The Lost Asses
1 Samuel 9:8
And the servant answered Saul again, and said, Behold, I have here at hand the fourth part of a shekel of silver…

Though God gave the Israelites their own way, when they would not be convinced of their error, it was not till the very last — not until He had allowed them a further opportunity of reviewing their course. Sometimes arguments which have failed to convince amidst the excitement and warmth of a public assembly, will recur with power and impressiveness in the quietude and retirement of home. We have felt, many a time, that we could not give our friends a better piece of advice than to think again before they acted; and we ourselves, probably, are no strangers to the advantages of acting upon "second thoughts," rather than upon first impressions. The Israelites accordingly were dismissed to their homes: "Go ye every man unto his city." If conscience were awake and faithful, it would hear God saying, "Sinner, I stand between thee and thy ruin a few days longer; I give thee the mercy of a few hours delay. Go home; go and consider. Go to thy Bible; go to thy closet; go to the mercy seat; go, ere it be too late; and pause ere thou dost resolve on persistence in thy unholy desire — in thy ungodly plan." We may be disposed to think that a more dignified form of introducing Saul might have been selected — which greater dignity would have been attained by an entire omission of the mention of such trifles as Saul's father losing his asses, and sending his son to seek them.

I. The study of this feature of Saul's history demands that a thought or two should be expended upon the subject of the introduction into Scripture of these TRIVIAL INCIDENTS, these homely occurrences — for the recollection of every reader of the Bible will immediately suggest that this is not the only instance in which the same feature meets us in its manifold narratives. A writer who, merely to answer some private end, makes up a tale, purposely avoids minute incidents. He deals in generalities; because he feels that if he should descend into particulars he will but multiply the chances of detection. The minutely circumstantial character, therefore, of many of the narratives in the Bible is so far most favourable to our reception of the Scriptures as written under Divine influence, that it guarantees their truthfulness — a characteristic, the absence of which would at once constrain us to deny their inspiration. Still further — it must be acknowledged that matters which, in themselves and separately considered, appear trivial, turn out often, in their connexion and consequences, to be most momentous. It is the habit with God to associate the most important results with that which, in its origin, appears most insignificant. Nor only so — the purpose of a Divine revelation could only be answered consistently with the dictates of the highest wisdom, as the leading features of such a revelation were conformed to the facts and features of our own everyday history. In order to accomplish its professed purpose of being a guide and directory to man, it must be a faithful picture of human life. Were the aspects under which it presented human life materially different from those under which we ourselves view it, and even participate in it, we should be tempted to say, This is not the book for us.

II. The incidents connected with Saul's appointment as king were not only trivial, but they possessed in combination with this characteristic another feature — they were of a class to which, in the ordinary way of speaking, we should give the name of ACCIDENTAL. And in this respect, the history appears framed so as to teach us the simple but emphatic lesson, that there is a God of Providence, and that where, to the human eye, there may appear nothing but an accidental connexion between two or more circumstances, there exists, in the mind of God, the most clearly-intentioned, complete, and beautiful arrangement and harmony. As we look back upon our own lives there stays by us the recollection of many incidents which once appeared not only trivial, but accidental. Their occurrence was the result of no premeditation of ours. They were such as arose seemingly in the ordinary course of events; such as suggested no idea of any special purpose being involved, or such as no human foresight could have prevented. But why do they stay by us thus? What is the power which has lodged firmly in our memory things which in themselves seemed to have no claim to so long-enduring a recollection? Why have we not forgotten them long ago? For this good reason: that these very incidents constituted, as we can now see, the springs out of which flowed the most important events in the whole of our history. Such views as those which have now passed before us of a thread of Divine arrangement and plan passing through all the varied incidents of our everyday life, should incite to the habitual acknowledgment of God in all our ways. Repeated lessons discover to us our own incompetency to direct our steps rightly amid the puzzling and perplexing paths of life. For notwithstanding that which meets our eye, it is still a fact that all is arranged. The chart of the Divine purposes is gradually unfolding; but the measure and the manner of that unfolding we must leave in the hands of the great Contriver.

III. Another thought suggested by that portion of the narrative now under consideration is this — that since, from God's concealment of the future, we cannot tell what He may intend to do with us and by us, IT IS OUR DUTY TO HOLD OURSELVES IN READINESS TO UNDERTAKE ANY SERVICE WHICH HE MAY REQUIRE US TO RENDER, to enter upon any position He may call upon us to fill. Of all the possible or probable events which might have happened to Saul, that of becoming king would most certainly have been set down by himself and by others as the least likely ever to occur. But how, it may be asked, can we be prepared for that which is as yet entirely concealed from us — that which we cannot even anticipate? To this it may be replied, that there are certain qualifications which are requisite alike for all positions, and which render us, in a good measure, ready for any service. Such, for instance, are diligence and fidelity in meeting the claims of our present condition, whatever it may be. Such is the effort at mental cultivation, by the acquisition of useful knowledge, and by the employment of our thoughts upon the information thus gained. To these we may add that habit of working from principle which will ever be found the best aid to perseverance, because it stands opposed to all fitful excitement. The more self-acquaintance, too, which has been gained — the more dependence upon God — the more prayerfulness, watchfulness, and concern for God's glory — the more real religion, in fact, which a man possesses, the more satisfied will he be in any position, however lowly — the more prepared for service, however exalted. God can turn all your acquisitions to profit. Saul, in the pursuit of a lesser good, met with the offer and promise of a crown. We say he was fortunate. But there is a better fortune which meets us wandering through this desert land, and often in pursuit of objects of inferior worth. An offer of a crown is made us, but it is one of imperishable material. An offer of a kingdom is made us, but it is of "a kingdom which cannot be moved."

(J. A. Miller.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And the servant answered Saul again, and said, Behold, I have here at hand the fourth part of a shekel of silver: that will I give to the man of God, to tell us our way.

WEB: The servant answered Saul again, and said, "Behold, I have in my hand the fourth part of a shekel of silver. I will give that to the man of God, to tell us our way."

A Trivial Incident the Herald of a Momentous Future
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