Sermon preached on 1 Samuel 10 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 2/22/2015 in Novato, CA.
1 Samuel 10
“Saul the Son of Kish was Chosen”
We continue in our sermon series through the book of 1 Samuel. And we continue to see God’s establishment of Saul as the first king in Israel. By way of reminder, I want to point you two things in this chapter that are really lessons repeated from earlier in this book. I point them out as a way to introduce our sermon for today.
First, look at verses 18-19. There, Samuel reminds the people that they were rejecting God. It starts off sounding somewhat like how the Ten Commandments starts off, reminding how God had saved them from Egypt, and from all the other kingdoms that had oppressed them — think of the book of Judges. And then God turns and says how they’ve rejected him by asking for a king. And so that’s the first thing to remind us about, that the people’s asking for a king was a way to reject God both as their king and savior.
Second, look at verses 23-24. The kind of king they wanted, wasn’t the right kind. They wanted a king like all the other nations. They wanted one that outwardly looked kingly. That had the looks of a mighty king. And so in verses 23-24 we see that God has Saul brought out before the people, and it’s clear again that he is noticeably taller than the rest of Israel. In his physical stature, there was no one else like him among Israel. And the people love it, and shout, “Long live the king!” And so this is the second thing to remind us about, that the people were asking for the wrong kind of king. They were judging by appearances and not looking to the heart.
So, God didn’t approve of their request for a king because it represented a rejection of his kingship and because it reflected the choice of the wrong sort of king. And yet as we saw in the last two chapters, God was nonetheless going to give them a king. And he was even going to give them the kind of king they wanted. And so today’s chapter continues to develop this; that God in his graciousness would give the people what they requested. And not only that, but this chapter shows even more that God is establishing this new monarchy with full legitimacy. Yes, God knows the downfalls that will ultimately come. But he doesn’t set things up for failure. He doesn’t make Saul King and not give him the support he would need to succeed. No, rather, we see here that in God’s goodness he goes out of his way to abundantly establish Saul as the king of the kingdom. Saul will be afforded great opportunity by God to be able serve as a successful and blessed king under God for the nation of Israel. Time will reveal, of course, what Saul will do with this great privilege God is giving him. But at least for now, in this passage, we see God’s establishing his throne with legitimacy, and Saul himself even begins with a good start.
So let’s look now at the legitimacy of the institution. In other words, I’ve just said that God truly established Saul’s reign with legitimacy. Let’s consider how God established that legitimacy. There’s so much here that shows this. We see God’s establishment of his kingship first right away in verse 1. God has Samuel the prophet anoint Saul with oil. He is being specifically anointed as king, to reign over and lead the people. The language of verse 1 shows how God is entrusting the people and the land to Saul’s care. Samuel further shows the significance of this by right away kissing Saul, which certainly is act of honor and subjection that acknowledges Saul’s kingship; think of Psalm 2 that says to kiss the son, who is the Lord’s anointed. And lest you be tempted to take this anointing in verse 1 too lightly, just remember how David will later consider it. David, who himself will be anointed by Samuel to be king, will repeatedly refuse to strike King Saul because of this very fact: that God had anointed Saul. Even though David knew God said he would replace Saul as king, still David would not presume to lift his hand against the Lord’s anointed. In 2 Samuel 1, David even has a man killed who claims to have killed Saul. David asked that man in 2 Samuel 1:14, “How was it you were not afraid to put forth your hand to destroy the LORD’s anointed?” Even after all the evil that Saul did to David, still David would respect the Lord’s original anointing upon him. So, this anointing in verse 1 is a major aspect of God’s establishing Saul’s throne in great legitimacy.
A second way we see God establishing Saul’s throne in legitimacy is by divine confirmation through three signs. In verses 2-7, Samuel as prophet explains three things that will happen that day to Saul. Two men will tell him his donkeys have been found; then three men will give him bread; then he’ll meet a group of prophets and the Spirit would come upon him, and he’d be so changed into another man that he too would start prophesying with them. Verse 7 explicitly calls these signs. The idea of a sign here is it that this is meant to confirm Samuel’s words, in this cases, about how God is making Saul king. In other words, the fact that Saul miraculously predicts three events, and that the third is a supernatural thing in and of itself, this is all to affirm that God indeed called Samuel to make Saul king. There is no other way that Samuel could make such predictions unless God was with him in all of this, so these would all be signs to confirm to Saul that his kingship was from the LORD and that God would be with him as king. That’s the explanation of all this in verse 7. Well, verses 9-12 record that all these signs did indeed happen. God was at work here in a miraculous way to confirm Saul’s establishment as king.
A third way we see God establishing Saul’s throne in legitimacy is through the casting of lots. In other words, we see in verses 20-21 that Samuel has Saul selected before all the people as king through the casting of lots. Up to this point, for the most part, the selection of Saul has been a fairly private matter. God has Samuel tell Saul, and anoint him privately. Then he has these signs that come to Saul personally. But now, here, he is very publically selected out from among the people by the casting of lots. Now we don’t know exactly the process for how they cast lots, but the basic idea is that it was a way to randomly select a person, somewhat like how we might flip a coin or draw straws. Proverbs 16:33 says, “the lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD.” This acknowledges that there is nothing truly random or haphazard that happens in this world, even the lot. That being said, please don’t think that the Bible promises to normally give us God’s will for us by the casting of lots. The Bible doesn’t advocate this here as some typical process. And yet since the prophet Samuel initiated it in this case, it seems that God was pleased on this situation to work through the casting of lots. And so all these private affirmations of Saul being selected is now complemented by this very public affirmation. God uses the casting of the lots to single out Saul over every other Israelite. This further gives legitimacy to the institution.
A fourth way we see God establish Saul’s throne in legitimacy is through the public ceremony Samuel the prophet conducts. We see this in verse 25. After Samuel conducted the public and formal casting of lots, and Saul is selected, he then explains the way that the kingship is supposed to be conducted. And it’s so important that it’s not just verbally explained, but Samuel commits these words to writing, and in some formal fashion commits it before the Lord. This is a sort of charter or constitution for how the kingship would be conducted, and it’s solemnly established in the presence of many witnesses and the LORD himself. We are not told exactly what went in this book, but likely it would have contained information similar to what we read about in Deuteronomy about how a king in Israel should conduct himself.
A final way that we see Saul’s kingship established is by the commentary given by the passage after he is made king here. In other words, in verses 26 and 27 two different groups are described in terms of their response to King Saul. Positively, it talks about some valiant men in verse 26 who immediately become his strong supporters. They went with Saul and supported him. And notice that verse 26 credits God for their positive response to Saul. It says that the reason they acted this way toward Saul was because God had touched their hearts. But verse 27 also describes some people who were in an opposite position towards King Saul. There it describes some rebels, worthless men, literally sons of Belial, same language of how Eli’s sons were described. What made these men worthless is that they despised King Saul’s leadership. Since they despised him, it meant they didn’t bring him any presents, and it also meant they were saying “How can this man save us?” Do you see how these two groups show God’s establishing Saul’s throne in legitimacy? Remember how repeatedly God had spoke against the people’s request for such a king like this. Remember how God wanted the people to acknowledge him as their savior. So you might have thought God would have agreed with people questioning Saul’s ability to save them. But God does not agree at this point. Now that God had established Saul as king over his people, God is giving Saul is full support. God is to be with Saul as king, presuming Saul of course is faithful to lead the people according to God’s ways. But the point is that now that God has anointed Saul as king the text shows us that it was evil of the people to not support the king. In contrast, God himself was moving the people’s hearts to give Saul support.
And so God had established Saul as king in all these wonderful ways. Saul then begins his kingship; well at least in part. We’ll see next chapter that God will really get him going and will use him in a great initial victory that will silence the opposition of such worthless men who didn’t want to support his kingship. But what I want us to see for today in our next point is to consider Saul’s start as a king. And what we begin to see in this passage is what we might simply say is a good beginning. Later on we’ll see Saul fail repeatedly. We’ll see Saul do some evil things, especially in his persecution of David. We’ll see his arrogance and fury later on. He won’t finish his career as king well. But for now, we see a different Saul. For now, we see some positive things from him. We must be careful not to overstate things at this point, but it does seem that Saul begins with some humility. Even though he is way taller than everyone else, and comes from a powerful family, he appears humble. Even though last chapter he gets a prestigious banquet thrown in his honor and in this chapter even Samuel kisses him, he still appears humble. Even after he is selected by lot as king, and gets his first followers, he is humble. And even after some oppose him, he still shows forth some humility. Now, I don’t want to overstate it. The text doesn’t overstate it. But the text does show it. Look with me at it.
We mentioned it last week back in 9:22. Samuel pays Saul a compliment, and Saul responds saying that he is from the smallest tribe of Benjamin and the least family among that tribe. And then again in our passage for today, look at verse 16, for example. There, when his uncle meets up with him here, and asks what he heard from Samuel, he didn’t brag about how Samuel anointed him as king. In fact he doesn’t even mention it; he doesn’t draw any attention to himself about it. Or look at verse 22. After Saul is selected by lot, they have trouble finding him. He is ultimately found by the Lord, hiding among the equipment. Now, granted, Saul’s hiding out there might also reflect some inhibitions he has about being king. He hadn’t asked to be king, and the whole prospect of being king might have scared him. So, that is likely a part of his hiding out. But even so, if there was a fear motivation, it nonetheless shows forth a humble appraisal of himself. In other words, if someone is full of pride and is selected as king, they might boldly stand up and take the throne, falsely confident of their abilities to reign. Saul at least shows some real genuine humility to be afraid at the prospect of being the king over a nation. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall,” Proverbs 16:18. And a last way we see Saul’s humility here is in the last verse. In verse 27, when those worthless people refuse to honor him, Saul holds his peace. It seems that this is at least some expression of his humility as well, not to mention some initial mercy and restraint.
So, my point here is simply to put the forth the notion that Saul starts off with a good start. At this point, King Saul appears young and humble. Not only does God greatly establish his kingship, but all looks well and promising from his side of things as well. All is off to a good start. Saul has a good beginning, but how will he finish?
Well, I don’t just bring up this question for no reason. But there is something here in the text that connects us with Saul’s later downfall. It’s this bizarre incident with the prophets and the proverb that comes out of it. You see, we said that one of the three signs was that God’s spirit would come upon Saul and he would prophesy with a group of prophets. That happens. Let’s say it, that’s a rather strange incident. And it’s so strange, that it sparks this proverb by the people, verse 12, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” I sense there is a lot we could say about this event. It seems very significant. Surely it’s something that shows us that God would give of his Spirit to Saul in his kingship. The language here in verses 6 and 9 of how God turns Saul into another man and how gives him another heart is very interesting. What does that mean? Is Saul truly saved, truly a man born again, and yet later suffers this major discipline of losing the kingdom when he goes astray? Or is Saul someone who had a very real taste of the Spirit, but never really born again, and his life will go on to show that? It’s hard to say in a definitive way. But as much as this passage might make us ask such questions, one thing does become clear. This passage gets us to think about how Saul starts off well, but will not end well.
How? Well, as strange as this incident is where Saul becomes a prophet and it will cause this proverb to be said, yet this incident will happen a second time. When we get to chapter 19, Saul then is at the end of his career; he had become old and arrogant and had been rejected by God due to his disobedience. God had chosen David to replace him. In his evil fury he pursued David in chapter 19 to try to kill him. But just before he can overtake David and kill him, he has a second sort of prophetic episode. He again falls into some prophetic trance of sorts. This results in him being unable to continue to pursue David that day. And afterwards it again rose up the same proverb among the people, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” So, two strange incidents of the same sort in Saul’s life. One at the start of his reign to solidify his kingship. One at the end of his reign to solidify how he would lose the kingship. And the same Spirit of God was behind it all. And the repeated proverb helps us to see the two events together. Saul starts off well, but does not finish well.
All of this again draws us to look for a better king. It’s great that Saul’s kingship starts off so well. It’s wonderful how God so clearly legitimizes the institution and empowers Saul. It’s good that Saul starts off well, but he doesn’t finish well. It leaves us needing a king for this good institution that God had established. But we don’t have to look any further. For God has firmly established the king of Kings over his people, the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And Christ came to this world and started off well, and finished well, in his earthly ministry. You know, we tend to think about Jesus’ ministry in terms of its finish. That he ultimately went to the cross to die in our place. He humbly rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and ultimately to his death. He died and rose again, in our place, so we could be saved. What a humble and meek and powerful king and savior. Saul couldn’t ultimately save his people, but King Jesus could. And yet Jesus’ ministry was not just about how it ended. But don’t forget how it began. When he is anointed with the water of his baptism and by the Holy Spirit, remember what he immediately does afterward. He is led by the Spirit out into the wilderness. There he so clearly does what the first Adam didn’t do. He humbly resists every temptation of the devil and shows himself righteous. And so at the start of Jesus’ earthly ministry, he actively shows forth his righteousness done as our representative. He begins well. And at the end of his earthly ministry, he shows forth how he would bear the guilt for our sin, by taking upon our punishment upon himself. He finishes well. And so the wilderness testing and the cross are essentially book ends to Jesus’ earthly ministry among us. And they show forth his glory! What a king! What a savior! He’s able to save us because of his complete ministry in his active and passive obedience. He starts and finishes his work well.
Saints of God, we come to a passage like this today and know that we need to start and finish our lives well too. It’s not just for earthly kings that this is important. Whatever we do, we should seek to do it well. And in terms of our relationship with the Lord, we want to start and finish well. But the way that is possible for sinners is because of Christ. Because Christ started and finished his work in history to save us, we can in fact be saved. And it’s as Hebrews 12:1 then applies this to us, that we can take such great comfort in this subject. Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus Christ is the author and the finisher of our faith.
And so, saints of God, we have received an anointing from the Lord. As those baptized by the Holy Spirit, you have an anointing from above. By the grace of God, we have started out our faith well by turning and believing in Jesus. In that start of faith, it requires humility to acknowledge that we can’t save ourselves, but we need Jesus to save us. We then need to persevere in our faith, to the end of our lives, for it is not enough to only start off well and then fall away.
And yet it’s in this reminder that we are thankful for that doctrine known as the Perseverance of the Saints. Yes, this is not a license for sin, that we could claim to be saved and think we can live lives that mock the grace of God. But for those who have truly known the work of Christ in the start of our Christian lives, we can take heart that Jesus will then lead us through to the finish. For just as Jesus started and finished well himself when he was here on earth, he will see to the same for you.
So, then, believing this to be true, let us press on all the more in faith. Let us hold fast to what we have received. May we be always remember our first love. May the good things that we did at the start of our faith be those things we continue to do, and all the more. Pray for your growth and perseverance. Keep fighting the good fight. Finish the race.
And as we trust in God for this grace of perseverance, I lead us in giving glory to God in all this, as I quote from Jude a passage that expresses this very thing — that God is the one to keep us in it all. Jude 1:24-25, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.”
Copyright © 2015 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.