Bible Readings for August 17th

1 Samuel 9 | Romans 7 | Jeremiah 46 | Psalm 22

At last, Yahweh chooses a king to reign over his people. Nevertheless, we ought to read 1 Samuel 9 with some concern, since Israel’s demand for a king stems from the fact that they have rejected Yahweh from reigning as king over them (1 Sam. 8:7). What kind of a king will Yahweh give to his rebellious people? In 1 Samuel 9, we read three important principles to explain the selection of Saul as the first king over Israel.

First, Yahweh chooses a humble man as king, even despite the fact that Saul is tall and handsome in appearance (1 Sam. 9:2). When Samuel praises Saul, Saul responds with almost the same words that the judge Gideon had used when God called him (Judg. 6:15), saying, “Am I not a Benjaminite, from the least of the tribes of Israel? And is not my clan the humblest of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then have you spoken to me in this way?” (1 Sam. 9:21). Saul’s pride will eventually be his undoing, but that is not how the story begins.

Second, Yahweh chooses Saul to save Israel “from the hand of the Philistines” (1 Sam. 9:16). Installing a king over Israel was not a vanity position but rather a means by which Yahweh would continue to establish his kingdom on earth. For Yahweh’s holiness to dwell with his holy people in the holy land of Canaan, the wicked, idolatrous inhabitants had to be driven out. Since the judges could not finish the job (Judg. 1:27–36), Yahweh was now appointing a king to complete the mission.

Finally, Yahweh chooses Saul to “restrain” Israel from seeking to do whatever was right in their own eyes (1 Sam. 9:17). Israel’s chief problem had been that they had done whatever was right in their own eyes because “there was no king in Israel” (Judg. 21:25). Saul’s responsibility as king, then, was to restrain Israel so they would keep the commandments Yahweh had given them through Moses. If the people of Israel obeyed, Yahweh would bless them and cause them to flourish in the land.

Despite the fact that Israel had rejected Yahweh from being king over them by demanding this king instead (1 Sam. 8:7), the story of Saul begins positively. Yahweh provides a king who would serve without any prideful pretenses and also who would seek Israel’s good by restraining them from their own wickedness.

While we know that Saul’s story will not end well, we should not too quickly overlook the positive beginning to this story. It is always better to obey, no matter whether we are at the beginning, middle, or the end. Ask yourself these questions: Where are you in your story? Regardless of where you have been, are you seeking to obey today? What might you learn about perseverance from Saul’s story?

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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