1 Samuel 9:9
(Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, thus he spoke, Come, and let us go to the seer…
1. The first thing to notice about young Saul is his fine physique. Do not despise a fine physique. Plato calls it "a privilege of nature"; Homer, "a glorious gift of the Deity"; and Ovid, "a favour bestowed by the gods." Has it never struck you how frequently the sacred writers allude to this quality? It would be easy to find a score of Bible characters who are spoken of as "comely," or "goodly," or of "great beauty." In comparison to the soul the body is not of great account; but still it must not be treated with neglect. The soul's lodgment should be kept in the best and most beautiful condition. "It is a great mistake," says Cobbet, in his essays to young men, "to suppose that you derive any advantage from exterior decoration. Though with the foolish and vain part of women fine clothes frequently do something; yet the greater part of the sex are much too penetrating to draw their conclusions solely from the outside shew of a man. They look deeper, and find other criteria whereby to judge." The piece is not very classical; but, as expressing the common feeling of the best part of women towards the dandy or coxcomb, I believe it is almost perfection. Physical beauty alone is a poor thing. Talleyrand said of a lovely woman that "beauty was her least charm." An intelligent mind and a kindly heart are as necessary almost to make a face truly beautiful as form and complexion. Physical beauty is often seen apart from spiritual beauty — "a gold ring in a swine's snout."
2. The second thing to notice about young Saul is his filial piety, There is no duty more plainly or strongly enforced in the Scriptures than the duty of obeying parents. And with it are associated the highest rewards and the severest punishments; and these rewards and punishments pertain not only to the future, but to the present life. The late William E. Forster, while still a youth, was ambitious of a political career. His own notion was to study for the law, as the likeliest means by which a poor man's son could enter Parliament. But his father insisted on his going into business. And the son did as his father wished without demur, although not without keen disappointment and pain. He fancied that his chances of Parliament were at an end. In this connection his biographer says: "The boy acted invariably in such a manner as to prove that the reverential regard he professed for his father was really felt, and that he was at all times ready to submit his own inclinations to meet the wishes of the latter." Did William Forster suffer ultimately by his filial submission? Most people will say that the father was wrong, and that his action was fitted to thwart the hopes of his boy. And that is true. But Forster, by his filial honour, had secured the interposition and influence of Heaven on his behalf. And so, unlikely as it looked, he got into Parliament, and made a name for himself there by noble and valuable services to his country — a name which will not soon be dropped from our nation's story. We must not omit to notice here additionally the affectionate consideration young Saul had for his father.
3. The third thing to notice about young Saul is his modest disposition. It is told of an old Scotch weaver that he was wont to pray every morning that the Lord would give him "a guid opeenion o' himsel'." I cannot conceive a less needed petition. The great fault with people nowadays is that they have too good an opinion of themselves — see themselves bigger and better a great deal than the reality. While pride makes men ridiculous, humility commands admiration and love. Sir Joshua Reynolds was never satisfied with his work. He said once to a friend, who was praising his pictures very highly: "Sketches, sketches, only sketches!" When George Washington rose to reply to an eloquent and flattering speech, expressive of the thanks of his country for his services in the French and Indian Wars, he blushed, stammered, and then sat down in utter confusion, drawing from the speaker the further compliment that his modesty was equal to his valour. Virgil, the "Prince of Latin Poets," could not bear to be stared at in the street: and would sometimes seek shelter in shops from the demonstrations of his admirers. But modesty may degenerate into a vice. Men suffer, and the world suffers, by an excess of modesty. Milton attributes to the just and pious honouring of ourselves every laudable endeavour and worthy achievement. And so said to his pupil: "Reverence thyself." I would rather have a man over-estimate than underestimate his powers. While the first mistake may stimulate small talents to the performance of great deeds, the last may prevent great talents from achieving half their possibilities. We are familiar with the grumblings of (so-called) "modest merit." It complains of neglect and unfair treatment. Nincompoops and nobodies are getting on, and even loaded with rewards and honours, while it is left without notice and without pay. But well has Washington Irving said of these complaints: "They are often the cant by which indolent and irresolute men seek to lay their want of success at the door of the public. Modest merit is too apt to be inactive, or negligent, or uninstructed merit. Well-matured and well-disciplined talent is always sure of a market, provided it exerts itself; but it must not cower at home, and expect to be sought for."
4. The fourth thing to notice about young Saul is his independent and generous spirit. In search of the asses, he came near to the town where resided the prophet Samuel. The servant suggested to him that he should consult the seer about the strayed herd. The idea was good — capital — here was a way out of his difficulty. "But," said Saul, "behold, if we go, what shall we bring the man? for the bread is spent in our vessels, and there is not a present to bring to the man of God: what have we?" Saul was a gentleman! Do not say that this was an Eastern custom. It was, and the plate at the church door is a Western custom. But Saul might have neglected the custom, as some among us — I do not say in this audience — may neglect the plate. He respected the religion of his fathers. To all outward seeming he walked in the commandments of Jehovah. God complains through Samuel, at a later stage of the king's history, that he had turned back from following Him, so that at one time Samuel had evidently been controlled, at least to some extent, by the Divine Will. But there was no depth in his religion. It was a superficial growth — its roots did not go down into the heart. And so the disappointment of his later history. Giving so much promise at the start, his life closed in midnight blackness and horror.
(F. A. Forrest, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: (Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, thus he spake, Come, and let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer.)