By Samuel Ridout
The Call of the King
1 Samuel 9 — 10: 16.
The people having definitely decided to have a king, in face of all the warnings given by the prophet, nothing remains but to give them their desire according to the fullest thought of it. Had the choice of the ruler been left to a few, he would not have been really the expression of the people's wish. This difficulty is constantly encountered in the effort to secure a ruler who shall represent the desires of the people. The nearest that can be done is to let the majority decide. This at best but gives the preference of that majority, in which the rest of the nation has to acquiesce, and so man can never get the ideal ruler of his choice.
For Israel, God mercifully intervenes and, as we might say, puts at the disposal of the people His omniscience in selecting the ruler, not after His heart, but who He knows will meet their desires. This is an interesting and important point, one too that has a New Testament illustration, which, if understood, will throw light upon that which has been a difficulty for many.
The people had already turned against God and rejected Him from being their Ruler. Most certainly, then, their mind was not in accord with His. The king of their ideal would be a far different man from any whom God would Himself select. They had in their minds a ruler like those of the nations, whose first thought was the welfare of the people and the overthrow of their enemies. God's thought would be a man who first of all sought His glory, and was in subjection to Himself. We must remember that He is not choosing a king for Himself, but for the people. He does for them that which it would have been impossible for them to do for themselves, so that the result is exactly what they would have done had they been able.
The New Testament illustration of this is the selection of Judas Iscariot as an apostle. It has been said, did not the Lord know at the beginning that Judas was a traitor? We are distinctly told so in the sixth chapter of John, and may be certain that our blessed Lord was neither deceived nor disappointed — save in divine and holy sorrow over a lost soul — in the result. But this does not mean that our Lord put Judas in a position against his will or for which he was not in the judgment of men specially fitted. Judas himself had taken the place of a disciple. It was, therefore, simply selecting one who had already taken this place, and not imposing upon him a profession which he had not assumed for himself. Nay, more, the position of apostle was calculated to foster, if it existed at all, the faith of the disciple. The twelve were in the place of special privilege and nearness to the Lord, constantly under His influence, with His example before them as we know with much individual instruction according to the need of each. Who could associate with such a Master and witness His deeds of love, the flashing out of His holy soul, His tender heart of compassion, His sympathy, and not be made a better man if there were anything of grace in his soul at all? If Judas apostatized and the wickedness of his heart came out in face of all this, we may be sure it is only a special proof of the hopeless corruption of a heart that has not been visited by God's grace. At the same time our Lord would not be violating in the least the free agency of the man or compelling him into anything counter to his nature.
Returning now to the king of Israel's choice, we will see in what is before us how divine care and foresight gave the fullest expression to the desire of the people, so that the result was one upon whom all the desire of the nation was fixed. But while man's self-will was thus at work and his rejection of God's mild and loving authority showed the determined alienation of his heart from Him, on the other hand, God was working out His own counsels, and His purposes were being unfolded too. The thought of a king was in His heart as well as that of the people, but how different a king! Hannah had given expression to this divine desire for a Ruler for His people at the close of her song, which is fittingly so like that of Mary, the mother of the true King.
The main theme of that song (1 Sam. 2: 1-10) is that God raises up the poor and the lowly, and overcomes all pride. Thus His enemies and those of His believing people are overthrown, and the needy and the afflicted are raised up. "He raiseth up the poor out of the dust and lifteth up the beggar from the dung-hill, to set them among princes and to make them inherit the throne of glory." Our blessed Lord laid aside all heaven's glory, and, so far as earthly greatness was concerned, associated Himself with the poor rather than those who occupied the throne. The throne, so far as it could any longer be called that, was occupied by a Herod, while back of him was the power of imperial Rome, the sceptre having passed over to the Gentiles. The One "born King of the Jews" was to be found in a stable, and faith alone could recognize Him as the Man of God's choice. But faith does recognize Him, and Hannah looks forward not merely to him who was to be the type of Christ, but to the Lord's Anointed Himself. She closes her song with the triumphant strain: "He shall give strength unto His King, and exalt the horn of His Anointed."
Well did God know that there must be a ruler for His people. Everything had been temporary, even the giving of the law itself at Sinai. There could be no permanent relationship between a nation and God, save through a Mediator. The only ruler could be, not some human deliverer, type of Him to come, but One who truly delivered them from bondage worse than that of Pharaoh and from a captivity greater than any inflicted by the Canaanites. Thus Joshua, and Moses himself, were but types of Christ. The deliverer, too, must be priest as well as ruler, and from Aaron on, the high priests and their sacrifices were but shadows of that perfect Priest who offered up Himself to God. The King was to be also a Priest, and in one blessed Person was to embody all that the righteousness and glory of God, on the one hand, and the need of sinful man, on the other, required.
So the very unbelief of the people, expressing a desire for a ruler, was but the occasion for God to approach one step nearer the accomplishment of His own purposes but He was not to be hurried into taking more than one step at a time. He does not, — reverently we would say, He cannot give His own King yet. He must let them work out and manifest all the results of their own desires, and so far from impelling them into that which would show the worst side of self-will, He guards them in every way from this. Thus He uses divine wisdom to select the best man according to their judgment, offering every facility, the machinery of divine Providence, we might say, to secure such a man, and when he is chosen, not withholding all aid, encouragement and warning. If the king of their choice does not succeed, the blame can never be laid upon God. This will be fully manifest. And may we not say the same as co the natural man in every way? If he manifests his corruption, his enmity of God, his hopeless alienation from Him, it is not because of the circumstances in which he is placed, but in spite of them. The very world which has been given over to Satan is still full of witness of God's power, wisdom and goodness. Every man's life, with its history of mercies and of trials, is a witness that One is seeking to hide pride from him and to deliver him from his worst enemy, — himself. The whole providential government of the world and its long continuance in its present state is a witness of the same. God gives man a free hand to work out all that is in his own heart, while at the same time surrounding him with every inducement to turn to Himself.
This is particularly true of the last phase of His patience and longsuffering, — the present dispensation, where, in Christendom at least, the full blaze of revelation would guide and attract man into paths of pleasantness and peace. When all is over (and it seems now to be nearly the end) it will be seen that if there were anything good in man there had been just the atmosphere in which it would properly develop, and so far from God being an indifferent spectator, or a hostile one to human progress and development, it will be clear that He has done all that He could to make the trial a successful one on man's part. It will be true of Israel as a nation, and her kings and the world at large as well, that but one answer could be given the question: "What could I have done more unto My vineyard that I have not done?" All has been done.
Our chapter opens with the genealogy of king Saul. It is traced back through five ancestors, whose names are given, and the significance of which cannot fail to be suggestive. We must bear in mind that it is a genealogy of the flesh, as we may say, where that which is emphasized will be nature rather than grace. Saul himself means "asked" or "demanded." He represents the people's demand for a king, and in that way, nature's ideal. His father was Kish, which means "ensnaring," very suggestive of all that is of nature, which in its most attractive form cannot be trusted.
The next in line was Abiel, "father of might, "which seems to emphasize the thought of strength in which man does indeed glory, but which too often proves to be utter weakness. Zeror, the next, "compressed" or "contracted," suggests the reverse; we can readily understand how one, himself hedged in and oppressed, would seek a reaction and give expression to his desire in his son. Bechorath, his father, "primogeniture," is that which nature makes much of and which Scripture has frequently set aside. Nature says the elder shall rule. How often has Scripture declared that the elder shall serve the younger! Aphiah, "I will utter," would suggest that pride of heart which tells out its imagined greatness. The last person in the list is not named, but described as a Benjamite, a member of that tribe whose history had been one of such glorying self-will and rebellion.
Thus the genealogy of the man of the people's desire would suggest the pride, the self-will, the excellence of nature, together with its feebleness, too, and its deceit. These things are not looked upon as man would regard them, where many of the traits are considered valuable and important, but they are looked upon from God's point of view, and all that is great and excellent in nature is seen to be stained with decay. Thus Saul is described as "a choice young man and a goodly, and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he. From his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people," surely a beau ideal of a king, in man's eyes; alas too soon to show the vanity of man's nature!
The man of the people's desire being now marked out, we are next shown the steps which lead up to his being presented. What trivial events apparently decide our whole after-course of life! It was comparatively an unimportant matter that the asses of Kish should have strayed away and Saul with a servant be sent in search of them, and yet God used this to bring to pass all that was hinging upon it. No doubt everything here has its lessons for us if we are able to read them aright. We are told that man is like a wild ass's colt, naturally unrestrained and self-willed. These asses would then naturally suggest that nature of man which has gone astray from God, and in its wildness and absence of restraint needs ever the strong hand to hold it down. Israel, too, had many a time shown its waywardness in like manner, and one who goes in search of that rebellious nation must indeed have help from God to lay hold of it.
As a matter of fact, Saul did not find the asses; they were restored to his father by divine Providence; and no mere man has ever brought back the wayward wanderer to God. If brought back at all, it is through a divine work. When the time comes for the true King to enter His city, He rides upon an ass's colt upon which man had never sat, controlling all things. Saul searched diligently enough in various places for these lost asses, but fails to find them. First he goes through Mount Ephraim, "fruitfulness," and the land of Shalisha, "the third part," which may have stood for a very large territory; but neither in the place of fruitfulness nor in any wide extent of region has a wanderer ever been found. Man surely has not been fruitful for God. He next seeks through the land of Shaalim, "the place of hollows or valleys" and the land of Jemini, "my right hand," which would suggest exaltation. But neither in humiliation nor exaltation is the natural man found. The poor and degraded are as far from God as those who are exalted. Lastly he comes to Zuph, "a honey-comb," and there he gives up the search. It would seem to stand for the sweetness and attractiveness of nature, but perhaps more hopeless than any is this. One may be naturally attractive without one thought of God, and if the best have no heart for Him, the search must be abandoned. It would need a Seeker after another kind to find the wanderers, and He found them in a different place from those in which Saul ever sought. Going down in death and taking his place under judgment, there He found the wanderer.
Saul has given up the vain search for the asses of his father, and now proposes to his servant to return home. But this one, like a true servant, seems to have a knowledge far beyond that of the favored son of Kish. He informs Saul that the prophet Samuel is in that place, and advises that, instead of human energy or hopelessness, they should go and inquire of him. Saul evidently has had no thoughts of turning to God in this matter, and apparently no knowledge of His prophet, and now can only suggest, as human righteousness is ever prone to suggest, that some price is needed if they are to get aught from God's hand. How like the natural man this is! He must bring his present to God if he is to receive anything from Him, and he knows nothing of that liberal Giver whose delight it is to give freely to those who have nothing with which to buy.
The confession of poverty on the part of Saul makes possible the servant's offer of the fourth part of a shekel of silver, which reminds us of that half-shekel of the atonement money which every child of Israel had to pay. Thus, whatever may have been the thought in the mind of the servant, or whether the price was ever actually handed to the prophet, there is a partial suggestion here, at least, that all approach to God, all learning of His mind, must be on the basis of atonement.
An explanation is next introduced showing the use of the terms "seer" and "prophet." In former times it was the custom to speak of the man of God as a "seer," — one who sees the future, or that which is not visible to the eyes of sense. In other words, the people were more occupied with the result of the prophet's ministry than with its Source. The later word "prophet" suggests the Source from which he received all his inspiration, which then flowed forth from him. This explanation in itself is in keeping with all the circumstances at which we have arrived, both in Saul himself (who surely was not troubled about his relation with God, or how the man of God would gain his information, but rather with the benefit which he might receive from this divine insight) and in the nation at large, of which he was the fitting representative.
So Saul and his servant approach the city where the man of God was. What momentous changes are to occur within those walls! Inquiring their way, they find the object of their search. Everything here, no doubt, is suggestive. They are obliged to ascend to the city. A moral elevation must be reached if they are to enter in any measure into the revelations that are about to be given. Everything of God is on a plane far above the thoughts of the natural man. They are guided by the young maidens who were coming forth to draw water from the well.
This is a familiar scene in every oriental city, and frequently referred to in Scripture. The well with its water is a figure of that Word, which is drawn out of the wells of salvation. The maidens would remind us of that weakness, lowliness and dependence which alone can draw from these wells of salvation. The future king is directed to the man of God by these feeble instruments, which reminds us that God delights to use the weak things. It was a little captive Hebrew maid who told her mistress of the prophet in Israel, by whom Naaman, the great Syrian general, could be cleansed of his leprosy. Wisdom, in the book of Proverbs, sends forth her maidens with the message of invitation to the feast which she has spread. Feebleness which is getting its refreshment and strength from the word of God can point the mightiest to that which alone can give guidance or peace.
It is very suggestive, too, that it is upon the occasion of a public feast and sacrifice that Israel's future king meets the prophet. This falls in with what we have already said as to the atonement money. The basis upon which God's mind can be known, and in connection with which the anointing oil is to be poured upon the king, must be that of sacrifice.
In passing, it is well to notice that the disordered state of the nation is manifest here. There is a "high place" where the sacrificial feast is spread. This was in direct contradiction to the will of God as expressed in the book of Deuteronomy, which provides that it was to be only in the place where Jehovah put His name that sacrifices were to be offered and feasts celebrated. But the glory of the God of Israel had departed from Shiloh, where He had placed His name at the beginning, and the ark was abiding in "the field of the woods." There was no recognized centre. Israel might be mourning after the Lord, but the time was not yet ripe for the pointing out of the true centre of gathering for His people; nor was Shiloh to be thought of, because that, once forsaken, was never again to be recognized as the central abode of the glory of Jehovah.
Thus the high place was, we might say, a sort of necessity brought in by the failure and disordered condition of the people at large. We will find, also, that it was frequently used in this way. There was one at Gibeon, where King Solomon, later on, had a revelation from God. Thus they were not necessarily connected with idolatry. As a matter of fact, they were at the beginning devoted to the true worship of God, and to a certain extent were places where He Himself in grace recognized the need and met with His people, though not according to the due order which He Himself had provided. Later on, however, when He had established His centre, placed His name at Jerusalem, and the temple of His glory was there, the worship of the high places was in direct disobedience to His will, and necessarily, therefore, became more and more connected with the idolatry to which the people were ever prone.
Thus, in the history of the faithful kings, we find that these high places were destroyed in some cases, and their idolatrous worship abolished; in others that in spite of all the manifold efforts to do away with them, they still remained, apparently not for idolatry, but for independent worship of God.
There is food for suggestive thought here. There can be no question that God meets individual faith wherever it truly turns to Him; but He has provided in His Word and by His Spirit for a true Centre of gathering for His people, a corporate recognition of Christ Himself and His name as all-sufficient, of the word of God as the absolute guide, and the ever-present Spirit as the competent One to control, order and direct in worship, testimony, ministry, discipline, and whatever other functions there may be, of His people. To ignore this divinely provided Centre, and to turn to human thoughts, to select places and modes of worship which are not provided for in the word of God, is really to worship in the high places. There is no question that very much of this is done in all sincerity, and God, as we were saying, meets His people in grace according to the measure of their faith. But can we wonder that when the truth of the unity of the Church of Christ, the sufficiency of His name and Word, are known, to go on in independency and self-will is but to prepare the way for wide declension from God, and eventually to lead to that dishonor to God which in Christianity corresponds with the material idolatry of which we have been speaking in the history of Israel?
Returning to the feast and sacrifice of which we were speaking, everything has almost a patriarchal simplicity about it. The prophet is, as we might say, another Abraham, living in a later age. The people will not eat of their feast until he comes and bestows his blessing, which at least would indicate their sense of dependence upon God and their desire to receive the blessing which His servant would bestow. The invited guests who share with the prophet in his feast were those, evidently, whose position in the city qualified them for the enjoyment of this honor.
Having received the directions as to meeting the prophet, Saul and his servant go on and find Samuel just going up to the high place. Everything has evidently been ordered of God, even to the appointed moment at which the meeting should take place. There is no waiting on the part either of the prophet or of him who was seeking him.
Moreover, Samuel is not surprised at this meeting, for the day before, the Lord had forewarned him as to all that is to take place — the visit of the man of the tribe of Benjamin, whom it was His will to anoint over His people Israel, and who should be the one to lead them in victory against their oppressors, the Philistines. At this first mention of the object for which the king was to be anointed, it is very suggestive and pathetic to remember that Saul never really won great victories over these very enemies against whom he was appointed to lead the people. The nation was more or less in bondage to the Philistines during his entire reign, and he met his end in the final battle at Mount Gilboa with these very people. Into this we shall look further as we go on; but we can see thus at a glance how ineffectual is all human adaptation to the end designed by God. He had harkened to the cry of His people and looked upon them in their need, for which He provided according to their thoughts and desires, rather than according to His own knowledge of what would really deliver them.
Not only has the prophet thus been forewarned of the visit of Saul, but, as he now meets him, he is assured by the Lord that this is the man of whom He spoke. Thus there is no possibility of mistake, and unerringly is the prophet's hand guided to pour the oil upon the appointed head. We can well conceive the surprise of Saul, as he approaches the prophet with his question, to find that both he and his errand, and all else, are well known to the man of God. He is invited to join with Samuel in the feast, and promised on the morrow that he shall be sent on home after all that is in his heart has been made known to him. His mind is set at rest as to the asses for which he had vainly searched, and he is furthermore told of his father's anxiety at his prolonged absence.
We can well understand how this evidence of divine knowledge on the part of the prophet would solemnize the heart of Saul, and make him realize that he was having to do, not with man, but with the living God. This would prepare the way for the next word that Samuel has to say — the desire of Israel is toward him and his father's house; that is, as Saul well understood it, the people wished just such a man as himself for king. This does not necessarily mean that they had their eye upon him individually, but that he was the kind of man who would answer to the desire which they had already expressed.
We have in what is next, an apparent humility on the part of Saul, which if it had gone more deeply would doubtless have been more permanent. He declares that he is a Benjamite, belonging to the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and his family one of the least in that small tribe. He was doubtless familiar with the history of the tribe, and how it came to be reduced to such small proportions, because of the judgment inflicted upon it for the awful sin of Gibeah, and the shielding of those evil-doers. Had the tribe been properly exercised by this fearful chastisement, it would, as a whole, have been brought into a place of true humility before God, and have been prepared for exaltation. There is no indication, however, that there was any genuine self-judgment on the part of the tribe as a whole or any individuals in it, and their humility was rather compulsory than spontaneous.
This, it is evident, was also the case with Saul, from his subsequent history. He might speak in depreciation of his family and of his tribe, but as a matter of fact there is no evidence that there was the genuine judgment of self in the presence of God. It is one thing to have low thoughts of one's self as compared with one's fellows, but quite a different thing to take one's true place in the presence of divine holiness. The flesh knows how to be humble under stress of circumstances, but it knows nothing of that which judges its very existence, and compels it to be absolutely prostrate before God.
Saul is introduced, now, into the company of those who had been invited to the feast, and is given, in anticipation, the kingly place at the head of the table over all the invited guests. There is also set before him, at the command of the prophet, the special portion which had been reserved for the guest of honor; might we not say, Benjamin's portion for the leader of Benjamin's tribe? The shoulder was that part of the sacrifice of the peace offering which was eaten by the offerers. It was originally, as we see from the tenth of Leviticus, a part of the priest's portion, for himself and his family. Thus, Saul was admitted to the privileges of the priestly household: a very suggestive thought for one who needed priestly nearness if he were rightly to carry out the responsibilities which were suggested in the fact that the shoulder was set before him.
The sacrifice, as we well know, speaks of Christ as the One who, having made atonement for us, and who in His death was the Object of God's delight, is also the Food for His people's strength. In the peace offering there is a portion for the priest, for God, and for the offerer. Thus, the thought of communion, and the strength which flows from communion is the prominent one. The shoulder reminds us of Him of whom the prophet says: "The government shall be upon His shoulder." He only has strength to bear the responsibilities of rule, who first of all laid down His life in submission to the will of God and for the salvation of His people. Never will government be what it should be until this great fact is recognized and until the true King, who is also the true Priest and the true Sacrifice, takes up the burden upon His shoulders. But, in this sacrificial feast, we have at least an indication that is suggestive. If there is to be true qualification for government, it must be as one has assimilated the mind of Christ and has received from Him that strength for service which He alone can give.
Saul remains with Samuel that day, and when about to take his departure, early on the following day, is called by the prophet at daybreak — the beginning of a new day for Israel and for Saul — to the housetop, alone in isolation and elevation above all his surroundings. The prophet then accompanies him outside the city, and, the servant being sent on ahead, Samuel declares to him the purpose of God. The holy anointing oil is poured upon his head, and he receives the kiss of the prophet's benediction, perhaps in acknowledgement too of his allegiance to him. He is assured that the Lord has anointed him to be prince over His inheritance. This anointing with oil was a figure, of course, not only of the divine designation for a specific service, but of the qualification which accompanied that. The oil, as symbol of the Holy Spirit, would suggest the only power in which it was possible for him to carry out the responsibilities of that place into which he had now been inducted by the prophet speaking for God.
He is now ready to be sent away, but is told of three signs that will meet him that day and which will at once confirm him in the realization of the truth of all that has been done, and at the same time, no doubt, give suggestions as to his future path of service. These signs are not explained, which would suggest that Saul knew, at least, to whom he could turn for explanation, the Lord Himself. It was also to be supposed that one who realized that he was now having to do with God, would be suitably exercised by any such manifestations as are spoken of here.
The first sign was to be that, after leaving Samuel, he would find, by Rachel's sepulchre at the border of Benjamin, two men who would announce to him the finding of the asses and that his father's anxiety had been transferred from their loss to the prolonged absence of his son. Rachel's tomb was a type of Israel according to the flesh, and in a special sense, perhaps, of the tribe of Benjamin, the last son at whose birth his mother, Rachel, breathed her last. All these things would appeal to Saul in a special way. It would seem to emphasize for him the fact that if he were to be a true Benjamite, "the son of the right hand," he must enter into the fact that death must pass upon all the excellence of nature. It is by Rachel's sepulchre, at the grave of the old man, in refusal of all the excellence of mere nature, that faith is to learn its first lesson. If there is to be true service for God, it must be on the basis of the refusal of self. Here Saul was to learn that the asses were found; and, at the grave of self, one learns all the futility of his past activities. His father now yearns for him, which might well remind Saul that if he is at the grave of all that nature might count great, he is still the object of love; if a human love, how much more also of that love of God which finds its perfect display in the Cross which sets man aside, and there too, the channel for its unrestrained outflow toward us!
The next sign would emphasize the privileges of fellowship on the basis of redemption and worship. He passes on to the "Oak of Tabor." Rachel's sepulchre, as we have seen, speaks of the rejection and refusal of nature. Where one's natural strength is recognized as weakness, he is qualified to know whence true strength comes. Thus, the sepulchre is changed for the oak, which suggests might — the might of a new "purpose," as Tabor means. There he meets three men who are going up to Bethel, "the house of God," the place of communion and of divine sovereignty. They carry with them their offering, three kids, which reminds us of the sin-offering; and three loaves of bread, which speak of the person of Christ, communion; and a bottle of wine, of the precious blood of Christ and of the joy that flows from a knowledge of redemption through that blood. They would ask of his welfare. He would thus already receive at their hands the salutation which was now his kingly prerogative, and from them also he would receive the loaves of bread, which speak, as we have said, of Christ as the food for His people. Fitting reminder for a king — "royal dainties" truly.
Passing on further, he comes to the hill of God, and finds there not only the manifestation of divine presence, but the evidence of the enemy, too. There are outposts of the Philistines in the very place where God would manifest Himself. What a twofold suggestion to a newly made king that his work was to be, on the one hand, in the sanctuary of God's presence, and on the other, in facing the enemy who had intruded themselves there!
Here he would meet a company of prophets, men under the power of the Spirit of God and controlled by His Word; and, as he mingled with these, he too was to be changed from the man which he was, to come under the sway of that mighty, divine energy which controlled them. As we know from many Old Testament examples, it was, alas, possible for a person to come outwardly under the power of the Spirit, and even to be used as was Balaam to be the messenger of God's word, without any saving interest in His grace. There was this in this sign which was to meet Saul, and yet subsequent history shows that he was only an outward participant in this manifestation of divine power.
The prophets were not merely speaking under the power of God, but were accompanied by psaltery and harp; that is, there was the spirit of praise as as well of prophecy. In God's presence there is fulness of joy, and He dwelleth amidst the praises of His people. Thus worship should ever be an accompaniment of prophecy. Elisha, when called upon to ask counsel of God, called for a minstrel, in order that, as it were, his spirit might be fully attuned to the praise of God. We read also of prophesying with harps, where the spirit of praise gives the needed instruction to mind and heart. This would be a reminder to Saul that mere knowledge, even of a divine character, was never to be separated from that priestly worship and joy which cannot be simulated, but flow from a heart that is well acquainted with the grace of God, which alone can empower for true service and testimony.
Samuel had even told him that as he prophesied he would receive another heart. That is, there would be a change which would suggest permanency, while at the same time it left things open to the will of Saul himself. Surely, all that was to occur to him on that day, the testimony of the judging of the flesh at Rachel's sepulchre, of the sufficiency of Christ's atoning work and the presence of God in the second sign, and of the power of the Holy Spirit in the work of the prophets, would all tend to powerfully work upon heart and mind and conscience, so that if there were indeed life toward God, he would find here a complete revolution of his entire past.
The prophet then leaves him, as it were, to God. When all these signs came to pass, he could act under the guidance of God, for God was with him. At the same time, Samuel warns him to go on down to Gilgal and there to await his coming, where burnt-offerings and peace-offerings were to be offered up to God. He was to tarry there seven days, everything in complete abeyance, waiting for the coming of the prophet. This is most important in connection with what subsequently took place. Thus we see Saul, on the one hand, set free to act as God guided; and on the other, checked, and reminded that his place is at Gilgal,the place of self-judgment, of the refusal of all the excellence and glory of nature, of which the Israelite was reminded by that place.
How everything, in this whole history of the man after the flesh, emphasizes the fact that nothing of nature can glory before God. How everything was designed, as it were, to call Saul to judge and to refuse himself, in order that having no confidence in himself, he might be spared the terrible experiences and fall which marked his later history. It would seem as though God Himself were laboring to impress all these things upon the mind of the future king, and to spare him, so far as divine mercy could intervene, from the pride and self-righteousness which were the occasion of his final downfall and overthrow. May not we also need to learn well these lessons for our own souls, and have impressed more deeply upon us, as we grow more familiar with these facts, the necessity of having "no confidence in the flesh "?
All takes place as Samuel had predicted, and Saul seems fully to come under the control of the prophetic Spirit; but those who remembered what he was, asked, as if in mockery, (as they repeated the question in later years, under different circumstances) "Is Saul also amongst the prophets?" He had evidently not been characterized, up to that time, by any fear of God or faith in Him. It was a matter of astonishment that he should thus take his place with them. Alas, we know that it was but temporary. His uncle meets him too, with questions as to where he had been and what Samuel had told him, but here, in some Nazarite way, Saul keeps his counsel as to all that had been told him about the kingdom, and mentions to his uncle simply that which was external and which he had a right to know. This is good, so far as it goes, and was an indication of that spirit of reserve which to a certain extent characterized him in after years and which was, so far, a safeguard against feebleness.