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)
After searching for his father’s lost donkeys for a few days with no success, Saul had decided to give up and return home. But the servant who was accompanying him knew that a “man of God” was in the vicinity of where they were so they decided to try to find him to see if he could help locate the wayward animals.
As they went up the hill to the city, they met young women coming out to draw water. Women were the ones to go to the city’s well with empty water jugs to fill with water. This city was apparently on a hill and the water supply would, naturally, therefore, be at the bottom of the hill. Carrying water up a hill is no easy task, reserved for people who were not highly regarded in society.
But notice that even though women were looked down upon, Saul is not hesitant to talk with them. When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well in Samaria, his disciples were surprised to see Him do so as even hundreds of years after Saul, women were still not highly regarded in the Middle East [John 4].
Saul was a complex person. He had some very good qualities as we’ve already learned. He was willing to work hard without complaining. He also eschewed social norms to treat people (e.g. women) respectively. But he also had some very poor qualities which we’ll learn as we continue our study.
The women told Saul that the seer is just ahead of them. In fact, as soon as they were entering the city Samuel and his servant saw Samuel coming out toward them. Saul didn’t know what Samuel looked like so while he saw Samuel, he didn’t know that he was the seer he was looking for.
Notice that this meeting of Saul and Samuel was orchestrated by God through the ordinary, unspectacular circumstances of Saul’s life. His father owned donkeys. Those donkeys were put out to pasture. The donkeys wandered off. Saul goes to find them but can’t. His servant happens to know of a seer in the area. They go to the city where they think the seer is. And, as it happens, the seer is there on that very day, just a little bit ahead of them.
God planned all of this long before it happened. But notice that none of the characters in this story seem manipulated. They are simply acting through normal events – none of which seemed to take them by surprise – and making their own choices as they go along.
Saul and his servant were not forced by God to go look for the seer. God did not control their minds – they decided to go on their own. But that was exactly what God wanted at the precise time He wanted it.
God allows us to make decisions and somehow that can’t be understood by the human mind, He uses our choices – and the simultaneous choices of all the other millions of people on the planet – to achieve His goals. All of human history is man making decisions and God miraculously using those decisions to bring out what He wants to bring about.
It’s impossible to explain, but somehow God works in our lives to bring about His purposes but never treads on our freedom to make decisions. Yet at the same time, we are completely unaware that He is using our decisions for His purposes.
Life is like improv. We’re just making things up as we go, not knowing what the next day or even next minute holds. Yet no matter what we choose to do or say, God is able to use – and, in fact, is using – all our choices – both the good and the bad – to achieve all that He has planned for the human race [Romans 8:28].
Our minds cannot possibly comprehend how God works. He is truly an amazing God.
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