Scripture Reading: 1 Samuel 9:1-27, 1 Samuel 10:1-27, Psalm 2:1-12, Ephesians 1:15-23
Have you ever asked for something you didn’t need? Ten years ago, my husband took a shine to cycling. Bicycling. He hadn’t engaged in the sport before, but he knew how to ride a bike. And since riding a bike is literally a metaphor for something you can never forget, how could I possibly find a flaw in his plan?
As he researched the sport, he decided he needed vintage cycling jerseys. (I understand his wanting to look like an Italian racecar driver from the ‘40s. It’s a great look.) During these years we were poor school teachers, eating pasta for every meal. Extra purchases hurt us right in the grocery budget, but nevertheless, vintage cycling jerseys were purchased.
When these gorgeous, fabled items arrived in the mail, we admired their magisterial purples and heraldic sables. But what came next, gentle reader, is what pains me the very most: he never wore them. It turns out my husband loves neither cycling nor the wearing of spandex-y garments. But since we shelled out so much money for them, we’ve held on to them for three moves. To this day, they remain stashed away in our attic, still in their original packaging.
We just had to have them. But we didn’t need them!
Israel asked for something they didn’t need: a king. They started looking around at their neighbors—the Philistines, Moabites, and the Ammonites—for a model of how they wanted to live. They wanted a king like all the other nations, but their misplaced trust in an earthly king was a foolish rejection of God. Israel were His chosen people; He didn’t want them to live like the rest of the world. But they insisted on getting their own way, and He gave them exactly what they asked for.
Saul was a flashy, handsome guy who was physically “impressive” (1 Samuel 9:2), but spiritually dull and cowardly (1 Samuel 10:22). Of course, our inclination in reading this passage is to focus on Saul, just like Israel did. But the impressive and miraculous signs, even his prophesying, ultimately do not point to Saul’s fitness, but God’s.
When those wicked men asked, “How can this guy save us?” they were doubling down on their doubt of God’s provision (1 Samuel 10:27). They wanted a king, so God gave them Saul—a man literally head and shoulders above all the rest in Israel—to rule over them. When he shows up, they still doubt. Ironically, this doubting of God’s provision would later be Saul’s undoing as well.
Wherever the Spirit of the Lord is at work, we ought never doubt of God’s provision. But if God’s Spirit does not lead the way, we ought not go forth. The real importance of this passage is simply this: God works His mercies by His Spirit, even amongst a rebellious people.
This theme should be familiar, because the real story of God’s Anointed One is not about Saul. Saul’s kingship was an ironic foreshadowing of the true Anointed One, Christ. May our hearts seek first His kingdom. May we look to Him to provide us with what we truly need, rather than trying to build a kingdom of our own making.