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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.

10 When Saul and his servant arrived at Gibeah, they saw a group of prophets coming toward them. Then the Spirit of God came powerfully upon Saul, and he, too, began to prophesy. 11 When those who knew Saul heard about it, they exclaimed, “What? Is even Saul a prophet? How did the son of Kish become a prophet?”

12 And one of those standing there said, “Can anyone become a prophet, no matter who his father is?” So that is the origin of the saying “Is even Saul a prophet?”

1 Samuel 10:10-12

As we can see, things happened exactly as Samuel had described earlier. As Saul arrived in Gibeah and saw this group of prophets, the Holy Spirit came upon him and he began to prophesy.

Now it’s important to note that Gibeah is Saul’s hometown – this is where he grew up. This is where his father Kish was a wealthy and influential man. This is a place where everyone knows young Saul. And clearly, everyone is astonished that Saul is prophesying!

This is obviously out of character for Saul! It’s such a dramatic change and so unexpected, that this event becomes proverbial! It becomes a saying for the local people “Is even Saul a prophet?”. They can hardly believe it!

But this was the beginning of God confirming to the Israelites that Saul was His choice to be King.

As you look back over the previous chapter and a half of 1 Samuel, you can see a pattern developing as God reveals and confirms Saul as His choice as King – first to Samuel, then to Saul, and then finally to everyone else.

First, God reveals and confirms this to Samuel. We read how God told Samuel the day before Saul even showed up, “Tomorrow, I will send you a man from the tribe of Benjamin – and that man will be the leader of my people, Israel.” And lo and behold, the next day, Saul comes looking for Samuel to help him find his father’s donkeys and God says to Samuel “He’s the one!” And then as Saul tried to argue “I can’t be king, I’m just a nobody from the tribe of Benjamin” – the fact that Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin only confirmed for Samuel that Saul was indeed the one that God had chosen.

So after Samuel was convinced – the next part was to convince Saul. So Samuel invites him as the guest of honor to this banquet and then to spend the night at Samuel’s house (no doubt talking about how God had chosen Saul as king), and later Samuel anoints Saul’s head with oil and tells him exactly what will happen on the trip home – which indeed happens exactly as Samuel says. So all these events work together to convinced Saul that God has chosen him as King.

The last step is to convince the people of Israel. And that’s what’s beginning to happen here. As Saul joins these prophets and begins to prophesy, the people can clearly see that the Holy Spirit has come upon Saul – and that didn’t happen to just anybody in those days!

Prior to this, we really only read about God’s Spirit coming upon guys like Moses, Joshua, the judges and the prophets – people that God had clearly chosen to lead and guide His people!

And so while this event, on it’s own, doesn’t proclaim Saul as King, it certainly gives evidence that God had chosen Saul for something significant! Now the specifics of what Saul was chosen for would have to wait – as we see in the next verses – it seems the time to publicly announce Saul’s kingship had not yet come. Take a look at Verse 13

13 When Saul had finished prophesying, he went up to the place of worship. 14 “Where have you been?” Saul’s uncle asked him and his servant.

“We were looking for the donkeys,” Saul replied, “but we couldn’t find them. So we went to Samuel to ask him where they were.”

15 “Oh? And what did he say?” his uncle asked.

16 “He told us that the donkeys had already been found,” Saul replied. But Saul didn’t tell his uncle what Samuel said about the kingdom.

1 Samuel 10:13-16

Now we don’t know exactly why Saul didn’t tell his uncle that Samuel had anointed him to be King. Perhaps Samuel told him not to say anything yet. Perhaps Saul was just not ready to tell anyone – he was still processing everything in his own mind. Or maybe Saul was just too shy or reserved to bring up such a topic – we’ll see more of that a little later on. Whatever the case, it seems in this whole process that Saul is always hesitant to be seen in the spotlight.

  • You’ll remember when Samuel tells him “you and your family are the focus of all of Israel’s hopes”, Saul objects and says “But I’m just a nobody!”
  • Then later at the banquet, it seems he needed some convincing that He should eat the food that was prepared for the guest of honor. Saul couldn’t believe He was that guy.
  • And here, he’s says nothing to His uncle about being anointed King. 
  • And then, as we’re going to read in the next verses, He’s reluctant to even show up for his own inauguration day!

But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. We’re not quite at Inauguration Day yet. But I just wanted to point out how hesitant Saul was to be the guy in the spotlight.

And there’s a couple possible reasons for that.

Some commentators think that Saul was slow to obey God and slow to embrace the role that God had given him. They picture him a bit like Jonah – running away from the task that God had asked him to do. And actually, we do see some rebelliousness and disobedience later on in Saul’s life – so that could be the root issue here.

But then there are other commentators that see Saul’s hesitancy as evidence of genuine humility – or at least of a quiet, introverted personality that doesn’t seek the limelight. We’ve seen clearly that Saul doesn’t see himself as King material!

And really, I think that’s the kind of king you want to have! No one wants a King who is arrogant and proud – who feels he deserves to be King! Maybe you’ve worked for a boss like that – maybe you are a boss like that! If so, don’t be that guy! King Nebuchadnezzar was that kind of King and you can read in Daniel 4 what happened to him!

But the Bible always exhorts leaders of any kind to be humble – kings, parents, bosses, pastors, – anyone who has authority over others must strive to be humble.

Jesus says in Matthew 23:11..

11 The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. 

Matthew 23:11-12

And Jesus certainly illustrated that for us. Clearly He was the greatest among us – but He used his power, position, and authority to serve, not Himself, but others! Not only do we see him doing things like washing the feet of his disciples and ministering to the diseased and the outcasts – but more than that, we see Jesus humble himself to the point of dying a terrible death on a cross for sake of wicked sinners like you and me! Paul writes in Philippians 2…

5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

6 Though he was God,

    he did not think of equality with God

    as something to cling to.

7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;

    he took the humble position of a slave

    and was born as a human being.

When he appeared in human form,

8  he humbled himself in obedience to God

    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor

    and gave him the name above all other names,

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,

    to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11

The King of Kings has set the pattern for us. He humbled Himself to the point of death – giving His life for us – and because of that, God exalted Him to the place of highest honor!

That’s the kind of king I want to serve! That the kind of leader, that’s the kind of boss, that’s the kind of dad that I want to be. Humble – using my power, position, and authority to serve others! And all of us, not matter what positions of authority we may have – can do that. We can all follow the example of Christ and humble ourselves and serve others.

Now was Saul that kind of King? Well, we’ll have to read a few more chapters to find out. But our story continues as we finally arrive at King Saul’s Inauguration Day! Verse 17

17 Later Samuel called all the people of Israel to meet before the Lord at Mizpah. 18 And he said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, has declared: I brought you from Egypt and rescued you from the Egyptians and from all of the nations that were oppressing you. 19 But though I have rescued you from your misery and distress, you have rejected your God today and have said, ‘No, we want a king instead!’ 1 Samuel 10:17-19a

Samuel again made it very clear to the people of Israel that in asking for a King to lead them, they were rejecting God. He reminded that that God was the one who had rescued them from all their troubles – first slavery in Egypt, then from the oppression of several other nations throughout the time of Moses, Joshua, and the judges. But after all that God had done for them, they foolishly insisted on rejecting God and choosing instead a mere man to lead them. But if a king was what the people wanted, then a King is what God would give them. Samuel continues in verse 19….

Now, therefore, present yourselves before the Lord by tribes and clans.”

20 So Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel before the Lord, and the tribe of Benjamin was chosen by lot. 21 Then he brought each family of the tribe of Benjamin before the Lord, and the family of the Matrites was chosen. And finally Saul son of Kish was chosen from among them.

1 Samuel 10:19b-21

And I’ll pause here just for a minute to explain what’s going on. The fact that Saul was chosen “by lot” didn’t mean that Saul was randomly picked to be king by simply rolling some dice – although that’s maybe what it looks like from the outside. But the fact is, God had already chosen Saul to be King before all this! 

God had told Samuel that Saul would be king even before Saul came looking for his father’s donkeys. God had then revealed his choice to Saul Himself through Samuel – having Samuel annoint his head with oil. God had even sent his Holy Spirit to come powerfully upon Saul – changing him into a new person and enabling Him to prophesy.

So now this act of choosing Saul by casting lots in the presence of all Israel was really just a public confirmation for all the people that Saul was indeed God’s choice! They didn’t have to just take Samuel’s word for it – it was confirmed by this process of casting sacred lots. What God had privately revealed to Samuel and Saul was now publicly confirmed for all the people to see that Saul was indeed to be King!

But as we’ve already point out, Saul wasn’t chomping at the bit to take his place as King! It says in verse 21…

And finally Saul son of Kish was chosen from among them. But when they looked for him, he had disappeared! 22 So they asked the Lord, “Where is he?”

And the Lord replied, “He is hiding among the baggage.” 23 So they found him and brought him out, and he stood head and shoulders above anyone else. 

24 Then Samuel said to all the people, “This is the man the Lord has chosen as your king. No one in all Israel is like him!”

And all the people shouted, “Long live the king!”

25 Then Samuel told the people what the rights and duties of a king were. He wrote them down on a scroll and placed it before the Lord. Then Samuel sent the people home again.

1 Samuel 10:21-25

So finally, and somewhat reluctantly, Saul stands before the people as their King. And he looks exactly like the kind of king they’ve been hoping for. Tall, handsome, humble…. You couldn’t pick a man who appeared more perfect for the job!

You know, I find it interesting that even though God had surely felt the sting of rejection as Israel asked for human King to lead them instead of Him, God didn’t just bitterly choose some awful king for Israel – some loser that would make life miserable for them and make them want to come crawling back to God for relief.

I think if I were in God’s position, I may have done something like that. But God doesn’t do that. God doesn’t act out of bitterness and resentment – He acts out of love. Even though Israel had rejected Him, God still loved them! And He choose for them a great King – or at the very least, a man that would have potential to be a great King!

In fact, as we read the next couple verses, we see that God continued to set Saul up for success!

26 When Saul returned to his home at Gibeah, a group of men whose hearts God had touched went with him. 27 But there were some scoundrels who complained, “How can this man save us?” And they scorned him and refused to bring him gifts. But Saul ignored them.

1 Samuel 10:26-27

Even though there were some people who refused to support their new King (And King Saul wisely choose to ignore them), there were other who’s hearts God had touched to whole-heartedly support and go with Saul.

I imagine these guys would become Saul’s inner circle – kinda like David’s mighty men. These would be the guys who would stick with Saul through thick and thin – why? Because God had touched their hearts to do so.

It just amazes me how kind and gracious God is to Saul and to Israel – after being rejected and replaced as Israel’s King, so to speak.

But I guess that’s just the character of God. To have compassion on those who reject Him. To be kind to those who hurt Him. To love those who hate Him. To die for those who sin against Him.

There are probably a lot of things that we could take out of this passage today, but I’m just struck by the goodness of God in all of this! 

  • God is good and gracious to Israel. 
  • God is good and gracious to Saul. 
  • And God is good and gracious to us. 

I couldn’t help but think of Psalm 103. Let me just read some of that for you this morning.

1 Let all that I am praise the Lord;

    with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.

2 Let all that I am praise the Lord;

    may I never forget the good things he does for me.

3 He forgives all my sins

    and heals all my diseases.

4 He redeems me from death

    and crowns me with love and tender mercies.

5 He fills my life with good things.

    My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!

6 The Lord gives righteousness

    and justice to all who are treated unfairly.

7 He revealed his character to Moses

    and his deeds to the people of Israel.

8 The Lord is compassionate and merciful,

    slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.

9 He will not constantly accuse us,

    nor remain angry forever.

10 He does not punish us for all our sins;

    he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.

11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him

    is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.

12 He has removed our sins as far from us

    as the east is from the west.

13 The Lord is like a father to his children,

    tender and compassionate to those who fear him.

14 For he knows how weak we are;

    he remembers we are only dust.

15 Our days on earth are like grass;

    like wildflowers, we bloom and die.

16 The wind blows, and we are gone—

    as though we had never been here.

17 But the love of the Lord remains forever

    with those who fear him.

His salvation extends to the children’s children

18 of those who are faithful to his covenant,

    of those who obey his commandments!

Psalm 103:1-18

I don’t know what kind of a week you’ve had this week, but I’m sure this is a comforting reminder to you this morning! Our God loves us far more than we deserve. He never deals with us out of bitterness or resentment. He is compassionate and merciful – slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is a humble King – a king who has given his life for your salvation.

I would just encourage you this morning to get to know this King. Pursue a relationship with Him – as He has been pursuing one with you!

Perhaps, like Israel, you’ve rejected Him as your King in the past – and God’s graciously given you the freedom to make that choice – but that doesn’t mean he’s stopped loving you. He still desires to be your God and to have a relationship with you.

Or perhaps like Saul, you’re feeling a little over-whelmed with everything that’s going on in your life right now. Don’t be afraid – trust in the God that we just read about – the One who redeems your life from death, the one who crowns you with love and tender mercies, the One who fills your life with good things, the One who renews your strength like the eagle’s!

We serve a loving God – a humble King who cares about every aspect of your life! I’d encourage you to put your trust in Him today.

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