I. THE SANCTION GIVEN BY THE LORD TO SAUL'S ELEVATION. Instances may easily be adduced in which the writers of the Old Testament ascribed to the Lord directly what was only indirectly recognised or permitted by him; but in the present case there is obviously more than Divine allowance. Jehovah pointed out Saul to the prophet Samuel, and commanded that he should be anointed captain, or king. We account for this on that principle of Divine government which allows to men that which they most wish for, in order that they may learn wisdom from the result. The people of Israel had not asked the Lord for such a king as he might see fit to choose and appoint. They had asked the prophet for a warlike chief like the kings of the nations and tribes around them, and the Lord saw meet to let them have what they desired; the young giant Saul was just the style of man they sought, cast in the very mould they admired, and one that would teach them some painful lessons through experience. Therefore, though the Lord foresaw the disappointing career of Saul, he authorised Samuel to anoint him privately, and afterwards sanctioned his public selection and elevation to the royal dignity. Here was a leader to suit the fancy of the people - strong, impetuous, valiant. Let them have Saul for their king. Such is the way of the Lord to this day, and in individual as well as national life. He admonishes and corrects us by letting us have our own way and be filled with our own devices. We are apt to complain in our disappointment at the result, that God himself sanctioned our course. No. We did not ask him to show us his way, that we might do his will; but took our own way, did our own pleasure; and he allowed, nay, facilitated our desire. Let the issue teach us to be more wary and more humble in time to come.
II. EARLY PROGNOSTICS OF SAUL'S FAILURE.
1. The manner of his entrance on the page of history. How different from the first mention of David, faithfully keeping the sheep before he was anointed to be the royal shepherd of Israel, is the first appearance of the son of Kish in search of his father's stray asses, and visiting the venerable prophet Samuel with no higher thought in his mind than to learn, if possible, where those asses were! He did not even know Samuel by sight, though he lived but at a short distance. He seems to have been an unreflecting rustic youth, with none of those premonitions of greatness which come early to the wise, and tend to give them seriousness of purpose and elevation of aim.
2. Indications of a fitful mind. We read nothing of Saul's bearing before Samuel when informed of the destiny before hint. Probably he was stunned with surprise. But so soon as he left the prophet new currents of thought and feeling began to flow through his heart. A mood of mind fell on him more grave and earnest than had appeared in him before. The Old Testament way of saying it is, that "God gave him another heart;" for the change which passes on a man under the consciousness of a high vocation suddenly received is none the less of God than it is evidently born of the occasion, he sees things in a new light, feels new responsibilities; new springs of feeling and new capacities of speech and action reveal themselves in him. But Saul took every influence by fits and starts. He quickly gained, and as quickly lost. There was in him no steady growth of conviction or principle. When he fell in with men of religious fervour he was fervent too When he met the prophets chanting Jehovah's praise he caught their rapture, and, joining their procession, lifted up his voice also in the sacred song. But it was a mere fit of piety. Of course Saul had been educated in the religion of his fathers, and in that sense knew the God of Israel; but it seems evident, from the surprise occasioned by his appearance among the prophets, that he had never shown any zeal for the glory and worship of Jehovah; and the sudden ecstasy at Gibeah, having no foundation of spiritual principle, came to nought. Alas! men may sing spiritual songs with emotion who have no enduring spiritual life. Men may catch the infection of religious enthusiasm, yet have no moral health or soundness. Men's faces may glow with a fine ardour, and yet soon after be darkened by wicked passion. Pulses of high feeling and moods of noble desire may visit minds that yet are never moved by Divine grace, and therefore are liable to be mastered, after all, by evil temper and base envy. Occasional impulses are not sufficient. "Ye must be born again." - F.
The people will not eat until he come, because he doth bless the sacrifice.
1. The first point to which I would call your attention, is the fitness and utility of Religious Ordinances. There are in truth, no such obvious, simple, and universal means of preserving communities distinct, and manifesting their members to the world and to each other, as characteristic rights and peculiar badges. Nature prompts to the use of them; for the savage of the woods has the song and the ceremonies of his ancestors, and by the gashings and daubings with which he disfigures his form, denotes his tribe. Reason and policy have discovered their utility; for the armies of the ambitious have their uniforms and their standards; and almost every nation has its mode of naturalising subjects, its oaths of allegiance, and its arms. Indeed so fit and necessary are they, that few communities continue long without them, or survive the loss of them; and they who denounce all rites as useless, are obliged to recur to peculiarity of dress, of phrase, or of gesture, when they would be known to each other, and distinguished from the world. Hitherto our observations have been of a general nature applicable go any community. What, then, shall we say of the propriety and importance of rites and ordinances, in the service of religion? To the Jews, God appointed a system of ceremonies, to connect them together, and shadow forth the sublime subjects of faith to their understandings. And our adorable Redeemer instituted for His followers a baptism, which should represent their "death unto sin, and new birth unto righteousness"; and a supper, in which they should commemorate the foundation of all their hopes and joys, His offering Himself in the body once for all. Religious ordinances are of unspeakable advantage, in uniting members of the same body, and attaching them affectionately to each other. They form a kind of visible chain connoting men together; the first and last links of which are connected with God. Community of interest begets confidence; and while we are pursuing the same objects, under consciousness of the saint infirmities, but with reliance upon the same hopes, we are filled, involuntarily, with affection for each other. This strikingly illustrated in the natural tendency, and no doubt was strong in our Redeemer's view at the gracious institution, of the Lord's Supper.
2. There arises from the nature of the Christian ordinances, a peculiar necessity for an authorised ministry. These sacraments are of high and holy import. Like the ark of the covenant, they are not to be carried by unhallowed hands. They are seals of an engagement between God and men. They are compacts between the Almighty Father and His repentant children, in which He pledges Himself, upon condition of their faith and obedience, to give them the pardon of their sins, the blessings of His Spirit, and the enjoyment of eternal life. And who can sign the covenant of such mercies unto men, but they who act in God's behalf? And who can act in God's behalf, but they who act by God's authority? Not, that in those to whom this ministry is committed, there is any elevation above the ordinary qualities of their fellow beings. "We have this treasure," says St. Paul, speaking of the great Christian behests entrusted to the ministry, "we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us."
3. Here we are brought to notice the obligations, which the truths we have been considering devolve upon ministers and people. The first and most obvious inference is, that it is incumbent upon us all to respect and observe the institutions of the Gospel. But the truths we have been considering, press upon our observation the holiness, and importance, and duties of the ministry. They are the keepers of the fountain, which is set open for mankind to wash in from sin and from uncleanness, and they are the dispensers of the word, by which we are instructed in righteousness, and begotten again to the blessed hope of everlasting life. Under the Christian dispensation, much more than under the Jewish economy, should there be written upon the foreheads of the priesthood, and upon all their sacred vestments, "Holiness unto the Lord." But, finally, we must remark, that there arises from what has been said, an obligation upon the people to abide by, and cooperate with those, who are regularly appointed to minister in holy things. In vain will God have instituted ordinances in the Church, in vain will He have established in it pastors and teachers, if the body of Christians neglect, or profane, these sacred institutions, or with Gallio's temper, "care for none of these things."
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