The Hidden King
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Bible Passage: 1 Samuel 9-10
My batteries are recharged and I’m anxious to get back into the book of Samuel with you. Do you remember the central question of this book? “Is God enough?”
Is God worth more to you than anything else? Hannah wanted a son and God gave her a son, but do you remember the question of her husband? “Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”
God is asking the Israelites that question. You want a king. Am I not more to you than ten kings? That’s the heart question. I want … this. And I won’t be happy without … this.
And sometimes God gives us what we want – not as a blessing, but as a lesson.
Today, Israel gets the king they wanted, but not the One they needed.
1 Samuel 9:
1 There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth. 2 And he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.
I’m a visual learner, so it may help to visualize Jason Momoa or Idris Elba or [slide] … how’d that picture get up there? Who did that?
The important thing is that Saul looks like a king – tall, dark, and handsome. His father was wealthy, and he was a stud. But what kind of man was he? Let’s find out.
3 Now the donkeys of Kish, Saul’s father, were lost. So, Kish said to Saul his son, “Take one of the young men with you, and arise, go and look for the donkeys.”
Saul the donkey hunter – future king of Israel. They look in all the surrounding regions and find no donkeys. Saul the unsuccessful donkey hunter – future king of Israel.
5 When they came to the land of Zuph, Saul said to his servant who was with him, “Come, let us go back, lest my father cease to care about the donkeys and become anxious about us.”
And now he’s Saul the quitter – future king of Israel. But his servant doesn’t want to quit the job. He convinces Saul to go and find a prophet thinking they can pay for his help. Saul agrees and the prophet turns out to be Samuel. And God has orchestrated the whole thing.
15 Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed to Samuel: 16 “Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over my people Israel. He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines. For I have seen my people, because their cry has come to me.”
This is an unmistakable endorsement. Saul will be king. God is giving the people what they asked for. And ironically, that is what the name Saul means – “you asked for it”.
When Saul arrives, Samuel tells him that the donkeys have been found and that God brought him there for another purpose. To Saul’s credit, he responds in humility.
21 Saul answered, “Am I not a Benjaminite, from the least of the tribes of Israel? And is not my clan the humblest of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then have you spoken to me in this way?”
I’m sure you’ve heard this quote before – “God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.” The humility of Saul in this verse is a good thing.
I don’t want you to think that Saul was a bad choice. God wasn’t intentionally giving them a bad king. In fact, God is going to provide Saul with everything Saul needs to be a great king. He is going to set Saul up for success. Watch what happens.
22 Then Samuel took Saul and his young man and brought them into the hall and gave them a place at the head of those who had been invited, who were about thirty persons. 23 And Samuel said to the cook, “Bring the portion I gave you, of which I said to you, ‘Put it aside.’” 24 So the cook took up the leg and what was on it and set them before Saul. And Samuel said, “See, what was kept is set before you. Eat, because it was kept for you until the hour appointed, that you might eat with the guests.”
Samuel places Saul at the head of the table – his own seat. He gives Saul his own portion. This event is packed with meaning, but I’ll share just one observation. By doing this, Samuel is basically adopting Saul into his own household. This is off the charts honor from the most important man in Israel.
The next day, He anoints Saul as king.
10:1 Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head and kissed him and said, “Has not the Lord anointed you to be prince over his people Israel? And you shall reign over the people of the Lord, and you will save them from the hand of their surrounding enemies.
Samuel then tells Saul to expect some signs on his journey home to confirm the Lord’s calling and they all come true.
9 When he turned his back to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart.
That’s not a New Testament phrase – like regeneration. That just means that God has changed Saul’s disposition in some way. Notice what happens next.
And all these signs came to pass that day. 10 When they came to Gibeah, behold, a group of prophets met him, and the Spirit of God rushed upon him, and he prophesied among them. 11 And when all who knew him previously saw how he prophesied with the prophets, the people said to one another, “What has come over the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?”
In other words, this is “out of character” for Saul. This was not the man they knew. He has changed. This is what it means that God gave him another heart. God was providing Saul with everything he needed to be a good king. What will Saul do with it?
14 Saul’s uncle said to him and to his servant, “Where did you go?” And he said, “To seek the donkeys. And when we saw they were not to be found, we went to Samuel.” 15 And Saul’s uncle said, “Please tell me what Samuel said to you.” 16 And Saul said to his uncle, “He told us plainly that the donkeys had been found.” But about the matter of the kingdom, of which Samuel had spoken, he did not tell him anything.
I honestly don’t know what to make of this. Why didn’t he tell his uncle the whole story? I suspect it was because Saul didn’t really understand what was happening to him yet. Samuel is the only one in the story who seems to understand what’s happening.
And that is often how God operates. He’s always up to something, but what God is doing may not be clear to us.
Consider all of the parables Jesus told about the kingdom. He told stories about lost things being found. He said the kingdom is like a hidden treasure or an expensive pearl that a man sells everything to buy.
Saul went looking for donkeys and found a kingdom – and he has no idea what to think of it. But the time has come. God is about to give Israel their king.
17 Now Samuel called the people together to the Lord at Mizpah. 18 And he said to the people of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all the kingdoms that were oppressing you.’ 19 But today you have rejected your God, who saves you from all your calamities and your distresses, and you have said to him, ‘Set a king over us.’ Now therefore present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and by your thousands.”
Samuel gives them one last warning, and no one seems to listen. Is God enough? The people answer “no”. “Give us a king.”
20 Then Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. 21 He brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its clans, and the clan of the Matrites was taken by lot; and Saul the son of Kish was taken by lot. But when they sought him, he could not be found.
This is, in my opinion, one of the funniest stories in the Bible. God absolutely has a sense of humor. Saul went looking for donkeys – the old King James version calls them “asses”. Saul couldn’t find the “asses” and now the people can’t find Saul.
22 So they inquired again of the Lord, “Is there a man still to come?” and the Lord said, “Behold, he has hidden himself among the baggage.”
I can’t read this without laughing. It’s funny. It’s really funny.
It’s also tells us that Saul struggles with a lack of faith. His humility in chapter 9 was noble, but it was somewhat false. True faith always produces two things that seem to contradict one another – but they don’t really.
True faith produces both humility and confidence. Those are the outward marks of inward faith.
Humility is the product of God exposing our weaknesses and teaching us to lean on Him. Humility protects us from thinking too much of ourselves.
Confidence on the other hand protects us from thinking too little of ourselves. Confidence is not the same thing as pride. Pride is self-reliance. Confidence is God-reliance. We recognize that we are under His authority and in His service. We know we are forgiven and loved and accepted. We can trust Him and follow Him.
Saul clearly has a lack of confidence. We will see that more and more as the story unfolds.
But let’s finish our text.
23 Then they ran and took him from there. And when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. 24 And Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen? There is none like him among all the people.” And all the people shouted, “Long live the king!”
It seems strange that they still wanted this man to be king, even after they have to find him and drag him out of hiding. But they are choosing to see what they want to see. They see a man that looks like a king and that’s all they care about.
And this is what idolatry does to us all. It blinds us to reality.
Saul is “one of us”. He’s tall and handsome, but otherwise he’s just another man. He’s a mixture of good and bad. God gave him everything he needed to be a good king, but it won’t be enough – because Saul was not what the people needed.
You want a king? Ok. Have a king. But it’s not going to turn out the way you hope it will. And God could say the same thing about all the stuff we think is going to make our lives better.
I don’t need to give examples. You know what it is for you. You know what I’m talking about. You know what you think you need to be happy. And you know it’s never really going to be enough.
It amazes me how psychology basically confirms what the Bible teaches about idolatry. We all think that money, fame, and power will make us happy, and psychology tells us that isn’t true at all. Contrary to popular opinion, here’s what psychology actually tells us:
People who attend church weekly are happier, healthier, live longer, are less likely to suffer from depression, less likely to commit suicide, less likely to abuse substances, more likely to volunteer in their community, and more generous with their money. That’s a fact.
But the hidden treasure is not the church. We are just the field where the treasure is buried. Jesus Himself is the hidden treasure. Humility and confidence are forged in our union with Christ. He’s the hidden king of the Bible – not hidden like Saul. Hidden because Jesus is not what the world expects a king to look like.
This is why Jesus is the hidden king. Isaiah 53:
“He had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
This is our king, Jesus. Our King is not tall and handsome. Our King is the son of a carpenter, not a wealthy man. Our King was born in a stable with the donkeys. Our King was homeless – with nowhere to lay his head. Our King was stripped, beaten, and hung on a cross between criminals. They mocked our King. They spit on our King. They saw no glory in His appearance.
Because God cares about the heart – not appearances. And this is what we will learn as we continue our study of Samuel.
Pray: Lord Jesus, you gave us a seat at your table. You gave us your portion. You have anointed us with your Spirit. We have every reason to believe you are FOR US – but we keep chasing other things. Help us to trust you and to honor you as king of our lives.