March 26-April 1, 2017
The reading this week signals the end of the period of the Judges and the beginning of a new era in Israel, one in which God is replaced as king.
We are first introduced to Samuel, the last of the judges, who plays a pivotal role in this part of Israel’s history. He will, at God’s direction, first anoint Saul as the first king of Israel, and then before his death, anoint David as Saul’s successor. But not before he repeatedly warns Israel of the folly of asking for a king (imagine replacing God – the creator of the universe – with an earthly king, simply because all the other nations have one).
Not surprisingly, the people refuse to listen.
“But, when they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.'”
1 Samuel 8:6-9 (NIV)
God chooses Saul to serve as king, a man that would seem to be ideal for the job:
“There was a Benjamite, a man of standing…He had a son named Saul, an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites – a head taller than any of the others.”
1 Samuel 9:1-5 (NIV)
As he anoints Saul as king, Samuel rebukes the people of Israel for their poor judgment, and assures them that God will deal with them quite severely if they, or their king, fail to obey the Lord. As they have done many times before, the people of Israel humble themselves before God:
“The people all said to Samuel, ‘Pray to the Lord your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king.'”
1 Samuel 12:18 (NIV)
But, one has to wonder, is it only because they have gotten what they have asked for?
As we will discover, the contrast between Saul and David, the man who will eventually replace him as king, is stark. Despite an anointing of the Spirit of the Lord, Saul soon acts rashly and disobeys God. Though he may have the look of a king, he does not have the character of a king. Instead, he falls prey to his own insecurities and fears, and pursues his own selfish ways. Ultimately, he will lose both the kingdom and his life due to his poor judgment:
“Samuel said, ‘Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And he sent you on a mission, saying, “Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.” Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?'” 1 Samuel 15:17-19
After Saul’s weak attempt to justify his disobedience, he reveals his one true shortcoming: “I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them” (1 Samuel 15:24).
Not exactly king material after all.
Next week, we will be introduced to David. As we will soon find out, he is a man who is fully devoted to God. His faith, humility, and dependence upon God will serve as an eternal example of the kind of person that God intends for us to be.