed himself a king.
THE SELECTION CONFIRMED (1 Samuel 11:0 )
This chapter divides itself into two parts: Saul’s victory over the Ammonites (1 Samuel 11:1-11 ), and the effect upon the people in reference to himself (1 Samuel 11:12-15 ). It contains no difficulties, but it ought to be stated that the demand of the Ammonites (1 Samuel 11:1 ) was based upon a supposed right of original possession in Gilead (read Judges 11:0 ).
Notice that no appeal was sent to Saul personally for aid, indicating that the people generally had not accepted him as king. But God had chosen and equipped him, which was sufficient (1 Samuel 11:6-8 ).
Do not pass this by without observing God’s sovereignty in the deliverance of His own. The men of Jabesh-Gilead are not looking to Him but to the people to help them. And yet their only hope is in God. And when He helps them it is through the instrument they have ignored. Moreover, it is His Spirit that does the work. Where otherwise could Saul have obtained the boldness to act as he did? And even then, would the people have had confidence to follow Him had not the Lord put His fear upon them?
What a lesson for our churches and missionary boards! How the magnitude of their work oppresses them in these days; how feeble the results in comparison with the effort and the size of the need. Why not turn to the God of Israel instead of wearing ourselves out with our own planning?
Why not expect Him to carry on His work in His own way and His own time? The Spirit of God may fall upon any man He pleases, and His fear upon the people when He will, and then a revival comes and great is the accomplishment. Let us turn to Him in continual, humble and expectant prayer if we want to put the Ammonites to shame.
There is nothing so successful as success, and the enthusiasm of the people for Saul now is so strong, that with difficulty are they restrained from summary vengeance on those who would not follow him theretofore (1 Samuel 11:12-13 ). But Saul once more shows the strong reserve of a king, and is fully confirmed in the kingdom.
THE CHALLENGE OF THE OLD LEADER (1 Samuel 12:12 )
The people have no charge to lay against Samuel (1 Samuel 12:1-15 ), but he has one to lay against them, not for himself but for God. It was wrong and ungrateful for them to have desired a human king, yet they might be spared many of the unhappy consequences of that act if, even now, they would fear the Lord and serve Him (1 Samuel 12:13-15 ).
A sign of the authority by which he spake was needed. A thunderstorm in itself was not a miracle, but coming from a clear sky, in an unusual time of the year, and at the word of the prophet made it so (1 Samuel 12:16-19 ).
Notice the testimony to the divine faithfulness and consistency in 1 Samuel 12:22 . How ever-recurring it is in Holy Scripture! And notice the cause of it, it hath “pleased” Him to do so. No desert on the part of His people, but just His own gracious pleasure (compare Ephesians 1:4-6 ; Ephesians 1:11-12 ). This is humbling but assuring. If He pleases to save, He will save. And He pleases to save all who put their trust in His Son. It is the mark of the regenerated man that he submits to the Lord’s pleasure always. It brings him pleasure to do so.
But do not lose the lesson of what Samuel says in 1 Samuel 12:23 . He would consider it calamitous for him to neglect the office of intercessor. Could a parent think more of his child than he of this nation? What an example for pastors! What an example for every Christian (Ephesians 6:17-18 )!
1. How might one explain the reference to the Spirit of the Lord coming upon Saul in 1 Samuel 10:6 ?
2. Which should be our first desire, salvation or service, and why?
3. What theological problem is illustrated in the choice of the lot?
4. What circumstance bears on the history of the sacred text?
5. How is God’s sovereignty in salvation further illustrated in this question?
6. What made the thunderstorm in this case supernatural?
7. What lesson about prayer did we learn from Samuel?
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Gray, James. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 10". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany