When Samuel had all Israel come forward by tribes, the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. Then he brought forward the tribe of Benjamin, clan by clan, and Matri’s clan was taken. Finally Saul son of Kish was taken. But when they looked for him, he was not to be found. So they inquired further of the Lord, “Has the man come here yet?”
And the Lord said, “Yes, he has hidden himself among the supplies.”
1 Samuel 10:20-22 (NIV)
Over the past few months, Wendy and I have casually watched a six-part documentary on Netflix about the history of the classic British comedy troupe Monty Python. I found it both interesting and funny.
One of my favorite Monty Python scenes (among many favorites) is in their first movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, in which King Arthur comes upon some of his “common” subjects. They ask who he is and he tells them “I am your king!” They shrug this off saying “I didn’t vote for you!” and discuss the socialist constructs of their local, communal government system. It’s brilliant.
That scene came to mind this morning as I was pondering the events in today’s chapter. The Hebrew tribes are in process of migrating their system of government from a tribal theocracy to a monarchy. Samuel calls the Hebrew tribes together to give them what they wanted: a king.
In the ancient Near East, studies have shown that there was a common, multi-stage process for the ascension of a person to becoming a king. First, there was a divine designation. Second, the candidate demonstrated their worthiness in some way that drew public attention and support. Since the people’s primary goal for having a king was that of protecting them from threatening enemies and defeating those enemies, the desired “demonstration” was often a military victory of some kind. Finally, there would be a public affirmation or confirmation of the new leader.
The appointment of Saul to become Israel’s first king followed these same general steps. Saul had not led any battles or demonstrated victory over the dreaded Philistines, the casting of lots was used by Samuel to show that Saul was God’s choice along with Samuel pointing out to them that Saul was a head taller than anyone else.
Like the commoners in Monty Python’s sketch, some of the Hebrew people were less than impressed by Saul. He was just some tall kid from the smallest Hebrew tribe whom they never heard of. They begin to grumble and complain that Saul hadn’t proven that he could “save” them. Welcome to politics, Saul! The oil from your anointing hasn’t even dried and your people are already complaining about your leadership.
In the quiet this morning, I find myself thinking about multiple things that stand out to me in this fascinating transition of government.
God makes it clear through Samuel that they are rejecting Him as their king by wanting a human king. One of the metaphors often used among followers of Jesus is that “Jesus sits on the throne of our hearts.” But saying that and living that are two different things. The reality is that my words and actions are often key indicators that I really have something or someone else ruling my desires, choices, actions, and relationships.
Then there is Saul, on whom God’s Spirit descends to “change” him “into a different person.” This foreshadows the transformation of a follower of Jesus in which I, indwelled by God’s Spirit, become “a new creation” in which “old things pass away” and “new things come” (2 Cor 5:17). For Saul, the events and transformation appear not to have a desired effect of strength or confidence. When the lots were cast in his favor he was hiding. It’s no wonder he didn’t make a good first impression on some of his new subjects.
Along my life journey, I have experienced the call to positions and purposes for which I had little self-confidence. I have found myself in Saul’s sandals a time or two. “Really, God?! Me?!” A prophet once gave me a metaphor saying that God had picked out something for me to wear that I never would have chosen myself. I’ve learned along the journey that sometimes God does this and the reasons aren’t always clear. The metaphor that comes to my mind is from theatre. Sometimes I get cast in a role when I had my eyes and heart set on another character I wanted to play. Looking back, not once did I get to the close of the show and regret playing the part I was given. There has always been things for me to discover and learn in that “unwanted” role for which I was grateful.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.