I SAMUEL – SAUL: THE FIRST OF THE KINGS IN ISRAEL
Now there was a man of Benjamin, whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bechorath, the son of Aphiah, a Benjamite, a mighty man of power. And he had a son, whose name was Saul, a choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people (I Samuel 9.1,2).
In our article No. 16 in this series we introduced the beginning of the kings in the Scriptures. Notwithstanding all the calamities that befell Israel at the hands of neighboring kings about them, they demanded that God give them a flesh and blood king; a king from among their tries. And so He did! "I gave thee a king in mine anger (Hosea 13.11)."
We now examine, in the light of predestination, the life of Saul, the king God gave Israel in His anger.
SAUL: THE EARLY YEARS
Kish, the father of Saul was said to be a mighty man of power. This should not be construed to mean that he was a man of influence and position among the tribes. Rather, as Saul indicated to Samuel on their first meeting, his family was the least of all the families of all the tribes (I Samuel 9.21). Thus, it is noteworthy that God was pleased to choose a man from among the least likely, by human reasoning, of all the families of Israel. However, despite their insignificance and meager influence among the 12 tribes, God had set apart Saul to ascend a throne among his people, a throne that as yet did not even exist. It was not simple coincidence that Saul was, at the same time Israel was clamoring for a king, the supreme candidate to fill the position, at least from human perspective.
According to the text, Saul was a choice young man; he was goodly; no son of Israel was goodlier than he. Furthermore, his physical frame distinguished him from all others, in that, "from his shoulders upward he was higher than any of the people." Was it a quirk of nature that caused Saul to be so tall, so choice and goodly? For our part, we think not. From eternity, Saul had his being, with all its excellent qualities, determined by God who had fashioned him for this very position.
There are those that vehemently oppose our views on this point. We ask; did not God create the waster to destroy (Isaiah 54.16)? Did not His hand form the crooked serpent (Job 26.13)? Did not God, by purpose, raise up Pharaoh to show His power in him (Romans 9.17)? Then why should it be thought a thing incredible that God would raise up Saul? Surely He did, and surely it was on purpose, and just on time, we may add!
Seeking lost asses
"And the asses of Kish Saul's father were lost. And Kish said to Saul his son, Take now one of the servants with thee, and arise, go seek the asses (I Samuel 9.3)." This first mention of Saul's activities is considerably revealing. His father put him in charge of his lost asses! Here we immediately see the contrast between Saul, Israel's first king, and David, Israel's second king. Saul is seen tending his father's asses. The first mention of David reveals to us him tending his father's sheep. A wider contrast could hardly be imagined. One only needs to consider the various mentions of asses and sheep throughout the Scriptures to develop a revealing picture of these two kings. It is worth mention that at the outset of Saul's record, their property, asses, were somehow lost. Surely this family can only be considered careless, at the best. When this episode is compared to the mention of David tending his father's sheep, several things are worth observing:
First, when Samuel went to the house of Jesse to anoint the next king of Israel, David was not there with the rest of the family. "And he [Samuel] sanctified Jesse and his sons, and called them to the sacrifice (I Samuel 16.5)." Whatever the reason, David was away tending the sheep. "And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy children? And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and behold, he keepeth the sheep (I Samuel 16 .11)." The point to contemplate is this: The sheep were important enough that David would not suffer the loss of them by assembling with the rest of the family, even for this momentous occasion. Again, after Saul had called David to his court to play the harp and be Saul's armourbearer, upon returning home it was "to feed his father's sheep at Beth-lehem (I Samuel 17.15)." And second, when Jesse would send David to his brethren at the war front, his extreme care for his father's sheep is once again paramount. "And David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, and took, and went, as Jesse had commanded him... (I Samuel 17.20)."
The contrast is indisputable; Saul was occupied with his father's lost asses when the record begins. David was faithfully tending his father's sheep at the outset of his account.
Leaving the comparison for now, we return to that doctrine which threads together all the events of this story as well as all other stories; the predestination of all things. It was no freak event of nature that brought Saul into the world in the family of Kish, his natural father. It was not a random selection from the genetic pool of Adam's family that caused the carelessness of Kish and Saul in losing their asses. Nor was it an incidental alignment of the stars in space that prodded Saul's footsteps along the path after his lost asses at the very time he would cross trails with Samuel. Those reading the account of Saul and Samuel must either stand with rank fatalism or blessed predestination when assimilating the catalog of events. Arminianism may breed a million questions respecting the development of the events of time, but for believers, predestination answers them all with full satisfaction.
So Saul and his servant set out to reign in the lost asses. Shortly, they were so far from home without good results that Saul recommended returning: "Come, and let us return; lest my father leave caring for the asses, and take thought for us (I Samuel 9.5)." It was precisely then that evidences begin to manifest themselves that this journey after lost asses on the part of Saul was more than that. It was the Lord leading him to Samuel in fulfillment of His promise to give the tribes of Israel a king. How wondrous it is to see the hand of God in such seemingly insignificant events. Saul and his servant were at the far reaches of their endeavor to recover the asses. They were, at the urging of Saul, ready to shuffle home empty-handed; failures in keeping the asses and failures in recovering them when lost. This is not the fellow most would select to lead a nation. But God did!
The scene brightened a bit. The servant of Saul, apparently much more eager to accomplish the task before them, offered some salient advice. "And he said unto him, Behold now, there is in this city a man of God, and he is an honourable man; all that he saith cometh surely to pass: now let us go thither; peradventure he can shew us our way that we should go (I Samuel 9.6)." True enough, the servant's language was shot through with conditional sentiment, but he was, nevertheless, desirous to seek out success. Unless the servant had some prior knowledge of Samuel, and where the prophet resided, we cannot explain where he got his information, other than by God's own prompting. What is important to see is, no link is missing in the chain leading to the finalization of God's purposes. Nothing could thwart Saul's ordained rendezvous with Samuel. Saul was certain to become king in Israel.
Saul, ever negative, even from the outset, argues in fashion typical of the flesh: "But, behold, if we go, what shall we bring the man? For the bread is spent in our vessels, and there is not a present to bring to the man of God: what have we (I Samuel 9.7)?" The language of Saul is strikingly familiar to those of us that have also questioned the outcome of an event due to our lack. As evens progress with the purpose of God in the life of Saul it will be clearly seen that he has always, more or less, afflicted with a lack of understanding the ways of providence. "What have we?" fairly well sums up the attitude of this future king.
In I Samuel 9.8 the servant of Saul informs him that he possesses "the fourth part of a shekel of silver." A meager sum indeed! But there is beauty where the eye of faith examines the ground and never more than here. From a human perspective the determination to seek out Samuel, or to go home, hung in the balance of ability to compensate the Seer. Saul, the master, had nothing to offer. The unnamed servant, however, for whatever reason, had this small portion he brought along. Moreover, he was willing, even when no doubt tired and cranky, to give it up to see this project of Saul's father Kish through to the end. The parsons of free will may tell us they turned over a stone of luck or good fortune, but we recognize the stone as the Rock of our salvation under which will be found the truth of predestination. Ask this question: which persuasion brings God the most glory, luck or predestination? Then ask again: which one comforts your soul the most, good fortune or predestination?
Verses 10 through 13 of I Samuel 9 continues the events leading Saul to Samuel. One event is worth additional observation. "And as they went up the hill to the city, they found young maidens going out to draw water (Verse 11)." Those who are familiar with the record of the Lord's dealings with Israel will recall how this parallels the journeys of several other members of the family of faith. There was Eliezer, servant of Abraham, experiencing the same when on his journey to find a bride for Isaac (Genesis 24.10-27). There was also Jacob, arriving in the land of the East, meeting Rachel in very similar circumstances (Genesis 29.1-12).
Moses had the same experience when he fled the king of Egypt. He came to the well where the priest of Midian's seven daughters approached to draw water (Exodus 2.16-20). In each of these instances, meeting the maidens at a well of water was a necessary component in accomplishing the purpose for which the sojourner sought. "A man's heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps (Provers 16.9)"
The journey to recover the lost asses was interrupted so Saul and his servant might learn from the seer the way they should go. Any hope of recovery must be from a source outside of oneself. Saul and his servant were completely unaware what scenes awaited them, but go they must. They had gone as far as they could on their own. How beautiful to see that even at this time of seeming distress and indecision, God had marked out the events for Saul. "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven (Ecclesiastes 3.1)." The season for you to expend his time and effort to recover those asses to be lost had come and gone. The season for Saul to expend his time and effort to recover those asses had also come and had gone. Now was the season to encounter Samuel. God on the throne had just as surely brought all the events together in season as He is God. These events were a part of the "every purpose under the heaven."
Although Saul was surprised by what transpired. Samuel certainly was not. The record speaks: "And they went up into the city: and when they were come into the city, behold, Samuel came out against them, for to go up to the high place. Now the Lord had told Samuel in his ear a day before Saul came, saying, Tomorrow about this time I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be captain over my people Israel, that he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines: for I have looked upon my people, because their cry is come unto me (I Samuel 9.14-16)." If God has given us eyes to see, there is much here in this passage at which to wonder. Among the wonders are the holy purposes of God. Unhumbled Arminians cannot see those purposes for they can see no farther than the present moment. If they could see beyond the moment they would not be Arminians. God sees all: past and present and future. God sees all for He has ordered all! Did He not tell Samuel that He, God, would send a man out of the land of Benjamin? View the events with the natural eye and you see these dumb brutes, the asses of Kish, wandering away. If from carelessness on the part of Saul, or Kish, or the servants, it matters nothing; the asses left, for so they must. Why else would Saul, at that very time, journey off so far from home? And why would the asses wander so far? What else but to bring together those God had appointed to meet so Israel might have their king. To the natural eye all this is but an insignificant particle from the uncontrolled innumerable events evolving through meaningless time unto an unknown and undetermined destiny. The carnal mind views this and all the rest of God's good order as appearing and disappearing vapors that simply chase away as if they had never really happened. Random chance happenings unfurling with aimless abandon ending in remorseless nothingness is the best man's wisdom can make of this episode, or any other, apart from the revelation from God that there was an eternal plan. By His grace we stand with the plan and leave fate, fortune and undetermined destiny to Satan, Arminians, Conditionalists, and assorted other God haters.
"Tomorrow about this time I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin." One does not need the insight of Nostradamus to conclude that these events were settled, both in heaven and in earth. They must come to pass exactly as they did. The asses could not linger a few more days before leaving the homestead, nor would they amble off a second sooner than they did. They were precisely on time, for the other figures in this drama, Samuel and Saul, must be where the God of heaven would have them to be at the appropriate moment. "Tomorrow." Saul would not arrive the day after tomorrow: Saul would be there tomorrow. If Saul could have somehow given up the chase for the asses and returned home in disgust, where would be the promise of God to Samuel that "Tomorrow about this time..."? We challenge the world to explain how Saul could have done other than what he did. Explain to us how the asses could have done other than what they did also. God had said tomorrow and so it was. If it be conceded that this was all according to the plan and purpose of God, then we ask, what events are not according to God's plan and purpose? If dumb asses and unsuspecting servants are employed by our Father to bring Saul to Samuel, then why is it thought a thing impossible for God to do consistently likewise in all the other events of time and eternity? Has He not the power? Is it not so that He "doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou (Daniel 4.35)?"
"Tomorrow." The word leads us to another avenue of grand truth. Jehovah had assured Samuel that before the sun set the following day the new king of Israel would be sent to him. Be assured, our God does not speak carelessly, as after the manner of fallen creation. Sooner could tomorrow's sun fail to rise than God's word could or would fail. Do you believe that? If that is so then consider the ramifications, for they are multitudinous. Nothing could prevent this meeting tomorrow. Saul could not change his mind. A band of roving thieves could not assail him, leaving him to die, thus aborting God's plan. Simply put, there could be nothing, no circumstance or set of circumstances, that might prevent Saul from being sent to Samuel, not even death.
According to free-willers and their Conditionalist cousins, man might die at any time. There is no fixed time for our lives to terminate, say they. In harmony with that line of (un)reasoning, Saul might have just as well swallowed a gnat and strangled to death the night before he was to meet Samuel. Then what of God's purposes? We need not list the variables. They are without number. Either God has a will, and brings it to pass, together with all the infinite details, or fate, black, remorseless fate sweeps away particulars and fragments of an orderless universe and brings all to stark uncertainty. Surely, "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision (Psalm 2.4)."
Saul would, and Saul did, meet with Samuel. Had this event failed then might we be driven to despair and endless woe; for in what then could we trust? If Samuel, this man appointed to serve and witness to the people of the greatness of God, could not trust God at His word, then where would this leave poor sinners now? Rejoice, brethren! God's word was and is sure. The meeting took place, for so had God willed. It is fair to say that if God willed then He predestinated (fixed the destiny beforehand) it."
"And when Samuel saw Saul, the Lord said unto him, Behold the man whom I spake to thee of! This same shall reign over my people (I Samuel 9.17)" is it not marvelous? Tomorrow had come. Saul had arrived. Samuel was at the appointed spot. God spoke: "Behold the man whom I spake to thee of!" The works of the God we worship were wonderfully displayed.
Ye servants of your God, his fame
In songs of highest praise proclaim;
Ye who, on his commands intent,
The courts of Israel's Lord frequent;
Him praise – the everlasting King,
And mercy's unexhausted spring:
Haste, to his name your voices rear;
What name like his the heart can cheer?
Thy greatness, Lord, my thoughts assest,
With awful gratitude impress'd,
Nor know, among the seats divine,
A power that shall contend with thine:
No. 13, Beebe Selection
With this we take leave of the subject of Saul, the first of the kings of Israel. If the Lord blesses, we shall explore the continuing events from I Samuel 9 with an eye again towards the predestination of God that made all possible.
Elder J.F. Poole