This next period in Israel’s history transpires in 1095 BC, about 27 years after the death of Eli, and about 6 years after the death of Samson and the Israelites’ subsequent victory over the Philistines. The Divine selection of the first king of Israel fell on a man from the tribe of Benjamin. And now we see one reason why the Lord mercifully spared a remnant of the tribe of Benjamin (Jud. 20-21) during that civil war in Israel over 300 years earlier. (Another reason for this mercy towards Benjamin, by the way, was so that we would be blessed with a great portion of the New Testament; for the Apostle Paul – the writer of many of the Epistles to Christ’s Church – was a descendant of the tribe of Benjamin as well.)
At the time that the events in this chapter take place, Saul was actually already a married man with at least four sons. He had been sent by his father Kish to search for some donkeys which had gone astray. Attended by a servant, he explored the district beyond his home, northward and westward; then he traversed the hills of Benjamin; and finally, he came south into the neighborhood of Ramah – the hometown of Samuel. Having searched for the donkeys in vain, Saul proposed that they should return home so that his father would not be worried about them. But his servant suggested that since they were now at Ramah – where a prophet of the Lord lived, who would be able and willing to supply the information they needed – they should call on him and ask his advice. Saul objected that their money and provisions were nearly exhausted; and therefore, the customary gift could not be offered to the prophet. His servant rejoined that he had ¼ of a silver shekel, which he would offer to the prophet in exchange for counsel concerning the lost donkeys. Of course, Samuel did not need their money, nor would he have denied his advice if they had not brought it. But they gave it to him as a token of respect, and as a demonstration of the value that they put upon his God-ordained office. Wherever we are, we should make use of any opportunities of acquainting ourselves with those who are wise and Godly. How often do we take great pains to make up worldly losses; but how little do we attempt, and how soon are we weary, in seeking the salvation of our souls! If ministers could tell people how to secure their property or how to get wealthy, they would be more consulted and honored than they typically are – even though their employment is to teach people how to escape eternal misery, and how to obtain eternal life.
As Saul and his servant ascended the eminence upon which the city of Ramah stood, they found that the day was a festive one, and that Samuel was about to offer sacrifices. Saul and his servant spoke to the maidens who were coming out of the city to draw water, and asked them where Samuel was; and they directed them where to find the prophet. It is no small benefit to live in religious and holy places, and we should always be ready to help those who are seeking after the Lord’s ministers.
The day before Saul arrived at Ramah, the Lord had given Samuel advance notice of his coming. He told Samuel that this Benjamite would be the one whom he was to anoint as king over His people. Although God had, in displeasure, granted Israel’s request for a king; yet He did listen graciously to their cry, and He gave them a man to be their leader.
When Saul and his servant arrived in the town, the Lord directed Samuel’s attention to him; and Saul (not knowing who stood before him) drew near to Samuel to ask for directions to the prophet’s house. Samuel replied that he himself was the prophet, and he invited the Benjamite to accompany him to the sacrifice that he was about to offer. By Divine instruction, the prophet informed the Benjamite farmer that his lost donkeys had been found; and he added that “the desire of all Israel” was directed toward him. Saul modestly expressed the surprise which he felt, but Samuel entertained him with special marks of honor. Both that evening and early the next morning, Samuel spoke with him upon the flat roof of the house. It was probably during these times that Samuel convinced Saul that he was the person whom the Lord had selected to wear the crown of Israel.
At daybreak the next morning, Samuel led Saul out of the city and privately instructed him concerning his future movements. How different are the Lord’s purposes for us, when we compare them to our own intentions for ourselves! Perhaps Saul was the only man who ever went out to seek donkeys, and literally found a kingdom instead; but many people have set out and moved their dwellings in order to seek for riches and pleasures, and then they have been Providentially guided to places where they have found salvation for their souls.
As we read this chapter concerning Saul, let us search diligently into the records of our own lives for testimonies of the Lord’s dealings with us – both in His world of Providence and of grace. Let us pause and see how our gracious God (while we have too often been searching out the things of time and sense) has been going before us – anticipating our requests, blessing us with things unasked, and infinitely exceeding all our thoughts and expectations with His mercy and grace!
Lord, we thank You that You have made all Your children to be kings and priests to You. And we give thanks that no matter what trials may beset us in the way to the possession of future glory, there is no state that can truly be called comfortless, while Jesus is our portion! Amen.
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