Reticence, not Indifference
1 Samuel 10:16
And Saul said to his uncle, He told us plainly that the donkeys were found. But of the matter of the kingdom, whereof Samuel spoke…

Saul preserves a remarkable reticence on all that has transpired. He first meets his uncle, who enquires how and whither he has fared.

1. Saul gives him half an answer. He tells him about the asses, but says nothing of the anointing, or of the great spiritual change that had passed upon hiself.

1. It is a lesson, first of all, in the inaccessibility of human soul to soul. How little way Saul's uncle saw into the depths of his real consciousness. He was talking about asses, but he was thinking about sovereignty. How much we are hidden from one another! Each man's heart is a walled enclosure. I am an unscaleable fortress, an insoluble enigma to you until I choose to disclose myself, and you to me. This mutual inaccessibility is sometimes almost maddening. The desire to cross the threshold of another's consciousness and see life from his standpoint is, at times, a passion. There are occasions when we are tormented by the wish to know how another feels, or how we look in that other's eyes. But we might as well wish to exchange souls with an inhabitant of Mars or Jupiter. Nothing in the universe is more impossible than such a transition, such a transfer. How solemn a thing is individuality! "The heart knoweth its own bitterness, and a stranger intermeddleth not with its joys." Responsibility is measured by idiosyncrasy. The kingship was Saul's own secret. The weight of his destiny presses upon his own heart alone. In the meantime he cannot even tell it to another, though a kinsman. Yes, it is a solemn thing that, do what we will, we cannot step in between another and his destiny. Some would give worlds even to bear the hell that is another's for that other; but there is the inexorable law, the impassable gulf between one consciousness and another. I do not know anything in life harder to bear than that impatience of helplessness which we feel in the presence of another's sorrow or pain. We can look on at Gethsemane, but we cannot lighten the struggle. "Every man shall bear his own burden." And we feel only less impatience at this same limitation with reference to the happiness of others. We cannot cross the boundary of their Paradise any more than of their Golgotha. If, then, none can tamper with my individuality, and it is my grand instrument of service in the world, let me see to it that that individuality be of the noblest, a power to lift men up, an attraction to draw them to the highest.

2. But Saul's silence on this occasion affords also a lesson in prudential reserve. It was impolitic that it should be too freely canvassed. There are times when it is the mark of a Divine wisdom to hold our tongues, even upon matters of supreme moment. Silence is sometimes the duty as well as the policy of a leader. Even truth has been injured rather than furthered by its premature and inopportune disclosure. It is not every man's duty to tell to the first man he meets all he knows and all he thinks. It is not always wise for the political leader to show his hand. The religious teacher has to judge when it is expedient to lift the veil from some larger outlook, when the fitting moment has come for replacing the old by the new. Christ would not reveal to the unfit. You cannot enlighten the world by flashes. The light must dawn, and shine more and more unto the perfect day. The time must be chosen for letting in the first ray. The development of truth may be hindered by precipitancy. "There is a time to speak and a time to be silent." Saul was wise to say nothing in the meantime about the kingdom, and thus gave one evidence at least of his fitness to become a king. The man who is to rule must be capable of reticence and reserve; able to manage his tongue. Self-mastery is the grand secret of lordship over others, and in nothing is that self-mastery more shown than in the conduct of the lips.

3. Again, this incident suggests a caution against mistaking reticence for indifference. The fact that a man is silent upon a subject may mean that he is indifferent to it, but it does not necessarily mean it. Indeed, the reverse is more true. Men are often reserved in proportion to the depth and intensity of their emotions. We have a fine illustration of this in Shakespeare's "King Lear," in the reticence of Cordelia's love for her father — a love which, because it was so deep, could not find tongue — while the unnatural daughters of the poor old king were voluble in their protestations of devotion. "Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave my heart into my throat." And yet how divine was her love! It does not follow that because a man does not speak, therefore he does not feel. Saul said nothing of the matter of the kingdom, but what else was absorbing his thoughts, think you, all the while? We do not prate of our deepest love to every passer-by. The things that are most sacred are often most secret with us. We do not speak of them, because words are so poor and weak. "The action of the soul," says Emerson, "is oftener in that which is felt and left unsaid than in that which is said in any conversation."... "The soul carries its choicest treasures with a kind of fastidious delicacy. The history which lies inside of the soul is a history which will never be read until it is read from God's book. The very soul of the soul has never been spoken or printed. It is inarticulate." There is a profound reluctance in many persons, which should excite a respect as profound, to talk about their religious experience. It is wickedly unjust to interpret this reluctance as showing indifference to religion. No person has a right to ask me to unbosom myself to any miscellaneous crowd. If he presumes to do so, I show my sense of his indelicacy by retreating within the innermost keep of the castle of my own personality, and letting down drawbridge and portcullis in the face of my persecutor. Zeal for God is a noble principle, but the world is not going to be saved by bad manners. Abraham Lincoln did not generally pass for a religious man. "His religion was too far in," it has been said, "too deep down, for many words." Talk may be religious without being about religion. One of the most religious things you can do is to talk sensibly on all subjects. The Apostle Paul was neither by nature nor by calling reticent on religious subjects, and yet even he kept his deepest spiritual experiences to himself. There are not always state reasons for silence on matters of the kingdom. And "for every idle word that men shall speak they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment."

4. Again, let this incident put us on our guard, not only against our misreading of our neighbours' spiritual condition, but in our mutual judgments in general. To anyone listening to Saul's conversation, for the moment, how frivolous he would have seemed. But he was not that! The kingdom was uppermost in Paul's mind, though his speech was of other things. We wrong men in reading them from the surface only. There were those who read the divinest of all human natures superficially, and how egregiously were they mistaken! Here was a heart, the heart of the Son of Man, the depth of whose love, the passion of whose pity, was infinite. Here was a life, the very fundamental notes of which were enthusiasm and sacrifice. And yet His ignorant critics, unable to distinguish between the accidental and the essential, said, "Behold a gluttonous man and a wine bibber!" It was for the ears of the inner circle that He reserved the story of His agony and His passion, His certainty of martyrdom, His forebodings of the Cross, and His fixed resolution, notwithstanding, to go on unfalteringly to the tragic end. But the world which did not hear these things, and for whose ears they were not fit, misinterpreted His superficial gaiety of manner, and winsomeness of disposition, as indicating a want of moral earnestness. Who of us may not be misjudged after that?

(J. Halsey.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Saul said unto his uncle, He told us plainly that the asses were found. But of the matter of the kingdom, whereof Samuel spake, he told him not.

WEB: Saul said to his uncle, "He told us plainly that the donkeys were found." But concerning the matter of the kingdom, of which Samuel spoke, he didn't tell him.

Keeping a Secret
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