1 Samuel 10:17-25
And Samuel called the people together to the LORD to Mizpeh;…
The Jewish people lived under several different forms of government. At first they were under the primitive patriarchal form. After this came the theocratic government of the wilderness. This merged into the government by judges and became at times little better than anarchy. Then came the kingdom under Saul, David, and Solomon, followed by the divided monarchy under Rehoboam and Jeroboam and their successors. After this came the exile, and, after the restoration, a government with limited powers under control first of Persia, then of Greece, Egypt, and Syria, and finally, after a period of independence under the Maccabees, under the Roman government. Each of these forms of government gave some form or colour to the theology of the nation, but none so deeply and permanently affected it as the monarchy. Figures borrowed from it were prominent in the preaching of Christ and of the apostles; and the Christian Church looks and prays for the coming of the kingdom of which this was a type.
I. We are interested in noticing THE PROPOSED KINGDOM AS IT AFFECTED SAMUEL. The step was a great disappointment to him and also a personal insult. Much of his life work seemed to him wasted unless the form of government under which he had brought the land to prosperity continued. Many a faithful minister well past "the dead line of fifty," but with heart full of the Spirit of Christ, has the same mingling of righteous and personal sorrow when the congregation, "to please the young people," begin suggesting that a younger man could do better the work of the church. There was another personal sorrow to Samuel in the choice. The people in their demand for a king had told him in the bluntest possible manner of the unfitness of his own sons to be their leaders, and he was forced to acknowledge publicly the sad truth which his aching heart was reluctant to admit even to himself (1 Samuel 8:5).
II. WE ARE MUCH INSTRUCTED BY THE FACT THAT GOD DID NOT IMMEDIATELY DESERT THE PEOPLE AFTER THEIR WRONG CHOICE. Good men sometimes feel constrained thus to act; but if God had withheld help from all religious and political enterprises which fell below absolute righteousness, the world would have been in perdition long ago. A Christian is sometimes at a loss to know how far his cooperation with what seems to him the best policy possible to succeed, but which still falls below his ideal, makes him responsible for the defects of the policy or system. There are many excellent people who fail to cooperate with others for the reason that their plans seem in part a concession to evil that for the present cannot be cured. The question whether a Christian may hold stock in a railroad, on the whole righteously managed but with some wrong features of administration; the question whether a Christian may visit the World's Fair if it open on Sunday; the question whether a Christian may patronise a hotel having a bar — these and many others sometimes puzzle good people. Paul was able to discriminate carefully and to determine whether eating meats offered to idols would involve a seeming endorsement of idolatry. In like manner must we discriminate between systems fundamentally evil and systems in which, though having features that are wrong, the evil is incidental. Perhaps there is not in the Old Testament an incident more clearly illustrative of God's attitude towards such systems than is afforded by this lesson.
III. WE ARE INTERESTED IN THE LIGHT WHICH THIS LESSON THROWS UPON THE BETTER NATURE OF SAUL. Well may the words of Samuel have made the young leader tremble for his own future in the position which he must occupy. In this day young men are called out as never before into responsible positions. Because of this fact they are coming to expect it and perhaps to seek it. This is natural, but usually not necessary. The right man is not likely to be so hidden in the stuff but that he can be found for the place which God has anointed him to fill. The man with his back to the sunrise, when the king was to be chosen, first saw it as it lit up the western hill tops. The best way for the young man who feels himself fitted for a higher place than he now occupies is to make himself so conspicuously useful where he is that when the people begin searching among the stuff they will find him head and shoulders above his companions. The hiding of good men grows increasingly difficult. The member of the House of Commons who sneered at an opponent, "You blacked my father's boots!" received an answer that well may have been given with honest pride: "Yes, and did it well." Far from disqualifying him, the humble work may have added important qualifications for the higher service. Now, Saul is warmhearted and dignified and sincere. No wonder the people admire him, for the words of Samuel are true and there is none like him whom the Lord hath chosen among all the people.
IV. It is interesting to notice in the closing verses an illustration of the familiar truth THAT A GOOD THING WRONGLY OBTAINED DOES NOT SATISFY. The people have had their own way, and God has helped them to secure just what they had been demanding. When they saw him, they shouted their approval of his selection. But "the children of Belial," or the worthless ones who undoubtedly had been foremost in demanding a king, despised him. It is ever so. No man more heartily condemns sin than the sinner who commits it. At the last all sin bites like a serpent. But before this the stolen fruit is found less sweet than the sinner anticipated, and the self-loathing because of it makes it bitter to our taste. The lesson that most forcibly recurs to us is that which appears again and again in our study of the history of the Jewish people — God's faithfulness even to the unfaithful, His changelessness even to those who were constantly changing and so often for the worse, His goodness even to the undeserving. He is kind to the unthankful.
(William E. Barton.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And Samuel called the people together unto the LORD to Mizpeh;