Series: King David: Man of Passions & God of Grace
Family Devotional, Week 2: King Saul, The People’s Choice
Before Israel was introduced to the king of God’s choosing, David, they were introduced to a king of their own choosing, Saul. Of course, in one sense it was actually God who chose Saul, as the text indicates in 1 Samuel 10. But there are clues that suggest that though Saul was first chosen by God to rule over Israel, in a very important sense he was not God’s first choice.
As the story goes, Saul goes to the prophet Samuel looking for his father’s asses. Whether Samuel ended up finding more than the one that found him that day, we are not told. But it turns out that Samuel was looking for Saul all along, because God had told him that he would on that day “send him a man from the land of Benjamin…to be prince over my people Israel” (1 Sam. 9:16). The text says he was a “head taller than all the other Israelites,” “more handsome than the rest,” as well. Furthermore, he was the son Kish, “a man of great wealth” (1 Sam. 9:2). When we are introduced to Saul, much like when the Israelites were introduced to him, there hardly seems to be a better man for the job. However, as we will see when we are introduced to David, this is precisely our problem, and theirs, the problem of human judgements. Indeed, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). And it turns out that Saul’s heart was not near as big as his head, a head filled with a big, fragile, faithless, people-pleasing ego.
So while Saul was not God’s first choice, for reasons in the story that soon become clear, it is pretty clear why he was chosen first. The people had rejected God, demanding to have a king “like the other nations” to “judge [them] and…fight for [them]” (1 Sam. 8:20), so God was giving them just that: a man to do a God’s job. King Saul was the people’s choice. And God was making sure the people got just what they asked for.
It was this desire that would eventuate the exile we discussed last week, the same desire that might be at the heart of the first sin back in Eden: the desire to be free from God’s rule. God gave his human beings dominion over his entire creation with the infinitesimal exception of one tree, a tree that would remain the symbol that though we were given dominion over creation, we were not given dominion over the Creator. But from Adam to Israel and throughout the history of the world, humankind has insisted its sovereignty over that tree.
The Church today, while existing within many political contexts, some better than others no doubt, must keep in mind that even when the people make the best choice of human government, there will always be a better choice, and we can never settle for the best person or policy a people can produce, lest we treat the Better Choice as though He is not presently seated on His throne at the right hand of the Father, the one the Bible calls King of Kings and Lord of Lords; the one who came to restore that same throne the people rejected in 1 Samuel 8, calling a people to willingly obey his Law of love and acknowledge his present lordship; the one who will come again in final judgment to establish his kingdom once for all, welcoming in those who had willingly acknowledged his lordship and sending away those who refused it. “Jesus Christ is Lord” is not merely a creedal statement. It is the Church’s pledge of allegiance. It is a statement of the reigning government of God that burst into this world that first Christmas day and is made visible by an obedient Church. Far be it from us to settle for anything less, to settle for the people’s choice over God’s choice.
Reflection Questions / Challenges:
- We give thanks for all those ways that our government and others have been aligned with God’s Law of love, but we also must recognize the ways they have not. What are some of the ways even the laws in our country stop short of God’s Law of love?
- Jesus said the highest commandment is the love of God and the love of neighbor. How does that conflict with laws that must (and I believe rightly so) uphold individual rights?
- What is the difference between being good citizens of America and good citizens of the kingdom of God? How, as families, can we aspire to be the former, but make sure we are not settling for the former.
- Psalm 2
- Lord, give the leaders of this nation wisdom. We know that they stand under your judgment for all the decisions they make. We pray that you would have mercy on them. Lord, give them courage to do and say what is right. Raise up men and women who will speak against the atrocity of abortion for more than just political posturing, who will seek to protect the rights of the people across the economic spectrum, who will judge in accord with your often surprising ways of judging the peoples of the world. But most of all, O Lord, call your Church out to be faithful to our King–the King of all Kings–to be aware of its dual citizenship, as both citizens of earth and citizens of heaven (cf. Phil. 3). Call us to the higher Law love, the Law that is not afraid to demand a people to lay down their rights, to take up their cross, to withhold nothing for the glory of God.