15 Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed to Samuel: 16 “Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over my people Israel. He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines. For I have seen my people, because their cry has come to me.” 17 When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord told him, “Here is the man of whom I spoke to you! He it is who shall restrain my people.” 18 Then Saul approached Samuel in the gate and said, “Tell me where is the house of the seer?” 19 Samuel answered Saul, “I am the seer. Go up before me to the high place, for today you shall eat with me, and in the morning I will let you go and will tell you all that is on your mind. 20 As for your donkeys that were lost three days ago, do not set your mind on them, for they have been found. And for whom is all that is desirable in Israel? Is it not for you and for all your father’s house?” 21 Saul answered, “Am I not a Benjaminite, from the least of the tribes of Israel? And is not my clan the humblest of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then have you spoken to me in this way?”
(1 Samuel 9:15-21)
Over the previous few days, we’ve seen Saul and his servant enter the town where Samuel was, looking for him. On the previous day God had told Samuel that at about the same time on the next day, He would send to him a man from the land of Benjamin [1 Samuel 9:15-16].
Neither Saul nor Samuel knew what the other looked like. So when Samuel saw Saul, the Lord told him, “Here is the man of whom I spoke to you!” Saul had to certainly stand out in a crowd.
Certainly, when Samuel saw Saul he had to notice him: Saul, being incredibly tall and handsome, stood out in a crowd [1 Samuel 9:1-2]. Besides, Samuel knew to expect God’s chosen leader at that time of day. So when he saw Saul, Samuel must have wondered if this was the man. God’s words confirmed any such thoughts.
But God said something more to Samuel. He says that Saul shall restrain His people. God’s choice of words here is interesting. In the original Hebrew, the word translated “restrain” is עָצַר (pronounced atsár). This word means “to halt the motion of” something or someone as opposed to stopping oneself.
Why God chose this word is hard to understand. Perhaps Saul would restrain the sin of the Israelites who were not walking closely with God at this time. They were constantly sinning by following the despicable practices of foreign religions, not to mention sinning by rejecting God in favor of a human king.
Or possibly, God was telling Samuel that Saul would be a coercive and tyrannical ruler, who would suppress the people of Israel. This would be consistent with the warning God gave Israel when they asked for a king [1 Samuel 8:10-18].
As we continue to study the story of Saul we’ll see that He didn’t do much to lead Israel away from sin. He was a weak ruler who was sinful himself. He was motivated by vanity and paranoia and as a result, his reign was marked by absolute and stern power.
This is exactly why God chose Saul to be Israel’s first monarch. He knew Saul would act this way and He wanted to show Israel that human rulers were not the answer to their plight.
Like everything God does and allows, His goal was to demonstrate the He was the better choice and Israel should abandon their thoughts that any human leader could do a better job than He.
But this is the way we think. We always seek to do things via human effort rather than doing things God’s way. We’ve done this since the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve replaced God’s commands with their own logic.
For all of time, people have consistently thought that a leader – be it a political leader or a social leader – is the answer to our woes. This is why the human race, like Israel, rejects God as their king.
Human leaders are never the answer to our problems. They can’t be as they, like all humans, are imperfect and sinful. They can’t rule benevolently and humbly. They can only rule to serve themselves, their ideology, or political party.
Adam and Eve rejected God’s leadership in favor of leading themselves. But that didn’t stop God from being their king. Israel rejected God but that didn’t stop God from being their king either.
Only God has the wisdom, power, and humility to meet our most desperate needs. God was Israel’s true leader and He is the world’s one true leader today.
God is our king. Whether we recognize Him as such or not.
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