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Bible Commentaries

Simeon's Horae Homileticae

1 Samuel 10

Verse 12

DISCOURSE: 292
CONVERSION A GROUND OF JOY

1 Samuel 10:12. Therefore it became a proverb, Is Saul also among the prophets?

PROVERBS are short and weighty sentences, comprising in few words some great and important truth. Of this kind was that which David addressed to Saul: “Mine hand shall not be upon thee: as saith the proverb of the ancients, Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked [Note: 1 Samuel 24:12-13.].” Of this kind were all the Proverbs of Solomon. But sometimes they are brief sayings referring to some particular event, which they serve at once both to commemorate and improve. The most remarkable of any in the Bible, is that which was used to commemorate God’s interposition in behalf of Isaac, to preserve him from being offered up in sacrifice by his father’s hand, and at the same time to shew what interpositions all God’s faithful and obedient people may expect in the very moment of their greatest necessity: “In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen;” or, as it should rather be translated, “In the mount (the mount of difficulty) the Lord shall be seen [Note: Genesis 22:14.].” The proverb in our text is of a less serious kind: yet it is very instructive, as shewing, that God will impart his blessings to whomsoever he will, and not unfrequently to those who we should, humanly speaking, say, were least likely to receive them.

Upon the people of Israel desiring to have a king over them, God appointed Saul to be their king. But, when Samuel announced to Saul the purpose of God respecting him, Saul could not believe it. Samuel, however, gave him signs, whereby he should infallibly know the truth of what had been declared. The first was, that he should find two men by Rachel’s sepulchre, who should announce to him, that his father had found the asses, for the loss of which he had been grieved; and that he was now sorrowing for him, whom he had sent to search for them. The next was, that in the Plain of Tabor he should meet three men going up to Bethel with three kids, and three loaves of bread, and a bottle of wine, to offer to the Lord; and that two of the loaves they should give to him. The third was, that, on his arriving at the hill of God, where was (or rather had been) a garrison of the Philistines, a company of prophets should come down with different instruments of music, and should prophesy; and that “the Spirit of the Lord should come down on him, and he should prophesy with them, and be turned into another man [Note: ver. 2–6.].” All these predictions came to pass accordingly; and all the people, when they saw Saul prophesying, as skilfully as any of the other prophets, were filled with wonder, that he, who had never been instructed, should be able to perform his part in so extraordinary a way. They could scarcely believe their own senses. And so remarkable was it in their eyes, that it served them as a proverb, whereby to express to all future generations any great and unlooked-for improvement in the mind of man: “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

Now this proverb we may consider as containing,

I.

A subject for grateful admiration—

What surprise this change in Saul occasioned amongst all who beheld it, we are informed in the verse before our text: “It came to pass, when all that knew him beforetime saw, that, behold, he prophesied among the prophets, then the people said one to another, What is this that is come unto the son of Kish? Is Saul among the prophets?” A similar surprise, too, is often created by the change wrought in persons at this day by the grace of God; being wrought under circumstances which, to the eye of sense, appear most unfavourable. Many are converted to God, when no such change could have been hoped for,

1.

From their age—

[Some are awakened after they have attained the middle period of life, when it might have been supposed, that their sentiments and habits were so firmly fixed as not to admit of any material alteration. Respecting such, we may suppose their friends to say, ‘I am surprised at him, a man of sense and judgment! a man of correct habits and sound principles! How can it be, that he should suffer himself to be warped by the statements of any foolish enthusiast? I can scarcely believe it: Is HE become one of these deluded people?’— — — Amongst the godly, too, the same surprise may prompt them to ask, ‘And is he become one of us?’

Others are turned to God at a very early age, before they could well be expected to exercise any just discretion on matters of such moment. Of them we may suppose the observation to be, What! at his early age has he begun to think? At a time of life when we might expect nothing but thoughtless levity to occupy his mind, has he begun to set God before him, and to devote himself to his Saviour with his whole heart? Who could have conceived that he should so appreciate the value of his soul, and feel so deeply the importance of eternity? It seems as if another Samuel or Timothy were born into the world, if not a very John, who was sanctified from the womb — — —]

2.

From their occupations—

[At the very first establishment of Christianity, soldiers flocked to ask counsel of John the Baptist, and Roman centurions believed in Christ [Note: Matthew 8:5; Matthew 8:10; Acts 10:1; Acts 10:47-48.]. Amongst the very Apostles of our Lord, too, was Matthew, a publican, called by Christ, when sitting at the receipt of custom. So now, from amidst camps, where, for the most part, a dissoluteness of manners, rather than any thing of serious piety, may be supposed to dwell, does the work of conversion go forward; and amidst the busiest scenes of worldly merchandize is the still small voice of redeeming love attended to, and made effectual for the salvation of men. And what may we suppose their companions in arms or arts to say? ‘I am amazed at him! He, so bold and intrepid as to brave death in its most terrific forms, is he brought down to such a state of feminine weakness, as to be weeping for his sins, and reading his Bible, and praying to God, and performing, I know not how many self-denying services, which he calls his duty? And this other person, too, who was advancing so rapidly towards opulence, is he all on a sudden sitting loose to wealth, and attending to the concerns of his soul?’

And whilst their former friends express their surprise thus, in a way of regret, we may well imagine that those to whom they have joined themselves are not a whit less ready to express the same, in a way of grateful admiration — — —]

3.

From their habits—

[One has lived a self-sufficient sceptic, in haughty unbelief, despising, as weak and credulous, all who yield to the authority of God’s blessed word — — — Another has, with the same proud spirit, valued himself on his attachment to that word, and his conformity to all its dictates; and, from a conceit of his own superior piety, has despised others, and disdained to humble himself, even in the presence of Almighty God — — — In another has been found nothing but thoughtless gaiety, and a round of habitual dissipation. He has done nothing that violates decorum; he has conformed to the standard which the society in which he lives has established; and he has seen no great end of life, but to consult his own happiness, and to contribute his quota to the happiness of those around him — — — Another has felt himself more at liberty, and has launched forth into a more licentious course, gratifying his every inclination, without any other restraint than that which worldly prudence has imposed — — —
Now, diverse as these habits are, they all present peculiar obstacles to the conversion of the soul. Pride of intellect, self-righteous conceit, love of the world, addictedness to sensual pleasure, all obstruct our way to heaven; and it is a miracle of mercy whenever any of them are overcome. Habit, of whatever kind it be, becomes a second nature; and nothing but Omnipotence can effectually counteract it. When, therefore, this is overcome, and an opposite habit is established in its stead, it gives a just occasion for every observer to remark, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”]

4.

From their connexions—

[It not unfrequently happens, that one in a family, surrounded by friends who are altogether adverse to religion, is brought to the knowledge of Christ, whilst all the others are left in darkness; and is enabled to confess Christ, whilst all the others, in a way of solicitation or of menace, put forth their utmost efforts to prevent it. Amidst hatred, contempt, persecution, perhaps the weakest member of the family is enabled to maintain his ground, and to be faithful to his conscience and his God. In the circle in which he moved, it seemed almost impossible that divine grace should reach him: the darkness seemed almost impervious to light, or, at all events, the chains that bound him, incapable of being loosed. But as God, in the case of Peter, caused light to shine into the prison, and the fetters to be loosed, and the prisoner to come forth, so that the very people of God themselves, when they heard his voice, could not credit it; so have we seen, in divers places, the power of God put forth, and “from Caesar’s household, yea, and from the very stones, as it were, children raised up to Abraham.” These events, whensoever they occur, cannot but excite, in all the family of Christ, a grateful admiration, and a devout thanksgiving to Almighty God.]
But we may see in this proverb also,

II.

A matter for prudential inquiry—

When we behold how delusive these appearances were in the instance of Saul; and that afterwards, when he was in the very act of seeking to destroy David, he prophesied again, and excited in the beholders the same wonder as before [Note: 1Sa 19:15; 1 Samuel 19:20-24.]; we cannot but feel extremely jealous of such conversions; and, together with our grateful admiration, blend also a measure of prudential inquiry, saying, “Is Saul among the prophets?”

This is a matter which ought not to be too hastily assumed—
[It is a fact, that many “have a name to live, whilst they are really dead [Note: Revelation 3:1.];” and “say they are Jews, whilst they are not, but do lie [Note: Revelation 3:9.].” “Many will say unto Christ, Lord, Lord! when they will not do his will [Note: Matthew 7:21.];” and “name the name of Christ, when they will not depart from iniquity [Note: 2 Timothy 2:19.].” In the days of old, many would call themselves the children of Abraham, when they would not do the works of Abraham [Note: John 8:39.]: so now at this day, many will “profess that they know God, whilst they” palpably and habitually “in works deny him [Note: Titus 1:16.].” So far do many carry their self-deception, that they both live and die in the full confidence of their acceptance with God, when yet they have never truly known him; and they will even go to the bar of judgment, as it were, with their arrogant claims in their mouths, “Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works?” But to their utter consternation will the Judge address them, “Depart from me: I never knew you, ye workers of iniquity [Note: Matthew 7:22-23.].”]

How, then, shall the point be determined?
[I answer, if you would know whether you are indeed among the prophets, inquire diligently, whether you have the mind of the prophets; and whether you have the spirit of the prophets. If we do not accord with the Prophets and Apostles in their views of Christ, the matter is clear; we can have no part with them. Moses and all the prophets testified of Him, as the only Saviour of the world: and, if we do not regard him in this light, renouncing all our own righteousness, and looking for acceptance through Him alone, we stand at once self-convicted, and self-condemned.

But we must go further, and examine whether we be renewed, not merely in sentiment, but also “in the spirit of our mind.” We must not merely have a new creed, but really be made new creatures, having all our dispositions and desires conformed to those of Christ himself; being “holy as he is holy,” and “pure as he is pure [Note: 1 John 3:3.].” If we would not deceive our own souls, we should take the faith of Abraham, the meekness of Moses, the devotion of David, the firmness of Elijah, the integrity of Daniel, and all the characteristic virtues of the several prophets, as tests whereby to try our own: and though we are far from combining in ourselves all their respective excellencies, yet there must be no grace which we allowedly neglect, or which we do not aspire after with our whole hearts. We must be Christians “not in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth:” nor can we hope ever to be approved of our God, if we be not “Israelites indeed, in whom there is no guile.”]

By way of Application,
1.

Let me speak to some a word of encouragement—

[Many are ready to say, “I can never hope to he numbered with the children of God.” But, if God chose Saul to an earthly kingdom, may he not choose us to one in a better world? If he fitted him for the discharge of earthly duties, may he not fit us for those which are heavenly? The exercise of sovereignty is the same in either case: and as there certainly was nothing in Saul to merit the distinction conferred on him, so may we hope that God’s sovereign choice may be fixed on us, though we are conscious that there is nothing in us to conciliate his regards. Perhaps, too, this may be done at a time that we least expect so great a blessing. Saul was occupied in seeking his father’s asses, when Samuel made known to him God’s purpose respecting him, and anointed him to the regal office. And who can tell? You may have come hither, at the present moment, with as little expectation of receiving any distinguished benefit as he: and yet this may be the hour when God will call you to his kingdom and glory, and give you “an unction from the Holy One [Note: 1 John 2:20.]” to prepare you for it. Look up to God; and pray that he would now, by his almighty power, make you, not only “another man,” but “a new creature in Christ Jesus:” so may you hope that it shall be done unto you; and that, as the Church of old, on seeing the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, “were amazed, and said, Is not this he that destroyed them who called on this name in Jerusalem [Note: Acts 9:20-21.]?” so they may admire the grace of God in you, and, with joyful thanksgivings, may “glorify God in you [Note: Galatians 1:23-24.].”]

2.

Let me take up, over others, an affectionate lamentation—

[Respecting too many of you, alas! it must rather be asked, ‘What! Is he not yet among the prophets?’ Has he heard the word so long and so faithfully preached in vain? — — — Has the Spirit of God so often striven with him in vain? — — — Has he made so many good resolves in vain? — — — Alas! how aggravated is his guilt! and how awful will he his condemnation! Yes, Brethren, you must, many of you at least, be sensible, that no great and visible and lasting change has taken place in you, nothing that has excited the admiration of others, nothing that has called forth thanksgiving in yourselves. If you compare yourselves with the Prophets and Apostles of old, you can find in yourselves no real resemblance to them, either in zeal for God or in devotedness to His service. I would not, Brethren, that you should continue in this unhappy state. You may perhaps, when you see the prophets with “their tabret and their pipe,” be ready to account it all enthusiasm: and I readily acknowledge, that now the melody must be rather in the heart, than in any external and audible expressions. But there must be the praises of God both in your heart and in your mouth; and your whole life also must testify that “God is with you of a truth.” Be in earnest, then, and seek without delay converting grace: and, “whilst ye have the light, walk in the light, that ye may become the children of the light [Note: John 12:35-36.].”]


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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 10". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/1-samuel-10.html. 1832.