1 Samuel 9:17
When Samuel saw Saul, the LORD told him, "Here is the man of whom I spoke; he shall rule over My people."
The Man, Yet not the ManD. Fraser 1 Samuel 9:17
The King Desired by the PeopleB. Dale 1 Samuel 9:1-25

I. THE SANCTION GIVEN BY THE LORD TO SAUL'S ELEVATION. Instances may easily be adduced in which the writers of the Old Testament ascribed to the Lord directly what was only indirectly recognised or permitted by him; but in the present case there is obviously more than Divine allowance. Jehovah pointed out Saul to the prophet Samuel, and commanded that he should be anointed captain, or king. We account for this on that principle of Divine government which allows to men that which they most wish for, in order that they may learn wisdom from the result. The people of Israel had not asked the Lord for such a king as he might see fit to choose and appoint. They had asked the prophet for a warlike chief like the kings of the nations and tribes around them, and the Lord saw meet to let them have what they desired; the young giant Saul was just the style of man they sought, cast in the very mould they admired, and one that would teach them some painful lessons through experience. Therefore, though the Lord foresaw the disappointing career of Saul, he authorised Samuel to anoint him privately, and afterwards sanctioned his public selection and elevation to the royal dignity. Here was a leader to suit the fancy of the people - strong, impetuous, valiant. Let them have Saul for their king. Such is the way of the Lord to this day, and in individual as well as national life. He admonishes and corrects us by letting us have our own way and be filled with our own devices. We are apt to complain in our disappointment at the result, that God himself sanctioned our course. No. We did not ask him to show us his way, that we might do his will; but took our own way, did our own pleasure; and he allowed, nay, facilitated our desire. Let the issue teach us to be more wary and more humble in time to come.


1. The manner of his entrance on the page of history. How different from the first mention of David, faithfully keeping the sheep before he was anointed to be the royal shepherd of Israel, is the first appearance of the son of Kish in search of his father's stray asses, and visiting the venerable prophet Samuel with no higher thought in his mind than to learn, if possible, where those asses were! He did not even know Samuel by sight, though he lived but at a short distance. He seems to have been an unreflecting rustic youth, with none of those premonitions of greatness which come early to the wise, and tend to give them seriousness of purpose and elevation of aim.

2. Indications of a fitful mind. We read nothing of Saul's bearing before Samuel when informed of the destiny before hint. Probably he was stunned with surprise. But so soon as he left the prophet new currents of thought and feeling began to flow through his heart. A mood of mind fell on him more grave and earnest than had appeared in him before. The Old Testament way of saying it is, that "God gave him another heart;" for the change which passes on a man under the consciousness of a high vocation suddenly received is none the less of God than it is evidently born of the occasion, he sees things in a new light, feels new responsibilities; new springs of feeling and new capacities of speech and action reveal themselves in him. But Saul took every influence by fits and starts. He quickly gained, and as quickly lost. There was in him no steady growth of conviction or principle. When he fell in with men of religious fervour he was fervent too When he met the prophets chanting Jehovah's praise he caught their rapture, and, joining their procession, lifted up his voice also in the sacred song. But it was a mere fit of piety. Of course Saul had been educated in the religion of his fathers, and in that sense knew the God of Israel; but it seems evident, from the surprise occasioned by his appearance among the prophets, that he had never shown any zeal for the glory and worship of Jehovah; and the sudden ecstasy at Gibeah, having no foundation of spiritual principle, came to nought. Alas! men may sing spiritual songs with emotion who have no enduring spiritual life. Men may catch the infection of religious enthusiasm, yet have no moral health or soundness. Men's faces may glow with a fine ardour, and yet soon after be darkened by wicked passion. Pulses of high feeling and moods of noble desire may visit minds that yet are never moved by Divine grace, and therefore are liable to be mastered, after all, by evil temper and base envy. Occasional impulses are not sufficient. "Ye must be born again." - F.

Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee.
Prayer is certainly a most salutary exercise whenever one is agitated beyond his strength. When the elders of Israel came to Samuel he discovered that the complication was too deep for an old man like him to deal with; and so he went in prayer to God In thy end we shall learn that the petition of these malcontents was granted, but with the answer came retribution and ultimate dismay. Prayers are sometimes answered under protest Let us, then, move on at once in our search.


1. This verse, besides its bearing upon our main point, contains a valuable lesson of its own: Rejecting Divine Providence is rejecting Divine government and forfeiting Divine favour. There is no sense in a declaration that we accept God's law in general, but reserve the right to practical freedom in reference to particulars. "The end of all civil government," says an ancient thinker, writing for our times as wisely as for his own, "is to live well according to the Divine pleasure." We are surely Christians, but in general, you know; not quite so particular as we might be, possibly, but with a decided respect for religion always. Now this will not do; Jesus Christ, is everything to a man, or He is nothing. In all human history there has never been a fitter leader to command our loyalty or to win our love. We have been told that the ancient Persian kings used to elect, for the education and training of their princes, the four best men in the kingdom — the justest man, the wisest man, the bravest man, and the most temperate man — so that each new sovereign might have the highest advantages, and come to the regal throne best fitted to rule over the people. Christ is the Prince of a kingdom that, is supreme in the universe. When the Providences of God summon us to follow Jesus as our Lord, to reject Him is also to reject the Lord that made us, and defy Him when He is most our friend.

2. You must bear in mind, also, as this narrative proceeds, that wilful disobedience, continuously repeated, becomes settled rebellion. The reply which Samuel received reminded him that this was not a new case of sudden refusal of the Divine sovereignty. That nation had actually got into the habit of it. They had never shown anything more commendable since they came up out of the land of Pharaoh; they proved an awkward and ungainly people when Moses was trying to manage them in the wilderness. When one throws off God's beneficent restraints, it is surprising to see how awfully wicked he can be as in a moment of rapid demoralisation. Things apparently innocent are made the baleful occasion, sometimes even the instrument, of violent outbreak in vice. it is one of the intense severities of Montaigne to say of these atheistic people that "they infect innocent matter with their own venom." Some sceptics like to do this in their reckless arguments. They force natural science, always loyal and reverent to the Creator of the universe, to speak a lie and bring false testimony against God. It is the deliberate counting out of Divine government which puts this universe in such a false position. The only effective manner in which to deal with such a dangerous experience is found in letting it have its own way until it shall be weary and worn with its follies and be ready to return penitently to God.

3. So now we come to the point that we started to reach. Human prayers are sometimes granted with a Divine protest. Solemn moment is that in which God gives to any man or nation in judgment what was asked of Him in petulance and pride! Now let us understand that circumstances may erect; a foreordained fact into a responsible sin, for which those who are the actors are to be held accountable in the end. The Lord said these malcontents in Israel might have their wish, and yet he charges on them the guilt the transaction involved. Furthermore, this very demand of the people had been foreseen and publicly predicted three hundred years before. And yet this whole proceeding was now wrong; it was premature and hasty, and it was conducted without reference to the over-ruling will of Jehovah. God's Providence does not constrain any man's iniquity. Foreordination has nothing to do with free will. Those elders were doing their own behest, not God's; and they suffered for it.

II. We turn now from this story to THE ONE PRINCIPLE IT SO VIVIDLY ILLUSTRATES. It is worth our while to press a valuable admonition like that which is given here. We are told to let our hearts go forth in prayer continually unto God, and God will grant us our desires. But here we learn that not even the answers we obtain are to be trusted always. What does this mean in real experience?

1. It means that all petitions are to be offered, and all desires are to be pressed, according to the Lord's will before our will. If we thrust ourselves forward, Divine Providence will frequently hedge up the way. If now we urge on, sometimes the barrier is seen to move quietly away; then we can have our request if we continue to press it. But is this safe or wise? that is the sober question. It is the creature erecting itself against the supreme judgment of its Creator and taking its case into its own hands. When a man is intelligent, and his conscience tells him that God is not exactly granting, but only permitting, his prayer, is it best for him to persevere in it in the confident hope that courage will carry him through into safety?

2. And for another thing, this declaration means that under protest God grants a Christian's prayer, the answer will be a positive discipline rather than a blessing.

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

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