Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Arc de Triumph

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Mar 29, 1 Sam 9-12

Today's readings are 1 Sam 9-12.

God chooses Saul to be king over Israel in response to their request to have a leader like other nations. Saul's primary qualifications seem to be that he is tall, good-looking, and has a wealthy father (1 Sam 9:2). He doesn't appear to be overly wise or resourceful. Based on this meager set of attributes, Saul is readily accepted by Israel. Many people naturally gravitate toward attractive, wealthy folks who seem to have it all only to find out they are flawed human beings just like the rest of us. Israel wanted a strong worldly leader and will soon find out they received one. The problem is that this leader, while he may be what they want, is not what they need. Perhaps there is a lesson for us today in all this.  

The process Saul undergoes in being designated king is revealing. Saul encounters Samuel in Zuph (Ephraim) (1 Sam 9:11-14). Saul and a servant have been unsuccessfully looking for his father’s donkeys, and he is ready to give up. The servant, not Saul, suggests they seek out a man of God for help. Saul’s initial reaction is to push back on his servant’s suggestion with a lame excuse (1 Sam 9:7). Evidently, Saul wants to go home! From the beginning of his story, we see that Saul’s first instincts are to rely on his own abilities, not to trust in God. This will prove to be his stumbling block. The servant persists, and they find Samuel.

Following God’s instructions, Samuel, in a private ceremony, anoints Saul as king (1 Sam 10:1). Note, Saul is anointed but not yet publically announced. Shortly after the anointing, Saul has a transformational experience (1 Sam 10:6-9). Saul's transformation is so startling that it is evident to those around him (1 Sam 10:11). When God changes someone by the power of His Spirit, the evidence will be apparent!

Later, in a public ceremony, God’s decision to make Saul king is revealed in such a manner that the people are assured it is by divine appointment (1 Sam 10:17-21). However, the seemingly positive response to their request for a king is a two-edged sword. Samuel's proclamation at the coronation sounds more like a rebuke than a commendation (1 Sam 10:17-19). In another revealing detail, even though a prophet has named him and the Spirit has descended upon him, Saul remains hesitant. He hides when Samuel proclaims him king over a backsliding and rebellious Israel (1 Sam 10:22),

Nonetheless, God blesses. He speaks to Saul, leads him, and affirms him in the face of a minority of angry doubters by giving him a significant military victory (1 Sam 11:1-11). This should not be taken to mean that Saul is a good and godly man, only that God’s will has been done in making him king. Saul does, however, show some grace and mercy when he refuses to execute those who opposed him (1 Sam 11:12-15). This move unites Israel, and the kingdom is renewed.  Note, Israel renders peace offerings, signifying unity among the tribes but there is no mention of repentance.

These events occur in Gilgal, the place where Joshua and his army first set foot in Canaan (Jos 4:23-24; 5:2-7). Gilgal symbolizes new beginnings, and Saul's presence there shows that Israel is entering a new era. 

There are consequences for the Hebrew's lack of contrition. Before Samuel dies, he issues a warning to turn back to God and repent (1 Sam 12:16-18). He tells them there are blessings in store if they are obedient, curses if they are not. 

As a result of their recent rebellion and as a reminder of His power, God destroys the harvest. This leads the people to repent for asking for a king. But keep in mind, God's intention was for them to have a king all along. What Israel needed to repent of was their desire to be like the world. 

Despite all this God still promises to bless, leaving them with this warning: "If you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away..." (1 Sam 12:25).

God's grace is unfathomable, abundant and never ending. Yet, we repeatedly see that He bestows it on an unworthy and faithless people. God incessantly reminds them to obey Him. They perpetually fail to do so. Regardless of their behavior, He never disowns them, never abandons them, never ceases being their Father. However, there are temporal consequences for their actions. They suffer and struggle through their lives. They experience joy but endure grief and loss as well. Through it all, in spite of their rebellion and faithlessness, they are God's children. He has put His seal on them. God honors His mark on His children by assiduously putting His grace and mercy on display.

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