The eighth chapter of 1 Samuel reveals the heart of the Israelites who want to be like the nations by having a king. They want a human king and not God to be their king. They want a human king to lead them into battles. They want a human king so that they can be like the nations. Though this is a rejection of God, God tells Samuel to give to them what they desire. Chapters 9-10 will show the anointing of Israel’s new king and through this we are going to learn about the kind of king we need and why we need a king at all.
The Selection of God (9:1-2)
Chapter 9 opens by introducing us to a man named Saul. Saul’s background is fascinating to consider. Saul comes from the tribe of Benjamin. This is amazing because you will recall in the book of Judges that nearly all the people of Benjamin were exterminated for the sin that happened at Gibeah. This adds to the intrigue because 1 Samuel 10:26 reveals that Saul’s hometown is Gibeah. So Saul is a rarity, being from Benjamin and from the town of Gibeah. We are also told that Saul comes from a wealthy and prominent family. Not only this, Saul is described as a handsome young man. Listen to verse 2. “There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.” Saul is the GQ Israelite. He does have a beauty and impressive form that people would look at him and desire him (contra Isaiah 53:2). This is the kind of king that the people of Israel would want. Saul looks the part, which is what the people were calling out to the Lord to have established for them. Thus, God gives the people what they desire.
The Hand of God (9:3-14)
The next picture shows the hand of God in bringing Saul into his service. The donkeys that belong to Saul’s father are lost. So Saul takes a servant with him to go find these donkeys. They look for the donkeys and cannot find them. Saul is ready to give up and go home because his father will begin to worry about them. But the servant says that there is a prophet who lives in the city and they can ask him where to go to find these donkeys. They encounter some women who tell where the prophet is. Now the account is told at length to show God working through seemingly ordinary and natural circumstances to accomplish his purposes. It is easy to forget that God will and does work through natural means and ordinary circumstances. We sometimes can be led to think that the only work God does is through miraculous means. Therefore, since are not seeing miracles happening, God must not be at work. But I want us to see that God works through natural means. God accomplishes his will through ordinary circumstances. This is to give us hope by knowing that God will work through people and through events. Think about the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus. All of those events were determined beforehand by God, as Peter argues in Acts 3. Yet all of those events were natural events. God did not intervene to miraculously get Jesus crucified. God used people and events to accomplish his will. So we look for God’s hand during good times and bad times. We look for this during fearful times like we have right now. We are looking for God who is working through this pandemic to accomplish his will.
The Plan of God (9:15-27)
Now Samuel comes to meet them because the Lord revealed to Samuel that he was sending him a man from Benjamin to anoint as the prince over Israel and save the people from the Philistines (9:15-16). So as Saul is approaching the Lord reveals to Samuel that this is the man who will be anointed. Notice how God describes him in verse 17. “Here is the man of whom I spoke to you! He shall restrain my people.” Remember that we saw the statement made at the end of the book of Judges that there was no king in Israel and everyone was doing what was right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25). The point is that we need a king to restrain wickedness and to turn Israel back to serving the Lord. So this is the expectation for Saul as the king. He is to restrain wickedness and turn the hearts of the people back to the Lord, instead of doing what is right in their own eyes.
So Saul asks Samuel where the prophet is. Samuel tells Saul that he is the prophet. He tells Saul to not worry about the donkeys because they have been found. But then Samuel tells Saul that the desires and hopes of Israel rest on Saul. Saul shows great humility upon hearing this news. Saul says that he is a Benjamite, which is the smallest tribe in Israel. Further, his clan is the least in the tribe of Benjamin. So why would you say to me that Israel’s hopes and desires rest on me? We know that he really believes this because later Samuel will remind Saul how he thought he was little in his own eyes (15:17). Saul thinks he is a nobody. He is the least and it makes no sense for him to be chosen.
I want us to think about this humility that Saul has at the start of his calling. It is so important to see in him. Later we are going to see Saul lose this humility. He will become so concerned about what Israel thinks about him. He is going care about the glory of his soldiers and the glory of the nation. This should be a cautionary warning. It is possible to begin with the right thinking about ourselves and then lose that humility over time. We can start with the “who am I” mentality and later turn that into “look who I am.” We must take great care to think about ourselves properly and maintain humility. The apostle Paul reminded Christians that they must have the same attitude that Jesus had when he made himself nothing and gave himself up for us (Philippians 2:3-11). The point is that humility is easy to lose. The way to keep it is to realize that the only reason we have success, blessings, and honor is because God has put us in that position. We are where we are only because God has put us there. When we think that we are the reason why we are where we are, then we will have the “look at me” and “look at who I am” kind of thinking. When we keep in our minds that it is only because of God, then we will maintain the “who am I” kind of thinking. We must humble ourselves before the Lord because we are nothing without him and we are where we are only because of him.
The King Enabled By God (10:1-27)
Chapter 10 begins with Samuel anointing Saul so that no one else knows that he has been anointed. It is an anointing that is done in secret. He is to be the prince over Israel who will save God’s people from their enemies (10:1). Samuel continues by telling Saul about the signs that will occur so that he can know that he is chosen by God to be the prince over Israel. There is a sign about the donkeys and about people creating him with two loaves of bread. But the most notable sign is stated in verses 6-7. The Spirit of the Lord will rush upon Saul and he will be changed and will prophesy. Then God is with you and you will succeed in whatever you do.
All of this happens just as Samuel said. As Saul turns to leave Samuel, the Spirit of the Lord rushes on Saul and he begins to prophesy among the group of prophets (10:10) People are now asking questions about Saul. Is Saul now a prophet? Who is his father? But Saul does not immediately reveal what has happened. He does not tell his family that he had anointed to be king over Israel. He keeps all of this to himself for the moment (10:14-16).
But a little time goes by and Samuel gathers the people at Mizpah (10:17). Samuel then declares the word of the Lord to the people. The point God makes through Samuel is that God delivered you in the past, but you have rejected your God who saves you out of all your disasters and calamities (10:18-19). You have demanded a king instead of God. You did not want God who saves you from your calamities. You chose to look elsewhere. That is God’s point. Now Samuel calls all the tribes and by lot it is shown that Saul is to be the new king. But a funny thing happens in verses 21-22. When the lot is cast for Saul, Saul is nowhere to be found. This is supposed to be a glorious moment. But they cannot find Saul. So they inquire of the Lord where Saul is. The Lord reveals that Saul is hiding in the baggage and supplies. We again are not seeing a man who thinks highly of himself. In this coronation moment, Saul is hiding. So they run and get Saul out of the baggage. When he stands up, Israel sees that he was taller than all the people. Samuel declares that the Lord has chosen someone who is not like the rest of the people. Saul is then proclaimed king and the people are sent away. The scene ends in an interesting way for some worthless people say, “How can this man save us?” They despised him but Saul held his peace (10:27).
The Picture of the Anointed
As we went through this account I hope that you were able to vividly see a picture of the true anointed one that God would give as seen in Jesus. Let’s recount what God was showing us as a picture for the anointed because it is through his anointed that God would save the world. First, we see a humble king. Jesus is frequently pictured as a humble king. He has humble beginnings, born without fanfare in a manger. He does not act like kings act. He rides into Jerusalem on a donkey and not a horse. He yields to the will of God rather than exerting his own will. Jesus is the humble king we need who will not lose his humility during the time of his life on the earth.
Second, the anointed will have the Spirit of the Lord come upon him powerfully. Saul revealed that the Spirit of the Lord was on him by miraculously prophesying. We see this predicted by the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 61. Isaiah 61:1 begins by declaring, “The Spirit of the Lord God is on me, because the Lord has anointed me…” We see the Spirit of the Lord come upon Jesus at his baptism, showing his appointment as the anointed one, the Messiah. Jesus will show that the Spirit of the Lord is on him by the miracles that he does during his life. The baptism of Jesus is also the starting point for Jesus’ ministry. Saul’s anointing was done between Saul and Samuel and no one else. In the same way, Jesus’ baptism occurred between John the Baptizer and Jesus and does not appear to have an audience. Later, Saul would be proclaimed the king. Later, Jesus would arrive in Jerusalem in what we call the triumphal entry in which the people would proclaim Jesus to be the Son of David, that is the king and Messiah of Israel.
Third, the anointed will be different than all other people of Israel. Now in Saul’s case he was different because of his height and appearance. This will be a contrast to Jesus because Isaiah will prophesy that the Messiah will not have any thing about his appearance that would cause people to desire him (Isaiah 53:2). Rather, Jesus will be different than all others because he will be sinless. Jesus will be different from all others because he has come down from God. Jesus will be different from all others because we will not only give his life, but he will take his life back up again, raising from the dead.
Fourth, once Saul is declared the king we see some worthless people who reject his appointment. The text tells us that they despised Saul as king, asking how this man could save them. But you will notice that though people reject him, he does not bring retribution against them. We see Jesus fitting this picture. First, Isaiah also prophesied that the Messiah would also be despised and rejected by the people (Isaiah 53:2). Second, people are going to challenge his ability to save. Think about even on the cross how one of the criminals who was crucified next to him despised Jesus by telling him to save himself and them also. The people on the ground mocked Jesus and told him to come down from the cross if he really was the Messiah. In fact, the mockery was that he claimed to save others yet he cannot save himself. Yet, with all the despising, mockery, and rejection, Jesus did not retaliate. Peter states that he did not revile in return but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly (1 Peter 2:22-23).
Finally, the purpose of the king was to restrain the wickedness in the people and turn their hearts back to God. The purpose of the king was to save the people from the hand of their enemies. Jesus will do this, not only through his teachings, but through his sacrificial death. The means of turning the hearts of the people back to God is to see his extraordinary love and sacrifices. The rescue of the world would not be the exerting of power against people, but loving people to the point of death, giving himself for us. God’s way to restrain sin was to merely tell us what to do and not to do, but to show us why we would want to listen to God at all. He gave himself for us so that we would turn from sin and live for him. A nobody in the eyes of the world became the savior and rescuer of the world so that we would no longer do what is right in our own eyes, but what is right in the eyes of the Lord.