Saul Meets Samuel

Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed to Samuel: “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.” 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.” Then Saul approached Samuel in the gate and said, “Tell me where is the house of the seer?” 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. 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?” 1 Samuel 9:15-20.

This is the beginning of the rule of Kings. And what is the difference between a king and a judge? A judge came on the scene to solve a problem, but did not create a governing structure. The kings, as God warned, would beget a whole Royal class, a standing army, and a permanent government. It is what people chose over God as their king. Under the judges, they were free, but wasted their freedom on other gods and lost God’s protection. Under the kings, the people would be “restrained.” A king would keep them occupied.

Even after the establishment of Kings, under which there would be good ones and bad ones, God would still raise up prophets. They would be faithful men who would bring course corrections as needed.

Having an earthly ruler can be convenient. He is someone to blame when things go wrong. But the ruler use usually only a symptom. And sometimes a bad ruler is a form of God’s judgment. It comes because we, the people have started serving our own interests, and letting our leaders be our substitutes before God. But we will all stand before him in the end.

Know What You’re Asking For

So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots.He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants.He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” 1 Samuel 8:10-18.

Israel is demanding to be lead by a king, like all the other nations. Because that is obviously what they have been lacking. There is nothing like a government substitute for obeying God

Returning to the Lord

And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only. 1 Samuel 7:3-4.

After the Ark returned, the people spent 20 years lamenting the loss they had suffered before Samuel challenged them to put away their false gods. It was after this time of national repentance that their enemies decided to attack.

We, also, need to lament the state we have allowed our nation to fall into. We need to put away our idols of greed and pride and selfish pursuits and seek first the kingdom of God. We can be sure the enemy will attack, but our God will deliver us.

Contrition Leads to Honor

The ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines seven months. And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the Lord? Tell us with what we shall send it to its place.” They said, “If you send away the ark of the God of Israel, do not send it empty, but by all means return him a guilt offering. Then you will be healed, and it will be known to you why his hand does not turn away from you.” And they said, “What is the guilt offering that we shall return to him?” They answered, “Five golden tumors and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines, for the same plague was on all of you and on your lords. So you must make images of your tumors and images of your mice that ravage the land, and give glory to the God of Israel. Perhaps he will lighten his hand from off you and your gods and your land. Why should you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? After he had dealt severely with them, did they not send the people away, and they departed? Now then, take and prepare a new cart and two milk cows on which there has never come a yoke, and yoke the cows to the cart, but take their calves home, away from them. And take the ark of the Lord and place it on the cart and put in a box at its side the figures of gold, which you are returning to him as a guilt offering. Then send it off and let it go its way and watch. If it goes up on the way to its own land, to Beth-shemesh, then it is he who has done us this great harm, but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that struck us; it happened to us by coincidence.” 1 Samuel 6:1-9.

The Philistines, though they were enemies of God, knew they had done wrong by capturing the Ark of the Lord. For one, the signs were undeniable: their own god fell and was broken before the Ark, and the people had plagues of mice and tumors (hemorrhoids, in some translations).

Then they consulted their own priests to find out how to appease the God of Israel. The priests correctly prescribed substitutionary sacrifices and even referenced Israel’s history with Pharoah and the Egyptians.

These ancient people knew the rules they must follow to show honor to God. They must repent, and they must atone. They had to send the Ark back, and they must make a sacrifice. The old testament law said if you took what did not belong to you, you must return it plus a penalty. They did all they knew to do, and then they followed up to see that it was accepted.

How often have we robbed God and thought we could just say, “sorry,” without changing our ways? Yes, Christ purchased our forgiveness and there is no more sacrifice for sin, but where is our love, and our desire to honor God?

God Fights His Own Battles

When the Philistines captured the ark of God, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon. And when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. This is why the priests of Dagon and all who enter the house of Dagon do not tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day. 1 Samuel 5:1-5.

The Israelites we’re very distressed when the ark was captured. This was nothing compared with how it’s captors felt. It is first set next to their idols, Dagon. Our God breaks their god. Then it gets worse, and the various Philistine villages start playing hot potato with the ark. Nobody wanted it.

God is never discredited, no matter how uncreditworthy his people are. He does not get His power from them. They get their power from Him. Everyone ultimately answers to Him.