It's No Coincidence (I Samuel 9:1-10)
Topic: I Samuel Passage: 1 Samuel 9:1–10:9
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Crying for a King
I. Review: Israel’s Demand for a King
This morning I want to read to you a pretty lengthy passage from the book of I Samuel; specifically I Samuel 9:1-10:9. But before I do that, let me very briefly remind you of what has just happened in chapter 8. The people of Israel have demanded a king. They have not asked for a king for the right reasons, but God is going to grant their request.
Chapter 8 ends with Samuel dismissing the elders of Israel seemingly in order to make preparations for the appointment of a king. How this appointment will take place is not clear, but here is where we find ourselves as we step across the threshold of chapter 9.
II. The Passage: "Has Not the Lord Anointed You" (9:1-14; 18-27; 10:1-9)
So sit back, relax, and simply listen to the story of how Israel’s first king is chosen:
There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth. 2 And he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.
3 Now the donkeys of Kish, Saul's father, were lost. So Kish said to Saul his son, “Take one of the young men with you, and arise, go and look for the donkeys.” 4 And he passed through the hill country of Ephraim and passed through the land of Shalishah, but they did not find them. And they passed through the land of Shaalim, but they were not there. Then they passed through the land of Benjamin, but did not find them.
5 When they came to the land of Zuph, Saul said to his servant who was with him, “Come, let us go back, lest my father cease to care about the donkeys and become anxious about us.” 6 But he said to him, “Behold, there is a man of God in this city, and he is a man who is held in honor; all that he says comes true. So now let us go there. Perhaps he can tell us the way we should go.” 7 Then Saul said to his servant, “But if we go, what can we bring the man? For the bread in our sacks is gone, and there is no present to bring to the man of God. What do we have?” 8 The servant answered Saul again, “Here, I have with me a quarter of a shekel of silver, and I will give it to the man of God to tell us our way.”
[Now, in verse 9, the writer is preparing us for what is coming in verse 18 in terms of what terms are related to the title “man of God”…look at verse 9] 9 (Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he said, “Come, let us go to the seer,” for today's “prophet” was formerly called a seer.) 10 And Saul said to his servant, “Well said; come, let us go.” So they went to the city where the man of God was.
11 As they went up the hill to the city, they met young women coming out to draw water and said to them, “Is the seer here?” 12 They answered, “He is; behold, he is just ahead of you. Hurry. He has come just now to the city, because the people have a sacrifice today on the high place. 13 As soon as you enter the city you will find him, before he goes up to the high place to eat. For the people will not eat till he comes, since he must bless the sacrifice; afterward those who are invited will eat. Now go up, for you will meet him immediately.” 14 So they went up to the city. As they were entering the city, they saw Samuel coming out toward them on his way up to the high place. [Drop down to verse 18]…
18 Then Saul approached Samuel in the gate and said, “Tell me where is the house of the seer?” [Remember, a seer is the same as a prophet]…19 Samuel answered Saul, “I am the seer. Go up before me to the high place, for today you shall eat with me, and in the morning I will let you go and will tell you all that is on your mind. 20 As for your donkeys that were lost three days ago, do not set your mind on them, for they have been found. And for whom is all that is desirable in Israel? Is it not for you and for all your father's house?” 21 Saul answered, “Am I not a Benjaminite, from the least of the tribes of Israel? And is not my clan the humblest of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then have you spoken to me in this way?”
22 Then Samuel took Saul and his young man and brought them into the hall and gave them a place at the head of those who had been invited, who were about thirty persons. 23 And Samuel said to the cook, “Bring the portion I gave you, of which I said to you, ‘Put it aside.’” 24 So the cook took up the leg and what was on it and set them before Saul. And Samuel said, “See, what was kept is set before you. Eat, because it was kept for you until the hour appointed, that you might eat with the guests.”
So Saul ate with Samuel that day. 25 And when they came down from the high place into the city, a bed was spread for Saul on the roof, and he lay down to sleep. 26 Then at the break of dawn Samuel called to Saul on the roof, “Up, that I may send you on your way.” So Saul arose, and both he and Samuel went out into the street. 27 As they were going down to the outskirts of the city, Samuel said to Saul, “Tell the servant to pass on before us, and when he has passed on, stop here yourself for a while, that I may make known to you the word of God.”
10:1 Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head and kissed him and said, “Has not the Lord anointed you to be prince over his people Israel? And you shall reign over the people of the Lord and you will save them from the hand of their surrounding enemies. And this shall be the sign to you that the Lord has anointed you to be prince over his heritage. 2 When you depart from me today, you will meet two men by Rachel's tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah, and they will say to you, ‘The donkeys that you went to seek are found, and now your father has ceased to care about the donkeys and is anxious about you, saying, “What shall I do about my son?”’
3 Then you shall go on from there farther and come to the oak of Tabor. Three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you there, one carrying three young goats, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a skin of wine. 4 And they will greet you and give you two loaves of bread, which you shall accept from their hand. 5 After that you shall come to Gibeath-elohim, where there is a garrison of the Philistines. And there, as soon as you come to the city, you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them, prophesying.
6 Then the Spirit of the Lord will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man. 7 Now when these signs meet you, do what your hand finds to do, for God is with you. 8 Then go down before me to Gilgal. And behold, I am coming to you to offer burnt offerings and to sacrifice peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, until I come to you and show you what you shall do.” 9 When he turned his back to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart. And all these signs came to pass that day.
Now, there is an awful lot in this passage that we could consider, but as we consider the main lesson God wants to teach us this morning, but the only thing I want us to see at this point is how this whole passage describes the simple, mundane details of Saul’s search for his dad’s lost donkeys. In chapter 9 there are details about Ephraim and Shalishah and women by a well. And in chapter 10 there are details about two men by Rachel’s tomb and three men going up to sacrifice.
But even though chapters 9 and 10 both contain details about Saul’s journey, there is huge difference between these chapters, isn’t there?
Even through I Samuel 10:1-9 does describe the continuation of Saul’s journey, it does so before the journey even resumes. Samuel is predicting what will happen, and these predictions of very specific details are signs to Saul that God really has chosen him to be Israel’s king and deliverer. As one commentator puts it, “It is precisely because they are so uncanny that they are significant. They are not bland generalizations like the little quips from a fortune cookie.”
So chapter 9 retells the beginning of Saul’s quest and chapter 10 foretells the end of Saul’s quest.
III. Perspective: Not the Providence in Rhode Island (9:15-17)
But the wonderful thing that we cannot miss this morning is that God’s orchestration of events is not only evident in the “signs” of chapter 10. The outworking of God’s script is just as clear in chapter 9. Go back with me and look at the verses we skipped over from chapter 9. Look at verses 15-17:
Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed to Samuel: 16 “Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over my people Israel. He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines. For I have seen my people, because their cry has come to me.” 17 When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord told him, “Here is the man of whom I spoke to you! He it is who shall restrain my people.”
Those verses are so significant because they confirm that the story of Saul is not simply a story of happenstance or luck or coincidence. It is a story that has God and God alone as its author.
It was no coincidence that the family donkey herd got lost that morning.
It was no coincidence that Kish asked his son Saul to go find the lost herd.
It was no coincidence that Saul took with him the one young man who would uniquely figure into the course of Saul’s journey.
It was no coincidence that these men could not find the donkeys in Ephraim, or Shalishah, or Shaalim, or anywhere in the land of Benjamin.
It was no coincidence that there journey ended exactly where it did, where Samuel would be.
It was no coincidence that the young man with Saul knew about and remembered that a prophet was in this town.
It was no coincidence that that this young man happened to have some silver on him that could be given to the prophet.
It was no coincidence that the men came to the city just as certain women came to draw water at the well, certain women who knew exactly what was going on, and urged them to “hurry” in order to meet the prophet.
It was no coincidence that the first person they met when they got to the actual town was Samuel himself.
If even just one of these events had not take place, Saul would never end up where he was supposed to end up that day.
We could even go farther back and say that it was no coincidence that Saul’s parents gave him the name they did. Saul means “the requested one”. Israel asked for a king and God gave them Saul.
No, none of it was coincidence. All of it was simply the divinely orchestrated fulfillment of these words: Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin.
God could have supernaturally transported Saul to Samuel’s doorstep. He could have brought him in a chariot of fire. He could have told Samuel the name of the new king and had Samuel go to Saul’s home. But he didn’t do any of these things. Instead he used the mundane details of a quest for lost donkeys to work out His divine decree of leadership and deliverance for His people.
Unbeknownst to anyone then, Kish lost some donkeys in order that Israel would find a king.
I think there are at least two reasons God chose to work this way.
First, I believe the story told in chapters 9 and 10 was an important story for the original readers of Samuel because the story confirms that Saul was in fact chosen by God to be Israel’s first king. Knowing the whole story about Saul, it might be easy for future generations to dismiss him as some kind of historical hiccup.
But second, I believe God chose to work this way in order to show the original readers then and all of us this morning that He is not only the God of supernatural intervention every now and then; more importantly, He is the God of providence, always and in all things.
Pastor James Montgomery Boice defines providence like this: Providence means that God has not abandoned the world that he created, but rather works within that creation to manage all things according to the “[unchangeable] counsel of His own will”
God’s divine decrees are worked out everyday, even in the mundane details of life.
Now some might say, “Hey wait a minute, this is describing what happened with Saul. He was Israel’s first king. This is a unique situation. Saul’s the exception, not the rule. Is it right for us to say that God’s orchestration extends even to the details of our lives?”
And that would be a fair and reasonable caution. We would have to ask, “What does the rest of God’s word, what does the rest of the Bible tell us about God’s providence?” Listen to two verses from the book of Proverbs:
The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps. (16:9)
A man’s steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand his own way? (20:24)
And there are many other verses that would confirm the point that God is making through the story of Saul of his lost donkeys. God’s divine decrees are worked out everyday, even in the mundane details of life.
IV. Practice: The Corrective Lenses of God’s Providence
So how will this truth, this mind-stretching truth, this maybe somewhat disturbing truth, change you this morning?
I think in order understand how this connects with us, I think there are two principles we need to keep in mind.
First, we need to see that the goal of God’s providence is always God’s glory and our good.
You see, the reality of God working in all the details of our life only makes sense if there is some kind of goal or purpose that everything is leading us toward.
The hand of God at work in Saul's lost donkey quest only made sense when we saw that getting Saul to Samuel was God's plan all along. But what about us?
I think that even though we sometimes believe the purpose of God's providence in our everyday experience is to get us a job, or a spouse, or keep us from getting smashed by a semi, I think our passage this morning reminds us that God always has a bigger goal in mind.
Look again at the end of verse 16. God tells Samuel that he is bringing Saul to him because “I have seen my people, because their cry has come to me.”
That's language right of Exodus when God heard the cries of the Israelites who were in bondage to Pharaoh and sent Moses to be their deliverer. And it wasn’t a coincidence that the daughter of Pharaoh found the basket containing the baby Moses, was it? It wasn’t a coincidence that Moses also met women by a well in the middle of the desert, and one of them later became his wife. And it wasn’t a coincidence that this woman was the daughter of the priest of Midian, and that this man had flocks for Moses to shepherd, and that these flocks were grazing next to Mount Sinai, where God spoke to Moses. None of it was a coincidence, was it?
So this morning, here’s Saul, who is also being raised up as a deliverer for the people.
It is this connection that reminds us of what we see throughout Scripture: God is working all things for the glory of His grace through the deliverance of His people.
If you belong to Jesus Christ through faith this morning then you can be assured that God's providence is at work in all the details of your life for the sake of your deliverance. As Romans 8 puts it: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son...
If you belong to Jesus Christ through faith this morning then the goal of God's work in your life is delivering your more and more from yourself in order that Jesus Christ might be your life, and all for His praise.
Principle #2: God’s providence can only make sense in light of God’s word. We only understand how God is working in I Samuel chapters 9 and 10 because Saul is led to God’s prophet. Where Saul has come from and where Saul is going only become clearer to him because of God’s word through the mouth of Samuel.
In the same way, the only way we can make any sense of God’s providence in our lives is by learning and living the word of God. Let me give you an example. If you run into a brother or sister in some random place where you did not expect to see them, you might be tempted to chalk it up to chance and say, “Hmm, what a coincidence” OR you might begin to read too much into it and come up with some elaborate idea that supposedly God has planned for you in terms of you relationship with that person.
But if God’s word is guiding us, then a ‘chance’ encounter like that should simply get us asking questions like “how could I pray for that brother or sister?” OR “how could I follow-up with that person and encourage them?” OR “shouldn’t I be praising God for my church family and how our lives are interconnected?”.
If we accept all of these truths about God's providence, by faith, then it has to change the way we see things. How could it not? The reality of God's providence is like a pair of corrective lenses. They help us to more clearly see our lives, as God sees, past, present, and future.
If you belong to Jesus Christ through faith, then your past is a beautiful portrait of God's providence, even the painful, difficult circumstances you've endured in your life. Remember, Saul's journey was driven by the frustration and uncertainty of losing some of his father's valuable livestock.
I can look back on my life and now see how God was working. It was no coincidence that in the late 70’s my father had an opportunity to work in the music distribution industry in Dallas. It was no coincidence that he took a gamble and moved our family from California to Texas. It was no coincidence that after only a few months, a tornado came within only a few miles of our new house. It was no coincidence that my mother then insisted we leave the state of Texas. It was no coincidence that we didn’t go back to California, but stopped in Arizona. It was no coincidence that my father couldn’t find work in Tucson, but ended up in Phoenix. It was no coincidence that we moved to north Phoenix, even though my Dad worked in Tempe. And it was no coincidence that we bought a house across from the very same family who would eventually invite my non-Christian family to Camelback Bible Church where I first heard the Good News about Jesus Christ. None of it was a matter of chance.
Do you see your past in the same way?
God’s providence should also give you a very different perspective on how you look at the future. I cannot stand here this morning and tell you that you will meet two men later today or three men who will give you some bread. But God’s word can tell you “Do not be anxious” (Matthew 6:25), “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:27) God’s word does reveal that “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability” (I Corinthians 10:13) AND that “the God of peace himself [will] sanctify you completely, and [that] your whole spirit and soul and body [will] be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (I Thessalonians 5:23, 24)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
And what about the present? What about right now? Well, based on what God has shown us through His word, I can say with absolute certainty that it’s no coincidence you’re here this morning. It’s no coincidence that you are hearing the things you’re hearing, or that you are feeling the things you’re feeling. It’s no coincidence that you are going through what you’re going through right now in your life, even if it feels like you’re at the intersection of “Bad Luck” Boulevard “Life’s Not Fair” Lane. “The only question is what does God want to say to you, through Scripture, through His word, about the path you’re on?
Sometimes the point of God’s providence is not clear right away. Sometimes, many times, we will not know the specifics until we stand in His presence. But because God raised up Jesus to be our deliverer, we can be sure that we are being led for His glory and our good. Our job is not first to try and figure everything out, but to simply trust God and obey His word, to obey what is clear.
Sin makes everything blurry. And when everything is blurry, we are prone to either see ourselves as the victims of blind chance or cruel fate, or we see ourselves as the masters of our own destinies. As we will see, that’s exactly how Saul would later fail.
We need, this morning, to put on God’s corrective lenses, and see the truth that God our details are His design. What a comfort to know that God is working in this way. Let’s thank Him together and pray that we would see as He wants us to see.