This morning we continue our current sermon series titled “The United Church - A Study of Ancient Israel”. This promises to be an exciting collection of messages focusing on those portions of the Old Testament that deal with the united nation of Israel. This period of Biblical history covers approximately 120 years, during which time Israel grew from a meager federation of separated tribes into a powerful and wealthy nation-state.
This study will feature the reigns of ancient Israel’s 3 kings - Saul, David, and Solomon. Each of these men was distinctly different, exhibiting unique personalities and character traits. As is generally the case with all groups of people, the nation of Israel as a whole tended to follow the direction and temperament of their leader - for better or for worse. People in authority set the tone and often make or break the organization, whatever type it may be. As you might expect, there will be several lessons about effective and ineffective leadership presented during the course of this series.
Regional judges had reigned over the 12 tribes of Israel for almost 350 years - since the death of Joshua following the conquest of Canaan. In or around 1050 BC the tribal elders met with Samuel and expressed their desire to form a united nation ruled by a single king. Prompted by God, Samuel warned them about the many disadvantages of a monarchy. Still the people insisted, so God consented to their request, and Samuel vowed to find someone that would lead the new nation. This is where today’s sermon begins...
I. CHOSEN BY GOD (1 Samuel 9:1-27)
Saul was from a wealthy family of the tribe of Benjamin. His father’s name was Kish. Saul was young and very handsome. As a matter of fact, he was more handsome than all of the other men in Israel. He was a head and shoulders taller than anyone else. Based upon his privileged upbringing and outward appearance, Saul was the perfect person to be king.
One day Kish sent his son Saul along with a servant to search for some of his lost donkeys. They traveled through the lands of Ephraim, Shalishah, Shaalim, and Benjamin, but did not find them. When they arrived at Zuph, Saul was ready to give up and go home. But the servant suggested that they ask a prophet who was in the city at the time which way they should go to find the missing animals. After some debate, Saul agreed and the pair went to find this man of God (who happened to be Samuel).
Meanwhile, the LORD appeared to Samuel and told him that He’d chosen Saul to be the king. So when Saul and his servant approached Samuel, he began by telling them that Kish’s donkeys had already been found. Then, rather than sending them home immediately, he invited Saul and his servant to stay and have dinner with him. He took them to a dining hall where there were about 30 guests, seated Saul at the head of the table, gave him the best portions of the food, and treated him with special honor and respect. The next morning, as they were preparing to leave, Samuel pulled Saul aside by himself and explained that God had chosen him to become the first king of Israel.
The elders had requested that Samuel find them a man to become their king. Amazingly, Samuel did not have to search far and wide or even interview numerous candidates for the position. God led Saul right to him! Sometimes we find ourselves searching to find God’s will, when all the while He has placed it right before our eyes. Perhaps you have been seeking something that you can’t seem to find. Why not let God bring it to you today?
II. ANOINTED BY SAMUEL (1 Samuel 10:1-16)
Samuel anointed Saul as the prince of Israel, knowing that he would soon be promoted to king. In order to establish his credibility, the prophet foretold several of the events that would happen to Saul and his servant as they traveled home. Samuel said that they’d met some men in Zelpah and speak about the missing donkeys. Later, at the oak of Tabor, they’d meet other men who would give them some bread. When they passed through Gibeath they’d meet a group of prophets, the Spirit of the LORD would come upon Saul, and he would begin prophesying with them. After these things had taken place, Saul was to go on to Gilgal and wait for Samuel there.
Saul was probably somewhat bewildered by everything that he was hearing and experiencing. What had started as a search for his father’s donkeys had taken a remarkable turn. Could this be true? Could Samuel’s words be legitimate? As Saul and his servant journeyed home, everything that had Samuel foretold happened just as he’d predicted. God changed Saul’s heart and he realized that Samuel had been speaking the truth. Whatsmore, the people who witnessed Saul prophesying wondered what had happened to him. Even Saul’s uncle noticed a change in Saul’s behavior.
God had chosen Saul to be the first king of Israel. Now, the LORD was tailoring Saul to fulfill this special role. The LORD never calls anyone to service without also equipping them for it. Though it wasn’t God’s choice for Israel to appoint a king, He did not abandon or forsake them for doing so. Instead, He lovingly chose and prepared Saul to lead them.
III. ACCEPTED BY ISRAEL (1 Samuel 10:17-27)
Samuel called for a meeting at Mizpah and many people throughout the land of Israel came. He reminded them of God’s historic faithfulness to His people, and again rebuked them for desiring a human king. Nevertheless, Samuel had all the tribes gather before him. Casting lots, the prophet first chose the tribe of Benjamin from among the other tribes, then the clan of the Matrites from among the Benjaminites, and then Saul son of Kish from among the families of the Matrites. The people looked for Saul but he was nowhere to be found, and they wondered if perhaps there was another person to take his place.
God then spoke to Samuel and the people and told them where Saul was hiding. Hearing this, they went and found Saul. When they looked at him, they were taken back at his stature and good looks. He was an impressive young man. Samuel told them that Saul was the one God had chosen. The people were elated and began to shout, “Long live the king!” Samuel spoke up and wrote down all of the duties and rights of the kingship. Afterward, he sent everyone home. Though the majority of Israel had accepted Saul joyfully and with open arms, some “worthless fellows” despised him publicly.
Clearly Saul was God’s choice to be king. He was the right man for the job. Even still, a small faction of people did not want him to be their ruler. They treated him with great contempt and disrespect. Sadly, there have been and will always be people just like this. They are the haters, those who have no regard or appreciation for God’s chosen leaders. Anyone who holds a position of authority should be aware of these kinds of people and not allow their antics to dissuade them from godly leadership.
The united nation of Israel was in it earliest stages. There was not yet an official capital city or even a palace from which the king could reign. There was no royal court to serve him or lofty throne upon which he could sit. The extent of the king’s authority was somewhat blurred and uncertain. The young nation was disorganized and not firmly established. Nevertheless, Saul had been chosen by God, anointed by Samuel, and accepted by the people. He was to become Israel’s first king. This was a new beginning of sorts. These were exciting times for the people of Israel.
The LORD had chosen a king and charged Samuel with presenting him to the people. It was up to them to either accept or reject God’s choice. As we learned earlier, some gladly accepted him while others grumbled in disapproval. In the same way, God chose his beloved son Jesus Christ to be the redeemer and righteous king over all creation. Those of us who have already believed in Him are responsible for making Him known to others. Ultimately, everyone must choose for themselves whether or not to receive Jesus, the mighty King of kings, as their Lord and Savior.
May I ask you today… who is the king of your life? Who sits upon the throne of your heart? Who governs the decisions you make? Whose royal decrees do you follow? Who directs your steps? Is it King Jesus, or perhaps someone else? Many people have placed themselves on the throne, choosing to live selfish and materialistic lives. Some have allowed another person to sit in the figurative king’s chair to lord over them. Sadly, thousands of people have given Satan control of their lives and follow his wicked ways. My friends, no king other than Jesus will ever satisfy the longings of your heart.
And so… choose this day whom you will serve, whether it be the idols of this fallen world or the false gods of the pagans. But for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.