"Saul: Looking for Donkeys; Finding a Kingdom
Scripture Reading: I Samuel 9 to 10:1
The people of Israel have asked for a king, God in his grace will give them one. It’s as simple as that and yet, it’s more complicated than that. In our reading today from I Samuel 9 we are taken on a journey with a young man and his servant who are looking for some lost donkeys. They never find them. However, along the way they do meet the prophet Samuel and after some preliminary activities our reading finishes in I Samuel 10:1 with the prophet saying to the donkey seeker, “Has not the LORD anointed you leader over his inheritance?” With those words the organization of Old Testament Israel changes forever. A loose confederation of tribes, descended from their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, will now become one nation under a king who is chosen and anointed by the God who has called these people to be his “inheritance”.
What was the name of Saul’s father? From what tribe do they come from?
How is Saul described in I Samuel 9:2?
What is the “Word of God” that will come to him?
Saul is living a quiet, rural life in his father’s house. He’s an obedient son and respectful. When he is asked to go searching for the lost donkeys he obeys without hesitation. All of this is so ordinary that it’s almost boring. So why are we told about it? Why are we given in this text a detailed itinerary of Saul and his servant’s journey? Two reasons: First, it shows our God at work in the ordinary happenings of life and Second, it gives us insight into the person who will become the first king of Israel.
What does it mean that God works in the ordinary things of life?
What insights do we see into Saul’s character in what he does?
We believe we belong to the God who has revealed himself in his Word. In Jesus Christ we have been redeemed from sin and futility and have been invited into the Kingdom of God which is God’s realm of grace and truth. All of life – even what might be perceived as dull and the ordinary – all of it is lived before the face of God. Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is given in Christ Jesus our Lord. Of course, this also includes the “big events” such as a world pandemic and other major, personal events (career, marriage, job changes, education) that happen in our lives. The ordinary and the unusual are all ruled by the Word of God and this Word declares that in Christ, healing, restoration, and wholeness comes to all things. In his very first sermon recorded in the gospel of Mark, Jesus says, “The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” That is the overall theme in this narrative which tells us about the choosing of Saul to be the first king over Old Testament Israel.
What is the “Kingdom of God”?
How does a king in Old Testament Israel point forward to the coming of the Kingdom of God?
Why does Samuel say Saul is the “desire” of Israel?
So what is this story saying to us? How does an ancient story about a seeker of donkeys speak into the world of 2020? To know that we need to know I Samuel 10:1 is a grace-filled, Christ centered Word.
We should notice that the covenant Lord is the One who does the choosing of Saul. The people of God belong to God and not to any king. Israel will never be allowed to be “like the other nations” as they expressed they wanted to be in the previous chapter. The people of God are the Lord’s “inheritance”. The word used here indicates the permanency of God’s ownership of Israel. An inheritance cannot be transferred to someone else. In light of the fullness of time and the coming of Jesus Christ, we now say the Church – the people of God redeemed by grace through faith in him – are Christ’s inheritance.
Saul was an ordinary man who came under the Word of God. When he submitted to this grace, he became a leader for God’s people. God now chooses people like you and me for his service. God does not call us because we are so gifted, influential or powerful. We’re not so great. We are small and our individual worlds are so small. Like Saul we can become absorbed in donkey quests that have a way of taking care of themselves. God wants us guided by his word and grace, to have a bigger vision of life in this world. How is God calling you into his service?