Thursday, August 4, 2011

Saul the Significant

Today's passage:  I Samuel 9
     "And Saul answered and said, Am not I a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel?  and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin?  wherefore then speakest thou so to me?"
     Saul is a complex character.  He looms head and shoulders above the rest of the people.  He has natural charisma to which people gravitate.  He was athletic, just reading about him looking for his father's sheep, navigating the mountains, gives an indication.  He doesn't appear to know a lot about God.  The reason I think this is because his servant is the one who actually mentions the man of God living in the nearby town.  Saul was concerned that they didn't have the money to pay a prophet for his message,  confusing a fortuneteller with God's man.  When they arrive in Samuel's town,  the maidens they encounter have to explain the whole sacrifice process.  It just seems that Saul's interests were on anything but God, and maybe that wasn't his fault.  Perhaps his father, Kish, didn't teach him anything about Jehovah.
      The first verse says that Kish was a mighty man in Benjamin, although the verse above gives another picture.  Kish may have been striving to raise his family to one of distinction.  Livestock were great evidence of wealth. Maybe this is why Kish sends Saul on this errand to bring back the lost donkeys, because each one lost, would be a loss of wealth. This effort to distinguish themselves would have rubbed off on Saul.  It would be difficult to focus on self-advancement and honoring God too.
     When describing Saul in the first few verses, it says he was a good man, one of the best from Benjamin's tribe.  But what is missing?  I do not see any indication that he had a great love for God.  I do not see any characteristics that show he was striving to live for the Lord.  In the chapters to follow, he seems to have an eager heart.  He seems to want to learn and want to know more about God.
     Meeting Samuel for the first time, Saul is flattered by the attention he is given.  When Samuel asks him, "And on whom is all the desire of Israel?  Is it not on thee, and on all thy father's house?",  Saul answers with the verse at the top of this post.  One might think that is a very humble reply.  I take a different slant on it.  False modesty perhaps?  Not even that.  I get the sense that Saul may have been resentful that he was from the least powerful family in Benjamin.  I don't think he enjoyed being from Israel's smallest tribe.  I think he had a sense that he would be destined for great things, if these matters of birth weren't holding him back.  Already, pride seems to be shaping his character.  Of course, I can't know that is what he intends by this statement, but knowing what I know about his future, it is easy to suppose it. 
     Saul and Samuel are about to have an important conversation.  A conversation that will change Saul's life.  Most of this unfolds in Chapter 10, so I will have to wait on the details.  Saul had all the tools to be a great leader.  But he lacked the most important one--dependence on God.  He had so many things going for him, what else did he need?  As I've mentioned, in the following chapters, Saul does try.  He puts forth effort to please God, but then I think he abandons God's plans because they do not suit him.  He has other ideas for this kingship. He forgets it was not his good looks, his handsome physique, his charismatic personality that earned him this title, despite his average birth.  He was determined to lift Benjamin's tribe to one of prominence.  He is resolved to make his little family the greatest of Israel.  I think Saul carried these thoughts with him into his reign, and it will be his undoing. 
     Fame brings down many a young man and woman.  I see it more today than ever before.  With You-Tube and other ways to get attention, people concentrate more on promoting themselves than promoting God.  Saul fell into this trap, but I am just as prone to it.  Those who want 15 minutes of fame, forget that with it often comes a lifetime of misery.  Reading all of Saul's story, how his hunger to be popular and appreciated increased, how his kingdom diminished, how he disappointed God,  I think I'd rather stay unnoticed.

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