Speak Up and Step Forward (I Samuel 10:10-27)
Topic: I Samuel Passage: 1 Samuel 10:10–10:27
Crying for a King
Sometimes coming to the word of God and studying the word of God is like going to the art museum. Many people come to the museum and they sign up for the guided tour and they walk through the whole building hearing about and spending some time in all of the galleries, and getting a great overview of the diversity of the collection.
But then, when the tour is over, many of those same people go back and they visit a few of the paintings or drawings or sculptures that caught their eye on the tour. But this time, they simply linger and study and consider just a handful of masterpieces.
This morning, let's do the same thing. Let's first work through I Samuel 10:10-27 bit by bit, taking in some of the sights. But then, let's go back and linger and consider several things we saw along the way.
II. The Passage: "And Saul…Was Taken by Lot" (10:10-27)
Last time, we saw in chapter 9 how God providentially worked through a search for lost donkeys to bring Saul to Samuel the prophet, who then, according to God’s command, anointed Saul as the leader of God’s people. So what we are about to read, beginning in verse 10, is what takes place on Saul’s trip home. This is Saul post-anointing.
A. God’s Provision (10:10-12)
Look at what the writer tells us here about what happened to Saul and the servant boy as they came home to the town of Gibeah in the land of Benjamin:
When they came to Gibeah, behold, a group of prophets met him, and the Spirit of God rushed upon him, and he prophesied among them. 11 And when all who knew him previously saw how he prophesied with the prophets, the people said to one another, “What has come over the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” 12 And a man of the place answered, “And who is their father?” Therefore it became a proverb, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”
Now you may remember that this is exactly what Samuel said would happen to Saul in verses 5 and 6 of chapter 10. In verse 6, Samuel said, “Then the Spirit of the Lord will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.”
Now it’s not exactly clear who these prophets were, but what is clear is that the last time this kind of language was used in regard to the Spirit “rush[ing] upon” someone was in reference to Samson, in Judges. So we see here in verse 10 God’s provision of power for Saul.
But Saul is a local boy and this bizarre event is the talk of the town. I’m not confident we can know for sure what is meant by the questions/proverbs used in verse 12: “Is Saul also among the prophets?” and the man’s question, “And who is their father?” I think the main point here is that the town was surprised and mystified by what was happening.
B. Saul’s Silence (10:13-16)
But look at what we go on to read in verses 13-16:
When he had finished prophesying, he came to the high place. 14 Saul's uncle said to him and to his servant, “Where did you go?” And he said, “To seek the donkeys. And when we saw they were not to be found, we went to Samuel.” 15 And Saul's uncle said, “Please tell me what Samuel said to you.” 16 And Saul said to his uncle, “He told us plainly that the donkeys had been found.” But about the matter of the kingdom, of which Samuel had spoken, he did not tell him anything.
So here we see the final conclusion of the whole donkey-quest story. Verse 2 tells us that Saul’s father, Kish, had become anxious about his son who didn’t come home the night before. That concern is reflected here in the uncle’s question “Where did you go?” “Where were you Saul, we were worried sick about you!”
So Saul tries to explain to his uncle how the prophet Samuel figures into the story. Now notice that Saul’s mention of Samuel excites his uncle, undoubtedly because Samuel represented God’s voice on earth. And it was to Samuel that everyone was looking, waiting to see what was going to happen in regard to their request for a king.
But Saul, as we see at the end of verse 16, Saul says nothing “about the matter of the kingdom”. He doesn’t tell his uncle about the anointing or Samuel’s words or the signs that were fulfilled on his journey home… he did not tell him anything.
C. God’s Deliverance (10:17-19a)
Look back at I Samuel 10, this time at verse 17-19:
Now Samuel called the people together to the Lord at Mizpah. 18 And he said to the people of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all the kingdoms that were oppressing you.’ 19 But today you have rejected your God, who saves you from all your calamities and your distresses, and you have said to him, ‘Set a king over us.’
Now the last time the people gathered together it was at Ramah. But Samuel calls them to Mizpah. Why Mizpah? Well I think the location is meant to coincide with the message God has for the people.
Even here, even as they are about to publicly select Israel’s first king, even here God is reminding them of the foolish motivation behind their request. God is saying to them, “Kingdoms have only oppressed you. But you want to be like them. And when those kingdoms oppressed you, who was there to deliver you? It was me. But you want a king because you want to replace me.”
Remember from chapter 7, it was at Mizpah that God thundered against the Philistines, just as they were about to attack the people of Israel. The location simply reinforced God’s declaration.
D. Saul’s Absence (10:19b-24)
But in spite of their sinful reasoning, God grants their request. Look at the end of verse 19:
Now therefore present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and by your thousands.” 20 Then Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. 21 He brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its clans, and the clan of the Matrites was taken by lot; and Saul the son of Kish was taken by lot. But when they sought him, he could not be found. 22 So they inquired again of the Lord, “Is there a man still to come?” and the Lord said, “Behold, he has hidden himself among the baggage.” 23 Then they ran and took him from there. And when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. 24 And Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen? There is none like him among all the people.” And all the people shouted, “Long live the king!”
Even though Samuel has already anointed Saul privately, in obedience to God’s choice, Yahweh’s decision has to proven publicly as well. Give their attitude toward Samuel in light of his attempts to appoint his sons as Israel’s new leaders, there can’t be any doubt that God has made the decision, not just Samuel. So they cast lots, which is almost like using dice with “yes” and “no” on them. “Is it Ephraim? No. Is it Judah? No? Is it Benjamin? Yes!” It was probably something like that, although it isn’t completely clear how this worked. Again, what is clear is that God was directing them to Saul.
But when Saul is chosen, he is nowhere to found. His absence and their inability to find him is ironic in light of what we read in verse 23 about when they do find him: Then they ran and took him from there. And when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward.
The people request a king, but they cannot find him when God reveals the man. They have to go back to God and find out where he is. Instead of being front and center in a process for which he know the outcome, Saul is lying down behind a stack of saddle bags.
But Samuel tries to turn the anti-climactic feeling of the ceremony into a genuine climax (v. 24): And Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen? There is none like him among all the people.” And all the people shouted, “Long live the king!”
E. God’s [Further] Provision (10:25-27)
Look with me at how this story ends. Verses 25 through 27:
Then Samuel told the people the rights and duties of the kingship, and he wrote them in a book and laid it up before the Lord. Then Samuel sent all the people away, each one to his home. 26 Saul also went to his home at Gibeah, and with him went men of valor whose hearts God had touched. 27 But some worthless fellows said, “How can this man save us?” And they despised him and brought him no present. But he held his peace.
Did you see here how God is continuing to provide for the people, even though they are unrepentant about their request for a king? He provides for them in two distinct ways here. First, he moves Samuel to write down, not only all of the burdens of having a king, as detailed in I Samuel 8:10-18, but also all of the duties of the king in accordance with God’s law in Deuteronomy 17:14-20. This document about God’s intentions for godly kingship is (verse 25) “laid up before the Lord” as a consistent reminder to the new king and to God’s people.
But second, God also provides for Saul by drawing “men of valor” to his side. God knows the kind of encouragement we need, and he touches the hearts of these men so they can support Saul in the difficult work to which God has called him.
But as we see in verse 27, there are also nay-sayers; there are also worthless men who scoff at the idea of Saul, a Benjamite from Gibeah, being their king. And on this day of celebration, they go as far as to snub the new king. But like the conversation with his uncle and the topic of the kingdom, Saul says nothing.
III. Perspective: A Leader Who Inspires…Questions
Now as we step back here, in one sense, something wonderful has happened. God has chosen a leader for His people and, by His grace, God has provided for that leader.
But, as we’ve already seen, while Saul’s physical appearance inspires the people we just read about in this chapter, for the reader, his behavior in a number of these situations probably inspires questions more than anything.
Remember, there are two places here where the writer specifically states that Saul did not speak, even though he could have. The end of verse 16 and the end of verse 27: But about the matter of the kingdom, of which Samuel had spoken, he did not tell him anything...But some worthless fellows said, “How can this man save us?” And they despised him and brought him no present. But he held his peace.
Now, maybe we could say that these instances are meant to tell us something about Saul's discretion and Saul's humility. Maybe it was wiser not to tell his uncle about the anointing. Maybe is was prudent to let the nay-sayers be negative. And think there's something to be said about that interpretation of things.
But I don't think you can look at those two specific instances the same after reading verse 22: So they inquired again of the Lord, “Is there a man still to come?” and the Lord said, “Behold, [he is resting by the baggage...NO...behold, he has accidentally wandered over to the baggage...NO...Behold...] he has hidden himself among the baggage.”
Hidden. That's the same Hebrew word we find in Genesis 3. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”
Saul has deliberately sought out a hiding place among either the military gear or the travel gear. We know it was deliberate because it is God himself who tells us precisely why Saul is back with the gear. “He went there to hide.”
And in the context here, in the context of his anointing by Samuel, the only logical reason he is hiding out at this convocation where the new king is going to be publicly identified is because he, because Saul is, in some way, unsure about this idea of being king...so much so he looks for a really good hiding spot...so good, its God who has to tell them where he is!
So in this context, his silence in verses 16 and 27 begins to look a little bit suspicious, doesn't it?
And all of this lies in the shadow of verses 6 and 7....verse 7 being key to the remainder of chapter 10. Look at those verses...
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.
Now the meaning of the phrase “what your hand finds to do” is not exactly clear, but it is qualified by the last phrase, which is the real emphasis in that sentence: “for God is with you”.
Do you see the power behind these words? “God has anointed you the leader of His people, Saul. You are going to deliver them from their enemies, Saul! God is going to prove this to you, Saul, not only through my predictions of what is about to happen, but through the supernatural gift of His Spirit.”
“Saul, in light of the calling, in light of the task, in light of the proof...do whatever you need to do, for God himself will be with you!”
Those words are dripping with assurance, aren't they? Those words are confidence and courage imparting, aren't they? God is with you! God is with you, Saul! So why is he keeping his mouth shut? Why is he hiding behind a stack of tents? Why isn't he speaking up and stepping forward as God's anointed?
You see, right from the outset, there are red flags being raised in this story. What kind of leader is this man? What kind of king will he be? Is he the one God's people need?
You know the last time “worthless fellows” were mentioned in this book (as they are here in verse 27), the last time God's appointed leader was rebuked for not rebuking men like this. Eli was that man, and the “worthless fellows” were his sons. Eli kept silent about his wicked sons and God pronounced judgment on him and his household.
I believe the writer wanted the first readers of Samuel to ask these kinds of questions. I believe the writer wants to show that right from the outset there was trouble with the king, the kind of king that the people demanded.
And all of this simply prepares us for the next anointing in chapter 16. Listen to how similar the language is here:Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah. (16:13)
And in the very next chapter, in chapter 17, we see a young man who is not afraid to speak up, when everyone else is silent with fear...a young man who is not afraid to step forward, when everyone else is paralyzed by terror in the shadow of the giant. That is the kind of man God chooses to use...that is the kind of man God's people need.
IV. Practice: Following Saul’s Lead
This morning, all of us here, know what it means to follow Saul. No, I don't mean follow Saul like the “men of valor” did in verse 26. I mean all of us know what it's like to follow Saul's example when it comes to not speaking up when we should and not stepping forward when we should. I know what that's like.
If this morning you are devoted, by grace through faith, to Jesus, then listen to how close your story is to Saul's. Listen to the words of another Saul: And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (II Corinthians 1:21, 22)
If you are a follower of Christ this morning, then you are the one God has chosen. You are the one God has chosen for His work of deliverance. And maybe you haven't heard a prophetic word that came to pass only minutes or hours after it was uttered, and maybe you didn't end up prophesying yourself, but surely God has given you evidence of the fact that He is with you.
Think about how He sought you out. Think about the pit you were in. Think about what you deserved. Think about how he spared you. How he changed you. How he provided for you. Think about everything you have. Think about how you cried out and He answered. Think about how you reached out and He held on. Think about how you gave up and He stood firm. Think about when you thought it was over and He led you right into a new and better beginning. Do you believe He is with you? Do you?
Then speak up...step forward. I don't need to tell you where and how. You know. You know the people in your life who need to hear about what God has done. You know the people who need to hear from you... “I'll listen...God knows...there is hope in Christ...that way leads to death...Will you forgive me...I forgive you...I will pray for you... You know the situations in your life in which someone needs to take a stand, in which someone needs to do the hard thing, in which somone needs to say “Here I am, Lord, send me.”
In light of all He's done, in light of what's He called you...YOU... to do, speak up...step forward.
In everything that God call us to do, He will provide what we need to do it. He gave Saul His Spirit. He gave Saul the prophetic word through Samuel. He gave Saul comrades to stand with him. Isn't this exactly what we have? The Spirit. The Word. The Church.
Have you been keeping quiet? I have. Have you been hiding out? I have. This morning God simply wants to remind us that He has chosen us and proven, in more ways than we can know, proven to us that He is with us. And because He is with us, we don't have to be afraid... afraid of speaking up...of stepping forward.
I say this to you and to myself this morning, knowing full well that there is no way we can do any of this. We're too plagued by fear. We're too distracted by selfishness. We're too deceived by pride. We're too enamored with gimmicks. We're too shackled by worry.
If this was up to you and me, we wouldn't and we couldn't.
But He can. He will.
That's exactly why Jesus died. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Jesus died and rose again so that we would speak up and step forward. God prepared beforehand that we would speak up and step forward.
Do you feel weak? Wonderful! Do you feel inadequate? Perfect! We should. It's only then that we look to the cross and find the words to speak up and the strength to step forward.
Only the gospel can empower you for the work God himself chose you to do. And when we do speak up and step forward, we will look back and see that it was God at work and not us. It was God all along.