10 Saul and Samuel

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“Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because the Lord hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance ?”- I SAM. X. I.

THE introduction of kingly government amongst the Israelitish people marks a great change in their constitution and history. They had been ruled by the high priests and judges, at first wisely, but afterwards feebly. The result had been, to a great extent, anarchy and weakness. They had much disorder among themselves, and they fell often under the yoke of strangers. Since men lost their early infantile nature, order and happiness can only be nourished and preserved under a government whose laws are just, and also uprightly executed. A nation without a firm government is a rope of sand, a circumference without a centre, a body without a head. This the Israelites felt, and, they therefore cried out for a king. Their request was not granted at first, and their prayer for a monarch was condemned; but when they persevered their request was granted, and the appointment of Saul, with the sanction of heaven, took place.

The kingly office has often been objected to, as exalting one human being too high above others to be consistent with human dignity, and that freedom for the people which is essential to true manhood, and the birthright of every human being. But where there are no slaves there will be no tyrants. The true king is only the “first citizen of a true nation, whose sacred duty it is to yield perfect obedience to the law, and whose high charge it is to guard the enactments of the legislature, and to be responsible for obedience to them throughout the kingdom, For the sake of the nation he must be surrounded with splendour and dignity, to, attract obedience, and invested with power to enforce it in all ranks of society from the highest subject to the lowliest workman. The king is surrounded with respect, and made wealthy and powerful, that he may, as the representative of the law, overawe the powerful and protect the weak, and thus preserve the reign of law and the public good. Where law rules God rules; for law, freely and thoughtfully enacted, is as much of God’s wisdom as the justice and judgment of the law-makers can receive and embody for the nation. If the laws which are passed in a legislature freely chosen are not the very best, they are the best possible at the time, and should be faithfully carried out by prince and people. “Justice and judgment are the habitation of Thy throne, mercy and truth shall go before Thy face. Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of Thy countenance” (Psa. lxxxix. 14, 15). It is well said by a great writer: “He is a wise king who considers the law as his superior, and he is an unwise king who considers himself as superior to the law. The king who considers the law as his superior annexes royalty to the law, and makes himself subject thereto, because he knows that the law is justice, and all justice as such is divine. But the king who considers himself as superior to the law annexes royalty to himself, and fancies either that he himself is the law, or that the law, which is justice, is derived from himself. In this case he claims to himself that which is in its nature divine, and unto which he ought to be subject. He is a true king who lives in obedience to the laws of his kingdom, and thus sets an example to his subjects. The king ought to be obeyed according to the laws of the realm, nor in anywise to be injured by word or deed, for on this depends the public safety. An absolute monarch, who fancies that his subjects are his slaves, and that he has a right to their lives and properties, and exercises such a power, is not a king but a tyrant.”

It may, however, be very properly demanded, if the kingly office be of such essential value to mankind, how it happened that the proposition to have a king was received with repugnance by Samuel, and was condemned by the Lord. It is written: “The thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord. And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them” (I San. viii. 6, 7). The Lord directed Samuel also to explain to the people the disadvantages of kingly rule, its expense, and the possible tyranny of monarchs, yet with the direction that if they persisted, a king should be granted and anointed, and thus the divine sanction be given to what was not the best thing in itself but what was best for them under the circumstances. When men were in a heavenly state, and were ruled interiorly by the Lord, their tendencies and their lives were loving, good, and wise; they needed no other government. They loved right and they did it. They needed no outward king: the Lord was their king. The patriarchal government was sufficient, and they enjoyed a simple and a happy life. They had no outward king, nor any outward law, They were innocent in their wishes, simple in their tastes, and orderly, useful, and peaceful in their daily conduct. The impulses of the Spirit of the Lord in their consciences guided them to all that was right; the law was written upon their hearts. But as men declined in spirit, “and self-love grew more and more audacious, filling them with lusts destructive of peace and contentment, and passions destructive of property and at length of life, they rejected the Lord, and His government within them, and unless an outward law and an outward rule had been introduced, everything would have become lawless, and the human race would have perished. Hence, then, we may say that though outward law is not so good as inward law, it is far better than no law at all. And, in like manner, though the government of a king is not so good as the government of the Lord in the conscience, in a state of innocence, yet it is immeasurably to be preferred to the reign of anarchy, disorder and wild confusion. Even a bad government, in the evil interior state in which men now are, is better than no government, on the principle that one tyrant is better than a million. Hence we may understand how it was that the wish of the Israelites to have a king was a declension for them, who had been governed by the Divine King, and yet it was permitted when they had forsaken the Lord, to save them from still severer evils, even the worst of all, the intolerable mischiefs of wild confusion, and the carnival of villany which results to a land when “order, heaven’s first law, is utterly contemned.” Nay, we may go further, and say that an efficient enforcement of order in a state by outward government, and a conscientious and firm rule by the monarch and the officers of state, high and low, are the first great prerequisites to form “a wise and understanding nation.” When order prevails, peace prevails; and with peace the arts flourish, education spreads, literature expands, industry is requited, religion unfolds her virtues, and national well-being presents on earth a faint image of heaven.

As it was with the Israelitish nation, so is it with an individual. The human mind in an unregenerate condition is a kingdom in disorder, often in insurrection. It has long been separated from the Lord and lived in wayward folly, in dull uncertainty or wild disorder. It gratifies itself with rude pleasures, it is true; but these are followed by pangs of heart, by losses, and suffering and strange dreads of a terrible future. The sweet days of early childhood have long passed. The ponderings of youthful faith, the young heart’s dedication of itself to its Saviour, the ingenuous hopes of a frank and unperverted spirit, have all been long laid aside or indrawn, and the soul tossed about by the disorderly impulses which contact with the world has drawn out, and an undisciplined character has very feebly restrained, has sown the seeds of misery, and begun to reap in many a sorrow and many a pain the sad fruits of impiety and folly. “He has sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind.” The tares which have been planted have come up, and the fair show of earlier days has been blighted by many a sin. Hearts and homes which had once glistened brightly with hope and joyous anticipations have become grave with sorrow.

“When ranting round in pleasure’s ring
Religion may be blinded,
Or if she give a random sting
It may be little minded;
But, when on life we’re tempest driven,
A conscience but a canker,
A correspondence fixed wi’ heaven,
Is sure a noble anchor.”

Happy is it when there comes to the soul in which sorrow has excited reflection, a yearning after help, after principle, after salvation. A sense of its weakness and folly induces the desire for a better governed mind. This is to ask for a king. To consult Samuel, spiritually is to consult the Word of God; and this induces meditation. The unwillingness of Samuel to permit the nation to have a king, represents meditation in the soul, during a state of repentance, on the innocence and happiness of its early days, of the blessedness of a state where nothing reigns but Divine Love. It sees this, and feels this; but it knows how far it is from that pure and holy state, and recognizes the necessity of having a king, or, in other words, a definite ruling fixed principle of outward religion, to which its whole conduct must conform. Those who are brought into this state are made sensible that religion at first will be a yoke, but they are convinced they need a yoke. They will be curbed in many of their desires, but they know they need curbing. They will have to take up a cross; but they resolve to bear the cross that they may wear the crown. The freedom of sin they had found to be a horrid slavery, full of captivity, full of misery, and full of alarm; and they resolve to place themselves under a healthy discipline, which, though binding at first, will lead to celestial freedom. The fear of eternal ruin is pressing hard upon them, as the fear of their enemies round about filled the Israelites with consternation, and they must have a defender.

Samuel was becoming old; and his two sons, Joel and Abiah, though they were Judges in Beersheba took bribes and were easily turned aside from the way of right. Samuel the prophet represents the Word of God to us; for this is our grand prophet. The prophet grows old, when its teachings are little regarded. The two sons represent the two faculties, the will and understanding, in an unconverted man. They are bribed by pleasure or gain, which turn them aside from the path of wisdom and good sense, and allows vice to triumph over virtue. The intentions of the evil are well-known to be vigorous enough in sentiment, before there has been any real conviction of the soul; but they are easily warped by self-indulgence. Like Samuel’s sons, they have no practical value. They rather betray and ruin , than help and save. The soul that knows its weakness and its sorrows perseveres, and must have a king.

Divine Providence has prepared a wonderful way to meet this want of the Israelites, and also in every particular case He prepares a remedy for ours. A young man, Saul, a Benjamite, the son of Kish, a choice young man, noble in stature, capable of reigning, was already on a journey which would bring him to Samuel. The asses of, his father’s farm had gone astray, and Kish had sent Saul forth to recover them. This young man was apparently on a trivial errand; yet what is trivial in which an immortal soul engages? This young man was Israel’s future king. He was, without knowing it being guided by Divine Providence to Samuel, who would open to him his advancement and his future career. Our steps also are guided or overruled in every event of life; and out of seeming small circumstances come results of the weightiest consequence, that we may know that the Most High rules over the affairs of men, and even out of seeming evil elaborates eternal good. Afterwards, a solemn assembly was called by Samuel, and a trial by lot was taken to ascertain, after sacrifice and burnt-offerings, who should be the chosen sovereign. Saul was elected. His modesty kept him in retirement; but he was brought forth, and his goodly appearance and bearing won the hearts of the people, and they exulted in the new monarch, crying out in one grand acclaim, “God save the King!”

We have already seen that the demand of Israel for a king was not only a literal fact, but was representative of the soul’s demand for an outward religion to rule it, to be its king. All the particulars in this point of view are most interesting. The asses which had gone astray were the symbols of the natural thoughts and affairs of man which go far astray, when there is no religious conviction to guide them. Horses represent the intellect in its power of progress in spiritual things; hence it is written, “The Lord of hosts hath visited His flock, the house of Judah, and hath made them as His GOODLY HORSE in the battle” (Zech. x.3). The true Christian is said to ride on a WHITE HORSE, and to have a bow in his hand and receive a crown, going forth conquering and to conquer (Rev. vi. 2). The natural intellect, as compared to the spiritual intellect in a man, is as the ass compared to the horse. Issachar is said to be a STRONG ASS couching down between two burdens (Gen. Xlix. 14); because he represented those whose religion is that of the letter and servitude, not that of interior spiritual intelligence, which is “the glorious liberty of the children of light.” Our Lord rode on an ass to Jerusalem, to represent religion guiding all the natural affairs of life, so as to bring them into harmony with the spirit of heaven. Saul seeking for the lost asses, therefore, represents the soul yearning after true principles in its business, its household affairs, and its daily life, so that it may return to order again, as it had been in earlier years.

Saul was a Benjamite, and taller by head and shoulders than any other Israelite (ver, 23). The tribe of Benjamin was the intellectual tribe of Israel, and Saul’s being of that tribe indicated that all intelligence assents to the truth that religion should be king in the mind. The conviction that we should live for heaven in all our ways on earth, is the highest and noblest conviction of the mind. It is, like Saul, head and shoulders above everything else. We have family relations,with their cares and interests; we have business ties, “with their many concerns; we have the connections of citizenship, of art, science and enjoyment; but that which is supreme above all other is the one thing needful, to live for heaven; this is Saul, higher than all the rest of the people. “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? “

Saul was anointed by Samuel, to teach that this conviction of the supremacy of religion is in full harmony with the Word of God. The anointing oil is the symbol of heavenly love, called in Scripture the oil of joy (Isa. lxi. 3), and indicates that our religion must ever be filled with the Spirit of love. “Above all things, put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness” (Col. iii. I 4). The kiss of Samuel represented the DIVINE BLESSING, and the interior joy that is experienced when a soul resolves that religion shall henceforth be its regal influence.

Samuel informed Saul that nowhe would soon find two men by Rachel’s sepulchre, who would tell him that the asses were found. These two men by Rachel’s sepulchre represent the experiences of faith and love associated with the Church of the past, which would assure him that now all is in true order, earthly things, the asses, are in their places, as well as heavenly things. Saul was to go on further, and he would meet three men, bearing three kids, three loaves, and a bottle of wine. As the soul advances in its new life it will receive a full faith in all holy things (the three kids); goodness, the bread of life, to support and strengthen the heart in all its purposes of good, (the three loaves); and a bottle of wine, or such encouraging truth as will cheer and animate it in its heavenly course, the new wine of the kingdom. The two loaves which he should receive represent the good which would strengthen love and faith, to be followed in due time by the good of life. In his further progress, he was to come to the hill or mountain of God; and there he should meet with a company of prophets, with a psaltery, a tabret, a pipe, and a harp, before them: “and they shall prophesy, and the Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and thou shalt be turned into another man.” This coming to the mountain of God represents the newly converted entering into a state of adoration and gratitude. We praise the Lord, when we feel that we have indeed been accepted and saved by Him, The company of prophets represent all the hopes and grateful feelings that descend into the soul. Angels too are joined with us, and stimulate us to joy and praise. The heart and mind send up the grateful music of exulting thankfulness, like the psaltery and the tabret, the pipe and the harp, while the penitent feels he is another man. “The Lord upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all them that be bowed down. My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord; and let all flesh bless His holy name for ever and ever” (Ps. cxlv. 14, 21).

Saul having been chosen from the tribe of Benjamin, represented that man must become religious by truths which reach him through the intellect. He must be intelligently good, not stupidly good.

One other incident in the installation of Saul we must not overlook. When the lot had indicated that he was to be king, he was not to be found. This hiding of himself was a sign of humility, the essence of every virtue. There is no religion without humility. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Saul felt at the time that he was least of all. So will every principle of true religion in a man feel when he is truly converted, and enabled to reign by the power of truth, in the little kingdom of his own soul. It was revealed that Saul had hid himself among the stuff .This circumstance readily reminds us, that our Lord Himself was born in a manger, and the truth represented is very much of the same character in both cases. The manger where horses are fed, is an emblem of the memory, in which truth is stored up, and which supplies the understanding with its food. The memory, as a storehouse, is the magazine where the stuff is laid up for future use, and among that stuff is the grand principle stored up from childhood, though yet hidden from view, that we were born for heaven, and should live for heaven. When this principle is brought out, animated with new life and placed to govern the soul, thenceforth it is indeed seen to be a noble thing. The edifice of the soul is crowned. This is worthier than aught of time, or talent, or science, or philosophy. “There is none like him among all the people.” With religion everything is gain; without it, all is loss. If we have not chosen this principle for our guide, external though it may be at first, we are yet grovelling in the shades of night. We need a faith which, like Moses, or like Saul, shall be a leader for us, and then a king will reign in righteousness within us, and princes rule in judgment. “He shall be as a hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place; as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land” (Isa. xxxii. 2).

Author: Jonathan Bayley— The Divine Wisdom of the Word of God (1892)