When you leave me today, you will find two men at Rachel's tomb in Zelzah on the border of Benjamin. They will say to you, 'The donkeys you seek have been found, and now your father has stopped worrying about the donkeys and is worrying about you, asking, "What should I do about my son?"'
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.
And Samuel called the people together unto the Lord to Mizpeh.
I. A REJECTION OF THE DIVINE. The last embers of the old Jewish Theocracy are smouldering into extinction. The rejection of the Divine King: —
1. It was public. "And Samuel called the people together unto the Lord to Mizpeh" (ver. 17).
2. This rejection was ungrateful. "And ye have this day rejected your God, who Himself saved you out of all your adversities and your tribulations" (ver. 19). Like the planets nearest the sun, filled with light, and cheered with heat; so these Israelites had been fixed in the moral heavens near to the Infinite Being, who had thrown upon them the light of His finite mind, and given to them the sympathy of His loving heart; and thus blessed they now openly reject His future help! What ingratitude for a nation who had so frequently been delivered from imminent peril, from national ruin, and even from slavery, thus to deny Him who had been its refuge!
3. This rejection was wilful. "And ye have this day rejected your God" (ver. 19). It was not a mere frantic impulse that had taken possession of the national heart; nor had the petty orations of a renegade politician aroused the people to a temporary revolution. It was a matter of fixed purpose.
4. This rejection was reprehensible. "Ye have this day rejected your God."
5. This rejection was tolerated. "Now therefore present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes, and by your thousands" (ver. 19). The Divine Being frequently permits nations to have their own way, to pursue their own plans; and thus throwing themselves out of the chart of Providence, they are soon loosed on the wild ocean, until they are wrecked upon the predicted reefs.
II. A CORONATION OF THE HUMAN.
1. The method according to which Saul was chosen. "And when Samuel had caused all the tribes of Israel to come near, the tribe of Benjamin was taken" (vers. 20, 21).(1) The tribes were universally presented.(2) The tribes were minutely inspected. Of course Samuel knew who was to be the future king, but yet he went through the ceremony of selecting him.Why?(1) To show that the prior discipline of life is private in its nature. The discipline of every life is simply a matter between God and the soul immediately concerned; no other presence has a right to intrude upon its sanctity.(2) To complete the satisfaction of the people. Had this method of choice not been adopted, and had Saul been made king merely upon the grounds of his previous calling, the people would have suspected favouritism, and have rebelled against the decision. But now they cannot all are placed on the same level, and therefore equally possess a like chance for the new office. Here we see,(3) That God does not despise the humbler circles of life. Saul was taken from the tribe of Benjamin. Many imagine that because they are poor they are despised by men, and also forgotten or neglected by God. But such is not the case.
2. Saul's modesty is worthy of observation. "And the Lord answered, Behold, he hath hid himself among the stuff" (ver. 22). This shows the effectiveness of the Divine discipline through which Saul had passed, and proves that he was the fit man for the office of kingship, Few men would run from kingship. Its pageantry would suit their pride too well; its sceptre would meet their ambition, and its flattery would feed their weakness. But Saul looked more at its responsibility than at its emolument. Some men, when called to posts of authority, exhibit a mock modesty, and hide themselves behind the stuff of life, but they take care to get where there are plenty of holes through which they may be seen, lest their compeers should stop in the search. Saul's was genuine modesty, and modesty never loses anything by being real, for it is in such request that men pray for its discovery (ver. 22).
3. Saul's reception by the people.(1) What recommended him to them?(2) It was enthusiastic. No doubt there were many disappointed hearts, but the general cry was, God save the king.
4. The sacredness of national history (ver. 25).
5. The conduct of Samuel in this crisis.
(1) (2) (Joseph S. Exell, M. A.)
(2) (Joseph S. Exell, M. A.)
(Joseph S. Exell, M. A.)
1. Perhaps we may wonder less at the behaviour of the Israelites on this occasion if we bear in mind how often the same offence is committed, and with how little thought and consideration, at the present day. To begin with, take the case — and it is a very common one — of those who have been dedicated to God in baptism, but who cast their baptismal covenant to the winds. The time comes when the provisional dedication to the Lord should be followed up by an actual and hearty consecration of themselves. Failing that, what can be said of them but that they reject God as their King? Then there are those who reject God in a more outrageous form. There are those who plunge boldly into the stream of sin, or into the stream of worldly enjoyment, determined to lead a life of pleasure, let the consequences be what they may. As to religion, it is nothing to them, except a subject of ridicule on the part of those who affect it. Morality — well, if it fall within the fashion of the world, it must be respected; otherwise let it go to the winds. God, heaven, hell — they are mere bugbears to frighten the timid and superstitious. Not only is God rejected, but He is defied. But there is still another class against whom the charge of rejecting God may be made. Not, indeed, in the same sense or to the same degree, but with one element of guilt which does not attach to the others, inasmuch as they have known what it is to have God for their King. I advert to certain Christian men and women who in their early days were marked by much earnestness of spirit, but having risen in the world, have fallen back from their first attainments, and have more or less accepted the world's law. What glamour has passed over their souls to obliterate the surpassing glory of Jesus Christ, the image of the invisible God? What evil spell has robbed the Cross of its holy influence, and made them so indifferent to the Son of God, who loved them and gave Himself for them?
2. But let us come back to the election. No doubt Saul had anticipated this consummation. He bad had too many supernatural evidences to the same effect to have any lingering doubt what would be the result of the lot. Gregory Nazianzen actually fled to the wilderness after his ordination, and , Bishop of Milan, in the civil office which he held, tried to turn the people from their choice even by acts of cruelty and severity, after they had called on him to become their bishop. But, besides the natural shrinking of Saul from so responsible an office, we may believe that he was not unmoved by the solemn representation of Samuel that in their determination to have a human king the people had been guilty of rejecting God. This may have been the first time that that view of the matter seriously impressed itself on his mind. Even though his mind was not a spiritual mind, there was something frightful in the very idea of a man stepping, so to speak, into God's place. No wonder, then, he hid himself!
3. Three incidents are recorded towards the end of the chapter as throwing light on the great event of the day.(1) "Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom, and wrote it in a book, and laid it up before the Lord." This was another means taken by the faithful prophet to secure that this new step should if possible be for good, and not for evil. It was a new protest against assimilating the kingdom of Israel to the other kingdoms around. No! although Jehovah was no longer King in the sense in which He had been, His covenant and His law were still binding, and must be observed in Israel to their remotest generation.(2) The next circumstance mentioned in the history is that when the people dispersed, and when Saul returned to his home at Gibeah, "there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched." They were induced to form a bodyguard for the new king, and they did so under no physical constraint from him or anyone else, but because they were moved to do it from sympathy, from the desire to help him and be of service to him in the new position to which he had been raised. Here was a remarkable encouragement. A friend in need is a friend indeed. Could there have been any time when Saul was more in need of friends? Congregations ought to feel that it cannot be right to leave all the work to their minister. What kind of battle would it be if all the fighting were left to the officer in command? The glory of the primitive Church of Rome was that it abounded in men and women whose hearts God had touched, and who "laboured much in the Lord."(3) The last thing to be noticed is the difference of feeling toward Saul among the people.
(W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
I. We are interested in noticing THE PROPOSED KINGDOM AS IT AFFECTED SAMUEL. The step was a great disappointment to him and also a personal insult. Much of his life work seemed to him wasted unless the form of government under which he had brought the land to prosperity continued. Many a faithful minister well past "the dead line of fifty," but with heart full of the Spirit of Christ, has the same mingling of righteous and personal sorrow when the congregation, "to please the young people," begin suggesting that a younger man could do better the work of the church. There was another personal sorrow to Samuel in the choice. The people in their demand for a king had told him in the bluntest possible manner of the unfitness of his own sons to be their leaders, and he was forced to acknowledge publicly the sad truth which his aching heart was reluctant to admit even to himself (1 Samuel 8:5).
II. WE ARE MUCH INSTRUCTED BY THE FACT THAT GOD DID NOT IMMEDIATELY DESERT THE PEOPLE AFTER THEIR WRONG CHOICE. Good men sometimes feel constrained thus to act; but if God had withheld help from all religious and political enterprises which fell below absolute righteousness, the world would have been in perdition long ago. A Christian is sometimes at a loss to know how far his cooperation with what seems to him the best policy possible to succeed, but which still falls below his ideal, makes him responsible for the defects of the policy or system. There are many excellent people who fail to cooperate with others for the reason that their plans seem in part a concession to evil that for the present cannot be cured. The question whether a Christian may hold stock in a railroad, on the whole righteously managed but with some wrong features of administration; the question whether a Christian may visit the World's Fair if it open on Sunday; the question whether a Christian may patronise a hotel having a bar — these and many others sometimes puzzle good people. Paul was able to discriminate carefully and to determine whether eating meats offered to idols would involve a seeming endorsement of idolatry. In like manner must we discriminate between systems fundamentally evil and systems in which, though having features that are wrong, the evil is incidental. Perhaps there is not in the Old Testament an incident more clearly illustrative of God's attitude towards such systems than is afforded by this lesson.
III. WE ARE INTERESTED IN THE LIGHT WHICH THIS LESSON THROWS UPON THE BETTER NATURE OF SAUL. Well may the words of Samuel have made the young leader tremble for his own future in the position which he must occupy. In this day young men are called out as never before into responsible positions. Because of this fact they are coming to expect it and perhaps to seek it. This is natural, but usually not necessary. The right man is not likely to be so hidden in the stuff but that he can be found for the place which God has anointed him to fill. The man with his back to the sunrise, when the king was to be chosen, first saw it as it lit up the western hill tops. The best way for the young man who feels himself fitted for a higher place than he now occupies is to make himself so conspicuously useful where he is that when the people begin searching among the stuff they will find him head and shoulders above his companions. The hiding of good men grows increasingly difficult. The member of the House of Commons who sneered at an opponent, "You blacked my father's boots!" received an answer that well may have been given with honest pride: "Yes, and did it well." Far from disqualifying him, the humble work may have added important qualifications for the higher service. Now, Saul is warmhearted and dignified and sincere. No wonder the people admire him, for the words of Samuel are true and there is none like him whom the Lord hath chosen among all the people.
IV. It is interesting to notice in the closing verses an illustration of the familiar truth THAT A GOOD THING WRONGLY OBTAINED DOES NOT SATISFY. The people have had their own way, and God has helped them to secure just what they had been demanding. When they saw him, they shouted their approval of his selection. But "the children of Belial," or the worthless ones who undoubtedly had been foremost in demanding a king, despised him. It is ever so. No man more heartily condemns sin than the sinner who commits it. At the last all sin bites like a serpent. But before this the stolen fruit is found less sweet than the sinner anticipated, and the self-loathing because of it makes it bitter to our taste. The lesson that most forcibly recurs to us is that which appears again and again in our study of the history of the Jewish people — God's faithfulness even to the unfaithful, His changelessness even to those who were constantly changing and so often for the worse, His goodness even to the undeserving. He is kind to the unthankful.
(William E. Barton.)
Monday Club Sermons.The interest of the scene at Mizpeh concenters in the representative of the old regime and the new, the venerable judge and the young king. In the example of each we may find instruction.
I. The conduct of Samuel at Mizpeh sets before US THE WISDOM OF TIMELY CONCESSION. The change was inevitable. No personal influence could prevent or long hinder it. The wisdom of Samuel in his mediation between the old system and the new is now apparent. Of such men as Samuel, Dean Stanley has said, they "are the silent healers who bind up the wounds of their age in spite of itself; they are the good physicians who knit together the dislocated bones of a disjointed time; they are the reconcilers who turn the hearts of the children to the fathers, or of the fathers to the children."
II. The example of Samuel further illustrates THE NOBILITY OF SELF-RENUNCIATION. He was called to depose himself and to invest another with his authority. How the story of his own life came up before him as he pondered the change! Yet above all these natural feelings Samuel rose victorious. Chagrin, if he felt it, was quickly overcome. Personal humiliation was lost in the desire to save Israel from the full consequences of her sin. A noble freedom from jealousy, like that of John the Baptist when he looked upon his successor, and like that of Paul in view of his rivals at Philippi, but the like of which the world has not often see, now marked his course. Hitherto he had been a wise ruler, a sagacious and righteous judge, but not more famous than other judges. By self-renunciation he now became great.
III. The career of Samuel suggests to us THE STRENGTH WHICH COMES FROM CONSCIOUS OBEDIENCE TO THE WILL OF GOD. It was known to him that, in yielding to the people and anointing a king, he was doing God's will. His obedient spirit led him to look upon the change in its relation to God's purposes, and not as affecting his own interests. The cause which had failed was God's cause. In taking sides with God in this matter, he was assured that he was not suffering final defeat. To find one's self wholly opposed to prevailing currents of thought and feeling is to become helpless and despondent, except as the soul rests upon the clear revelation of the will of God. Such a revelation had come to Samuel. Obedience is a lofty virtue. The best fruit to be gathered from the study of the life of Samuel is this: that constant and consistent obedience to the will of God is an unfailing source of strength and stability. Laying aside all thought of the long darkening tragedy of Saul's later life, we may study the scene at Mizpeh as it presents him to us. We note:
1. His humility.
2. His self-control.The young manhood of King Saul wins our hearts. But its brightness and beauty was of short duration. The sun arose in unveiled splendour, but long ere midday was lost in gathering, darkening clouds.
(Monday Club Sermons.)
1. One great purpose shaping the details of the story is to make clear and emphatic that Saul was chosen by God. Now this fact that God chose Saul is full of instruction, when taken in conjunction with two things — Israel's sin in desiring a king, and Saul's swift decadence and ultimate fall. But God permitted this sinful wish to have its way. Is that difficult to understand? Is it not in accord with His constant dealings? If we will not walk in His ways, He often leaves us to our own. He grants us the things that we whimper for, though our crying shows that we have shaken off His rule, and lets experience teach us the lessons of our folly. Wishes are often best cured by being fulfilled. Saul soon proved unworthy. The man chosen by God was a failure. Was, then, the choice a mistake? No. What he was chosen to do, he did. He saved Israel "out of the hand of the Philistines." God chooses men for tasks, and is ready to fit them for their work, but He does not magically preserve them from the temptation of their positions, unless they keep themselves in touch with Him; and if they reject His help, and are made worse by their exaltation, it is not God who has erred in His choice, but men who have fallen beneath their vocation by their own sin.
2. Samuel's part in the transaction is clearly marked. Only a man of ripened wisdom, and, still more necessary, of manifest disinterestedness, could have presided over so far-reaching a change. But a heart that keeps near to God is fitted for delicate duties, and a leader who evidently has no personal ends can sway men almost as he will. Well is it for nations and churches when the representatives of the old order are willing to pour the anointing oil on the young head of the embodiment of the new, and to give the stalwart warrior the benediction of a kiss from aged lips.
3. Saul's part in this incident brings into view chiefly two points, both of them excellences. The lesson for all, especially for the young, is, do the small duties of today, and be sure that doing them is the best preparation for wider spheres, and that when you are ready for these, they will be accessible to you. The reward of work is more work. Little tasks may be great if done from great motives; and, if we fill the corner where we are with light, we shall sooner or later be set on a candlestick high enough for the light that is in us. Simplicity and modesty marked the young Saul. He feels himself unworthy of the great destiny dimly marked out for him (ver. 21). Such a temper becomes untried youth, though its opposite is often a characteristic of early life. It usually takes a good many hard knocks to beat youthful self-conceit out of a man. It is time enough to boast when we are putting off the armour, and law of us have much inclination to do so then. But when we are putting it on, and have made no proof of our prowess, the less we brag or think of ourselves the better. It will do us no harm to remember the wise saying of a Cambridge don, "Gentlemen, none of us, not even the youngest, is infallible."
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
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