1 – History of Grace 10:17-19 & 12:6-13
History can be fascinating. We can spend much time engrossed in documentaries or books about world wars, leaders, and the ancient cultures of various countries. We usually treat it like an academic exercise. We are just accumulating knowledge. For some of us it’s a hobby, or even obsession, binging on Netflix to get our fix!
Samuel gives Israel a history lesson as they assemble to choose their first king ( 10:17-19). It’s a familiar story, and he even repeats it in chapter 12:6-13.
God delivered Israel – from Egypt, from all kingdoms that had oppressed them. He sent Moses and Aaron ( 12:6-8). He had sent judges like Gideon, Barak, Jephthah and Samuel ( 12:11), giving them deliverance from many enemies. But now they were rejecting Him, and all because they wanted to be ‘like all the other nations’ (8:4b,20).
They had an identity problem. They were getting their identity from the ungodly people around them rather than from being who God had declared them to be.
2 – The Hidden King 10:20-24
In what is a comical and ironical situation, at the official naming of Saul as king of Israel, Saul is chosen by lot, but cannot be found. The tallest man in all of Israel is found cowering in the luggage after God gives away His hiding spot. (10:22).
This seems a very strange action on Saul’s part. He has had the affirmations that all of what Samuel had told him was true, he had been given a new heart (10:9), and the knowledge that God was with him (10:7). But when it comes being revealed to all of the nation as king, he hides.
We assume he wasn’t playing hide and seek. Was he embarrassed? Overwhelmed by the responsibility?
We’ve had a few hints from what we know about Saul so far as to why he might feel shame enough to hide away.
“Shame is the deep sense that you are unacceptable because of something you did, something done to you, or something associated with you. You feel exposed and humiliated.” – Ed Welch
What do we know so far?
He is a Benjaminite ( 9:21).
His hometown was Gibeah.( 10:10,26).
There is a sad and sorry history with Saul’s hometown and tribe that may give us insight to some of his actions.
We find the terrible account in Judges 19-21.
A Levite from Bethlehem has a concubine, and she decides to go back home. He goes after her, and on the trip home, decides to stay the night in a town called Gibeah of Benjamin.
Not knowing anyone in the town, he prepares to stay in the town square, but an old man takes them in to stay with him for the night, because, like Sodom, Gibeah is not a safe place for visitors.
Like Sodom, the men of the city come to the old man’s house and demand he hand over his guest so they could ‘know him’ .
The Levite throws his concubine out to them to save himself. She dies as a result of the horrific abuse, and the Levite, in full “righteous anger”, rallies all of Israel by cutting his concubine into twelve pieces, sending a piece to every tribe, demanding a response and judgement on Gibeah and Benjamin.
The resulting conflict between the rest of Israel and Benjamin is horrific loss of life on both sides, and in the end, the near annihilation of Benjamin as a tribe.
The rest of Israel feel sorry for Benjamin, and to make sure they don’t die out, they steal young women from a town called Jabesh-Gilead so the Benjaminites could have some wives.
It’s an horrific history, and it’s Saul’s family story. This would’ve only been a couple of generations before, no doubt fresh in all of Israel’s minds, but so raw and real to all the people of Benjamin, and the people of Gibeah especially.
God has his purpose in choosing Saul, a Benjaminite from Gibeah for the first king. He was showing mercy, and doing a work of restoration.
3 – The Spirit-Filled King 10:25-11:15
Saul doesn’t go about building a palace or setting up a cabinet, or doing the things we would expect of a newly chosen leader.
He goes back to doing what he knows. Farming. (11:5).
What changes him from a farmer to king is the urgent need to defend the town of Jabesh-Gilead ( Note the name of the town from the story in Judges 19-21. This would’ve been Saul’s grandmothers or great-grandmother’s hometown) from an evil and sadistic guy named Nahash. ( 11:1-3).
Saul becomes king not because of any personal rage he musters, but the Spirit of God rushes upon him, kindling a righteous anger to bring justice.
He brings the people together to deliver Jabesh-Gilead, they come, they conquer and the people rejoice – they believe they’ve made an excellent choice! They have the king they wanted.
Saul shows great graciousness. He forgives those who initially despised him (10:27 & 11:12-13),and gives God the glory for the victory.
Saul is officially crowned king (11:15), and the people rejoice, and we would do well to hope ‘they all lived happily every after’ .What could be better? The people of Israel have a Spirit-filled king who gives God glory for victories and has accepted his new identity, redeeming his tribe, hometown and lineage of any shame they may have had.
The people thought they had chosen well in choosing to be like all the other nations. But they had not chosen the best, and their joy was to be short lived.
4 – What Happens When You Accept Second Best 12:1-25
“Samuel’s address to the people completes a major and radical transition in Israel’s life, from leadership by men and women whose primary orientation was to God, to a leadership by kings, leaders whose primary orientation was to the people.
God raised up judges; the people demanded a king.
The prophetic judges were God appointed; the political kings were people – acclaimed…Samuel announces the era of the ‘second best’.” – Eugene Peterson
Samuel reminds them again of what they are getting themselves in for and the dangers of not following the commands of God ( 12:13-15).
As a sign of the seriousness of their rebellion against God has their ruler, they are judged with thunder and rain ( 12:16-18).
God is not a tyrant or a bully. He does not force submission. But if you choose anything other than Him, He will not hold back judgement on account of your foolishness.
The people of Israel had chosen poorly by not choosing God.
There are two kinds of people at the end of time. Those to who say to God, ‘Thy will be done’. And those to whom God will say, ‘Thy will be done’. – CS Lewis
When we don’t chose God, we chose oppression. To chose second best is to chose judgement.
5 – The One Who Intercedes For And Covers Our Inadequacies 12:19-25
We need to acknowledge, as the people of Israel did, we have done evil. ( 12:19).
We need an intercessor, who, like Samuel, will go before God for us constantly (12:23).
He wasn’t going to shirk his responsibilities.
He said it would be a sin if he did not pray for his fellow Israelites.
If more of us felt that way, our prayer meetings would overflow, and would always be seeking to pray with and for one another without pretence and with a proper fear of God.
We also need constant Gospel reminders like Samuel gave the people. God keeps His promises. We should seek to serve Him faithfully with our whole heart. We should not turn aside after empty things this world offers.
“Consider what great things He has done for you” 12:24
Right from the very start of human history we have sought to avoid exposure of our true selves. It’s part of being human. Hiding and covering are instinctive.
We’ve tried to hide away our true identity with the things of this world.
Adam and Eve used leaves.
Saul used luggage.
You feel like something has touched you deep inside and it’s cracked your very soul. You are broken and everyone can see your innermost. This is shame, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
The cracks you think are irreparable are in fact, redeemable. Healing and redemption come from the stripes and wounds of a Saviour who is willing to bear your sin and the sin committed against you.
In time, you will see that the cracks are where the light shines through the strongest.
Shame can cripple us, but what we often need is a reminder of our new identity that God has given us, to consider all the great things that He has done for us, despite our past. Despite our sin and shame.
God is in the business of providing covering for those who are exposed.
He did it for Adam and Eve with a lamb. He has done it for us through His son.
We have a King who had never done any wrong. He had a flawless history, a perfect Father, and yet never was anyone in all of human history as exposed and vulnerable as He was.
“What is shame? The Son of God, while on a rescue mission of love, was misunderstood, insulted, betrayed, denied, mocked, spit on, cursed, abandoned, stripped, crucified…The Cross is…the summary of what God says to unworthy people.” – Ed Welch
God raises up those who are not able to raise themselves. ( 1 Samuel 2:7-8).
He brings the poor up out of the dust. The needy from the ash heap. He makes those who are lowly and hiding themselves away with the baggage of their lives to sit with princes, to inherit a seat of honour as heirs of the kingdom.
We have a King Who raises us up. No matter our past. No matter our history, we have a future that is a bright as the promises of God, but we also have a present that can be full of rejoicing in the redemption that God brings to broken people.
If you’re going to hide behind anyone, hide behind Him. He is the safest and greatest rock there is.
There is no rock like our God!