Thoughts About What We’re Reading…
The people of Israel, aware of Samuel’s advanced age and of the wickedness of his sons, demanded of the prophet that he select a king to rule over them.
Samuel was old and his sons were dishonest judges, accepting bribes and perverting justice.
But when the people asked Samuel to provide a “king to judge us”, Samuel the Judge and Prophet was hurt. But God tells Samuel that the people have not rejected him they have rejected God as their King.
The request for a human king was not in itself improper, for God had promised a king back in Genesis and Deuteronomy.
But the refusal to wait for God’s timing was clearly displeasing to the Lord and to His prophet.
In the face of impending conflict with the Ammonites the people wanted a king “such as all the other nations have”.
Even after witnessing the leadership of the Lord in stunning victory over the Philistines at Ebenezer, Israel demanded a fallible, human leader.
God would permit them to have a king, but they would live to regret their hasty impulse.
And so we read the heart-breaking story of Saul, Israel’s first king. His jealousy of David tore apart his family, his country and his relationship with both Samuel and God.
Two of Saul’s own children – Jonathan and Michal protected David against their father, to Saul’s dismay and bitterness.
We feel for Jonathan, torn between his love for David as God’s anointed King and his loyalty to his father. Jonathan would die in battle with his father at Mount Gilboa.
There is one touching story at the end of 1 Samuel 31.
Back in 1 Samuel 11, the Ammonite army had surrounded and laid siege to the city of Jabesh-gilead. The people cried out to Saul for help. Saul defeated the Ammonites and rescued the citizens of Jabesh-gilead. It was a joyous time for Israel in the new monarchy.
Many years later, in Chapter 31, Saul and his three sons are defeated and killed in battle against the Philistines. The Philistines cut off Saul’s head and hang his body along with his three sons on the wall of Beth-shan.
When the citizens of Jabesh-gilead, the people Saul rescued many years before, learn about the desecration of the bodies, they send warriors out at night to rescue the bodies of Saul and his sons and bring them back to Jabesh for burial under a tamerisk tree and mourn his death, fasting for seven days.
And so ends the story of Saul, Israel’s first king.
Saul was more worried about himself and what the people thought then what God thought. Jesus warned us about the same things in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).
When we read the story of Saul, we are reminded that when we seek safety and security in anything other than God – be it governments, bank accounts, relationships, or anything else, they will never deliver.
True security can only be found in Jesus – our reigning King.
We are called to resist conforming with worldly thinking. Through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are called to be transformed in our thinking and in how we live.
The Apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 8:6-7, “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” Amen.
Until next time – Keep reading.