THE BOOK OF 1 SAMUEL
God at Work in the Mundane
1 Samuel 9 SCC 11/23/14
GOD USES OUR CIRCUMSTANCES TO ACCOMPLISH HIS PURPOSES AND ENDS 1-14
What we gain from this passage is a theology of circumstances. The writer provides both the background and traits of the one who is being prepared to become Israel’s first king. God has revealed through Samuel the prophet that He will give Israel a king 1 Samuel 8. He then providentially (circumstantially) leads Saul and his servant to the very place where Samuel will be, and to the feast at which Saul is the unknown (by name), but expected, invited guest of honor.
Saul’s Background and Personal Traits 9:1-2
Saul came from the tribe of Benjamin. Here is stressed the prominent position of the smallest tribe in the land. Since the beginning this tribe had been under the shadow of Ephraim the largest tribe in the north serving as its southern defensive flank against any incursions of the tribe of Judah, the largest tribe directly to the south. With the choosing of Saul and a Benjamin-based monarchy, both Ephraim and Judah needed to become vigilant of each other’s ambitions. Benjamin now comes into play with this prominent position given to them by Saul’s kingship. Would Ephraim have control over this Benjamin-based monarchy and in effect bend Saul to their will? Would Judah have to intervene with intrigue to ensure their interests are served? Would Saul prove to be up to the task for the entire nation? His father was a man of property and influence. Saul himself was physically impressive, tall, and handsome v 2. There was not a more handsome (kingly looking) person. He also was the tallest Israelite.
NB: As usual, God surprises us by whom it is he uses and how he does so. Again and again God looks for leaders in obscurity. His choices are always strategic. Saul’s background is something God has used to prepare him to be used by the Lord. Your background, including your race, parental background, wealth, and culture is part of God at work in your circumstances. For instance, growing up in Benjamin would have taught Saul about the intrigue of the larger tribes to the north and the south and possible use of such knowledge to assist his reign. Saul’s traits also serve as a way to accomplish God’s ends. His physical stature, His personality, His strength and age, are key traits that serve Saul well at this very moment. And, too, God has given and desires to use the traits we have been endowed with as a means of serving His purposes for us.
Saul’s Circumstances leading to His Meeting with Samuel 9:3-14
1. So some of the livestock of Kish become lost v 3. We do not know how the donkeys got loose, but they wander off from the farm of Kish. Kish sends his son, Saul, after the lost animals, instructing him to take along one of the servants to help. These two set out on an unsuccessful search, as far as the lost donkeys are concerned, but one, which proves to be otherwise fruitful. These two men cover a lot of ground in the next three days, but they do not find the lost donkeys v 4. Saul is ready to throw in the towel and give it all up. Surely his father will begin to worry more about them than the donkey’s v 5.
2. Saul’s young servant is not so sure v 6. He knows that they have come very near to the place where a man of God lives. It seems that neither the servant nor Saul know this “man of God” by name, and that the servant knows much more about him than Saul does. This “man of God” is a “seer,” a name formerly used to designate a prophet. The servant knows Samuel by reputation, if not by name. He is a highly esteemed man, whose words always come true – a true prophet. Perhaps they can ask this man about their journey and learn the whereabouts of their lost donkeys.
3. Saul seems to like the idea, but he does raise a very practical
problem – they have nothing to give the seer v 7. Their resources are completely depleted. They have used up all
their supplies and do not even have bread to eat. How can they ask for his
services with nothing to give in return? The servant has a solution for this
problem, too v 8. He has a silver coin,
which will suffice. With this encouragement, Saul consents to seek the help of
the “man of God,” completely
oblivious, it seems, as to who he is or to what this
might lead v 9-10.
4. As Saul and his servant reach the outside of town, they meet some young women on their way to draw water and ask if the seer is there in v 11. They tell the men that indeed he is there, and if they hurry, they might catch him while he is still available. He is about to bless a sacrifice and then celebrate the meal with a few invited guests. Once all this begins, Saul and his servant will have to wait for some time, since they are not invited guests and would not dare interrupt the sacrifice and celebration v 12-13. So this is just the right moment, but they must hurry. God has orchestrated the circumstances necessary to accomplish his purposes v 14.
NB: God uses the mundane circumstances of Saul’s life—searching for lost donkeys—to accomplish his ends. We can never suggest that anything going on in our lives is insignificant! It is all significant. It is all part of the woven fabric of Gods purposes for us. Who are we to say that God only uses the big, the noticed, the important and not the mundane, the obscure, and what seems insignificant. We are not that smart. God is up to something and it is within the mundane that he works. Do not despise the mundane in your life. God is shaping your life through these. Saul is designated as Israel’s king as he goes about the everyday business of life. Who would ever think that this man would set out to find donkeys and end up being anointed as Israel’s king?
THE OUTCOMES OF OUR CIRCUMSTANCES SERVE MAY BE VERY SURPRISING TO US
1. The day before, God had spoken to Samuel, indicating that he will meet the new king the following day v 15. He is going to be a Benjamite, and he is to be anointed by Samuel. This king is the gracious gift of a compassionate God, who has heard the cries of His people and is raising up this man to deliver them from the hand of the Philistines v 16. When Samuel looks up and sees Saul and his servant arriving at the city, God tells him that this is the man v 17. Samuel thus knows the one coming toward him is God’s choice for Israel’s king.
2. While Samuel knows that Saul is God’s choice for Israel’s king, Saul has no such knowledge. When he arrives at the entrance to the city, Saul turns to the first person he sees to ask directions to the “seers” house v 18. Samuel is the one Saul asks for directions. Samuel informs Saul that he is the seer. Before Saul can blurt out his request, Samuel speaks words Saul never dreamed he would hear. Samuel instructs Saul to go up ahead of him to the high place, where the sacrifice and the sacrificial meal are about to be eaten. Saul is to eat with Samuel that day and then spend the night. The next morning, Samuel will tell him “all that was on his mind” and then send him on his way v 19.
3. Having said this, Samuel goes on to say something which must amaze Saul: “And as for your donkeys which were lost three days ago, do not set your mind on them, for they have been found. And for whom is all that is desirable in Israel? Is it not for you and for all your father’s household” v 20? What can the words of Samuel possibly mean? And why does Samuel speak them to Saul? How can this be, since he is not from a prominent tribe or from the most prominent family? v 21.
4. Samuel is a man of faith. When God informs him that the king will come on the following day Samuel makes reservations for him as the honored guest of the sacrificial meal v 23-24. He has the cook set apart the choicest portion, telling him to serve it when instructed to do so (when the promised king appears). When Saul and his servant are seated, Samuel instructs the cook to bring out the portion, which has been set aside in expectation of his arrival. The man who appears to be an unexpected drop-in is in fact, expected and none other than the guest of honor.
NB: (1) Saul is a gracious gift of God to His people, in spite of their sinful demand to have a king. God gives Saul to Israel as her king out of mercy and compassion, because He has noted the nation’s calamities and distresses, and has sent Saul to deliver His people, just as He has done since the exodus.
(2) Saul is not given to Israel because God wants this man to fail, and therefore picks the worst possible specimen of humanity to give the nation as their king. God picks a physically superior man, whose appearance and stature seem to perfectly suit the task he is being given.
As you get up tomorrow morning, think of this text and what it implies. What irksome task will come your way? Will it be searching for lost donkeys? Probably not, but there will be those mundane and even irritating tasks which seem to consume your life with little apparent significance. God has a way of using such vexing tasks as the means too much greater ends.