Saul was anointed as the first King of Israel. The full story can be found in 1 Samuel, chapters 9 to31.
Reading; 1 Samuel 9:15 – 10:1
Saul is described as handsome ‘standing head and shoulders above everyone’. We are told he stood out from the crowd. Sent on a mission to find three missing donkeys belonging to his Father, and failing to find them, he sought advice. He met Samuel, a seer, [someone recognised by the Jews as a man of God]. Samuel told him that the donkeys had been found, invited him to a celebratory meal, after which he shared with Saul a message that he had received from God that Saul had been chosen to become the first King of Israel. In Chapter 10, verse 1 we read that Samuel anointed Saul, pouring oil on his head, even though Saul appears to have been reluctant.
It appears that Saul’s anointing was not something that he had expected , or been prepared for. Perhaps he was embarrassed or felt unworthy. However, God had chosen him, and provided signs so that he accepted that he was to be commissioned. Even when Samuel gathered the tribes of Israel and they all agreed to appoint Saul as their king, he was hiding from the attention. Eventually, he rose to the challenge of leadership, and began the work of unifying the twelve tribes.
The story of Saul makes it clear that he was chosen by God, and given a specific role. Samuel [a prophet of his time] was given direct instructions to anoint him, and served as his mentor giving him inspiration.
If we read on in 1 Samuel we find that there is however a but; Saul was very human. His humanness is not hidden in the Bible account, for although he had many
successes during his kingship, especially providing a constant leadership in an age when the Philistines were constantly aggressive, he was inclined to follow his own ideas rather than carry our God’s instructions. Perhaps his obedience to God was tested by the relentlessness of constant battles and tribal negotiations? What we might call stress. Or did he change from being a humble young man to become someone with too much power?
His downfall in the end was his jealousy of David [who succeeded him as king]. He lost God’s trust and was replaced as Samuel anointed David in his place.
To ponder: Did God expect too much of Saul?
Could the effect of anointing be time limited?
God of all, Saul’s life became complex, progressing from his early days looking after his father’s flocks to becoming an esteemed leader through his meeting with Samuel.
His attitudes and his role changed dramatically as God provided him with the attributes he would need to be a unifying king. Despite being chosen, anointed and commissioned, he was unable to sustain all that was required of such leadership. His challenge to unify the tribes of Israel was enormous, and his human flaws were evident. His story tells us much about following where you ask us to go.
In our time we recognise that we are all too human, and often complex, or caught in complexities of modern life. Following your guidance for our lives can be hard, even when we strive to do our best. Our human instincts are challenged and we can struggle to maintain the standards that you ask of us. We are sorry. We ask your forgiveness and your help to ‘lift us up’ to try again. Amen