3 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.” 6 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.” 7 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 Shaalim. But 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.
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