1 Samuel 9:1-6, 15-27; 10:1-7, 20-24.

Following God's Call to Lead Others

      June 9, 2002.  2002, J.W. Carter
     www.biblicaltheology.com              Scripture quotes from KJV


This study investigates the characteristics of a weakness that many Christians exhibit, and gives us guidance in overcoming the barriers which cause that weakness: the reluctance to lead others, or reluctance to take action when asked to by God.  History is filled with examples of leaders who were reluctant to take the first step. Who were some? Moses: "I cannot speak..."; Gideon: "I and my family are the least..." are two such examples.  We see in the first chapter of Joshua that he was very anxious about the call to lead Israel.   What causes people to be reluctant to lead when God calls?  Many people express a fear of the unknown, fear of failure in front of others, feeling unqualified for the task, fear of a lack of sufficient knowledge, lack of time, feelings of inferiority, the list goes on.  There is no shortage of excuses that an anxious mind can contrive in an effort to avoid the source of that anxiety.   This study focuses on Saul's reluctance to serve as Israel's first king.

The scripture passages observed here illustrate a chain of events that led to Saul's acceptance of the position of King of Israel. This chain has eight links: 9:3, 9:6, 9:15-17, 10:1a, 10:2-12, 10:20-21; 10:22; 10:23-24.

Sam 9:1-3.

There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Becorath, the son of Aphiah of Benjamin. 2He had a son named Saul, an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites--a head taller than any of the others. 3Now the donkeys belonging to Saul's father Kish were lost, and Kish said to his son Saul, "Take one of the servants with you and go and look for the donkeys."

Recall that the Hebrews had demanded that Samuel find them a King (1 Sam. 8:5), and God told Samuel to fulfill their request, though God was displeased by the Nation's desire. God assured Samuel that he would receive guidance in the selection of the individual that He would choose for the position. That person was to be Saul, son of Kish, a Benjamite.  Note that the tribe of Benjamin was the smallest, nearly wiped out after a battle with other Hebrews over an insult committed by a Benjamite. The Benjamites were able to continue as a tribe only by intervention of a Hebrew council. A person called from this tribe would have no stature among the other tribes.  Much like others in the Bible who are called upon by God to be part of His purpose, Saul would have little standing before the people.  When we look at the those who accomplished the most noteworthy acts, we invariably find normal people:  people who are flawed and without status.  God glorifies Himself when His purpose is demonstrated through the lives of ordinary people.  God can call anyone to His service, and those chosen are almost always normal, flawed, but faithful people.

The first link in the chain of events that led to Saul's confirmation was the loss of the donkeys.  This set into motion what God had planned to take place.

1 Sam 9:4-6.

So he passed through the hill country of Ephraim and through the area around Shalisha, but they did not find them. They went on into the district of Shaalim, but the donkeys were not there. Then he passed through the territory of Benjamin, but they did not find them. 5When they reached the district of Zuph, Saul said to the servant who was with him, "Come, let's go back, or my father will stop thinking about the donkeys and start worrying about us." 6But the servant replied, "Look, in this town there is a man of God; he is highly respected, and everything he says comes true. Let's go there now. Perhaps he will tell us what way to take."

What was the second link in the chain? In their failure to locate the lost donkeys, it was suggested that they would visit a seer who resided in the district of Zuph.  This set in motion the meeting between Saul and Samuel, with Saul in a frame of mind to listen to what Samuel had to say.

Here is an example of a situation that was used of God to attain His purpose, where that situation had nothing to do with the actual purpose. What did Saul think he was doing? Saul's intent was entirely to ask this prophet for the location of his donkeys.   What was God's purpose in Saul's visit to Samuel? Samuel needed to meet Saul in a context where God could point out this man to Samuel as the next King.  Some people like to trust in coincidental events to point to some greater purpose.  Others consider coincidences to be simply a matter of statistical anomaly, only to be ignored.  Certainly we know that God is sovereign, and can work all things out for His purpose (Romans 8:28). We must always realize that when God is calling us to do something, we are called by one who's wisdom and knowledge far exceeds our own. We must trust that his call is true and step out on faith.

1 Sam 9:15-17.

Now the day before Saul came, the LORD had revealed this to Samuel: 16"About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him leader over my people Israel; he will deliver my people from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked upon my people, for their cry has reached me." 17When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the LORD said to him, "This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people."

Now, the third event in the chain is set in motion. What is it? God reveals to Samuel that a visitor from Benjamin would arrive the next day, and would be the one that God chose to lead the nation.   The day before Saul would arrive, God revealed his coming to Samuel. How did God describe Saul? He was described simply as a man from the land of Benjamin.   What would Samuel's natural response be to the consideration of a king coming from Benjamin?  One can almost imagine Samuel questioning God: "Are you sure? Can anything good come out of the tribe of Benjamin."? We see many instances in Samuel's life where he hears God's voice, even from his first call from God when, as a child, God called Samuel three times from his sleep.  Consequently, we can expect that Samuel had enough faith in God that he never questioned whether the king should come from Benjamin.   Why does God choose ordinary people of low position to fulfill his purpose?  Such people will depend on God, and God will receive the credit due for works accomplished.  We might naturally think that God would make it a practice to call out the most dynamic of human leaders. God does not. God calls ordinary people: that's us.

Why did God reveal his will to Samuel?  Samuel had been called by God as the last judge of Israel.  This characterized Samuel as a prophet, different than anyone else in all of Israel.   What did a prophet do that others did not? A prophet had access to God, and was called to share God's will with others. Note that under this definition of an Old Testament prophet, all Christians are prophets.  All Christians have access to God through prayer, and are called to share God's will with others.  There is little difference between a faithful Christian and an Old-Testament prophet.  If any difference exists, it is in the modern Christian's reluctance to step out in faith and act upon the gifts God gave you.

Note that God referred to Saul's position as a Captain, or prince, or governor; not as a King. He would not be the authority for the people, nor would he take God's place.  The people wanted a king like the other nations, a dictator who would make their decisions for them, and by so doing lose the freedom that God had given to each person.  By looking to Saul for guidance, the people would be drawn away from their dependence upon God.

1 Sam 9:18-27; 10:1.

Saul approached Samuel in the gateway and asked, "Would you please tell me where the seer's house is?" 19"I am the seer," Samuel replied. "Go up ahead of me to the high place, for today you are to eat with me, and in the morning I will let you go and will tell you all that is in your heart. 20As for the donkeys you lost three days ago, do not worry about them; they have been found. And to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you and all your father's family?" 21Saul answered, "But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?" 22Then Samuel brought Saul and his servant into the hall and seated them at the head of those who were invited--about thirty in number. 23Samuel said to the cook, "Bring the piece of meat I gave you, the one I told you to lay aside." 24So the cook took up the leg with what was on it and set it in front of Saul. Samuel said, "Here is what has been kept for you. Eat, because it was set aside for you for this occasion, from the time I said, 'I have invited guests.'" And Saul dined with Samuel that day. 25After they came down from the high place to the town, Samuel talked with Saul on the roof of his house. 26They rose about daybreak and Samuel called to Saul on the roof, "Get ready, and I will send you on your way." When Saul got ready, he and Samuel went outside together. 27As they were going down to the edge of the town, Samuel said to Saul, "Tell the servant to go on ahead of us"--and the servant did so--" but you stay here awhile, so that I may give you a message from God." 

10:1 Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on Saul's head and kissed him, saying, "Has not the LORD anointed you leader over his inheritance?

The fourth link was when Samuel anointed Saul as the leader over all Israel.. What was meant by the act of anointing? The ritual of anointing was (and still is) used as a ritual that signifies the setting apart of an individual for a specific purpose.  It is not the oil of anointing that has any intrinsic power, but rather it is through the act of anointing that the approval of a person's calling is demonstrated.  Anointing is simply a statement of approval.  Once anointed, Saul would always be able to look back to this moment, to this act, and remember his being set apart for God's purpose by God's prophet, Samuel.  Those who witnessed the anointing would be aware of the same.  It appears that, in this case, Samuel anointed Saul in private, as it was not yet time for his ascendancy to the throne to be announced.

1 Sam 10:2-7.

When you leave me today, you will meet two men near Rachel's tomb, at Zelzah on the border of Benjamin.  They will say to you, 'The donkeys you set out to look for have been found. And now your father has stopped thinking about them and is worried about you. He is asking, "What shall I do about my son?"' 3"Then you will go on from there until you reach the great tree of Tabor. Three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you there. One will be carrying three young goats, another three loaves of bread, and another a skin of wine. 4They will greet you and offer you two loaves of bread, which you will accept from them. 5"After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost. As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, tambourines, flutes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying. 6The Spirit of the LORD will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. 7Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.

Then, as the fifth link, God gave three signs to assure Saul of his calling. What were the three signs?  First he would meet men along the road who would notify him of the retrieval of his donkeys.   Second, he will meet a group of prophets as he is taken to the town of Gibeah, and third, as they prophesy, the Holy Spirit will come upon Saul, and he will prophesy with them.   Note the last one, and the significance of it. Some people teach that the Holy Spirit did not indwell people until the experience of the early church at Pentecost. Such a view is not well researched. Even the apostles received the Holy Spirit in the upper room when they met Jesus after the resurrection.  There is one difference, however, with the way that the Holy Spirit worked prior to and after the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  . Prior to the resurrection, God withdrew His Holy Spirit from people. That is not the case when one accepts Christ in faith. Note that Saul is told that he will turn into an entirely different person. What does this mean?  When the Holy Spirit comes and dwells in the life of a believer, a transformation takes place as that person turns from a world-centered view to a God-centered view, seeking to turn from the wickedness of this world and embrace the will of God in their lives.  If no such transformation takes place in the live of one who professes to know Christ, that knowledge is suspect.  After the resurrection, the Holy Spirit enters one's life only when the individual chooses Christ.  In the Old Testament, people did not always ask for the Holy Spirit to come; Saul is a good example.

1 Sam 10:20-21.

When Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, the tribe of Benjamin was chosen. 21Then he brought forward the tribe of Benjamin, clan by clan, and Matri's clan was chosen. Finally Saul son of Kish was chosen. But when they looked for him, he was not to be found.

Sixth Link in the chain of events was the selection of Saul from all of Israel by lot.  Though not all translations describe it, the action taken here was done through the casting of lots. First, a representative from each tribe was brought forward, and the lot fell on the tribe of Benjamin. Then, a representative from each of the clans in the tribe are represented. The lot fell on the tribe of Matri. Then, each family leader is represented. The lot fell on Kish. Then, each member of Kish's family was represented and the lot fell on Saul.  The lots may have been cast using the Urrim and Thummin, two stones kept in the high priests breastplate, though historical and literal evidence of this is vague.

Prior to this point God had revealed to Saul and to Samuel who the King would be. It may be possible that the 30 members of the banquet that was held in Zuph would also know, but it is not likely since the anointing of Saul took place on the road as Saul was making his return journey, and was separated from his servants.. Why, then was the casting of lots necessary?  Unfortunately, the people had become so paganized that they would believe the lot rather than believe the word of God through Samuel alone. Also, the casting of lots may have been done by the High Priest, and this would have confirmed the choice already identified by Samuel's prophesy.

Now, Saul, the tallest man around could not be found.  What happened when the people looked for Saul?

1 Sam 10:22.

So they inquired further of the LORD, "Has the man come here yet?" And the LORD said, "Yes, he has hidden himself among the baggage."

The seventh link was God's revelation of Sauls place of hiding through Samuel's prophesy.  Saul's absence cause them to inquire about his whereabouts. Apparently, their inquiry was made in prayer. God revealed to them, through Samuel, that Saul was hiding in amongst the baggage.  Note first, that God revealed Saul's whereabouts, further supporting the validity of Samuel's selection. However, why was Saul in hiding in the first place, this man of such stature? As a runt of a child, but one with an "attitude," I learned at an early age that a person's physical size is not correlated to their cognitive or spiritual stature.  Saul was more than reluctant to serve as King.  Like his predecessor in leadership, Joshua, he felt wholly unworthy to hold the office.  His pre-knowledge of the outcome would make it difficult for him to witness the casting of the lots, so his absence is reasonable. In any event, his reluctance was clearly shown in his hiding among the bags of his servants.

What are some of the things that make us feel inferior or unworthy?  Why are Christians so often reluctant to be spiritual leaders?  Every day we are engaged in a spiritual battle (Eph. 6:12), and whether or not we are engaged in that battle, we are part of it.  Christians who are not faithful to their calling, who demonstrate a weak faith, find themselves overwhelmed by every attack, whether it be a simple doubt or a frontal attack by Satan.  God has provided the resources to stand against the wiles of Satan, and in order to overcome our fears we can use those resources.  When God calls an individual to serve Him, he is always calling a person who has weaknesses and vulnerabilities, since all people do.  However, it is through the weakness and vulnerability of people that God can show his strength.  Rather than hide when God calls, a Christian is in a position to stand firm against the unholy spirit that would chase him/her into hiding, and trust God's promise that He gave everyone who He called:  He will not leave you, nor forsake you.  It is through His strength that the task can be accomplished.

1 Sam 10:23-24. 

They ran and brought him out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others. 24Samuel said to all the people, "Do you see the man the LORD has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people." Then the people shouted, "Long live the king!"

The last link in the chain of events occurred when the people accepted Saul. Though Saul was reluctant and felt incapable, and unworthy, God called him and used him. 

2 Cor 12:9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

We learn from example after example in the scripture that God always uses ordinary people. It is through those that God's strength is best revealed. Scriptural examples teach us that when God reveals his will to people, he is calling them to action. We have come to believe that when we learn what God's will is, we must then pray that God will call someone to do it. We are often willing to wait until God sends the person we are hoping for when the truth is that the person is already there: it is the person who has been impressed by God that there is a need.  Don't be surprised, then, when you learn of a need and you feel impressed to pray for someone to fill that need and you find yourself rationalizing away God's call to fill it.  Pray for the Lord's wisdom, courage, and strength, and simply accept God's call.  Then watch Him do the work through you.