After anointing Saul privately Samuel presents Saul publicly as God’s answer to Israel’s request. Saul had to be dragged from hiding though as he appears to be a reluctant king.
Something just struck me as I reread that last sentence. Saul had the position forced upon him while Jesus ‘died to get it.’ Saul was not looking for any recognition or position when Samuel met him that fateful morning. He was simply doing a task his father had asked him to do; looking for the lost donkeys. After leaving Samuel he didn’t tell anyone about the anointing or appointing. He kept is silent. When the week had passed and Samuel came to make the appointment official, Saul hid. But he couldn’t escape God’s command.
When Jesus was on the cross Pilate had a sign hung above His head that read “King of the Jews.” Jesus wanted, and deserved this position. It is one that He will fill for eternity. The people tried to force it on Him their way and He refused to accept it. The religious leaders DID NOT want His name even associated with that title. But once again, God wanted it and the people couldn’t escape it. Jesus honestly could have but He bowed to His Father’s will.
Now that I got that wild hare out there, let’s rejoin our story. When we left, Saul had returned home and kept his mouth SHUT about the things that Samuel talked to him about. Samuel had told him that he would join Saul in a week to address the next thing Saul needed to do.
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The days are both crawling and speeding along for Saul. Samuel told him that in seven days he was going to come to Saul and tell him what he needed to do. Saul’s stomach is in knots every morning as he thinks about what that might entail. “Why did Samuel have to choose me? Yes, I’m the tallest Israelite around but that doesn’t make me a leader. Yes, I have been called handsome all my life but that doesn’t mean people will follow me. I have no training in the arts of leadership, nor do I desire to learn. I liked my life as it is now! I’m not a KING!”
During the day Saul keeps himself as busy as possible so he doesn’t have to think about Samuel’s approaching visit. The hours fly by in activity between caring for the donkeys and work in the fields. Saul is content during these times. No thoughts of being a king. No responsibilities beyond caring for the animals or plants he is currently attending. No one ‘clamoring for advice.’ No one else to worry about except himself.
Six days have passed since Saul left Samuel. Tomorrow is the day Samuel said he would be here. Word was received yesterday saying that all of Israel was to gather at Mizpah. Samuel had told the leaders that God would appoint a king for them. Many believed this would be the day, including Kish.
Since the moment the call came Saul has been unable to sit still. He is bouncing from task to task, losing his way in them and having to start again. Kish attributes it to excitement. Saul knows it is apprehension. Saul hasn’t spoken a word of all that Samuel spoke over him. Saul has no intention of letting himself be put in the position of king. He is wracking his brain for a way out.
The family has been packing most of the day. As a wealthy man Kish is expected to bring a sizable gift to the assembly. He also wants to make this trip profitable by staying a day or two longer to conduct business. The family will be bringing a cart and several donkeys to transport their possessions. As the amount of belongings that they will take with them continues to grow so does a plan in Saul’s mind. This too, he keeps silent about.
Mizpah is crowded! All Israel was summoned and it looks like they all turned out too! Kish guides his family through the throng of people. He joins up with others from his clan; the Matrites. They are one of the clans of the tribe of Benjamin. The people are congregating in their ancestral tribes, renewing family ties that have been allowed to go untended because of distance. It is good to catch up but now is not the time for that. Once Samuel has completed his task for Israel there will be plenty of time for family talk.
Samuel moves through the crowd with purpose in his steps. He takes his position on the high place and raises his arms in the air to gather the people’s attention. It doesn’t take long for the multitude to quite itself. Once everyone was listening Samuel began to address the crowd.
“Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all the kingdoms that were oppressing you.’ But today you have rejected your God, who saves you from all your calamities and your distresses, and you have said to Him, ‘Set a king over us.’ Now therefore present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and by your thousands” (verses 18-19).
The leader of each tribe assembles in front of Samuel. This is how the Lord has given His people direction in the past. Samuel will draw lots guided by the hand of the Lord to show His will.
This is also Saul’s cue to make himself scarce. He ducks low to the ground and carefully slips into the area where the animals with the luggage is set up. There are pens like this one scattered along the edges of the gathering. If anyone challenges him he will tell them that he is “guarding” his father’s goods.
While Saul was retreating to his hiding spot Samuel had made it through the first round of lots. The tribe of Benjamin had been chosen by the Lord. The clan leaders were assembling before him now. Each clan leader put his marking stone into Samuel’s bag. Once all the stones were in the bag Samuel closed his eyes and plunged his hand into it. As he withdrew his hand it contained one stone.
“It is the clan of the Matrites that the Lord has chosen” reveals Samuel.
Shuffling of people begins anew. The clan leaders’ marking stones are returned to them and the heads of families from this clan take the places where the clan heads had previously stood. The family heads deposit their markers in Samuel’s bag.
Saul could easily have raised up to watch the proceedings. He is taller than anyone else but he stays low to the ground as Samuel continues on his task of identifying the one man whom the Lord has chosen. Saul is holding out hope that the Lord will lead Samuel to another. Why else would he go through this elaborate process if he was simply going to tell the people that God had already made his choice and that choice was Saul. He can hear Samuel speaking to the people in the distance but he can’t reliably make out all he is saying. He dare not get any closer or he will spoil his hiding place.
Samuel has made it from the heads of families to heads of households. The shuffle has Kish, among others, standing before Samuel now. The stones are dropped into Samuel’s bag. It feels like the whole congregation is holding its breath. They know it is getting down to the final decisions. Samuel pulls a stone from his bag.
“The Lord has chosen the household of Kish.”
Shuffling one last time, Kish and his sons stand before Samuel. They are ready for their stones to be put in and have the Lord’s decision completed. Kish holds the stones of his sons and places them all in Samuel’s bag. Samuel reaches in and draws out a stone.
“The Lord has chosen Saul, son of Kish.”
Samuel looks at the household of Kish assembled before him and notices that Saul is not among them. The rest of the family have noticed his absence too. Murmuring goes through the crowd as people start looking about to see if Saul is near them or if anyone knows where he might be. No one seems to know where he is. No one has seen him and search as they might he is not to be found.
Saul heard his name being called but he stayed hidden. “No, no, no! This is not going well” he thinks to himself while hiding in the wagon and covering himself with baggage.
The people turn back to Samuel and ask if maybe God was going to choose one of Saul’s sons. “Is there a man still to come?”
Samuel face is quiet for a moment then he looks up at the people. “The Lord says, ‘Behold, he has hidden himself among the baggage’ (verse22b).”
The people turn towards the baggage areas scattered around the edges of the gathering. Men head to each pen and begin a thorough search for Saul. A cry goes up as Saul is located. He can’t even claim to be guarding the baggage now because he is found huddled under it instead. Saul is seized by his tunic and hauled out of the wagon.
“What do you think you are doing” demands Kish. “Samuel is calling for you!”
Saul is afraid to tell his father the truth; that he KNEW who Samuel was going to pick and wanted no part of it. He wonders if he could get away with saying he fell asleep but decides on silence instead. Holding Saul by the arm Kish makes his way towards Samuel.
As Saul was being propelled through the people Samuel cries out, “Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen? There is none like him among all the people” (verse 24a).
Immediately the people began to shout, “Long live the king! Long live the king” (verse 24b).
Kish brought Saul to stand beside Samuel. The chant climbed in volume until Samuel once again held his hands aloft. He motioned for silence. “This is your king whom the Lord has chosen to set over you. Learn now of the duties of the king to the people and to God. Learn also of the people’s duties to their king.”
This is the lesson Samuel had promised Saul he would receive. Saul needs to pay close attention as these pertain specifically to him, wanted or not. Before speaking Samuel called for one of his attendants to come forward with a scroll and quill. The words he was about to speak would be recorded. They would stand for all of Israel’s kings. He wanted none of them to be forgotten as they were from the Lord.
“The king: He is to be appointed by God and be one of the people of Israel so that he is a brother to all Israel.
The king’s duties
To God: He is to abide by the Laws the Lord has established. He is to write for himself a copy of the Book of the Law. His writings are to be approved by the priest and Levites to ensure its accuracy. He is to study it all the days of his life that he may learn to fear the Lord by keeping His statutes and doing them so his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers. He must not turn from the statutes of the Lord either to the right or the left so he may continue long in his kingdom and his children in Israel.
To the people: He must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt to acquire them for him. He may not acquire many wives for himself least his heart turn away from God. He must not acquire for himself excessive silver or gold. He is to rule the people with justice and righteousness. He is to defend the nation against those who would oppress her. He is to enlarge her territories as the Lord guides him. And he is to be a godly example to the people in all he does.
These are the things you shall do for your God and for the people.
The people’s duties
To God: Hold your king as God’s appointed leader. Trust the Lord’s decision.
To the king: Obey his laws. Honor him as the Lord’s anointed. Submit to him as unto the Lord. Respond to his call whether to arms or to taxes. Render to him respect and loyalty. Remember him in prayer as his load is heavy as he carries each of you for the Lord.
These are the things you shall do for your king.”
After giving all these instructions to Saul and the people of Israel Samuel stepped to the side. He was finished. He had done what the Lord had laid out for him to do.
The people weren’t sure what to do so they stood there looking around. Samuel recognized their distress and stood back up. “Present your gifts to your king. Then it is time to go home. Each man to his own place. There you can ponder the words spoken here.”
The congregation began to break up. Some were celebrating and some were grumbling. Saul wanted to run and hide again but he stayed by Samuel’s side as the crowds began to move. Men were making their way to and from their animals that held the gifts they brought, in case Samuel did appoint a king. Men lined up in front of Saul with gifts waiting to be laid at his feet.
Saul was gracious as the gifts were presented. He thanked each person for their generosity. His face burned with shame at the amassing pile of gifts that lay before him. He knew some of these people could ill afford what they were laying at his feet. These were his people now. He would have to see to their needs.
One group gathered no gifts to present to their king. Instead they stood off to one side and complained about the proceedings. Saul could see them from where he stood. Their faces communicated their displeasure. Saul could hear snatches of their conversation as it floated on the breeze. “How is this man save us?” (verse 27b). “He even hides from his own appointing. Will he hide from the enemies of Israel too?” Saul said nothing as they continued to watch him. These were his people too. He would have to see to their needs as well.
(to be continued)
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One last thing I want to touch on before I go. When Samuel came to publicly appoint Saul he acted as if he was searching for the one God wanted. He didn’t point his finger at Saul and say, “This is the man the Lord told me to anoint.” Instead he went through whole process of casting lots. He worked his way down to Saul after starting with the entire population of Israel as candidates. I wonder why he did it this way. I’m sure it was how God told him to do it but why go through all the pretense? Was it easier for the people to accept God’s choice when they watched the process first hand? Would they have rejected Saul if there wasn’t some kind of groundwork laid out before them?
The people are the ones who called out “Long live the King!” They didn’t do it in response to Samuel saying, “This is the one picked” but “Do you see him whom the LORD has chosen? There is none like him among all the people” (verse 24). He wasn’t affirming a number picked from a hat but a man whose physical appearance stood out above all the rest. They SAW that he looked like a king.