I received some great feedback last week asking me to go deeper into the minds and emotions of the Biblical people living with mental illness. For the month of February, we’re returning to King Saul. Saul starts 1 Samuel as Israel’s first king, but his life ends in 2 Samuel with assisted suicide. Today, we’re starting at the beginning and learning how keeping quiet set the stage for Saul’s decline.
Samuel took the flask of oil, poured it out on Saul’s head, kissed him, and said, “Hasn’t the LORD anointed you ruler over his inheritance?”1 Samuel 10:1 CSB
Saul’s uncle asked him and his servant, “Where did you go?”
“To look for the donkeys,” Saul answered. “When we saw they weren’t there, we went to Samuel.”
“Tell me,” Saul’s uncle asked, “what did Samuel say to you?”
Saul told him, “He assured us the donkeys had been found.” However, Saul did not tell him what Samuel had said about the matter of kingship.1 Samuel 10:14-16 CSB
Samuel summoned the people to the LORD at Mizpah and said to the Israelites, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I brought Israel out of Egypt, and I rescued you from the power of the Egyptians and all the kingdoms that were oppressing you.’ But today you have rejected your God, who saves you from all your troubles and afflictions. You said to him, ‘You must set a king over us.’ Now therefore present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes and clans.'”
Samuel had all the tribes of Israel come forward, and the tribe of Benjamin was selected. Then he had the tribe of Benjamin come forward by its clans, and the Matrite clan was selected. Finally, Saul son of Kish was selected. But when they searched for him, they could not find him. They again inquired of the LORD, “Has the man come here yet?”
The LORD replied, “There he is, hidden among the supplies.”
They ran and got him from there. When he stood among the people, he stood a head taller than anyone else. Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the one the LORD has chosen? There is no one like him among the entire population.”
And all the people shouted, “Long live the king!”
Samuel proclaimed to the people the rights of kingship. He wrote them on a scroll, which he placed in the presence of the LORD. Then Samuel sent all the people home.
Saul also went to his home in Gibeah, and brave men whose hearts God had touched went with him. But some wicked men said, “How can this guy save us?” They despised him and did not bring him a gift, but Saul said nothing.1 Samuel 10:17-27 CSB
The First King
1 Samuel 8-10 tells of Israel’s request for a king to lead them, of Saul’s anointing, and of Samuel’s announcement of Saul’s leadership. However, Saul either hides from or doubts his role as leader of Israel throughout all three chapters. In truth, he had good reason to be afraid. Israel created a brand new political role by demanding a king. Samuel made it clear that by demanding a king, Israel chose to worship an idol instead of God. If I wore Saul’s sandals, I would feel doomed to fail before I even started!
On top of stepping into an unprecedented role, Israel charges Saul with coordinating a forgetful, stubborn-headed bunch of people. Skip back a few pages in your Bible, and the Benjaminites (Saul’s own clan) committed some pretty heinous acts. Then all the tribes fought with each other over it, and tribes made plans against each other… It created a big ole mess. Now Saul (who didn’t ask for this… he set out just to find some lost donkeys!) is responsible for uniting and leading this mess. That’s a pretty stressful job.
The odds certainly stacked against Saul, but his actions didn’t address the problems, either. When Saul’s uncle asks what Samuel told Saul, he avoids talking about his anointing, despite it coming directly from God. Further, when all the tribes convene to hear Samuel, Saul hides in the packs of food and blankets rather than standing with his tribe in the count. Then, Saul stays quiet when Israelite dissenters speak against him (and thus against God’s choice of a leader.)
Sometimes, keeping quiet in the face of rude, unreasonable people helps a situation. At least, it doesn’t escalate into anything worse. However, Saul’s silence about his role as King of Israel actually denies God’s authority and power in choosing him. This passage really shows us that Saul held some deep seeded insecurities. Saul demonstrates signs of a depressive personality where his negative self-perception tells him that he can’t do what God calls him to do.
I know I have often doubted that God would actually use me to bless others. I sometimes doubt his desire to bless me. Saul shows us, though, that we really need to focus on accepting our God-given worth if we want to expand God’s kingdom. Otherwise, we head down a dangerous, self-destructive path.