Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. APPOINTED TO THE HIGHEST DIGNITY (ver. 1).
1. By a rite of consecration. "Taking a vial, he anointed Saul, thus placing the institution of royalty on the same footing as that of the sanctuary and the priesthood (Exodus 30:33; Leviticus 8:10), as appointed and consecrated by God and to God, and intended to be the medium for receiving and transmitting blessing to the people" (Edersheim). "Anointing with oil was a symbol of endowment with the Spirit of God; as the oil itself, by virtue of the strength which it gives to the vital spirits, was a symbol of the Spirit of God as the principle of Divine and spiritual power" (Keil). "Two very good reasons they (the Jews) render why God did command the use of such anointing oil as in respect of the action. First, that it did signify the Divine election of that person and designation to that office; from whence it was necessary that it should be performed by a prophet who understood the will of God. Secondly, that by it the person anointed might be made fit to receive the Divine influx." "In respect to the matter they give two reasons why it was oil, and not any other liquor. First, because, of all other, it signifies the greatest glory and excellency. Secondly, they tell us that oil continueth uncorrupted longer than any other liquor. And, indeed, it hath been observed to preserve not only itself but other things from corruption; hence they conclude it fit their kings and priests, whose succession was to continue forever, should be anointed with oil, the most proper emblem of eternity. Beside, they observe that simple oil without any mixture was sufficient for the candlestick; but that which was designed for unction must be compounded with principal spices, which signify a good name, always to be acquired by those in places of greatest dignity by the most laudable and honourable actions" ('Pearson on the Creed,' Art. 2).
2. Accompanied with an act of homage. "And kissed him." The kiss was given on the mouth, the hand, the feet, or the garment, and was a token of friendship, affection, and, in the case of princes, of reverence and homage (1 Kings 18:19; Psalm 2:12; Hosea 13:3).
3. And with a statement of its significance. "Is it not?" etc. Hath not the Lord anointed thee to be ruler over his people, over Israel? And thou shalt rule over the people of the Lord, and thou shalt save them out of the hand of their enemies" (LXX.). His appointment was of God, and the purpose of it was the deliverance of his people. The manner in which he received it shows the change which had already taken place in his feelings (1 Samuel 9:21). When God has work for a man to do, he has power to dispose and prepare him to do it.
II. ASSURED OF CONFIRMATORY SIGNS (vers. 2-6). The events which Samuel predicted were proofs of the Divine interposition, means of Saul's further preparation, and emblems of his future dignity and power.
1. First sign - his royalty was an appointment made by God. By it he would be convinced that it was not made by Samuel merely, but by God, who fulfilled his words (1 Samuel 9:20); at the same time he would be taught to leave lower cares, and aspire after the highest things. "Inwardly free, and consecrated to the Lord alone, he is to pursue his way upward."
2. Second sign - his royalty was an honour shared with God, and held in subordination to him (vers. 3, 4). A part of the offerings that were about to be presented before Jehovah in Bethel would be presented to Saul, but only a part of them; the greater portion would be given to Jehovah as a sign of the supreme homage due to the invisible King of Israel, while he was to accept the lesser portion as a sign of his subordinate position under him. "That this surprising prelude to all future royal gifts is taken from bread of offering points to the fact that in future some of the wealth of the land, which has hitherto gone undivided to the sanctuary, will go to the king" (Ewald). God commands us to "honour the king" (1 Peter 2:17), but the honour which is due to himself may not be usurped by man (Matthew 22:21; Acts 12:23).
3. Third sign - his royalty was an endowment dependent upon God, and effectually administered only through his grace. Coming to the hill (Gibeah) of God, near the city (Gibeah, his home), where there stood a garrison of the Philistines (or perhaps a pillar erected by them as a sign of their authority), which could hardly fail to impress upon him with great force the main purpose for which he had been appointed king, he would meet a band of prophets descending from the high place (of sacrifice), playing instruments of music and prophesying (speaking and singing in ecstatic utterances the praises of Jehovah, declaring his greatness, and his victory over his adversaries), and -
(1) He would be imbued with a Divine power. "The Spirit of Jehovah will come upon thee."
(2) He would catch the spirit of the prophets, and join them in their ecstatic utterances. "Thou wilt prophesy with them."
(3) He would undergo a surprising transformation. "And will be turned into another man." When he had turned his back to go from Samuel, "God gave him another heart" (ver. 9), but the prediction of the prophet was more completely fulfilled afterwards (ver. 10). The fulfilment of these predictions shows that apparently accidental events are clearly foreseen by God, human affairs are under his direction and control, and "the king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will" (Proverbs 21:1), and that "the teachings of Providence unite with the teachings of revelation and of the Holy Spirit to show men their duty and their destiny."
III. ADMONISHED OF FUTURE DUTY (vers. 7, 8). In relation to -
1. Circumstances. "Do thou what thy hand findeth," i.e. what circumstances indicate to be thy duty. His own judgment would have to be exercised, but he would not be left to it alone.
2. God. "For God is with thee," to observe, direct, and aid thee. The firm belief in his presence is a mighty preservative from the neglect of duty, and a powerful incentive and encouragement to its performance.
3. The prophet, through whom he would receive "the word of God," in obedience to which he was bound always to act. "Gilgal, on the southwestern bank of the Jordan, was then, from all indications, one of the most holy places in Israel, and the true centre of the whole people; it had a like importance before, and much more then, because the Philistine control reached so far eastward that the middle point of the kingdom must have been pressed back to the bank of the Jordan. There the people must have assembled for all general political questions, and thence, after offering and consecration, have marched forth armed to war" (Ewald). Thither he was to gather the people; not, indeed: immediately, but when circumstances indicated that it was the proper time to prepare for war with the Philistines, which was the main object of his appointment. Samuel promised to meet him there, offer burnt offerings (dedicatory) and peace offerings (eucharistic), and tell him what to do; and directed him to wait seven days, and to do nothing without him. The direction was explicit, it set a limit to his authority, and its neglect was the first step in his disobedience (ch. 13:13). When God places men in positions of authority, he teaches them the obligations which they involve; and if they fail it is not from want of knowing them. - D.
1 Samuel 10:10. (GIBEAH.)Numbers 11:25), and Moses said, "Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them." But until the time of Samuel there was no association or community, college or school, of prophets.
1. His language shows his intimate relation to this "company," of which he was doubtless the founder, and appears subsequently as president (1 Samuel 19:20); for it is not likely that there were now several such "companies," as in later times (1 Kings 20:35; 2 Kings 2:3, 16; 2 Kings 4:38).
2. Its formation was due to a newly awakened religious life among the people, and intended as a means of deepening and extending it.
3. It arose about the same time as the establishment of the monarchy, and furnished a regular succession of prophets, by whom the word of the Lord was spoken for the guidance and restraint of the king. "Samuel saw the need of providing a new system of training for those who should be his successors in the prophetic office, and formed into fixed societies the sharers of the mystic gift, which was plainly capable of cultivation and enlargement. As it was a leading crisis of the dealings of God with men, unusual operations of the Spirit marked the time of Samuel; but they were not confined to him, though he is far the most conspicuous figure" ('Heroes of Hebrews Hist.'). Notice their -
I. SPIRITUAL CALLING. They are called prophets with reference to their vocation or profession. But this was founded upon an individual and inner call by the Divine Spirit. Dwelling on the high ground of Divine contemplation, they were often visited by breezes of spiritual influence to which others were strangers, borne along in an ecstasy beyond their own control, and impelled to give utterance to the overflowing feeling of their hearts; and some of their number were chosen by God to be the recipients of the gift of prophecy in the highest sense. Their calling represents that of the Christian ministry, and more generally the vocation of all Christians (Acts 2:17; Ephesians 5:18, 19).
II. FRATERNAL UNION. They formed a "company," a voluntary, organised society, apparently dwelling together in the same place, and pursuing the same mode of life. The bond of their union was the common spirit they possessed; and their association contributed to their preservation and prosperity, and their power over others. "They presented the unifying, associative power of the prophetic spirit over against the disruption of the theocratic life, which was a legacy of the time of the judges" (Erdmann). Of Christian union the like, and much more, may be said (John 17:21; Acts 2:46; Acts 4:23).
III. MUSICAL SKILL. "And before them a psaltery (cithara), and a tabret (tambourine), and a pipe (flute), and a harp (guitar);" stringed, percussion, and wind instruments of music (ver. 5; Genesis 4:21; Genesis 31:27; Exodus 15:20). They made a religious use of music, and cultivated it with great care. It prepared them for high and holy emotion (2 Kings 3:15), and gave appropriate expression to it. It strengthened the feeling to which it gave expression, regulated it, and stirred in others a similar feeling. Their sacred music was the germ of the splendid choral service of the temple in subsequent time.
"What passion cannot music raise and quell?
Less than a god they thought there could not dwell
IV. PROPHETIC UTTERANCE. "And they shall prophesy." Poetry, like music, is the natural vehicle of strong emotion. And in it they recited and sang in an impassioned manner the praises of God, and the wonders which be had wrought on behalf of his people (1 Chronicles 25:1, 3).
V. POPULAR REPUTATION. The manner in which they were spoken of by the people generally (ver. 11) shows the important position they occupied, and the high estimation in which they were held. When the professed servants of God are so regarded -
1. It is an evidence of their worth and consistency. They commend themselves to "every man's conscience." If, being faithful to their vocation, they are despised, it only reveals the evil character of their despisers; and it is not honour, but shame, to be commended by foolish and wicked men (Luke 6:26).
2. It indicates the prevalence of a right sentiment in society.
3. It affords a favourable condition of bearing witness for God and successful spiritual labour. - D.
1 Samuel 10:11-13. (GIBEAH.)
I. SURPRISING TRANSFORMATION. The question was mainly one of surprise. The change was -
1. Sudden. In what are called "sudden conversions," indeed, there is often a secret preparation of mind and heart. Even in the case of Saul the surprise would not have been so great if his recent interview with Samuel and its effect upon him had been known.
2. In extraordinary contrast to his previous life, wherein he had exhibited little interest in or aptitude for spiritual exercises. Four or five days ago among them wholly occupied with the care of oxen and asses - dull, moody, and silent; now in a transport of religious emotion, and "speaking in a new tongue!"
3. Supernatural. It was plainly due to the "Spirit of God," i.e. (in the Hebrew conception) the direct, invisible, operative energy of God, whether put forth in nature or in man, in imparting mental or physical force for great enterprises, in promoting moral improvement, in producing exalted states of feeling, or in acts of the highest inspiration (Genesis 1:2; Exodus 31:3; Numbers 24:2; Judges 13:25; 2 Samuel 23:2; Isaiah 11:2); and (according to the fuller revelation of the New Testament) the holy, personal, Divine Spirit of God and of Christ. The expression (here used in this book for the first time) is not employed with respect to Samuel, whose intercourse with God is represented as more voluntary, self conscious, intimate, and continuous than that which it here denotes.
II. SYMPATHETIC ENTHUSIASM. Saul was drawn into sympathy with the Divine enthusiasm of the "company of prophets."
1. The links which unite men are secret, subtle, and mysterious, and the influence which some men exert over others is extraordinary.
2. Human influence is a common condition of Divine.
3. The contagious power of strong emotion is often seen in religious revivals, and to some extent also in other public movements. "Ecstatic states have something infectious about them. The excitement spreads involuntarily, as in the American revivals and the preaching mania in Sweden, even to persons in whose state of mind there is no affinity to anything of the kind" (Tholuck). "As one coal kindles another, so it happens that where good is taught and heard hearts do not remain unmoved - Acts 16:13, 14" (Hall).
III. SPIRITUAL ENDOWMENT. "And one of the same place answered," in reply to the question (asked somewhat contemptuously and sceptically), "What has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also" (whose relationship and antecedents are so different) "among the prophets? and said, But who is their father?" "Who is he that teacheth these prophets, and causeth the spirit of prophecy to rest on them? Nor is there any cause for astonishment in this; for the same holy, blessed One who teacheth these prophets teacheth also this one" (Kimchi). "Prophetical perfection is not a matter that is conveyed from father to son. Under these circumstances the son may be a prophet, though the father is not so" (R. Levi Ben Gersom, quoted by Ed. of Smith's 'Sel. Dis.').
1. Spiritual gifts are not the result of natural relationship.
2. They are due to the free and sovereign operation of the Divine Spirit, "dividing to every man severally as he will."
3. When they are bestowed on ourselves they should be received with humility, and when they are observed in others they should be regarded without envy, and with admiration and thankfulness.
IV. PARTIAL CONVERSION. "And when he had made an end of prophesying, he came to the high place" (ver. 13). His inspiration was transitory, and the change which he had undergone, great as it was, and in the direction of a renewal of his heart in righteousness, did not involve such renewal. "This transformation is not to be regarded as regeneration in the Christian sense, but as a change resembling regeneration which affected the entire disposition of mind, and by which Saul was lifted out of his former modes of thought and feeling, which were confined within a narrow, earthly sphere, into a far higher sphere of his new royal calling, was filled with kingly thoughts in relation to the service of God, and received another heart - ver. 9" (Keil).
2. There may be considerable moral reformation, much spiritual feeling, correct orthodox beliefs, outward profession of piety, and strict observance of religious ordinances, whilst the supreme affection or ruling purpose of the soul remains unchanged (Matthew 13.).
3. A real renewal of the heart is manifested by its permanent fruits (Matthew 7:20; John 15:16; Hebrews 3:14). "If Samuel is the great example of an ancient saint growing up from childhood to old age without a sudden conversion, Saul is the first direct example of the mixed character often produced by such a conversion He became 'another man,' yet not entirely. He was, as is so often the case, half converted, half roused His religion was never blended with his moral nature" (Stanley)
"Let not the people be too swift to judge;
1 Samuel 10:14-16. (GIBEAH.)Genesis 3:6; Deuteronomy 29:29; 1 Samuel 6:19; Luke 13:23; Acts 1:6)and human affairs (John 21:21). Of the latter we have here an illustration. Saul, having reached his home, was asked by his uncle concerning his journey and interview with Samuel. "Whither went ye?" "Tell me, I pray thee, what Samuel said to you." This man was doubtless acquainted with the popular agitation about a king, but what his precise motives were we are not told. Such inquisitiveness as he displayed -
I. MANIFESTS A WRONG DISPOSITION.
1. An unrestrained desire of knowledge. There must be self-restraint in this desire, as in every other; else it leads to recklessness, irreverence, and pride.
2. An unjust disregard of the rights of others. The claims of family relationship are sometimes exaggerated so as to ignore or interfere with those rights. It is imagined that they justify the expectation of an answer to any inquiry, however little it affects the inquirer.
3. Uncharitable and suspicious thoughts about the conduct of others, expressed in impertinent and annoying questions, which naturally cause resentment and discord. It may be added, that persons who are "busybodies in other men's matters" (1 Peter 4:15) are seldom so diligent and faithful in their own as they ought to be. The proper province of every man affords plenty of scope for his attention and effort (2 Thessalonians 3:11; 1 Timothy 5:13).
II. REQUIRES TO BE PROMPTLY CHECKED.
1. Out of due regard to higher claims. What Samuel said to Saul was intended for him alone, and to divulge it would be a breach of duty.
2. Lest the information given should be used to the disadvantage of him who gives it. Who knows how Saul's uncle would have employed the knowledge of his having been appointed king by the prophet? He might have done irreparable mischief. Many excellent projects have been frustrated by an untimely disclosure of them.
3. For the good of the inquirer himself. The gratification of his curiosity tends to increase his inquisitiveness, the mortification thereof to its cure. It was for the benefit of the Apostle Peter that the Lord said, "What is that to thee? Follow thou me."
III. SHOULD BE CHECKED IN A RIGHT MANNER. Judiciously, discreetly, and, more particularly -
1. With strict truthfulness. "He told us plainly that the asses were found" (ver. 16). Saul spoke the truth, but not the whole truth; nor was he in the circumstances described under any obligation to do so. "A fool uttereth all his mind; but a wise man keepeth it till afterwards" (Proverbs 29:11).
2. With due courtesy. By a blunt refusal and rude repulsion Saul might have alienated his uncle, and turned him into an enemy. "Honour all men." "Be courteous."
3. With few words or resolute silence. "But of the matter of the kingdom whereof Samuel spake he told him not." There is a "time to keep silence" (Ecclesiastes 3:7; Amos 5:13). "Then he (Herod) questioned him with many words; but he answered him nothing" (Luke 23:9). Our Lord himself is thus an example of silence to us when addressed with questions which it would not be prudent or beneficial to answer. "Silence is golden." Conclusion. -
1. Check the tendency to curiosity in yourselves, so that it may not be checked, disappointed, and reproved by others.
2. In checking it in others seek their improvement rather than your own dignity and honour. - D.
1 Samuel 10:17-25. (MIZPAH)1 Samuel 8:5); of securing their united and hearty acceptance of "him whom the Lord chose," so that the purpose of his appointment might be effected; and of guarding as far as possible against the abuse of the royal power. With these ends in view he spoke and acted on that eventful day. The choice of Saul was -
I. PRECEDED BY A SALUTARY REPROOF OF SIN (vers. 18, 19).
1. Based upon the gracious help which their Divine Ruler had afforded them. He brought them out of Egypt, delivered them from the hand of Pharaoh and his hosts, and saved them from all who afterwards fought against them and oppressed them. Remembrance of the compassion, faithfulness, and aid of God, so great, so long continued, and so effectual, should lead men to cleave to him with all their heart (Joshua 23:11), even more than fear of the consequences of disobedience (1 Samuel 8:11). The goodness of God, as displayed in "his wonderful works to the children of men," is the mightiest incentive to repentance of sin and the practice of righteousness.
2. Consisting of a charge of flagrant disloyalty. "And ye have this day rejected your God," etc. Their conduct was unreasonable, inasmuch as no other could do for them what he had done; ungrateful, viewed in the light of the past; and wilful, because, in spite of expostulation, they had said, "Nay, but a king thou shalt set over us" (ver. 19). It was, therefore, inexcusable, and deserving of severest reprobation. And it must be plainly set before them, that they might be convinced of their guilt, humble themselves before the Lord, and seek his pardon. "Therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you" (Isaiah 30:18). "The Lord will not forsake his people for his great name's sake" (1 Samuel 12:22).
3. Associated with instruction concerning the proper course they should pursue. "And now present yourselves before the Lord," etc., at his altar, where your relation to him may be set right, and his guidance may be afforded. Although sinful requests may be granted by God, yet the spirit in which they are made must be renounced. And the ready submission of the people to the direction of Samuel shows that his reproof was not without effect.
II. CONDUCTED UNDER THE SPECIAL DIRECTION OF GOD (vers. 20-22).
1. He determined, by means of the sacred lot, who should be their king. As the result of the lot was regarded as a Divine decision, not only was Saul to be accredited by this act in the sight of the whole nation as the king appointed by the Lord, but he himself was also to be more fully assured of the certainty of his own election on the part of God" (Keil). "The lot is cast into the lap (bosom of a garment), but from Jehovah is all its decision" (judgment) (Joshua 7:19; 1 Samuel 14:37; Proverbs 16:33). "A lot is properly a casual event, purposely applied to the determination of some doubtful thing. As all contingencies are comprehended by a certain Divine knowledge, so they are governed by as certain and steady a providence. God's hand is as steady as his eye. Now God may be said to bring the greatest casualties under his providence upon a twofold account: -
(1) That he directs them to a certain end;
(2) oftentimes to very weighty and great ends" (South, 1:61).
2. He indicated, in answer to special inquiry, where he was to be found. Assured beforehand of what the result would be, and out of the same diffidence, modesty, and humility as he had previously exhibited (1 Samuel 9:21), Saul "preferred to be absent when the lots were cast." Hence inquiry was made (apparently by Urim and Thummim) concerning him (1 Samuel 22:10; 1 Samuel 23:2), and the response of the oracle was definite and conclusive. God mercifully adapts his modes of communication with men to their common modes of thought, their capacity and need; and those who humbly and sincerely seek his guidance are not long left in uncertainty. His communications to men, moreover, carry in themselves the evidence of their Divine origin to those who truly receive them, and are further verified by the events to which they lead (ver. 23).
3. He presented him before them, through his recognised servant, as chosen by himself. "See ye him whom the Lord hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people?" (ver. 24). The conduct of Samuel herein was singularly generous and noble. He did not exhibit the slightest trace of jealousy or distrust of the king into whose hands his own power as civil magistrate was just about to be transferred. "No man ever resigned the first power in the state into other hands with so much courtesy, tenderness, dignity, and grace." Having ascertained the will of the Lord concerning his people, he aimed at nothing else but to carry it into effect.
III. CONFIRMED BY THE GENERAL APPROBATION OF THE PEOPLE (vers. 23, 24). Although the choice was of God, it was necessary that it should be recognised and accepted by them; and their approbation -
1. Accorded with the commendation of Samuel.
2. Was influenced by Saul's outward appearance: "higher than any of the people from his shoulders upward" - just such a man as they wished "to go out before them and fight their battles. "
3. And was expressed in the acclamation, "God save the king" (literally, May the king live). The people had now the object of their desire; but the Divine providence which had guided Saul guided them to the result. Nations, as well as individuals, are subject to the direction and control of him "who stilleth the noise of the sea and the tumult of the people." "Every act of every man, however it may have been against God in intention, falls exactly into the even rhythm of God's world plan."
IV. FOLLOWED BY PERMANENT REGULATIONS FOR THE MONARCHY (ver. 25). "The manner (mishpat) of the kingdom" - "the laws and rules by which the kingly government was to be managed" (Poole), and differs from "the manner (mishpat) of the king" (1 Samuel 8:11); being designed by the wisdom and forethought of Samuel to guard against the evils incident to royalty. "Thus under the Divine sanction, and amidst the despotism of the East, arose the earliest example of a constitutional monarchy" (Kitto). But there was no stipulation or compact between the people and the king. His rights and duties were prescribed by the will of God, whose servant he was. His power was restrained by the living voice of prophecy, and sometimes justly opposed by the people themselves (1 Samuel 14:45). "This much, however, is clear upon the whole, that the king of Israel was not an unlimited monarch, as the defenders of the Divine right of kings and of the passive obedience of subjects are wont to represent him" (Michaelis, 'Laws of Moses,' 1:286). The regulations for the monarchy were -
1. Founded upon the existing law of Moses (Deuteronomy 17:14-20), although, doubtless, not entirely confined to it. The king must not be ambitious, occupied in military preparations and aggressive wars, vying with heathen despots, relying on "an arm of flesh" rather than on God. He must not be given to sensual indulgence, forming a large harem and luxurious court; nor to the accumulation of wealth, taxing and oppressing the people for that purpose. But he must make himself familiar with "the law," and humbly obey it like his brethren (2 Kings 11:12). His work was not to make new laws, but to administer those which Jehovah had given, and "do all his pleasure." "Then must he constantly bear in mind that above him there abides another King - the Eternal; and that only in as far as he works together with God, and consequently with all spiritual truth, can any earthly monarch be a king after the heart of the King of kings" (Ewald). O that Saul had borne these things in mind!
2. Expounded in the hearing of the people.
3. Recorded and carefully preserved for future reference. "That the law of the king should not be a dead letter, that royal self-will should be kept within bounds, was to be the care, not of a representative popular assembly, but of prophecy, which stood as theocratic watchman by the side of royalty" (Oehler). - D.
1 Samuel 10:24. (MIZPAH)Vive le roi), which was to be so often repeated in subsequent ages (2 Samuel 16:16; 2 Kings 1:19; 11:12). The nations of the earth have since undergone vast and varied changes. Great empires have arisen and disappeared. The theocratic kingdom of Israel, in its outward form, has long ago passed away; and the kingdom of Christ, in which its spiritual idea has been realised, has grown up amidst the kingdoms of the world. But the old acclamation is still often heard at the accession of a monarch, and in it Christians as well as others may and ought to join. The acclamation is expressive of -
I. CHEERFUL RECOGNITION OF HIS DIGNITY.
1. As appointed by Divine providence. The invisible and eternal Ruler of the universe is the Source of all law and order, and is everworking in the world for the purpose of bringing out of the evil and confusion that prevail a state of things in which "righteousness, peace, and joy" shall abound. And in connection with and subserviency to this design he has ordained civil government (Daniel 4:32; John 19:11). "The powers that be are ordained of God" (Romans 13:1), i.e. human government generally is appointed by him, although no judgment is expressed by the apostle concerning the Divine right of any one form of government or particular office beyond others. When a ruler is directly chosen by the people he is still a "minister of God."
2. As representing the supreme authority and power of "the Most High, who ruleth in the kingdom of men." There is in every government an element which is Divine; a reflection, however dim and distorted, of that Divine power which is above all. But that government is most Divine which is the fairest exhibition of wisdom and truth, righteousness and justice, mercy and loving kindness;" "for in these things I delight, saith the Lord" (Jeremiah 9:24). "By me (wisdom) kings reign and princes decree justice" (Proverbs 18:15). Reverence for God should be expressed in giving honour to those who, in their high office, represent God, and "to whom honour is due." "Fear God. Honour the king. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of men for the Lord's sake, whether it be to the king as supreme," etc. (1 Peter 2:13, 14) - supreme, i.e., not in all things, but in those over which he has legitimate authority. In a theocracy, where the laws of God were identical with those of the state, the sphere over which that authority extended was larger than that which properly belongs to any existing government.
3. As ministering to human good. Even the absolute rule of a Caesar or a Czar is unspeakably better than anarchy. "He is a minister of God to thee for good" (Romans 13:4). He exists for the good of the community; and although the good which he is able to effect and ought to aim at is necessarily limited, he "does not bear the sword in vain." He bears it for the protection of the good against the bad. And under his sway, when he uses his power aright, his subjects are able to "lead a peaceable and quiet life, in all godliness and gravity."
II. FERVENT DESIRE FOR HIS WELFARE. "May the king prosper" ('Targum').
1. The preservation of his life, which is of great importance to the well being of the nation, and is often exposed to imminent danger from the exalted position he occupies.
2. The possession of strength and wisdom, justice and the fear of God (2 Samuel 23:3). Adequate sympathy is not always felt with "kings and those who are in authority" in their arduous duties and extraordinary difficulties.
3. The prosperity of his reign. The desire thus felt should be expressed in prayer to the supreme Ruler and the Given of every good and perfect gift (1 Timothy 2:1, 2). "We (Christians) do intercede for all our emperors without ceasing, that their lives may be prolonged, their government secured to them, their families preserved in safety, their armies brave, their senates faithful to them, the people virtuous, and the whole empire at peace, and for whatever, as man or Caesar, an emperor would wish" (Tertullian, 'Apology,' ch. 30.).
III. LOYAL DEVOTION TO HIS GOVERNMENT.
2. Strenuous opposition to its enemies.
3. Faithful endeavour to promote its efficiency and prosperity. This is plainly our duty as citizens; and whilst, under the protection afforded us, we also seek as Christians in various ways to extend the kingdom of Christ, we thereby make the work of good government easier, and secure the wisest and most just and honourable men for its accomplishment. So far from being contrary to each other, the Christian religion and civil government are mutually helpful, and each has its part under Divine providence, the one more and the other less directly, in bringing about the time when "the people shall be all righteous."
"When all men's good (shall)
1 Samuel 10:26, 27. (MIZPAH and GIBEAH.)
I. THE DIVERSE DISPOSITIONS OF MEN, as -
1. Often existing when not suspected, and notwithstanding all that is done to harmonise them. When the people shouted, "Long live the king," the dissatisfaction that lurked in many breasts was little surmised. Samuel did all that lay in his power to bring about a complete union of the tribes; but his efforts did not altogether succeed. Reason and persuasion, though they ought to be employed to the utmost: frequently fail to conciliate men because of the different disposition of their hearts.
2. Commonly manifested by special events. The honour conferred upon the leader of a new movement, or the decisive action taken by him, serves to "reveal the thoughts of many hearts." A single circumstance sometimes, like a flash of lightning in the darkness, suddenly lays bare to the view what was previously hidden.
3. Clearly distinguished as belonging to one or other of two classes: "the host" (sons of strength, LXX.) "whose hearts God had touched," and "sons of worthlessness." "He that is not with me is against me" (Matthew 12:30). The demands of certain enterprises, like those of Christ himself, render neutrality impossible.
"Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,
II. THE INESTIMABLE WORTH OF FRIENDS. Their worth is always great; but it is especially so in a time of need, when new and responsible positions have to be occupied, arduous duties to be performed, numerous enemies to be encountered. Their counsel and support are indispensable; their very presence is a mighty encouragement. "Whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage" (Acts 28:15). Their worth depends upon -
1. Their hearty sympathy in spirit and aim. A merely formal adherence is of little value; and if there be an inward and ardent devotion, it is "from the Lord" (Psalm 110:3). And when God impels a man to useful service he does not leave him without those who sympathise with him.
2. Their perfect unanimity in arrangement and method.
3. Their practical cooperation in labour and conflict. They "went with him," formed his bodyguard, and stood ready to defend and help him. In this manner their sympathy proved itself to be genuine, and rendered most effectual service. Would that all who are favourable to noble enterprises, and all members of Christian Churches, rallied thus around their "leaders!" (Philippians 1:27).
III. THE PRUDENT TREATMENT OF OPPONENTS. "How shall this man save us?" "Shall Saul reign over us?" (1 Samuel 11:12). It is not improbable that they who thus spoke belonged to the princes of Judah and Ephraim, and were envious at his election. They were certainly unbelieving, neither recognising the hand of God therein, nor looking further than man for deliverance. They were contemptuous, deeming him unfit to rule over them. "This man." And they were disloyal and disobedient. The law said, "Thou shalt not revile the gods ( = God, or the judges), nor curse the ruler of thy people" (Exodus 22:28); but they "despised him, and brought him no presents," like others, as an expression of their submission. They might, therefore, have been justly punished as traitors. Yet "he was as though he were deaf;" although he heard them, he did not retaliate, but went on his way in silence. This is often the best way of treating opponents, and it displays -
1. Great self control.
2. Much wisdom and foresight. To attempt at this time to punish these men might have produced civil war. It is sometimes necessary that gainsayers should be answered, but in most cases they do least mischief by being let alone, and are soonest silenced by silence.
3. Strong confidence in Divine help, and the success which it insures. In contending against those whom God calls to do his work men contend against him, and faith calmly leaves them in his hands, to be dealt with as he may think fit (Acts 5:39; Romans 12:19). Conclusion. -
1. Expect to find opposition in the way of duty.
2. Let the forbearance of God toward his enemies teach you forbearance towards yours.
3. Be thankful for the sympathy and help of earthly friends, and still more for the sympathy and help of the Lord. - D.
I. HIS RELIGIOUS SENSIBILITY. We know that his prophesying left little trace behind; but that Saul was quickly susceptible of religious impressions is plain enough, and this in his early days must have awakened fond hopes regarding him in the breasts of those who were zealous for the Lord of hosts.
II. HIS ATTRACTION FOR THE FERVENT SPIRITS OF THE NATION. We are told, with a sort of naivete, how his height impressed the people at large, and was pointed to even by Samuel. So the Greeks gloried in the huge Ajax, and in the towering form of Achilles. It is not said or implied, however, that Saul himself showed any pride in the admiration which his grand appearance won. The significant thing is, that he drew after him "a band of men whose hearts God had touched." They saw in his eye, or supposed they saw, the fire of a kindred enthusiasm. Here was one, they thought, worthy to be king of a holy nation. So they formed a bodyguard round him as the Lord's anointed. Their mistake is not at all an isolated one. Ardent young men often fail in discernment of character, and attach themselves to questionable leaders. Let no one count it enough that some good people think well of him, and assume his warmth of spirit as sufficient evidence of his being "born again." A man is what be is in the enduring habits and controlling principles of his character and life. Value the good opinion of the wise, if they have opportunity to see the unexcited tenor of your conduct; but do not count it a sure mark of grace that you have at some time felt a glow of religious ardour, and that others in the same mood have hailed you as brother, or even leader, in the Church of God. After all the attraction exerted by Saul over the fervent spirits of his time, he hardened his own heart, and the Lord departed from him.
III. HIS PATIENCE AND MAGNANIMITY. There were exceptions to the general approval with which Saul was raised to the throne. Some held aloof, and scoffed at the confidence which was placed so rashly in the tall Benjamite. They disliked him all the more that the devout rallied about him; for they themselves were "sons of Belial," men whose hearts the Lord had not touched. It was a serious risk for the young king to have a disloyal faction, treating his authority with open contempt. Yet Saul bore it quietly. He "held his peace." Nor was this a mere politic delay till he should be strong enough to crush the malcontents, for there is no mention of his ever having called these sons of Belial to account. Surely this was a fine point of character - to bear obstruction so patiently, and be content to earn public confidence by his kingly bearing and exploits. It was a virtue beyond the expectations, and even the wishes, of his people. Who that saw that young king could have imagined that he who was so patient would grow so restless as he did; and he who was so magnanimous would become almost insane with envy, and chase his own son-in-law among the hills of Judaea, thirsting for his blood? So hard is it for a man to be known! Virtue may leap to the front, and show itself on some auspicious day; but vice lurks in the rear, and may prove the stronger. When its day comes it will take the mastery, and then the fair promise of youth is succeeded by a wilful, selfish, ignoble manhood. You meet a man with bloated face and reckless bearing, a companion of fools, half a rogue and half a sot. Yet, could you have seen him twenty years ago, you would have looked on a healthy, happy, kindly boy, the hope of his father's house, the pride of his mother's heart. But there was a weak point in him, and strong drink found it out. So it has come to this degradation. Virtue is laughed at; self-respect is gone; the boy is sunk and lost in this gross and shameless man. Or you see one who is hard and mercenary, inexorable to those who fall into his power, indifferent to the works of genius and to the efforts of philanthropy, occupied always with his own moneyed interest. Yet, could you have seen him thirty years ago, you would have looked on a young man who loved art, or letters, or religion, and seemed likely to develop into a cultured and useful citizen. But in an evil hour the passion of worldly acquisition seized him; or, rather, that which had long been dormant and unperceived began to rule over him, as his opportunities for acquisition widened, and so his bright beginning has resulted in this sordid and ignoble character. Human deterioration, the disappointment of youthful presages of goodness - it is a painful subject, but one which moral teachers may not neglect. It is difficult to stop the evil process once it has begun; and the beginning may be so quiet, so little suspected! It is difficult to know one's self, or any one else, and to say whether it be only a good impulse one has in his youth, or a rooted principle. Some men certainly turn out much better than they promised, but some turn out much worse. Let us watch and pray. - F.