Sermon for Sunday, January 14th, 2024 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[1Sa 10:17-27 ESV] 17 Now Samuel called the people together to the LORD at Mizpah. 18 And he said to the people of Israel, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all the kingdoms that were oppressing you.’ 19 But today you have rejected your God, who saves you from all your calamities and your distresses, and you have said to him, ‘Set a king over us.’ Now therefore present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes and by your thousands.” 20 Then Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. 21 He brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its clans, and the clan of the Matrites was taken by lot; and Saul the son of Kish was taken by lot. But when they sought him, he could not be found. 22 So they inquired again of the LORD, “Is there a man still to come?” and the LORD said, “Behold, he has hidden himself among the baggage.” 23 Then they ran and took him from there. And when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. 24 And Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the LORD has chosen? There is none like him among all the people.” And all the people shouted, “Long live the king!” 25 Then Samuel told the people the rights and duties of the kingship, and he wrote them in a book and laid it up before the LORD. Then Samuel sent all the people away, each one to his home. 26 Saul also went to his home at Gibeah, and with him went men of valor whose hearts God had touched. 27 But some worthless fellows said, “How can this man save us?” And they despised him and brought him no present. But he held his peace.
New Testament reading:
[1Ti 6:11-16 ESV] 11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time–he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
[Mat 22:1-14 ESV] 1 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”‘ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
I. Where is the King? (v. 17-21a)
Where is the king?
The people of Israel have been clamoring for a king.
Where is the king?
God knows, and Samuel knows. And Saul has been told that HE is to be king. But Saul isn’t yet confident about himself having been chosen as king. And this is the case, even though, as we saw a couple weeks ago in the previous passage that various prophecies which Samuel made were fulfilled right before Saul’s eyes so that Saul could know that God had chosen him as king. Saul had been told he would see two men at Rachel’s tomb who would tell him not to worry about the lost donkeys of his father Kish, and then at the Oak of Tabor Saul would meet three men who would give him bread, and then at Gibeath-Elohim Saul would see a band of prophets coming down from the high place prophesying. And all these took place, in order for Saul to know he has been chosen (of God) to be king.
So God himself, Samuel, and Saul all known who is king of Israel.
But the people of Israel don’t know.“Where is the King?” Who is our king?
Saul’s selection to the throne (from the previous text) has not yet been made public. So that is what happens in our text. The choice of the king is made public.
Samuel calls a general assembly of the elders of Israel—the representatives of their tribes—to meet at Mizpeh and elect a king.
Well, it is not properly an election. There are not votes. And it is not a Selection either. Saul is not chosen by the people, but chosen by God through Samuel. What happens at Mizeph is that God’s choice is verified through the casting of lots.
So the people have come together with that question, Where is the king? They want a king to fight their battles. And they want a king so they can “be like the other nations,” and to have the respect of other nations.
They should, of course, recognize that God himself is their king. But they don’t do so.
They don’t even do God the honor of asking him for a king. They ask Samuel. There would be awkwardness if the people did ask God for a king, when God himself IS their king. But they don’t ask God. They don’t pray to God. They ask Samuel to appoint for them a king.
Fortunately for Samuel, he doesn’t have to choose. God has made his choice. God will grant the request of the people for a king by setting Saul upon the throne. God first told Samuel that Saul will be king. And then Samuel relayed that information to Saul, and it was proven by the fulfillment of prophecies. Now, GOD’s CHOICE will again be made clear through the casting of lots.
This casting of lots is that process—not precisely defined—but something like pulling stones out of a hat. And each stone represents something or someone. It was a process used in other places in the Bible as well.
The one that comes to my mind is in Joshua in the story of the Sin of Achan. You remember this from Joshua 7. After the fall of Jericho, the Israelites were to put all of the captured gold, bronze, and iron into the treasury of the Lord, but Achan took some of these “devoted things.” And because of this, the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel and 36 of them died at the First Battle of Ai. Well, the Lord told Joshua “There are devoted things in your midst.” And God had Joshua draw lots to find out who the culprit was.
[Jos 7:14-15 ESV] 14 In the morning therefore you shall be brought near by your tribes. And the tribe that the LORD takes by lot shall come near by clans. And the clan that the LORD takes shall come near by households. And the household that the LORD takes shall come near man by man. 15 And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel.'”
And so it happened. Of all the tribes, Judah was taken. Of all the clans of Judah, the Zerahites were taken. And of all the heads of households of the Zerahites, Zabdi was taken. And of his household, Achan was taken. And he admitted that he had sinned, and the treasure was found hidden in the earth under his tent.
This same process is that used in our text to find out God’s will for who the King will be.
20 Then Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. 21 He brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its clans, and the clan of the Matrites was taken by lot; and Saul the son of Kish was taken by lot.
So this is how Saul is chosen. By lots, in the assembly of the people.
II. Where is Saul? (v. 21b-23a)
So the King has been found. It’s Saul. But WHERE is Saul?
But when they sought him, he could not be found. 22 So they inquired again of the LORD, “Is there a man still to come?” and the LORD said, “Behold, he has hidden himself among the baggage.” 23 Then they ran and took him from there.
This is not a good look for the new king, hiding among the baggage.
The people had come together at Mizpeh. Lots of people had traveled there, so there were a lot of bags. Luggage, we would say.
But WHY is Saul hiding among the baggage? The text doesn’t tell us explicitly. And some have suggested that he was hiding because of humility, not wanting the praise of being king. But I don’t see that at all. Saul was hiding … because he was scared, he was afraid of being king.
And this might be understandable given the responsibility that was now his. Yet, his hiding was inexcusable. After all, the Lord had performed many signs to prove that Saul was his choice as king. Now to act on his fear and hide from his public appointment as king showed that he lacked trust in God.
Of course, not everyone is courageous. But we are strengthened, encouraged by the Lord. The Scriptures often say, “Fear not” and “Take Courage.” (At our Fall Retreat we heard that “Fear not” is the most frequently command of Christ. Perhaps second only to “believe.” We are to believes and we are to fear not. Take Courage. But how is that possible? Why are we to take courage? Because the Lord is on our side. It is not so much like the song “We are on the Lord’s side,” but “the Lord is on our side.” So cast away fear and trust in God.
Don’t be like Saul hiding in the baggage.
I was recently reading about the Wantage NJ volunteers in the militia during the revolution. And the British had attacked and burned down part of Port Jervis. And a man named Thomas Talmadge, ran to Wantage and told the militia. In just 1 day they organized and headed out for battle. That is bravery. But more astounding is that a number of men joined with them, men who were not part of the militia, but as the militia headed out from Hamburg to Sussex to the Clove and to Mt. Salem, regular men (farmer’s mostly) picked up their guns and joined in the battle. When the time came to defend their homeland, they were brave, not in hiding.
Now Saul is supposed to be the King, the judge or “savior” of the people against their enemies. To LEAD them in battle, and he is found HIDING!? Even more, he had seen the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Lord. The two men at Rachel’s tomb, the three men at the Oak of Tabor, and band of prophets at Gibeath-elohim. It all came to be just as Samuel had told him. Shouldn’t that have encouraged him? Shouldn’t that have proven that the Lord had chosen him to be king. And he is found hiding.
Well, we aren’t usually called out to battle. The British aren’t coming in our times. Or at least that is unlikely. But what of our common every day experiences. Will we be found hiding? I pray not.
Sometimes you might find that it feels like people are hiding. Now, maybe they are just busy, but have you ever had one of those times where you needed to talk to someone and you make 3 or 4 phone calls, but no one answers! My reliable call is to my twin brother. But then, he moved to West Virginia and doesn’t always have phone service. So even he I sometimes cannot get a hold of. But whether a person just needs someone to talk to, or actually needs physical help with something, will we be found in hiding? Let us be courageous in answering the call. Listening on the phone or in person, and helping where we are able. We are not each called to be king, but we are called to be friends. Let us be the best friends we can be, with no fear.
III. There He is! (v. 23b-24)
Well, getting back on track, we asked:
Where is the King? Where is Saul?
And the answer comes: “There he is!” Rising up out of the baggage is your king. What a pitiful display.
And when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. 24 And Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the LORD has chosen? There is none like him among all the people.” And all the people shouted, “Long live the king!”
I picture this situation as something as obvious as a children’s book. There are bunch of zebras on the safari and one very tall giraffe. And everyones for a split second and says “There he is.”
Saul is tall. “Taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward.” That’s the man we want leading us into battle.
Isn’t it strange how the immediately forget about his hiding! They immediately forget that he is a coward. They ignore the fact that he doesn’t trust in the Lord. They focus only on the fact that he is tall. I’d rather have a short guy with some bravery!
But “there he is.” Saul is king.
And the people declare “Long live the king!”
But there is a problem. While there is much enthusiasm for the king that they wanted, there is little enthusiasm for God. You see, in asking for and getting a king to “be like the other nations” they are rejecting God. To be like the other nations is to NOT BE GOD’S PEOPLE.
GOD chose HIS people, Israel. But now they choose against him. They want a king to deliver them from their enemies. They forget that God has been doing that for centuries. HE rescued them from Egypt. HE brought them to the promised. HE won the battles all through Canaan. But the people now reject God.
Nevertheless, God delivers his people from their enemies through a savior king.
Does that sound familiar? I hope so.
[REPEAT] God delivers his people from their enemies through a savior king.
In the next chapter God employs Saul in the defeat of the Ammonites. Even though the people have rejected God, God still is working out things for their good. God has not rejected them.
And even though we sin, even though we fail in our trust of God, yet even so, OUR greater savior king Christ Jesus will deliver us from the judgment that is to come.
So we say of Jesus, THERE is our king!
And he never hides. Not in the baggage, not anywhere else. Christ even went WILLINGLY to the cross, for our salvation. For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross.
That is the king we need. One who doesn’t hide. One is who is ALWAYS there for us. Who’s word we read in the Scriptures, and who hears our prayers.
If you feel like you have no one to turn to, KNOW that you can turn to Christ. He won’t hide among the baggage. He won’t ignore your call.
This is our main theological point. Christ is King. Of him, much more so than Saul, can we say “There is none like him among all the people.” Indeed, Christ ALONE is the Son of God sent to deliver us because of God’s gracious love for his people.
Christ is king. Look to him. There is your salvation. Only there, nowhere else.
IV. Rights and Duties of Kingship (v. 25- 27)
But there is one last section in our text here we should briefly look at. The last few verses. Let’s read them again.
25 Then Samuel told the people the rights and duties of the kingship, and he wrote them in a book and laid it up before the LORD. Then Samuel sent all the people away, each one to his home. 26 Saul also went to his home at Gibeah, and with him went men of valor whose hearts God had touched. 27 But some worthless fellows said, “How can this man save us?” And they despised him and brought him no present. But he held his peace.
It is the wisdom of God that Samuel has the monarchy of Israel to be LIMITED. The government of any land — that which is INTENDED for the good of the people — soon gets of control and is very bad for the people. So limits and controls must be place upon it.
Samuel told the people the rights and duties of the kingship. And these are written in a book and “laid up before the Lord.” This is an important document, in safe-keeping for all to check on if need be. It functions like a constitution, being a compact (an agreement) that takes precedence over the whims of the king or the whims of the people.
Samuel told the people the rights and duties of the kingship. He doesn’t say “the rights and duties of the king.” Nor does he say “the rights and duties of the people.” BOTH are included. When it says “the kingship” we are to understand that arrangement under which now they live. There are rights and duties of the king, and there are rights and duties of the people. And this is important to take into consideration. The king is not God. And the king is not to be a tyrant. He has duties which he much accomplish. And the people have rights which the king must not trample over.
On the other side, the people have duties. They are presumably (for the text doesn’t tell us) to obey the king. We see this in context, for some “worthless fellows” oppose Saul. This is very interesting. It is not the devout believer who oppose Saul. Even though Saul is not a believer himself, and even though he will turn out to be a bad in many ways, still the devout people know that Saul is chosen of God for the role as king, and they will obey. It is the “worthless” people who say “How can this man save us?” It is the worthless people who question the plan of God.
We who believe in God, like the devout of Israel, ought to trust in His plans. We might not be happy when a president comes into office whom we despise, but God can work through them even if they are despicable. And God’s plan in the end always come to be fulfilled. So we are to pray for our leaders and not be “worthless” rabble rousers.
But ultimately we are to look to Christ, for that question is better answered in him: “How can this man save us?” The answer is in his name. Jesus, Yeshua,“He saves.” Indeed Jesus Christ is our savior and our king. Look no further. There he is. Go to him. Let us pray.