1 Samuel 10:9-12:25
‘As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart’ (v.9). It’s a common theme in the Bible that when someone starts to obey God’s instructions, a miracle suddenly happens. God works with us – he doesn’t just change us as we sit still passively. He loves obedience and faith. We must step out in faith and start to do something, believing that prophecies and the answers to prayers will come to pass.
The Spirit of God came upon Saul in power and he started prophesying. The Holy Spirit came down upon characters in the Old Testament for limited periods so that they could perform a supernatural task. Nowadays, in the New Covenant through our baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit – the Holy Spirit resides inside us permanently. He will allow us to work supernaturally according to our level of faith.
Samuel was going to reveal Saul as the new King in front of all the Israelites but Saul seemed to become shy at the prospect and disappeared. They asked God where he was and we can imagine God laughing as he said: ‘He has hidden himself among the baggage’ (v.22). This was not the most auspicious start to Saul’s kingship. It was difficult for Saul to hide for long because he was a head taller than everybody else. We don’t want to emulate him and ‘hide amongst the baggage’ when we need to rise to the occasion.
Samuel wrote down the ‘regulations of the kingship’ (v.25) and deposited it before the Lord, after the people had shouted ‘Long live the king!’
Everyone was dismissed to their own home but already there were troublemakers slandering Saul. First, the Israelites wanted a king. Immediately after they had one, some started working against him. It is very rare for a group of people to be in total harmony.
Saul went back to working on his fields, even though he had been proclaimed ‘king’, but was offered a chance to rescue the besieged city of Jabesh Gilead. He cut a pair of oxen into pieces and sent them throughout the kingdom. This was to show them what would happen to all the Israelite’s oxen if they didn’t follow him and Samuel. This would have reminded the Israelites of the horrible incident of the the Levite and his concubine in Judges (19:1-29). Saul assembled three hundred and thirty thousand fighting men and they slaughtered their Ammonite enemies.
The Israelites wanted to put to death the people who had doubted Saul’s leadership but Saul would not allow this. He correctly attributed the military victory to God. The people confirmed Saul as king in the presence of the Lord at Gilgal. Saul had started his reign well.
Samuel gave a farewell speech and asked the Israelites to confirm that he had acted fairly all his life. It would be great if everyone we had ever dealt with throughout our lives was able to give us such a glowing reference as the Israelites provided for Samuel.
Samuel warned them and Saul, the king they had requested, to follow the Lord your God. If they did not, his hand would be against them again. Samuel called on God to send thunder and rain to demonstrate what a foolish and evil thing they had done, choosing a human king rather then God. Even though it was not the season for these weather conditions, God responded to Samuel’s faith and ‘the people stood in awe’ (v.18).
Samuel instructed them not to turn away after useless idols (v.21). For the sake of God’s great name, God would not reject the Israelites as long they served him faithfully and remembered the great things he had done for them. If they failed to do this, both they and their new king would ‘be swept away’ (v.25).
How many people in our country serve God faithfully and ruminate on what great things he has done for them? In the UK, we are only just clinging on to being a Christian country. Just a small praying minority is keeping us all from being swept away by God’s wrath. Samuel continually prayed for the Israelites – it was his vocation to do so. We should be thankful for the holy men and women of God in our country who continue to pray for us despite the idol-worship of the majority.
Despite Jesus’ miracles, many people still wouldn’t believe in him. God had ‘blinded their eyes’ and ‘deadened their hearts’ (v.40). There are still people in our society today with spiritually blind eyes and dead hearts like stone. We must sow the seed of the gospel in them and pray that God will remove the scales from their eyes and give them a new heart of flesh.
Many others believed in Jesus but were ashamed to announce this ‘for fear they would be put out of the synagogue’ (v.42). We must never care more for the opinion of people than we do about the opinion of God. If we are embarrassed to stand up for Jesus, he will not stand up for us.
When we look at Jesus, we see God the Father who sent him. Jesus came into the world as a light, so that we will be taken out of darkness when we believe in him (v.46). Jesus came to save the world! (v.47).
Jesus showed his disciples how much he loved them by washing their feet. He even washed the feet of Judas despite knowing the devil had already prompted Judas to betray him (13:2). Jesus knew his beloved friend and disciple had been lost. Judas would have been provided with the strength to resist all temptations and he could have turned to Jesus for help but he had hardened his heart to betray God.
Jesus would soon die on the cross and wash us all clean of sin through the sacrifice of his perfect blood. When we are baptized we are washed free of all sins. However, soon afterwards we start to sin again – our feet start to get dirty as we are soiled by the secular world. By repenting and renouncing our sins through the sacrament of reconciliation – we become totally clean again. Jesus will always wash our feet in forgiveness.
Peter gave us another lovely example of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. He was offended by the idea of Jesus washing his feet but relented obediently when Jesus told him it was necessary. Peter is a wonderful example for us all. He walked on the water for a little bit but then nearly drowned. He said the wrong thing at the Transfiguration. He denied Jesus three times but Jesus personally forgave him. Peter was transformed into a mighty apostle by the Pentecostal power of the Holy Spirit. Peter holds the keys of the church and became the first Pope. He showed us we can recover from any wrong action, word or thought if we renounce / repent and turn back to God.
We should be kind, chatty, helpful and respectful to everyone we meet. Society has often ranked some jobs as less prestigious than others but the Covid pandemic turned this around. The heroes have been some of our lowest paid workers: the nurses / the supermarket workers / the delivery drivers. Anyone working in even the lowliest job might be in closer harmony with Jesus than us and will be able to teach us eternal truths of God’s kingdom.
Jesus came to serve and not to be served. We should show our love for others by never being proud or arrogant. We should be happy to carry out the most basic loving tasks for our brothers and sisters. He will give us the strength to serve even when we are exhausted. We must follow his awesome example of humility. Jesus is within us and urges us to cheerfully emulate all his humble behaviour.
God loves it when we proclaim how awesome his deeds are and we praise his glorious name. He particularly likes it when we recall the awesome miracles he performed while rescuing the Israelites from Egypt. We should always marvel at how he turned the sea into dry land.
All the earth bows down to God because of his great power. We rejoice that he will rule for ever.
Each day, we should be glad that he has preserved our lives. He might give us testing trials – putting us into prison, laying burdens on our backs and sending us through fire and water but this is because he loves us. Through our trials, we become purified and refined like silver (v.10). We will gain faith and endurance. Then we can support, encourage and pray effectively for our brothers and sisters.
Once we are conformed to the likeness of his son, God will bring us to a place of abundance. How awesome are his works on our behalf!
Image: Prof. emeritus Hans Schneider (Geyersberg), CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons