Weekly Prompts for Thinking Through Scripture
Covering 1 Samuel 9-12
Refresher: Israel’s leadership is wobbling. Samuel’s age means that his best days are behind him… and his sons are of poor character. Discouraged by the state of the current judges of Israel and the recent history of morally impoverished national leadership, the elders of Israel press Samuel to work toward a system of monarchy. Samuel’s knee-jerk reaction is to refuse their request, interpreting the desire for a king as actually a disenchantment with God’s leadership. God speaks to Samuel and directs him to agree to the elders’ request, even though He concurs with Samuel that their request is a kind of rejection of Him.
- Read 1 Samuel 9: 1-10
- VV. 1,2 – Saul passes the test for looking the part of a king: tall and handsome… What else would you want in a national leader? People say that it wasn’t until the TV age that politicians were expected to be physically impressive. But no, our shallowness has run for a long time (and goes deep!).
- V. 3 – Lost animals: not uncommon… and aggravating. Yet it’s out of this low-grade stress that God sets in motion the beginning of the monarchy that will culminate in our Lord Christ. Let this passage serve to remind you to look around for God’s work today, and don’t demand that He be operating only through the successful and seemingly important things.
- VV. 5-10 – Saul shows a sensitivity toward other’s feelings (v. 5), is willing to take counsel from an inferior (v. 6) and insists on following protocols for visiting a “seer” (v. 7). These are all commendable traits, right? But from we might already know of Saul’s outcome, we should also note that these fine tendencies are not sufficient, and might even be concealing character problems.
- Read 1 Samuel 9: 11 – 27
- God is directing Saul to Samuel, but in the darndest way. It all seems to be accidental and coincidental. However murky a situation seems, trust that God is competently moving things forward. And let this encourage you to wait on God by the ordinary means: a) reading and submitting to His word, b) thanking Him, and c) offering him prayers and supplications. He has His ways of moving things along even while in the moment we can’t discern a clear plan. Our part is to simply be faithful to Him.
- V. 20 – Because of God’s will, in an instant Saul has moved from being a donkey-seeker to someone who’ll have access to the best stuff Israel has to offer. Lesson: promotion comes from God. Lesson B: Promotion by God isn’t necessarily related to one’s virtue. Lesson C: Being promoted doesn’t always end well.
- V. 25 – What was running through Saul’s mind when he lay on his bed that night? Probably everything from: Do sages treat all their guests this nicely? to I sense my life is about to change big time. God can change your situation in a moment.
- Read 1 Samuel 10: 1-16
- VV. 1ff – I believe this is the pattern: normally God doesn’t give confirmatory signs that He will do something, but that He has done something.
- V. 5 – Music and prophesying the word of the Lord are old, agreeable companions.
- V. 6 – Under the old covenants, the Spirit wasn’t given to all. Only to some He was given for a time in order to fulfill some particular commission (in Saul’s case, reigning).
This phenomenon explains David’s prayer in the psalm we read on Sunday: Remove not your Holy Spirit from me….
- V. 7 – “Do what your hand finds to do.” In the absence of more detailed direction, this is always the way for the people of God. If you are waiting on God today, consider what there is to be done around you. Perhaps the basement needs tidying up?
- V. 12 – How would one use this proverb? Example: When Tom Brady signed with the Buccaneers, you could employ the proverb, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” Meaning, I wasn’t expecting him to be with them. More seriously, by the work of God’s Spirit, one can be granted unexpected ability, which can take him to surprising places.
- V. 16 – Is Saul’s reticence to speak a tasteful modesty, or does it betoken something weak?
- Read 1 Samuel 10: 17-27
- V. 19 – A new king: an event to celebrate, and yet the prophet must also lay bare the gloomy spiritual reality behind it all. Lesson 1: Things can be both positive and negative at once. Lesson 2: Don’t silence or even distance yourself from those who are saying hard things into your life. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, and a prophet.
- V. 22 – While he might have questioned the reality of what Samuel had already told him, Saul pretty much knows that he’s going to be the first king of Israel. But as the selection takes place, Saul hides himself. Was he hoping to be passed over – Out of sight, out of mind? Or was he being careful to be perceived as a reluctant king? Or were his thoughts conflicted? Was this a weak move or virtuously humble?
- V. 24 – Even Samuel gets caught up in the moment and indulges in a little shallowness: Hooray! He just looks like a king! The godliest among us are not immune to groupthink and superficiality.
- V. 26 – “…whose hearts God has touched.” Leaders have stalwart and stouthearted assistants by the grace of God. Be thankful to God for those in your life you can depend on.
- V. 27 – On what basis did these people dislike Saul? Did they sense something untoward about him? Doubtful. Were they old-line conservatives who were going to dislike the move toward the monarchy no matter who took the throne? More likely. Were they complaining because simply they were complainers? (Damned if you do; damned if you don’t). Probably. Look on the positive side of things and stop complaining.
- Read 1 Samuel 11: 1-6
- Short and sweet: more time to iron your church clothes and shave.
- V. 2 – We’ll be at peace as long as I can mutilate and humiliate you, ok? Doubtful conditions like these are still offered today, even if the terms aren’t quite as severe.
- V. 5 – Interesting scene. So far, things haven’t changed much in Israel; the king is still behind the plow like any other citizen. And why shouldn’t a government worker only serve on an on-call basis? Why do politicians have to be professional politicians?
- V. 6 – “the Spirit of God rushed…”Anger can be derived from God and thus there’s such a thing as holy rage. But it’s often not (James 1:20). Which means yours is probably not! Can you think of times when our Lord Jesus was angry?
- Read 1 Samuel 11: 7-15
- V. 7 – Whatever timidity we might have sensed so far in Saul is swept away by the Spirit-given boldness. Here is decisiveness and then some! And not only does the Spirit empower Saul but also the “dread of the LORD” falls on the people. God is able to provide courage on all sides during moments of crisis.
- VV. 12, 13 – Knowing that in coming days Saul will be overtaken by jealousy, this magnanimousness is even more striking. Of what Shakespeare play does Saul put you in mind?
And even if you can’t answer that literary question, are there some quarrels that you can rise above today? Remember that our Lord has given us a parable and a Cross that render all the offenses done against us as (relatively) no big deal.
- Read 1 Samuel 12
- VV. 1-5 – Above all, Samuel wants to leave in good conscience and with a clear reputation. When you are leaving a people, these kinds of things are important. To a point, and in a certain sense, you should concern yourself with what others think of you.
- VV. 6-11 – The instinct of the teachers of Israel was always to re-tell the history of their ways with God and God’s ways with them. They mined the past for insight. Reading history is good and the will of God.
- VV. 16-18 – Samuel hammers home that their request for a king, though ultimately in the will of God, was in itself an evil. Why is it so important to him to get that message across?
- V. 23 – As long as he lives, Samuel will not stop praying (which implies he has been praying all along) and instructing Israel in the way to go. We should consider that Israel’s demand for a king was not only a tacit rejection of God but also implied that they were ready to move on from Samuel’s leadership. And yet in his new role Samuel plans to continue to do what good he possibly could. Take the high road and don’t succumb to bitterness, even when you’re being put aside.