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God Works Through The Every-Day Events Of Our Lives

Now the donkeys belonging to Saul’s father Kish were lost, and Kish said to his son Saul, “Take one of the servants with you and go and look for the donkeys.” 4 So he passed through the hill country of Ephraim and through the area around Shalisha, but they did not find them. They went on into the district of Shaalim, but the donkeys were not there. Then he passed through the territory of Benjamin, but they did not find them. 5  When they reached the district of Zuph, Saul said to the servant who was with him, “Come, let’s go back, or my father will stop thinking about the donkeys and start worrying about us.”  But the servant replied, “Look, in this town there is a man of God; he is highly respected, and everything he says comes true. Let’s go there now. Perhaps he will tell us what way to take.” Saul said to his servant, “If we go, what can we give the man? The food in our sacks is gone. We have no gift to take to the man of God. What do we have?”  8 The servant answered him again. “Look,” he said, “I have a quarter of a shekel of silver. I will give it to the man of God so that he will tell us what way to take.”  9 (Formerly in Israel, if someone went to inquire of God, they would say, “Come, let us go to the seer,” because the prophet of today used to be called a seer.) 10 “Good,” Saul said to his servant. “Come, let’s go.” So they set out for the town where the man of God was. 11 As they went up the hill to the city, they met young women coming out to draw water and said to them, “Is the seer here?” 12  They answered, “He is; behold, he is just ahead of you. Hurry. He has come just now to the city, because the people have a sacrifice today on the high place. 13  As soon as you enter the city you will find him, before he goes up to the high place to eat. For the people will not eat till he comes, since he must bless the sacrifice; afterward those who are invited will eat. Now go up, for you will meet him immediately.” 14  So they went up to the city. As they were entering the city, they saw Samuel coming out toward them on his way up to the high place.
(1 Samuel 9:3-14)

Today we begin a rather long passage that introduces us to Saul, who will become Israel’s first king. At this point, he is not yet Israel’s king and doesn’t even know that he will become king. In order to make Saul king, God has to hook him up with Samuel, who will anoint Saul as king. To get that to happen, God uses a very common situation that would not have been unusual in Israel at this time.

During the grazing season, animals would roam freely throughout the land. When the grazing season was over, servants would be sent to find the animals and bring them home. The owners would have branded their animals with their own unique mark, making it easy to identify their animals. In this passage, we see that the donkeys belonging to Saul’s father, Kish, were lost so Kish sent Saul and one of the servants to look for the donkeys.

Searching for lost animals was a difficult task that required perseverence. The animals could be anywhere. But Saul is not daunted nor is he afraid of hard work. He obediently obeys his father’s request as he apparently cares for his father as well as the animals.

We also see that Saul isn’t a quitter. He and his servant searched for the donkeys in the hill country of Ephraim and through the area of Shalisa but they did not find them. So they went into the district of ShaalimBut the donkeys were not there. Next, he passed through the territory of Benjamin but, again, they did not find them.

This was a difficult journey. The land that they traversed was hilly and covered a large area. Despite these obstacles, Saul perseveres. Saul cared about his father and doesn’t want him to lose his valuable assets.

As we’ll see in a few days as we progress through this story, Saul will meet Samuel, who will make him king. But notice that the circumstance which leads to these two men meeting is a very common situation – some animals need to be gathered and returned home. When Saul went to look for his father’s donkeys he would have had no idea that he would end up becoming king of Israel. To him, this was just a normal event in his life.

God still works this way today – through the mundane, every-day events that comprise our lives. But people tend to make one of two mistakes regarding how God works through our lives. Sometimes they think that everything that happens to them is a sign from God. While nothing happens without God knowing it or allowing it, not everything that happens to us happens for some deeper purpose.

Other people make the opposite mistake. They don’t look for God at all in their daily circumstances and thereby miss out on blessings and teachings that God wants to bring into their lives.

When the daughter of Pharaoh came down to the river to bathe one day, she had no idea that this common routine would lead her to discover baby Moses who had been floated down the river by his mother to save his life [Exodus 2:1-10]. When David’s father, Jesse, sent his youngest son to the battlefield to bring food to his brothers and to find out how they were doing, he had no idea that he was sending his son into a situation where he would defeat Goliath [1 Samuel 17:17-50].

There are times when God is using the common events of our lives for some purpose of which we are unaware. Events like picking up the kids or grocery shopping. God can use any event for any purpose [Romans 8:28].

Sometimes we find out that purpose, as Saul will. Sometimes we never know that God is working in a particular circumstance in our life [Hebrews 13:2].

Our job is simply to obey and persevere as Saul did. At some point, we may see God’s hand in our circumstances. If not while we’re in the midst of it, perhaps when we look back on it later.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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God Knows Exactly How We Think

1 There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bekorath, the son of Aphiah of Benjamin. 2 Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else.
(1 Samuel 9:1-3)

We just finished studying a passage in 1 Samuel in which the people of Israel demand a king, even after God informed them of the negative ways in which their lives will change if they have one. Unfazed by this information, they continued to insist on a king so God agreed to give them one. Today we meet Saul, the man who will be Israel’s first king.

Saul came from a good family. His father, Kish, was a man of standing. That is, he was influential in his community and therefore we know he was wealthy.

Kish was a Benjamite; he was from the tribe of Benjamin. At this time Benjamin was the smallest tribe in Israel having lost all but 600 of their men after they sided the wicked men of Gibeah and were decimated by the other tribes of Israel [Judges 19-20].

Kish’s son, Saul, was good-looking – as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel. He was also tall – a head taller than anyone else. Saul had all the physical attributes that would make him appealing to the people: he was wealthy, prominent, and attractive.

When we were introduced to Samuel we learned about Samuel’s parents’ strong relationship with God [1 Samuel 1]. But notice that no such mention is made of Saul (or his father). Kish and his family were wealthy and well-known. But they apparently were not very, if at all, religious.

The people of Israel had demanded a king. But they did not choose the man who would be their king [1 Samuel 8:5]. Instead, it was God who was going to choose their king for them.

Israel was not living under a democracy. They didn’t get to vote on their leaders. Those leaders were appointed by God and they would remain in power as long as God wanted.

Since they had no choice in who their first king would be, the people would have no authority to remove him. A fickle population would want to change kings when things start to go downhill. God doesn’t give Israel that option. Instead, they will have to live with their decision so they learn the pitfalls of human leadership.

This is a great example of how God, our heavenly father, operates. He will often give us what we want knowing that it is not what we need. But He gives it to us so we will (hopefully) learn a lesson about life, about ourselves, and about Him.

At this time Israel was comprised of several independent tribes that weren’t getting along so smoothly. Choosing the first king from one of the larger tribes might incite jealousy among the others. So God chose Israel’s first king from Benjamin, the smallest of the tribes. Considering what had recently happened to the tribe of Benjamin, they would also have the sympathy vote from among their fellow Israelites.

And since the Philistines were still a thorn in Israel’s side, Israel needed a leader who could lead military battles [1 Samuel 9:16]. The tribe of Benjamin was also known for their warlike ability. In fact, Jacob (aka Israel) recognized this about his youngest son centuries before [Genesis 49:27].

God didn’t want Israel to have a king. But if they were going to have one, He was going to give them one who could do good things for them, like rescue them from the Philistines.

But He was also going to give them one based on their own criteria – tall and handsome and from a family that was more interested in material wealth than they were in spiritual issues.

God knows our hearts and minds. He knows exactly how we think and how we evaluate potential leaders. We esteem those who are good-looking, wealthy and who don’t have a very strong relationship to God (or who at least don’t talk about it).

But as we’ll see once Saul becomes king, relying on such superficial criteria won’t raise up the kind of leaders we need.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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It’s Wise To Heed God’s Advice

19 But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” 21 And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. 22 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey their voice and make them a king.” Samuel then said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.”
(1 Samuel 8:19-22)

Today we read that Samuel went to the Lord for the second time, telling Him all the words of the people who had again demanded a king [1 Samuel 8:19-20]. And God told Samuel, for the third time, to obey their voice and make them a king.

It’s not that God was pleased with their request. He was not. He knew, as did Samuel, that the demand the people were making – to have a human king rule over them – was a bad idea. Having a king would create more problems than it would solve. But the people weren’t thinking that rationally.

They were only thinking of the alleged positive aspects of having a king. Even after hearing all the negative ways their lives would change as a result of having a king the people were undeterred. They stubbornly refused to listen to God’s advice.

So God decided to give them exactly what they wanted in order to show them it was exactly what they didn’t want. This is an important principle about God that we need to understand.

God certainly loves to give His children good things [James 1:17]. But sometimes God will give us something that is bad for us out of His love for us. He does this to teach us that we are better off without such a thing and to also teach us that He knows best: we should listen to His advice.

God only wants the best for us [Jeremiah 29:11; John 10:10; 3 John:1-2]. And He will constantly try to give it to us. But if we’re not wise enough to take it He won’t force it on us. Instead, He’ll give us what we think we want thereby providing us the regretful opportunity to learn the hard way that what we wanted wasn’t really as good as we thought it would be.

Wise people think their ideas through [Luke 14:28-32]. They look at the pros and cons. If the cons outweigh the pros, they wisely decide not to move forward. Only a fool would continue with a plan that was destined to fail.

Sometimes we have our heart set on something and are so enamored with the idea that we don’t see the pitfalls in front of us. It is at times like this that we need the counsel of someone who knows more than we do and who is not so emotionally attached to the situation.

Wise people are humble. They realize they may not have all the answers. So they seek out and heed the advice of those who know more than they [Proverbs 12:15; 19:20; 14:16; 1:5; 1:20-23 et. al].

And there is no wiser counsel than God [Psalm 119:105; Proverbs 1:7 et. al]. God gave Israel the advice they needed to hear. But they ignored it, thinking they knew better. So God let them have their way.

There was no more need for discussion so Samuel sent every man back to his own city. Israel was going to get their king. And they were going to regret it.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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