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Passing the Baton

This morning we’ll be looking at 1 Samuel chapter 12 – which is often labeled in our Bibles as Samuel’s Farewell Address. Samuel had led the people of Israel for most of His life now – not as their king, but as judge, prophet, and priest. And on this day, Samuel would pass the baton of leadership to their newly chosen King, King Saul.

And I know we’ve been making this transition for a while now – we started back in chapter 8 when all the people of Israel asked God to give them a king to lead them. Even though God was their king and He had led them faithfully for several centuries – now the people wanted a human king to lead them. And so God decided to give them what they asked for. He had Samuel privately anoint Saul as their king in chapter 10. Then, to make the public announcement some time after that, Samuel gathered together all the people of Israel and through the process of casting sacred lots to reveal God’s will, Saul was chosen and proclaimed as King.

And while most of the people were eager to embrace Saul as their king, some of the people were a little more hesitant. In fact, some were openly opposed – they didn’t feel like Saul had what it took to be king. But all that changed in chapter 11 as Saul led the Israelites into battle against King Nahash of the Ammonites. God gave Saul a tremendous victory and all the people finally affirmed that Saul was indeed God’s good choice to be their King.

And so now, with all of Israel firmly in support of their new King Saul, Samuel prepares to complete the transition and pass the baton of leadership to the next generation.

Then Samuel addressed all Israel: “I have done as you asked and given you a king. 2 Your king is now your leader. I stand here before you—an old, gray-haired man—and my sons serve you. I have served as your leader from the time I was a boy to this very day. 3 Now testify against me in the presence of the Lord and before his anointed one. Whose ox or donkey have I stolen? Have I ever cheated any of you? Have I ever oppressed you? Have I ever taken a bribe and perverted justice? Tell me and I will make right whatever I have done wrong.” 1 Samuel 12:1-3

As this chapter begins, Samuel, the judge of Israel, holds court one last time. And in essence, he puts himself on trial. Actually, as you read through the chapter, there are three parties that will be examined for guilt – but he begins with himself. He invites the Israelites to testify against him – to point out any way that he has wronged them. And if he has done wrong, then he vows to make it right.

And this is something that we just don’t see in most of our leaders today. How many leaders can you think of that would willingly subject themselves to the accusations of an entire nation? How many would choose to go on trial and answer for any wrongs that they may have committed during their time in leadership? If you follow the news, it seems most leaders invest a great deal of time avoiding such things!

But not Samuel. He invites scrutiny and accountability. He welcomes public examination of his life and ministry. What kind of man does that?

Well, I’ll you what kind of man does that – a man of integrity! A man who keeps short accounts. A man who – when he does something wrong – he quickly admits it and makes it right before things go any further.

I don’t think Samuel was perfect or sinless. In fact, I’m sure of it! I’m sure he made his fair share of mistakes in life. He sinned just like everyone else. After all, the Bible tells us clearly that all of us have sinned – I’m sure Samuel was no exception! But what allowed Samuel stand before the nation with complete integrity is that He when he sinned, he immediately dealt with it. He didn’t hide it. He didn’t deny it. He didn’t justify it. But rather he confessed, he repented, and he made things right.

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The Transforming Power of God

Last week we witnessed the inauguration of King Saul – the first King of Israel! And for Israel to get it’s first king had been quite a process. But to briefly summarize it in point form:

The elders of Israel had foolishly requested it. God had graciously allowed it. Samuel had faithfully arranged it. Saul had reluctantly accepted it. And all the people gladly affirmed it. Well, most of the people gladly affirmed it.

You’ll recall at the very end of 1 Samuel chapter 10, as Saul’s Inauguration Day came to a close, it says…

…there were some scoundrels who complained, “How can this man save us?” And they scorned him and refused to bring him gifts…1 Samuel 10:27

So it would seem that not everyone was convinced that Saul was the man to lead their nation – or more specifically, they were not convinced that Saul was the man to save them from their enemies – which was really what they wanted a king for in the first place. You’ll recall back in chapter 8 that the elders of Israel, after being warned of how costly a king would be, they said to Samuel:

“…we still want a king,” they said. “We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will judge us and lead us into battle.” 1 Samuel 8:19

Having someone to lead them into battle was one of the underlying reasons for having a king. They wanted someone who could command the armies and give them victory over their enemies!

And at first glance, it would certainly seem that Saul was an ideal candidate for that! You’ll recall that he was a big boy – he stood head and shoulder taller than everyone else. He was just the kind of guy that you’d want to follow into battle. He’s no scrawny pencil-pusher – he’s a bit of a hulk! He’s a well built farm-kid that towered over everyone else!

So why would these scoundrel’s complain “How can this man save us?” Why would they doubt his abilities to be their king and lead them into battle?

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The Humble King

On Wednesday this week the world watched as the United States inaugurated their 46th President. For some, it was a day of celebration and joy – for others, it was a day of frustration and anger. But either way, this inauguration was, and will be, a significant milestone in the history of the United States.

But today I want to talk about another Inauguration Day – one that is equally or even more significant in world history. It just so happens as we’ve been reading along through the book of 1 Samuel that we’ve arrived just this week to witness the Inauguration Day for the First King of Israel – King Saul.

We’ve been leading up to this moment for the past few weeks. We saw three weeks ago how the people of Israel had rejected God as their king! Although God had rescued them from slavery in Egypt and had given them the blessings of the Promised Land, it seems the Israelites no longer wanted to be led by an invisible God – they wanted a human King to lead them like all the other nations around them.

Now of course, God warned them that having a human king would make their lives that much more difficult – human kings take and take and take – but even with that warning, the people insisted and so God decided to give them the king that they so badly desired!

Then two weeks ago, we were introduced to that first King-to-be – a tall and handsome man named Saul. Saul was out looking for his father’s donkeys who had wandered away from the family farm, and in the search for the donkeys, God led Him to cross paths with the prophet Samuel. God had told Samuel earlier that he would send him a man from the tribe of Benjamin and that man was to become Israel’s first King. And so, as Saul approached Samuel – looking for advice as to how to find his father’s donkeys, God told Samuel that this man, Saul, was the man that would lead His people, Israel.

With that knowledge, Samuel then invited Saul to a banquet as the guest of honor, and invited Saul to spend the night at his house – eventually explaining to Saul how God had chosen him to be King. In fact, the next morning as Saul was heading home, Samuel took out a flask of olive oil and anointed him as King of Israel.

Now as you might imagine, Saul could hardly believe what Samuel was saying – I mean, who was He that God should choose him as King? Why, just yesterday he was wandering the hillsides looking for lost donkeys! And now God wanted him to be king over Israel? 

And so Samuel gave him a series of signs to prove that what He was saying was true. Samuel told Saul exactly what would happen on Saul’s journey home – who he would meet, where they would be going, even what they would be carrying – and of course, everything happened just as Samuel described. 

One of the final things that Samuel said would happen was that the Holy Spirit would come upon Saul and change him into a new person and that He would prophesy along with a group of prophets that He would meet along the road.

And that’s just where we’re going to pick things up today – with Saul on his way home – the anointing oil still dripping down his head – about to meet this group of prophets. Our passage begins in 1 Samuel chapter 10, starting at verse 10.

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Saul Transformed

Today we continue looking at the book of 1 Samuel. As I’ve mentioned before, this book bridges two main eras in Israel’s history – it begins in the era of the judges and it ends in the era of the kings. During the era of the judges, the nation of Israel functioned more as a loose confederation of tribes rather than as a single, unified nation. Under the judges, they had no national government or capital city or standing army – in fact, they had no king, except of course, for God. God had chosen Israel as his people and He was their King.

But two weeks ago, we read how the Israelites rejected God as their King and they asked God to give them a human king – just like all the other nations had. Of course, God knew that this was not in the best interests of Israel, but God choose to give them what they wanted, and he agreed to give them a king.

So last week we were introduced to Israel’s first King – a tall and handsome man named Saul, although at this point in our story, Saul is not the king yet. He’s actually just out running errands for his father, Kish – looking for some donkeys that had strayed away from the family farm.

But as he’s out looking for these donkeys, God perfectly arranges all the circumstances so that Saul ends up running into the prophet Samuel who cryptically tells Saul that He and his family are the focus of all of Israel’s hopes! He doesn’t outright tell Saul yet that God has chosen Him to be king, but you can be sure that Saul’s mind is in overdrive – trying to figure out what Samuel was talking about.

But we ended last week with Samuel then inviting Saul to be the guest of honor at a banquet at the local place of worship. Saul is still hesitant to believe that he deserves such honours – but Samuel knows without a doubt that Saul will be king – even if Saul isn’t fully convinced.

We pick up the story now in 1 Samuel chapter 9, verse 25.

25 When they came down from the place of worship and returned to town, Samuel took Saul up to the roof of the house and prepared a bed for him there. 26 At daybreak the next morning, Samuel called to Saul, “Get up! It’s time you were on your way.” So Saul got ready, and he and Samuel left the house together. When they reached the edge of town, Samuel told Saul to send his servant on ahead. After the servant was gone, Samuel said, “Stay here, for I have received a special message for you from God.”

1 Samuel 9:25-27

Now there are a couple of translation issues that I should mention this morning – one is in these verses, and the other I’ll mention a little later on. But in these verses, many translations don’t talk about Samuel making a bed for Saul on the roof – but instead they refer to Samuel simply talking with Saul up on the roof. And I’m no Hebrew scholar, so I can’t really say which is more accurate – but I would assume both are implied. We can see in the following verse, that Saul obviously spent the night at Samuel’s house, because Samuel is telling him to get up the next morning, so it would make sense that Samuel made a bed for him. 

And at the same time, it would be hard to imagine that Saul didn’t have a few question for Samuel! After everything that happened that day and after everything that Samuel said to Saul, I think it would be pretty safe to assume that Saul and Samuel had a very long talk that night! 

Likely, Samuel told Saul about the people asking for a King and how God choose to grant them their request and that Saul was the man that God had chosen for the job. We might assume that Samuel told Saul about some of the responsibilities of a King and how important it was for Saul to honor God in all of his kingly duties. After all, Israel was still God’s special possession and so any king had better take good care God’s people!

Now of course, all their conversation isn’t recorded for us in the Bible, but that kind of conversation would certainly make sense.

So now, the next morning, as Saul and his servant are about to head home, Samuel instructs Saul to send his servant on ahead because God had a special message for Saul. So the servant goes on ahead and we read in chapter 10, verse 1:

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Chasing Donkeys

Well, we’ve been reading through the book of Samuel and we’ve now made it to chapter 9. And even though this book is called “The Book of Samuel”, Samuel actually isn’t the focus of the majority of the book.

Of course, as you’ve noticed, in the first 8 chapters, the story did revolve primarily around Samuel (around his birth, life, and ministry) – but for the next 46 chapters, the focus shifts… and Samuel becomes more of a supporting character, while others take the centre stage.

And that shouldn’t be too surprising because as we noted last Sunday, the era of the Judges has now ended (with Samuel being the last of them) and a new era of Kings is about to begin.

Last Sunday we read how the people of Israel no longer wished to be led by Judges – they wanted to have king like all the other nations around them. Mind you, they already had a King – God was their King – and in reality, they were rejecting God as their King – not Samuel as their judge.

But to make a long story short, even though God knew that human kings would never serve Israel as well as He did, none the less, at their insistence, God choose to grant them their request and He agreed to give them a King.

And that’s just what we’re going to read about today.

1 Samuel chapter 9, verse 1 begins like this:

There was a wealthy, influential man named Kish from the tribe of Benjamin. He was the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 His son Saul was the most handsome man in Israel—head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the land. 1 Samuel 9:1-2

And I’ll just pause here for a moment because this is kinda interesting. In the chapter just before this, the people of Israel asked God to give them a ‘king to lead them’, right? They didn’t want to be led by an invisible God, they wanted to be able to see their king leading them into battle! They wanted a king that would look like a king.

And this fellow Saul certainly fit that bill! He’s was just the kind of man you’d expect to be king! As we just read, he came from a wealthy, influential family. He was good-looking – in fact, he was described as the most handsome man in nation! And on top of that, he was a goliath of a man! – standing head and shoulders taller than anyone else! He was tall, dark, and handsome – and wealthy to boot!

If the Israelites wanted a king that looked like a king – Saul would certainly be on the short-list! But of course, being a king isn’t all about appearances, but I just found it interesting that as far as appearances go, Saul was just about as Kingly as they come!

Anyways… let’s keep reading and let’s see what else we can learn about this Saul fellow. Verse 3

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Give Us A King

This morning we want to continue where we left off before Christmas – working our way through the book of Samuel. And it’s been over a month since we were last in Samuel, and so to start this morning, I thought I’d take some time to remind us where exactly we are in the bigger story of the Bible.

So far everything that we’ve talked about in the book of Samuel has happened during the time of the judges – Samuel himself being one of those judges – along with others like Samson, Gideon, Deborah, and Ehud.

And these judges were not like the judges you might think of today – sitting in a court room deciding legal matters (although some of them did seem to take on that role as well.) But these judges were really more like the generals of an army.

You see, during the time of the judges, the 12 tribes of Israel had no central government. They had no king – they had no standing army. They were really just a loose confederation of tribes that sometimes even fought against each other! But every so often, they would face a threat from a common enemy and they would unite together under the leadership of a judge who would lead them against their oppressors.

Now of course, those oppressors were usually brought on by the Israelites’ own sinfulness. Time and time again, the Israelites would rebel against God, and so God would discipline them by allowing these enemies to oppress them. Under that oppression, the Israelites would then repent of their sin and cry out to God for deliverance and God would raise up a judge who would then rescue them.

So these judges were not Kings or rulers of Israel per se, but really just temporary rescuers. They were military and spiritual leaders who would lead the Israelites to victory over their enemies and at the same time lead them back to God.

Now as you might expect, after these great victories, there were times when the Israelites wanted their rescuer to become their king! This happened to Gideon after he had rescued them from the Midianites. But Gideon very clearly told them that being their king was not the role God had for Him. If you take a look at Judges 8 verse 22, it says…

22 Then the Israelites said to Gideon, “Be our ruler! You and your son and your grandson will be our rulers, for you have rescued us from Midian.”

23 But Gideon replied, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son. The Lord will rule over you!

Judges 8:22-23

You see, Gideon understood that the Israelites already had a king. God was their King! No other nation on earth had that privilege! They were a nation unlike any other nation on earth! The Sovereign God of the universe had specially chosen them to be His people. He would be their King and they would be His people.

And so Gideon reminded the people, that although God had used Him to rescue them from the Midianites – God was the only King who deserved to be on the throne of Israel. 

And so with all that in mind, we’re ready to pick up our story today in 1 Samuel chapter 8 – starting at verse 1.

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