1 Samuel 10:17-25
And Samuel called the people together to the LORD to Mizpeh;…
When first the desire to have a king came to a height with the people, they had the grace to go to Samuel, and endeavour to arrange the matter through him. But it was a good thing that they came to Samuel at all. They were not prepared to carry out their wishes by lawless violence; they were not desirous to make use of the usual Oriental methods of revolution — massacre and riot. Samuel convenes the heads of the various tribes to a meeting, which was not to be counted a rough political convention, but a solemn religious gathering in the very presence of the Lord. But before the lot was actually cast, Samuel addressed to the assembly one of those stern, terrible exposures of the spirit that had led to the transaction. How could the people, we may well ask, get over this? How could they prefer an earthly king to a heavenly?
1. Perhaps we may wonder less at the behaviour of the Israelites on this occasion if we bear in mind how often the same offence is committed, and with how little thought and consideration, at the present day. To begin with, take the case — and it is a very common one — of those who have been dedicated to God in baptism, but who cast their baptismal covenant to the winds. The time comes when the provisional dedication to the Lord should be followed up by an actual and hearty consecration of themselves. Failing that, what can be said of them but that they reject God as their King? Then there are those who reject God in a more outrageous form. There are those who plunge boldly into the stream of sin, or into the stream of worldly enjoyment, determined to lead a life of pleasure, let the consequences be what they may. As to religion, it is nothing to them, except a subject of ridicule on the part of those who affect it. Morality — well, if it fall within the fashion of the world, it must be respected; otherwise let it go to the winds. God, heaven, hell — they are mere bugbears to frighten the timid and superstitious. Not only is God rejected, but He is defied. But there is still another class against whom the charge of rejecting God may be made. Not, indeed, in the same sense or to the same degree, but with one element of guilt which does not attach to the others, inasmuch as they have known what it is to have God for their King. I advert to certain Christian men and women who in their early days were marked by much earnestness of spirit, but having risen in the world, have fallen back from their first attainments, and have more or less accepted the world's law. What glamour has passed over their souls to obliterate the surpassing glory of Jesus Christ, the image of the invisible God? What evil spell has robbed the Cross of its holy influence, and made them so indifferent to the Son of God, who loved them and gave Himself for them?
2. But let us come back to the election. No doubt Saul had anticipated this consummation. He bad had too many supernatural evidences to the same effect to have any lingering doubt what would be the result of the lot. Gregory Nazianzen actually fled to the wilderness after his ordination, and , Bishop of Milan, in the civil office which he held, tried to turn the people from their choice even by acts of cruelty and severity, after they had called on him to become their bishop. But, besides the natural shrinking of Saul from so responsible an office, we may believe that he was not unmoved by the solemn representation of Samuel that in their determination to have a human king the people had been guilty of rejecting God. This may have been the first time that that view of the matter seriously impressed itself on his mind. Even though his mind was not a spiritual mind, there was something frightful in the very idea of a man stepping, so to speak, into God's place. No wonder, then, he hid himself!
3. Three incidents are recorded towards the end of the chapter as throwing light on the great event of the day.
(1) "Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom, and wrote it in a book, and laid it up before the Lord." This was another means taken by the faithful prophet to secure that this new step should if possible be for good, and not for evil. It was a new protest against assimilating the kingdom of Israel to the other kingdoms around. No! although Jehovah was no longer King in the sense in which He had been, His covenant and His law were still binding, and must be observed in Israel to their remotest generation.
(2) The next circumstance mentioned in the history is that when the people dispersed, and when Saul returned to his home at Gibeah, "there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched." They were induced to form a bodyguard for the new king, and they did so under no physical constraint from him or anyone else, but because they were moved to do it from sympathy, from the desire to help him and be of service to him in the new position to which he had been raised. Here was a remarkable encouragement. A friend in need is a friend indeed. Could there have been any time when Saul was more in need of friends? Congregations ought to feel that it cannot be right to leave all the work to their minister. What kind of battle would it be if all the fighting were left to the officer in command? The glory of the primitive Church of Rome was that it abounded in men and women whose hearts God had touched, and who "laboured much in the Lord."(3) The last thing to be noticed is the difference of feeling toward Saul among the people.
(W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And Samuel called the people together unto the LORD to Mizpeh;