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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:

Then Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it over Saul’s head. He kissed Saul and said, “I am doing this because the Lord has appointed you to be the ruler over Israel, his special possession.” 1 Samuel 10:1

This is actually the other verse that has a significant translation difference. In some translations, there is a much longer version of this verse – one that was only originally found in the Greek Septuagint.

The NET translates that longer version like this:

Then Samuel took a small container of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head. Samuel kissed him and said, “The Lord has chosen you to lead his people Israel! You will rule over the Lord’s people and you will deliver them from the power of the enemies who surround them. This will be your sign that the Lord has chosen you as leader over his inheritance. 1 Samuel 10:1 NET

So as you can see, there are a few more details in this translation, but again, the essence of the verse remains the same. Saul was chosen by God to be the leader of His people, Israel. Samuel may have been the one to pour the oil, but it was God who had appointed Saul to be King.

And that was probably important for Saul to understand. He wasn’t chosen by whims of the people in some election. He wasn’t a random stranger pulled out of a crowd by Samuel. But in fact, He was hand-picked for this job by God Himself!

I think that kind of knowledge would give Saul the confidence he needed to do what God had asked Him to do. Being king was not going to be easy, and I’m sure there would be times when Saul would be tempted to doubt his calling. There would be times when He would doubt his abilities to lead God’s people!

But this moment would serve as an anchor point for him. He could look back at this moment, with the oil running down his hair, dripping down on his beard – and he would remember his anointing – He would remember that God had personally hand-picked Him to lead His people, Israel. 

And by the way, I just want to remind you that you, too, been hand-picked by God! Perhaps not to lead the nation of Israel, but for something even more significant. Ephesians 1:4 says…

4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. Ephesians 1:4-5

I just love that passage! Whenever I feel like a failure – whenever I feel like I’m not good enough – whenever I feel like I’ve messed things up big time – I can go to this verse and be reminded that God hand-picked me to be adopted in His family. 

It’s amazing to think that even before He created the world, God already knew everything about me – all my shortcomings and failures, all the ways that I’d mess up – and He hand-picked me anyway! It says He loved me and He chose me – and doing so brought Him great pleasure!

And that’s true for you too! You’ve been hand-picked by God to be in His family – to be holy and without fault in His eyes through Christ – and to live with Him forever! He doesn’t just reluctantly accept you, but He’s delighted to have you in His family!

It’s kinda hard to believe, isn’t it? You and I – hand-picked by God! Incredible!

I think Saul had a hard time believe it too! Who was he that God would choose him to be king? What made him so special? Surely there were a lot of other qualified people in Israel – why not one of them?!

So I think as Saul may have been wrestling with those types of questions, God graciously and lovingly set the stage for Saul to be fully convinced that He truly was God’s choice! God was about to show Him through a series of events that everything that Samuel had said was true! We continue reading in verse 2 as Samuel says…

2 When you leave me today, you will see two men beside Rachel’s tomb at Zelzah, on the border of Benjamin. They will tell you that the donkeys have been found and that your father has stopped worrying about them and is now worried about you. He is asking, ‘Have you seen my son?’

3 “When you get to the oak of Tabor, you will see three men coming toward you who are on their way to worship God at Bethel. One will be bringing three young goats, another will have three loaves of bread, and the third will be carrying a wineskin full of wine. 4 They will greet you and offer you two of the loaves, which you are to accept.

5 “When you arrive at Gibeah of God, where the garrison of the Philistines is located, you will meet a band of prophets coming down from the place of worship. They will be playing a harp, a tambourine, a flute, and a lyre, and they will be prophesying. 6 At that time the Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them. You will be changed into a different person. 7 After these signs take place, do what must be done, for God is with you. 8 Then go down to Gilgal ahead of me. I will join you there to sacrifice burnt offerings and peace offerings. You must wait for seven days until I arrive and give you further instructions.” 

As Saul turned and started to leave, God gave him a new heart, and all Samuel’s signs were fulfilled that day. 

1 Samuel 10:2-9

I don’t know if you’ve ever opened one of those fortune cookies that has one of those incredibly vague predictions of your future that could probably apply to anyone in any situation – like “A new relationship is just around the corner.” Or “Your hard work will lead to great opportunities!” That could pretty much apply to anyone in any situation.

Well, Samuel’s predictions for Saul were nothing like that! These were incredibly specific predictions – for even one of them to happen by coincidence would be amazing! But for all of them to happen just as Samuel said – would be impossible. The only way anyone could accurately predict all of these things was if they knew the future – which Samuel did because God had revealed it him.

But this would be the confirmation for Saul that God had truly chosen him. Only God could have revealed such a detailed account of the future to Samuel – so if these things all came true, then Samuel must have been speaking from God and Saul would know that God had indeed chosen him to be king.

But there’s two other cool things in this passage that I want to point out.

First of all, I love how it says in verse 6…

6 At that time the Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them. You will be changed into a different person. 1 Samuel 10:6

That’s pretty awesome! Saul didn’t have to enrol in 8-week “how to become a king” course. He didn’t have to read the latest self-help book. In fact, he didn’t do anything! The Holy Spirit simply came upon him and transformed him into a different person! I love that! Instantaneous change! And verse nine only confirms that!

As Saul turned and started to leave, God gave him a new heart, and all Samuel’s signs were fulfilled that day. 1 Samuel 10:9

In just the time that it took Saul to turn around and start to head home, God gave him a new heart – he changed him from the inside out! And the Bible doesn’t detail for us exactly what those changes were or how Saul changed – but one things was certain, Saul was a brand new person. God had done something incredible in his life.

And I think, to a certain extent, as Christians, we have experienced that too! When we put our faith in Jesus, God promises to send the Holy Spirit to dwell within us and to change us from the inside out. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says..

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

When we surrender our life to God, he doesn’t just leave us the way we are. He transforms us into new people. He changes the way we think. He changes the way we see the world and everyone in it! He changes our attitudes. He changes our character!

Paul talks about this transformation in Galatians chapter 5. He explains how the Holy Spirit gives us new desires and how he changes our character. Let me highlight just a few verses from that passage. In verse 17 he says:

…the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires… Galatians 5:17

We start wanting what God wants. We desire to please God and to serve Him. It’s not all about me anymore. Then in verse 22 he goes on to say…

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22-23

You’ll notice that we don’t produce that fruit in our lives. The Holy Spirit does! That’s all part of God changing us into new people as we learn to know and love Him. We may not be completely transformed in a moment like Saul was – although I do think there is some element of instant change when we first give our lives to Christ – but most of the change is a gradual change. Like growing fruit, it takes time. It takes a lifetime actually. As we learn to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in our lives, He produces more and more of that good fruit!

The key thing for us is surrendering to the leading of the Holy Spirit like Pauls says in verse 25: 

Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Galatians 5:25

So how do we do that? How do we know and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit? Well, it starts by getting to know God – by reading His Word and spending time with Him in prayer – both in your personal life and together as church family. Knowing God’s character and knowing Gd’s Word is what helps us discern whether our desires are from our old sinful nature or whether our desires are from the Holy Spirit. 

And with that discernment in place, then we need to resist those desires that come from our sinful nature and be obedient to the desires that come from the Holy Spirit. It’s listening to those quiet Holy Spirit whispers in your mind and heart, and being obedient to those Holy Spirit nudges.

And the more and more we do that, the more and more God changes us into new people! He changes us into the kind of people that we actually want to be! People who are full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

And that leads me to the second point that I want to pull out of our Samuel passage. After Samuel says to Saul in verse 6 how the Holy Spirit will come upon you and you will be changed into a different person… then he says in verse 7…

7 After these signs take place, do what must be done, for God is with you. 1 Samuel 10:7

And I actually like how the NET puts it…

7 “When these signs have taken place, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God will be with you. 1 Samuel 10:7 NET

It’s like, now that God has transformed you into a new person, and He’s given you new desires and a new heart, the Holy Spirit is dwelling within you – just go and do whatever needs to be done – do whatever your hand finds to do. God doesn’t have to lay out step-by-step instructions for you or even to give you a to-do list. 

Why? Because you’ve got the Holy Spirit dwelling within you to guide you along the way. You’ve got those new desires in your heart that want to please God and to do what’s right. So just follow those new desires and follow the Holy Spirit.

Even though Saul had never been King before – and he didn’t even have an example to follow – He didn’t need one. He had God Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit to guide him along the way. As long as he followed the leading of the Holy Spirit – following those new desires in his new heart that God had given him, he could do whatever he thought was best – because his desires would line up with God’s desires!

And I just find that really refreshing!

I think sometimes as Christians we get all wrapped up in trying to figure out what God wants us to do – we try to figure out God’s will for our lives. Is it God’s will that we should we live in this place or that we should we take this job or that we should we marry this person?

And not to say that those are wrong questions, but I think as long as we are striving to follow those new desires that God gave us when we became new Creations – those desires to please and honor Him… If we follow those desires and as we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, I think God gives us great freedom to do whatever our hand finds to do.

The Christian life really isn’t about checking off the to-do list that God has for, but it’s more about  just going through life with Him – it’s about our relationship with Him and wanting to serve and honor Him in whatever we do.

Certainly there are times when God gives us specific direction – even in this case, Samuel tells Saul, “Go to Gilgal, wait for 7 days and then I’ll give you further instructions…” But for most of life, God simply invites us to do whatever our hands find to do that will bring glory and honor to Him.

We touched on this a little bit last week when we looked at 1 Corinthians 10:31…

31 So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 

1 Corinthians 10:31

And I think that’s kinda what Samuel is getting at here. Do whatever your hand finds to do, Saul, for God will be with you. Eat, drink, establish an army, attack the Philistines, take a college course, get married – whatever… Just make sure that whatever you do, you’re following those new desires to please and honor the Lord and that you’re listening to the nudges of the Holy Spirit. When you do that, God will be glorified and His purposes will be accomplished.

And so this morning, I would just encourage you in the same way! Maybe you’re at a bit of crossroads in your life and you’re trying to figure out “What is God’s will for my life? What does God want me to do?”

I can tell you want God wants you to do. First, God wants you to know Him – to know his character and to know his Word so that you can discern whether your desires are from His Holy Spirit or from your old sinful nature. (And of course, that’s assuming that you have the Holy Spirit dwelling within you because you’ve surrounded your life to God. And if you haven’t done that – I guess that’s really step #1 for you! Surrender your life to God and trust in His Son, Jesus for Salvation. Remember, God hand-picked you to be part of his family! If you’ve never accepted his invitation, I’d encourage you to start with that!)

But assuming you’ve given your life to God and you’re spending time getting to know Him – you can be confident that God is at work in your life – transforming you from the inside out. His Holy Spirit is dwelling within you giving you new desires – desires that line up with what God desires!

And if God is giving you His desires – He doesn’t really need to give you a to-do list then, does He? You can do whatever your hand finds to do – Eat, drink, establish an army, go to school, get married – whatever – trusting that God was the one to give you those desires in the first place.

Now of course, we still have our old sinful nature within us and we constantly need to evaluate our desires to know if they are coming from our old sinful nature or our new Christ-like nature. But as you evaluate those desires – if you’re resisting the urges of your old sinful nature and being obedient to the desires of your new Christ-like nature and following the promptings of the Holy Spirit – if you’re doing those things to truly please and honor the Lord, you can trust that in whatever decision you make, God will be glorified and His purposes will be accomplished in your life.

Now certainly there are times when we may need some help or extra confirmation as we discern the leading of the Holy Spirit – particularly in some of those big life decisions, and you may want to look at extended times of prayer and fasting, or talking through your situation with other mature believers. God’s given us this church family for a reason – seeking wise advice from others is always a good idea. God often confirms His leading through others.

But I think at the end of the day, when we’ve done our best to resist the desires of our sinful nature and we’ve tried to discern and be obedient to the desires of the Holy Spirit – then we can be confident in whatever choice we make that God has indeed guided our choices. He will be glorified and His purposes will be accomplished in our lives.

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