The first eight chapters of 1 Samuel make challenging and exciting reading and lead to the Elders of Israel approaching Samuel to ask for a king to lead them. They had prospered under Samuel’s leadership but the future looked bleak as Samuel had appointed his sons, who did not walk in his ways, as judges.
A question mark is thus raised over the Advent line which has seemed ‘safe’ in the hands of Samuel who walked in close relationship with God. In spite of this, the Israelite Elders ask for a king but for the wrong reason – namely that they should be like all the other nations (8.5) forgetting completely, it seems, the conditions of the Mosaic Covenant, which required them to be different. Further the king we discover as we read on is not from the chosen line of Judah but from the tribe of Bethlehem.
How has this come about and what will happen as a result?
Samuel, as God’s Prophet, was displeased by the request for a king and took the matter to the LORD. 1 Samuel 8.6-10 and in the reply that God gave him there is a dire warning that this will not work out well for ‘they have rejected me as their king.’
Nevertheless the process moves forward and
‘an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites – a head taller than any of the others’(9.1-2), from the tribe of Benjamin is chosen. As the account unfolds, it appears that he is a somewhat reluctant candidate but his kingship begins on a high note (1 Samuel 11) but it goes wrong from there on as Saul assumes for himself roles and actions that are Samuel’s as God’s representative, under whose guidance, Saul must reign.
The account is sad, exciting in parts but tragic from there on (Chapters 11-15) and Saul is rejected by God as king.
This raises all sorts of questions such as why was he anointed at God’s direction, from a different tribe, only to be rejected.
At one level the answer is both encouraging and puzzling.
It is encouraging in that very clearly God is in control. He has established a Covenant which cannot and will not be rescinded – this hiatus will not prevent the promise of Genesis 3.15 being fulfilled.
It is puzzling because we are finite creatures and God is infinite and his ways are not our ways Isaiah 55.8.
We shall see further puzzling events as we open more calendar doors but we can be absolutely sure that nothing derail God’s purposes for his people.