Scripture Text – 1 Samuel 7-11
For centuries, the people of Israel had looked to Jehovah as their King, but then they came to a point where they asked the Lord to give them a king just like the other nations. It was a critical time in the history of Israel, and it took the prayers and guidance of Samuel to bring them safely through this dangerous time of transition.
Obeying The Lord – Continued
Please read 1 Samuel 9:1-10:27 to get the background for this section.
Samuel anoints Saul (1 Samuel 9:26-10:16). Early the next morning, Samuel accompanied Saul and his servant to the edge of the city, sent the servant on ahead, and then anointed Saul as the first king of Israel. From that moment on, Saul was leader over God’s people (“inheritance”), but only Samuel and Saul knew it. Samuel gave Saul three signs, special occurrences he would encounter as he made his way home to let Saul know God had chosen him.
First, he would meet two men who would tell him that the lost animals had been found, news that Saul had already heard from Samuel. Apparently these men knew who Saul was and that he had been away from home seeking the lost property. But this was a good experience for the young king, for it assured him that God could solve his problems. One of Saul’s greatest failures as a leader was his inability to take his hands off of situations and let God work. So it is in our day and age. Yet while Saul and his servant were dining with Samuel, God was already at work.
The second sign would take place at the oak of Tabor where he would meet three pilgrims heading for Bethel. In spite of the nation’s unbelief, there were still devoted people in the land who honored the Lord and sought Him. There must have been a sacred place at Bethel dedicated to the Lord (Judges 20:18, 26), and perhaps the three kids, the wine, and the three loaves of bread were gifts for the Levites serving there. Since as yet there was no central sanctuary, the three kids may have been for sacrifices. These men would greet Saul and give him two of the three loaves, and he was to receive them. God was showing Saul that not only could He solve his problems, but He could also supply his needs. As the first king of Israel, he would have to raise up an army and provide the food and equipment the men needed, and he would have to depend on the Lord to accomplish that.
The third sign had to do with spiritual power. Saul would meet a band of prophets returning from worship at the high place, and they would be prophesying. The Holy Spirit of God would come upon Saul at that time and he would join the company of prophets in their ecstatic worship. In this sign, God told Saul that He could endue him with the power he needed for service. “And who is sufficient for these things?” – 2 Corinthians 2:16. That is the question that should be in the heart of every servant of God, and the only correct answer is “our sufficiency is of God.” – 2 Corinthians 3:5. However, later Saul would become very self-sufficient and rebellious, and the Lord would ultimately take His Spirit from him (1 Samuel 16:14; 28:15).
When Saul turned from Samuel to start his journey home, “God gave him another heart.” Don’t misinterpret this statement; it refers primarily to a different attitude and outlook, not “regeneration.” This young farmer would now think and act like a leader, the king of the nation, a warrior-statesman whose responsibility it was to listen to God and obey His will. As Samuel told him, the Holy Spirit would further enable him to serve God as long as he walked in obedience to God’s will. Because Saul eventually became proud and independent and rebelled against God, he lost the Spirit’s power and anointing, he lost his kingdom, and he eventually lost his life.
Each of these events took place just as Samuel promised, but the only one actually described in the text is Saul’s encounter with the company of prophets. In the Old Testament era, God gave His Holy Spirit to chosen people to enable them to perform special tasks, and God could take the Spirit away as well. Believers today, who are under the New Covenant, have the Holy Spirit abiding within forever (John 14:16–17) as God’s seal that we are His children (Ephesians 1:13–14). When David asked God not to take the Holy Spirit from him (Psalm 51:11), he was most likely thinking especially of what the Lord did to Saul. Believers today may grieve the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) and quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19), but they cannot drive Him away.
The Spirit enabled Saul to have a personal experience with the Lord and to express it in praise and worship. Had Saul continued to nurture this walk with the Lord, his life would have been much different. His pride and desire for power became his conquering sin. When the news got out that Saul had prophesied with a company of prophets, some of his friends spoke about him with disdain. However, there’s no evidence that he was overly wicked, but Saul was a secular person, not a spiritual person, and he was the last man his friends ever expected to have that kind of experience. Even after Saul was presented to the people as their king, not everybody in Israel was impressed with him.
Saul returned home and went back to work on the farm as though nothing remarkable had happened. He said nothing to his family about being anointed king, and apparently the news about his prophetic experiences hadn’t yet reached as far as Gibeah. The experiences of the previous days should have taught him that God was with him, and that He would take care of him and meet his needs, if only he would trust and obey. He also should have realized that he could trust Samuel to give him God’s message, and that to disobey Samuel meant to disobey the Lord. One more task awaited Saul, and that was to meet Samuel at Gilgal at a time that would be shown him. This would be a test to see if Saul was truly devoted to the Lord and willing to obey orders. Unfortunately, he failed.
To Be Continued