The people of Israel wanted an earthly king to rule over them: “We want to be like the nations around us” (I Samuel 8:20a, NLT). The Lord responded by telling Samuel: “They don’t want Me to be their King any longer” (I Samuel 8:7b).
And then He had Samuel tell them everything an earthly king would demand of them. “But the people refused to listen... ‘Even so, we still want a king,’ they said” (I Samuel 8:19).
“So Samuel repeated to the Lord what the people had said, and the Lord replied, ‘Do as they say, and give them a king’” (I Samuel 8:21-22a).
Enter Saul. He was the son of “a wealthy, influential man named Kish from the tribe of Benjamin” (I Samuel 9:1a) and “the most handsome man in Israel – head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the land” (I Samuel 9:2).
Why Saul? The people rejected Jehovah as their king, preferring an earthly one. God was going to give them what they asked for – a king based on exactly what humans expect a “winner” to be like.
In other words, Saul was chosen because of his outward appearance. Don’t miss that because his life is used to contrast the righteous choice of David as his successor. Even Samuel questioned the choice of runty little David. And what did God tell him? “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Samuel 16:7b).
One day Saul and one of his servants were out looking for Saul’s father’s donkeys that had wandered away. Having searched far and wide, he and his servant ended up far from home in the region of Zuph. At this point, “Saul said to his servant, ‘Let’s go home. By now my father will be more worried about us than about the donkeys!’
But the servant said, ‘I’ve just thought of something! There is a man of God who lives here in this town. He is held in high honor by all the people because everything he says comes true. Let’s go find him. Perhaps he can tell us which way to go’” (I Samuel 9:5b-6).
So, in hopes of learning the location of the missing donkeys, Saul agreed to ask the help of a prophet. “So they entered the town, and as they passed through the gates, Samuel was coming out toward them to go up to the place of worship.
Now the Lord had told Samuel the previous day, ‘About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him to be the leader of My people, Israel. He will rescue them from the Philistines, for I have looked down on My people in mercy and have heard their cry.’
When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord said, ‘That’s the man I told you about! He will rule My people” (I Samuel 9:14-17).
Isn’t it amazing that the Lord “looked down… in mercy” on the very people who had rejected Him? Guess what? He’s still doing it! God saw our need for a Savior and “in mercy” came Himself to save us.
As we’ll learn through Saul’s life as Israel’s king: (A) wealth, fame, and good looks are not necessarily indicators of a good choice for leader; and (B) we need to be very careful what we ask for.
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates