Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saul's Installation

Even though the nation was begging Samuel for a king (1 Samuel 8:5, 1 Samuel 8:20), 1 Samuel 11 reveals how fickle the people were, "Then the people said to Samuel, “Who is it that said, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Bring the men, that we may put them to death”" (1 Samuel 11:12). "We want a king," the people said, "but who are you to appoint him?"

From the time Israel asks for a king until now, God has been orchestrating events in order to give them the king they want. In his omniscience, God knows that Israel will not simply accept any man claiming to be king, so the nation is organized in order to install the monarch.

God's Prophet Anoints the King [1 Samuel 9-10]

Samuel poured oil on Saul's head to show that this man was God's chosen king (c.f. Luke 4:18). This was a private affair, with Samuel's companions and Saul's servant.

Saul Is Chosen By Lot [1 Samuel 10]

After Samuel sends Saul away, the people in the region of Mizpah are gathered. "Then Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. He brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its clans, and the clan of the Matrites was taken by lot; and Saul the son of Kish was taken by lot. But when they sought him, he could not be found" (1 Samuel 10:20-21 ESV). They use what I would presume to be the Urim and Thummin to determine the king, and God directs the lot to Saul.

Israel Confirms Saul as King [1 Samuel 11]

The events to this point are already incredible. Anybody could have been chosen by lot, if subject to natural forces, but the lot fell on the man whom the prophet had anointed. But not all of Israel was present, and they certainly were not going to accept any man as king. To firmly establish the throne, God stirs up the Ammonites to attack and humiliate the Israelites at Jabesh-gilead.
And the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul when he heard these words, and his anger was greatly kindled. He took a yoke of oxen and cut them in pieces and sent them throughout all the territory of Israel by the hand of the messengers, saying, “Whoever does not come out after Saul and Samuel, so shall it be done to his oxen!” Then the dread of the LORD fell upon the people, and they came out as one man. (1 Samuel 11:6-7 ESV)
God uses Saul to rescue the people in a way that makes him sound like a new judge [Judges 14:19], but God's plans were higher this time. Saul rallied all of Israel to protect Jabesh-gilead [1 Sam 11:8], organizes and leads them, and God grants him success [1 Sam 11:11]. At this point we see the question:
“Who is it that said, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Bring the men, that we may put them to death” (1 Sam 11:12)
And God establishes Saul by giving him the ability to mediate. Not very long ago the man was hiding amongst the luggage, too shy to accept kingship, but now he speaks with authority.
But Saul said, “Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the LORD has worked salvation in Israel.” (1 Sam 11:13)
This opportunity is used to confirm Saul in the presence of all Israel.

Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingdom.” So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the LORD in Gilgal. There they sacrificed peace offerings before the LORD, and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly. (1 Sam 11:14-15)
God is sovereign, and has done according to his will. This is true for all nations, so even though it may seem like some nations or rulers are terrible, rest in knowing that God has ordained it for his purposes.
He changes times and seasons; 
he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;
(Daniel 2:21 ESV)

Blessing and Pride

Sadly, while God works out history to exalt Saul onto the throne, he helps God along by exalting himself. Saul descends from humility (1 Samuel 9:21) to pride and disobedience toward God (1 Samuel 15:26). Saul was among the lowest of the low. The tribe of Benjamin had nearly been wiped out (Judges 20:41, Judges 20:46-48). Saul's clan was the least important in Benjamin (1 Samuel 9:21). And Saul was small in spirit when chosen to be king (1 Samuel 10:22). But though he seemed humble and lowly, his heart was not God's. He did not think it was important to obey the Word of the Lord spoken through his prophet, and so he disqualified himself as king.

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