Sep 10, 2017

“The Role of God in Choosing Leaders” 9-10-17

I Samuel 10
September 10, 2017

This morning we begin to get into the particulars of how God directed the selection of Saul to be the first king.  But there is a lot here about God and human political systems and we might learn a few things about ourselves and our current world.
In the previous chapter, Samuel had been instructed to anoint Saul to be the first king of Israel. Saul was introduced to us as a handsome but somewhat obscure son of a wealthy man from the tribe of Benjamin.  As is often the case with earthly rulers, he was taller than average, being head and shoulders above everyone else. 
But God’s instructions to Samuel to anoint Saul to be the king of Israel did not occur in a vacuum.  It came out of a request of the Israelites that disappointed God and Samuel.
The Israelites had requested that God through Samuel give them a king.  Up until that time, God had been the king of Israel.  He had not always been recognized as such, neither was He always obeyed or even consulted.  But He was officially their king, who raised up for them from time to time various judges to lead them into victory over their enemies.
As I said, neither Samuel nor God was pleased with the request of the Israelites for a king, but God directed Samuel to select and enthrone the man whom God would send him.
God sent him Saul.
Today we begin where we left off two weeks ago, with the private anointing of Saul to be king.  At this point only 3 parties knew that Saul was to be the king, God, Samuel, and Saul.
The chapter we are looking at today covers two aspects of the continuing process of installing the first king of Israel.
First of all, Saul and perhaps his family and friends needed to be convinced that he was really the one to take on this awesome task.  And then, second, the people had to be informed in a way that they could see that God had chosen this man above all others.
The first part of this process, God and Samuel convincing Saul, started on the occasion of his being anointed by Samuel.
After the anointing, Samuel gave 3 signs to Saul.  These were 3 things that would happen to him that day.
First of all, as he went by the tomb of Rachel, he would encounter two men who would inform him that the donkeys his father had sent him to find had been found, and that now his father was worried about him.  The tomb of Rachel the favorite wife of the patriarch Jacob is still known.  It is on the border of Bethlehem and as it is on the Palestinian, Israel border, you have to ride in a bullet proof vehicle to visit it.
This is the first of three signs, and has no real significance, other than the fact that Samuel knew this would happen before it did.
The second sign was that he would encounter three men who were on a journey to Bethel, where there was a Jewish worship place.  They would have 3 young goats, three loaves of bread, and a skin of wine.  These provisions were probably to offer as sacrifices at the shrine in Bethel.
But they would give Saul two of the loaves of bread, meaning that they would somehow recognize him as God’s representative, worthy to receive bread that had been dedicated to God.
The third sign was that he would encounter a band of prophets.  The prophets would be playing music and be in a prophetic frenzy.  They would be dancing erratically and shouting in tongues.  Such behavior was seen as a sign that the Spirit of God was upon them.
Saul would be overcome by the Holy Spirit and would join them in their frenzy for a while.
This would be a sign to Saul and to the others present that the hand of God, or the power of God was on Saul.  That he was a channel of God’s power.
This so impressed the people present that they developed a saying about it, and the saying as well as the event became known throughout Israel.  The saying was “Is Saul also among the prophets?”
But these signs are to be seen as God revealing to Saul and others that even though Saul had been up to this point no one extraordinary, except for his handsomeness and stature, from now on, God’s hand was on him and God’s power would be operating through him.
Which makes me think about how we choose our leaders in the church and even in the world.  We look at and think about many things, but I wonder how often we think of whether or not the power of God has been displayed in the life of the person we are considering. 
I ask this question in several contexts. One is the context of a search for a new Pastor for this congregation.  The committee needs to look for signs of God working in and through the lives of the candidates, and when one is presented to the congregation, you need to look for such signs.
The second context is that of the annual search for Elders and Deacons for this church.  Those on the committee need to look for signs of God being at work in the lives of those they consider.  AND. Often when asked to serve in such capacities and also as Sunday School teacher, the questions of those asked are often, “Do I want to?”, “Do I have the time?” or “Do I know enough?”  Maybe the first question should be “Is God working in my life, do I and others see God displaying his power and wisdom in my life?”
The third context is that of the selection of our local and national leaders.
We tend to support candidates based on political philosophies, whether they are like-able, whether they have helped us, and party affiliations.  Maybe this other consideration should be more important, “Can I see God at work in the life and work of this person?”  That may or may not translate to this person being an avid, practicing Christian.  But is God using them to further his goals?
After Samuel called Saul and gave him those 3 confirmations, he called all Israel to witness God’s selection of their king.  It was kind of a voting process, but in it God did the voting.  God’s voting was done by the sacred lots, or Urim and Thummim that were carried in a pouch in the back of the breastplate worn by the high priest.
The lots were cast over the tribes, and Benjamin was chosen, then the process was repeated over the clans, families, and individual men of that tribe, until Saul was chosen by God through the Holy lots.  Saul, of course knew he would be chosen, so out of humility, he hid among the supplies of the national encampment.
Saul hid among the supplies because in spite of his wealth, height and handsomeness, he was humble.
Humility is an important quality for those who would serve God, and sometimes it makes it difficult to find the right person when you are looking for those to serve the church as a pastor, an officer, or even a candidate for political office.  It is often the case that the folks who are not humble are noticed first.  Look for signs of humility, and cultivate humility in yourself.
When they saw Saul they declared him to be king.  Then Samuel read a list of the rights and duties of the king, which governed both ruler and ruled, and made it a part of their constitution or covenant with God.
Then everybody went home, including the new king.  There was as yet no capital city or palace, those would come later.  But as he went home, he was accompanied by some of the warriors of the tribes, the beginning of the King’s royal guard and officers.
And everybody was happy.  Well, not quite.  There were some who did not think that Saul could save them and they despised him and brought no presents.
They were partly right.  Only God could save Israel from their enemies, no man could, but they were not right in despising the one whom God had chosen.
Saul wisely ignored them.  The Hebrew means “Saul was as if he were deaf”.
I think this passage offers some guidance in times of political turmoil.
We chose leaders in an environment where the best people refuse to run, because they know that the voters have unreal and conflicting expectations.  Then we criticize our leaders when they fail.  Of course they fail, we want them to lead with the wisdom and grace and foresight of God.  Only God has those things, and we, like the Israelites of long ago, have chosen to be ruled by people.  You get what you ask for.
Our greatest hope is that God will use those we chose to lead us to do his will, until he replaces all nations and governments with the King of peace, our Lord Jesus Christ, when His kingdom finally comes in it fullness.
We should pray for those two things; that God will use our leaders to do his will, and that he will send Jesus back to end all governments and rule over us all forever,

Pastor David Horner
Faith Presbyterian Church
West Lafayette, IN 47906