A Leader for God’s People

1 Samuel 9-10

The nation of Israel was governed by judges for 320 years. The last verse in the book of Judges, describes this period of time this way:

Judges 21:25 (NKJV) In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Under Moses, the people took an oath to seek the Lord and be faithful to Him, but it never worked that way. The pattern of turning away from the Lord and being disciplined by Him continued until the people asked for a king, thus rejecting God as their ruler. 

God listened to their demand for a king and chose a man for them. The man God chose for them was an ideal candidate. He came from an influential family. Also, he was handsome and a choice young man. 1 Samuel 9:1-2 describes him.

1 Samuel 9:1–2 (NKJV) 1There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bechorath, the son of Aphiah, a Benjamite, a mighty man of power. 2And he had a choice and handsome son whose name was Saul. There was not a more handsome person than he among the children of Israel. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.

His name was Saul, and he was everything the nation wanted in a king. First, his father was a mighty man of power. According to the NKJV Study Bible note for this verse, the phrase “a mighty man of power,” suggests he was like a feudal lord, having wealth and influence. The point seems to be establishing that Saul was from the right family. He was Jewish, not a foreigner, from the tribe of Benjamin, and his father and family were respected and influential.

Second, Saul was a choice and handsome young man. The word “choice” in this context means “of very fine quality.” The text says, “There was not a more handsome person than he among the children of Israel.” Humanly speaking, they could not have found a better candidate. If they had done a nationwide search, they would not have done any better. The text adds the statement, “From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people. These are all characteristics that stand out to us. We want our leaders to be strong, handsome, and vigorous.

The people of Israel asked for a king, stating that they wanted to be like all the nations and have their king judge them, go out before them, and fight their battles. God gave them what they asked for.

After showing us what kind of man the Lord singled out, 1 Samuel 9 tells us of the events leading up to the anointing of Saul.

Saul’s father’s donkeys were lost. So, Kish said to Saul, “Please take one of the servants and go look for the donkeys.” (Just a side note here, the family was well off and had servants.) Saul and the servant did quite a bit of traveling. From Gill’s commentary on the Bible, they probably walked at least 55 miles. However, we cannot know for sure because we do not know with certainty the locations of the towns and regions named, nor do we know how much wandering they would have engaged in. However, 1 Samuel 9:20 tells us that they spent three days on the journey. They covered a lot of miles but did not find the donkeys.

1 Samuel 9:5 and following tells how Saul and his servant came to ask Samuel where the donkeys were.

When they did not find the donkeys, Saul said they should turn back and head home. But his servant suggested they inquire of the man of God. Verse 9 has an interesting note. It says:

1 Samuel 9:9 (NKJV) Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he spoke thus: “Come, let us go to the seer”; for he who is now called a prophet was formerly called a seer.

This helps us understand the times in which they were living. A seer is a person who sees and tells the future, like a fortune teller. A prophet might foretell the future, but a prophet’s primary function is to speak the word of the Lord. In Deuteronomy 18:15 & 18, God calls Moses a prophet. Therefore, we know that the word and concept of a prophet were taught at the time of Moses. God never called His servants “seers.” People seek fortune tellers because they want to know the future and see the unseen. God forbade inquiring about the future of mediums and spiritists. The fact that prophets were called “seers” shows the lack of scriptural education that had taken over Israel. This reveals a misunderstanding of what the role of the prophet was. There were other indicators of a lack of scriptural knowledge. For example, the place where the Ark of the Covenant was kept showed they did not understand what it was, and they were not keeping the law of Moses.

Saul and his servant inquired after a seer. They were not seeking the Lord, but they were seeking donkeys. However, they did know that this man was a man of God. But God knew that they were coming before they got there, and He told Samuel they were coming.

1 Samuel 9:15–16 (NKJV) 15Now the Lord had told Samuel in his ear the day before Saul came, saying, 16“Tomorrow about this time I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him commander over My people Israel, that he may save My people from the hand of the Philistines; for I have looked upon My people, because their cry has come to Me.”

Many translations say the Lord revealed to Samuel that Saul was coming, but the NKJV translation is literal when it translates “The Lord had told Samuel in his ear...” Let me remind you that when Samuel was a boy, the Lord came and stood beside Samuel’s bed and spoke to him so that he heard it with his ears. Samuel knew the voice of the Lord. Jesus said:

John 10:27 (NKJV) My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

I wonder if the donkeys were lost or if Saul was lost. This was to be a marked difference in the leadership of Israel. Samuel’s qualifications for leader were that he knew the voice of the Lord, and Saul’s qualifications for office were that he looked good and went his own way.

Let’s look again at verse 16. It says, “I will send you a man.” The Lord knew Saul, and He knew the circumstances. In Jeremiah 1:5, God spoke to Jeremiah, saying:

Jeremiah 1:5 (NKJV) Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.

Psalm 139 also says that God knows a person even before they are born. God sees our unformed substance. God prepared the way before Saul and sent him to Samuel. God gave Saul everything He needed for success. Therefore, God said, “...you shall anoint him commander over My people Israel.”

Priests were anointed, prophets were anointed, and now a leader was to be anointed. Anointing represented the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the person and consecration to the office. We are told that once Saul was anointed, he received another heart (1 Samuel 10:9). God said to anoint Saul as “commander” over His people. The one to be anointed was to be commander, but the people still belonged to the Lord. In other places, the Bible uses the word King, but I think it is significant that God chose the word commander, which also means leader. While Saul was to be leader, God was to remain king.

When Samuel met Saul, he knew that this was the one God had spoken to him about. So, Samuel gave Saul the seat of honor at the table and gave him the choice piece of meat. Then, Saul stayed the night. In the morning, on the way out of town, Samuel anointed Saul. Now, I am going to jump way ahead in the story to 1 Samuel 15:35.

1 Samuel 15:35 (NKJV) And Samuel went no more to see Saul until the day of his death. Nevertheless, Samuel mourned for Saul.

I point this out to establish the fact that Samuel loved Saul. When Saul started out as king, everybody loved Saul.

This will come up again when we consider the anointing of David, but it is a vital issue. 

Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.

Saul had all the qualifications. God provided everything he needed, including the Holy Spirit, but Saul was later rejected as king. 

When the time came for him to publicly take his place as king, Saul hid among the luggage. But this revealed the root of the problem. Later, when he was rebuked by Saul for disobeying the Lord, Saul said,

1 Samuel 15:30 (NKJV) I have sinned; yet honor me now, please, before the elders of my people and before Israel.

Saul was concerned with appearances. This is an issue that will keep many out of heaven.

All of Israel had this problem (or should I say “has this problem”). Look at what Paul says in Romans 10:2-3.

Romans 10:1–3 (NKJV) 2For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.

They sought to establish their own righteousness. They were of the right people and had the blessings and anointing of God, so they thought they could be good enough. As a result, appearances became more important than truth.

This same problem found its way into the Church. In Philippians 3, Paul warns about putting confidence in the flesh.

Philippians 3:2–9 (NKJV) 2Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! 3For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, 4though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

7But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;

I want you to absorb all of this passage, but pay special attention to the phrase “and have no confidence in the flesh.” Whenever we put confidence in the flesh, appearances will become overly important to us.

You cannot put any confidence in the family you came from. Saul came from the best of families, but it became a stumbling block to him. You cannot put any confidence in your background. Saul was a man of his time and had everything going for him, but that was not enough. You cannot put any confidence in even your baptism. Saul was anointed, but it did not save him in the end.

God looks at the heart. If we would gain the kingdom of heaven, we must count everything that is gain to us as rubbish, that we may gain Christ. We cannot say, “I have sinned, but honor me before the people.” Instead, we should pray with David, 

Psalm 51:10 (NKJV) Create in me a clean heart, O God.


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