In 1 Samuel 8:7-18, the people demanded a king.
Why was this a bad thing?
- Because God was Israel’s King, and who could be a better King than God? So, their desire to have a human king was to fulfill selfish, fleshly longings they believed would bring them to a better place in the land. But, in the end, this desire was a rejection of God as King. This was a total offense to God and all that He deserves.
- The other problem with the people’s demand for a human king was the negative things that would happen to them under the rule of a man. Samuel warned them of all of this, but they still wanted what they asked for.
Illustrating the old adage, “Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it,” the Lord responds to the pleas of the Israelites to give them a king like the other nations. As we turn to 1 Samuel chapter 9, we see Samuel obey God’s command to give the people what they ask for and to raise up Saul as the first king of Israel.
Saul is the people’s idea of a king as he is attractive, large in stature, impressive, and noble. But as we have read, he lacks the key quality God wants to see in a king, which is “faithfulness of the heart that leads to covenant obedience.” Without this attribute, Saul is a failure in God’s sight, no matter how successful he may appear to the human eye.
Let’s dig into Saul’s story and worship God who is at work in all these things, even in the failed leadership of Israel’s first king.
In 1 Samuel 9:1-2, we read that there was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish. He was a Benjaminite and a man of wealth. “And he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.”
Oh, how we love to judge each other based on our looks and outward appearance or performance. As we will study next lesson, God looks beyond the outer appearance and performance and looks into the heart and character of a man. Again and again, God’s word leads us to look for the fruit: not just the fruit of words or actions, but the fruit that reveals the heart and character of a person. We would do well to focus on the inside and let that produce what is on the outside.
In 1 Samuel 9:3-14 we read that Saul is sent by his father to look for some lost donkeys, and it becomes quite the adventure until he runs into Samuel. By God’s sovereign appointment, Samuel has instructions for Saul that will change his life and alter the course of all of Israel.
1 Samuel 9:15-16 Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed to Samuel, “Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over my people Israel. He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines. For I have seen my people, because their cry has come to me.”
In 1 Samuel 9:17-27, Samuel blesses Saul with food and provisions and a place to sleep. In 1 Samuel 10:1-8, Samuel tells Saul that he will be the prince of the people of God and gives him very specific instructions to follow until Samuel would come meet him again and there provide a burnt offering for the Lord.
1 Samuel 10:9-13 shows us how God was with Saul, working in and through him. Saul was given a new heart, and the things Samuel said would happen came to pass. This was especially highlighted in the fact that Saul was prophesying, which took the people by surprise, as it was out of place for Saul to do this. The Holy Spirit was at work in these things, and God’s hand was setting the table for Saul’s rise to power. But it is super interesting how it is noted that the people were so shocked, as these spiritual things were not who Saul was and weren’t in line with his character. This is yet another sign that what we see on the outside is not always a right indication of who that person is on the inside. We must take our time to really know who a person is.
In 1 Samuel 10:17-24, Samuel reveals that Saul is the one who will be their king, and the people celebrate and shouted, “Long live the king!”
Read 1 Samuel 13:1-23.
Saul goes from conquest and victory to being pinned in a corner and ultimately out of patience. In verse 12, we read that Saul usurped the authority and role of the priest and offered sacrifices to the Lord on his own authority. This is a blatant act of disobedience. Now, this doesn’t seem that big of a deal to you and me, but we must understand it is a transgression, and willful disobedience, against God’s command; and even though Saul might have intended to honor the Lord in his actions of sacrifice and burnt offering, he dishonored God by doing it his way.
Can you think of a time when you did what you thought was the right thing, but in the end was still an act of disobedience to your parents, the law, or God? We must be oh-so-careful not to ever decide that our way is better than God’s way, even when it seems to be a good idea in our minds.
1 Samuel 13:13-14 And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”
Samuel makes it clear to Saul that he has broken God’s command, and therefore his reign as king will not continue. Instead, God will command another man who lives to honor God. In verse 14, we read the phrase that will become most famous in describing King David: “a man after his own heart.” While David will be far from perfect and will, himself, have many moments of disobedience and sin, he will have a heart, a character, a core desire to honor God and not himself. This is just like the hearts of the saved and redeemed that live to honor God, even though we struggle with sin. We no longer live as slaves to our sin but live to honor and worship the one true God.
God is surely at work to show the people of Israel the difference between the kind of king they desire and pick based on outward appearance and the kind of king that God has for His people, ultimately: a King that will be totally righteous forever and ever—Jesus Christ.
Later in chapter 15, we see the next step of selfish disobedience of Saul against God. Long before the time of Saul, in the days of the wilderness wandering, Israel had been savagely attacked from the rear by the Amalekites, a deed the Lord had promised to avenge someday (Exodus 17:8-16). The time had now come, so Samuel commands Saul to destroy the Amalekites totally; that is, to place them “under the ban.” This was a wartime practice of total destruction of a people and their property. This kind of ban was only able to be decreed by God, but Saul fails to obey the command and keeps some of the spoils of the land and even the king himself to benefit by personally and to show off to his people upon his return. Once again, Saul is a perfect representative of his people, who only want what they want. He doesn’t hold in high regard the instruction of the Lord and does his own self-benefitting thing. For this, he would be punished.
Read 1 Samuel 15:10-35.
Saul is filled with excuses and doesn’t own up to his sinful actions. Samuel is patient with him and makes it clear that God desires our obedience before our sacrifice or offerings. If we obey Him from the get-go, we show Him that we honor Him above our sinful longings. To ignore His commands and be disobedient and think we will just bring an offering of atonement is to manipulate our Lord. May we fight sin and our desire to do it our way. May we love to honor God and obey His commands.
May we be men and women after His own heart, in that we truly want to live for Him in all we do, despite the fact that we struggle with sin.
By His grace and for His glory,
Pastor Joshua Kirstine