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Review: "Winnie-the-Pooh" and "The House at Pooh Corner"

It probably comes as no surprise that Winnie-the-Pooh was my favorite as a child. The paraphernalia I’ve retained is not even a quarter of the Winnie-the-Pooh dolls, clothes, and accessories that filled my toddler room. (My mom even stenciled bears holding balloons on my walls. I came by my obsession honestly.) In my first ever trip to the movie theater, my mom and I watched The Tigger Movie. Even now, I’ve saved every Winnie the Pooh movie on Disney Plus so I can watch it on days I feel low. However, my childhood fangirling surrounded the Disney-fied interpretations of A. A. Milne’s classics. So, how do the original Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner stack up in terms of children’s literature?

I First Read Winnie-the-Pooh

While I read all the Disney picture books ever published in the early 2000s as a child, I didn’t obtain a copy of the original A. A. Milne tales until the past year or so. In a panic to avoid the stress of wedding planning and office managing, I grabbed Winnie-the-Pooh and plopped on the couch to read. I proceeded to laugh so hard and so often that my dad had to look up from his solitaire game every few minutes. As much as I love every Disney adaptation of Winnie-the-Pooh (minus that My Friends Tigger and Pooh show… they screwed up that one,) A. A. Milne’s books captivated me just as completely.

The characters in Milne’s books are just so charmingly real, despite being animals. I laugh hysterically at misspelled words and hidden moments of arrogance because I recognize the misunderstandings from my daily life. While the books perfectly capture the imagination of a child, they also reflect our reality as adults. And don’t get me started on the series’ ending! I think The House at Pooh Corner even beats out The Great Gatsby as the best last line of all time!

What About Faith?

Well, Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner definitely aren’t expressly Christian. There are no stories paralleling Biblical events. Yet, the books feel pure. Childhood innocence oozes from the pages. The stories teach problem solving, friendship, and how to tell a good story. Yet, I think Milne’s most powerful message is that of compassion. The animals are accepted as they are in childlike love. Even those who frequently carry disdain in their back pocket (ahem… Rabbit) quickly forgive inconveniences and learn to embrace the qualities that make each character unique. Concern for others trumps selfishness every time. The interactions between the characters lead everyone to grow into more caring and generous members of the Hundred Acre Wood.

I believe we all can agree that these behaviors are worth learning and sharing. Jesus certainly exemplifies these traits perfected. So, despite Christopher Robin not waving a magic Bible in the air every time a problem arises, the books reflect Christian concepts. I feel no shame in continuing to claim Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner as a pinnacle of children’s literature.

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King Saul's Daughter: Another Look at Michal

I became interested in the story of King Saul’s daughter, Michal, when I read The Wives of King David series by Jill Eileen Smith. Getting an on-the-ground view of the book of 1 Samuel completely changed my opinion of Michal. Today, let’s look at Michal again so we can understand how depression affected King Saul’s daughter.

The Passage

Then [Saul] himself went to Ramah and came to the great well that is in Secu. And he asked, “Where are Samuel and David?” And one said, “Behold, they are at Naioth in Ramah.” And he went there to Naoith in Ramah. And the Spirit of God came upon him also, and as he went he prophesied until he came to Naoith in Ramah. And he too stripped off his clothes, and he too prophesied before Samuel and lay naked all that day and all that night. Thus it is said, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

1 Samuel 19:22-24 ESV

And it was told King David, “The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the city of David with rejoicing. And when those who bore the ark of the LORD had gone six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened animal. And David danced before the LORD with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod.

2 Samuel 6:12-14 ESV

Parallels between Saul and David

Anger often hides a deeper emotion like fear. Michal certainly had reason to fear her husband David following her father’s footsteps. After all, Saul was Israel’s first king. Who was to say that Saul’s fate wouldn’t also be David’s?

Consider 1 Samuel 19. Saul ramps up his attempts to kill David. After three rounds of soldiers have fallen to the ground in prophesy before they can complete their mission, Saul himself journeys to David. In contrast to the joyful prophesying Saul preformed at his anointing, Saul winds up naked in the streets for a day. No doubt his family at home was ashamed by the scandal and the turmoil.

Now in 2 Samuel 6, David has taken over Israel. He already failed once at moving the Ark of the Covenant. In fact, Uzzah died stabilizing the ark in transit, and 2 Samuel reports David trembling in fearful humility because of it. However, word arrives that the house currently holding the ark was blessed, so David decides to move it again. Michal probably recalls her father’s fearful attempts to gain power as David left for Ark Transport Round 2. She probably feels fear for the Ark herself.

Next thing Michal sees, her husband is dancing basically naked in the streets because of this ark. I imagine the scandal of her father’s naked prophesying flashed before her eyes. She probably fears that this foreshadows David following in Saul’s depressed footsteps. She lived in that unstable palace once before; I doubt she wants to live there again. So, Michal waits with all her fury at the door to the palace for David to come home.

King Saul’s Daughter

Besides the stress of living in royal palaces led by men with mental illnesses, Michal has another fact working against her. Genetics play a large role in anxiety and depression. Saul’s early pattern of silence certainly parallels Michal’s stuffed feelings. It is very possible that Michal inherited her father’s depressive tendencies. Add a life of stress to genetic inclinations, and Michal’s own depression kicked in full swing. As 2 Samuel 6:20-23 repeats, Michal was “the daughter of Saul” in more ways than one.

Unfortunately, Saul’s untreated mental health problems led to further problems for his children. While Jonathan lived in the shadow of Saul’s poor decisions, Michal faced the scary truth of depression in the mirror. Without the example of someone seeking help for their mental struggles, Michal played defense like her father did. She put up rules to stop the cycle from returning, but it cost her more family in the end.

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Review: Magic Treehouse "Winter of the Ice Wizard"

So many people love the Magic Treehouse books. Alas, I’ve never been one of them. (I’ll go hide from the rotten tomatoes now.) Jack and Annie bored me. I much preferred books with humor like Junie B. Jones, Amelia Bedelia, and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. Well, now that I’ve decided to try my hand at writing children’s books, I felt I should give the Magic Treehouse another chance. Here’s my review of Winter of the Ice Wizard.

Winter of the Ice Wizard, aka Creepy Pirate Santa

This is semi-tangential, but the illustrated Ice Wizard looks like a creepy pirate Santa to me. He’s got an eye patch, has an expression somewhere between flabbergasted and explosive, and a belt holds his coat fabric in place over that bowl full of jelly. He’s kind of a creepy pirate Santa in the story, too. He trades his eye for wisdom, kidnaps adults, and sends good children on his errands (only with icy threats instead of bribes of presents.)

Moving past creepy pirate Santa, who admittedly was one of the most interesting characters in the book because of his dynamic nature, we come back to Jack and Annie. I admit, my brother is my best friend, and I have a soft spot for Jack and Annie’s close relationship. But past that, they have very little personality (again, I’ll be hiding from the rotten tomatoes.) Based on this book, I gathered that Jack is the cautious nerd and Annie is the brash girl. (And “girl” is the only character type I can think of for Annie!) They keep secrets from their mother. They seem to like cookies. Yup, that’s about all that I came up with.

The Writing Style

Bearing in mind this book is written for children expanding their reading abilities, Mary Pope Osborne excels at immersing children in history and myth. Her descriptions, while basic, did in fact place the reader in the story with Jack and Annie. Plus, the illustrations by Sal Murdocca are phenomenal!

It took me about 4 chapters to get into this book. The first two chapters connected this book to the rest of the Merlin Mission batch and explained the premise for any readers coming to the series out of order like me. However, those two chapters bored me to death! I couldn’t even remember what I’d read when I finished the chapter. The third chapter set up the conflict, so creepy pirate Santa aside, we started moving. It still took until chapter 4 for me to want to keep reading past my one chapter for the day. I saw a lot of the plot coming, although I can’t fault Mrs. Osborne for that; I’m in my twenties reading a book for seven year olds.

So, I concluded that Mrs. Osborne is a very talented writer who knows her strengths and plays to them well. The number of adults who still praise her books attests to that. They just aren’t my style. Give me the emotional five year old who makes up words and mismatches her hair bows! Then I’ll be laughing because I know the character is real.

What about faith?

Ok, we’ve been talking about the Christian faith in children’s literature. I’ve seen Facebook moms passionately defend the purity of the Magic Treehouse. So how does Winter of the Ice Wizard really stack up? Can kids actually learn Biblical values from this book?

It took until chapter nine to appear, but there is a message of redemption in this book. Creepy pirate Santa winds up repenting for his actions, and Merlin and Morgan invite him to visit them in Camelot. It read a little too hunky-dory for me, but it made for a nice ending. And honestly, it’s the basic truth of salvation. We repent for our wrongdoing, and thanks to Jesus, God gives us a whole lot of forgiveness that we don’t deserve.

Are you pro-Magic Treehouse and find Jack or Annie relatable? Let me know in the comments!

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The Relationship of Jonathan and Saul

We’ve looked at how King Saul’s life was affected by depression in 1 Samuel. However, Saul’s struggle with mental illness affected more people than just himself. His warrior son, Jonathan, was not immune to the consequences of Saul’s depression. Today, we’re looking at the relationship of Jonathan and Saul.

The Passage

But Jonathan had not heard that his father had bound the people with the oath, so he reached out the end of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it into the honeycomb. He raised his hand to his mouth, and his eyes brightened. Then one of the soldiers told him, “Your father bound the army under a strict oath, saying, ‘Cursed be anyone who eats food today!’ That is why the men are faint.”

Jonathan said, “My father has made trouble for the country. See how my eyes brightened when I tasted a little of this honey. How much better it would have been if the men had eaten today some of the plunder they took from their enemies. Would not the slaughter of the Philistines have been even greater?”

1 Samuel 14:27-30 NIV

Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan had taken a great liking to David and warned him, “My father Saul is looking for a chance to kill you. Be on your guard tomorrow morning; go into hiding and stay there. I will go out and stand with my father in the field where you are. I’ll speak to him about you and will tell you what I find out.”

Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, “Let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you, and what he has done has benefited you greatly. He took his life in his hands when he killed the Philistine. The LORD won a great victory for all Israel, and you saw it and were glad. Why then would you do wrong to an innocent man like David by killing him for no reason?”

Saul listened to Jonathan and took this oath: “As surely as the LORD lives, David will not be put to death.”

1 Samuel 19:1-6 NIV

The Relationship of Jonathan and Saul

Jonathan shows the unfortunately difficult parts of living with someone struggling with mental illness. While fighting depression surely took its toll on Saul, it also affected Jonathan’s actions. As shown in 1 Samuel 14 and 19, Jonathan spent most of his time undoing his father’s poor choices. When Saul forbade the men from eating food, Jonathan had to accept the consequences of breaking the oath. (Thankfully, the men saved him from dying.) When Saul decided yet again to kill David, Jonathan tried to make peace between them. He hid David and attempted to reason with his father multiple times. Unfortunately, he wasn’t always successful.

While Jonathan may not have inherited his father’s mental struggles like his siblings did, countering Saul’s unreasonableness came with its own stress. Jonathan never knew when a spear would fly across the room. He could not let his battle instincts relax in his own home. On top of all of that, Jonathan never got to see his best friend David again when David went on the run from Saul.

I hope the story of Jonathan reminds us that mental illness touches more than just the mind of the person battling it. When we seek to support those fighting mental illness, let’s also remember and support the family members and close friends who often bear the brunt of outbursts. Moreover, I think the relationship of Jonathan and Saul shows us how important it is to treat mental illness as soon as possible. Had Saul learned to cope with his depression early on, he might have had a closer relationship with his son.

Jonathan was not the only family member affected by Saul’s mental illness. Stay tuned next week as we look at the stories of two more of Saul’s children.

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Faith in Children's Literature: Method 3

Welcome to the third method in our series on faith in children’s literature! We’ve discussed using allegory and including Biblical values as methods for sharing faith. Today, we’re diving into the genre of Christian children’s books.

Method 3: Niche Down to Christian Children’s Books

There are publishers for overtly Christian children’s books. Unfortunately, some school libraries may not be able to carry these books because of their overtly evangelistic message. If you choose this route, know that your book won’t have the same reach as books using the first two methods. Of course, some of my favorite overtly Christian books as a child came from the now-defunct Mission City Press. I loved the Elsie Dinsmore series! It blended historical settings with problems and feelings I related to. However, as an adult, I read a rather harsh review of the series. I suddenly realized that the reviewer made an excellent point.

The problem with the Elsie Dinsmore series stems from the main character created back in 1867 by Martha Finley. While Elsie is sweet and lovable like a little puppy needing protection, her silent “Christian” rebellion allows her to be run over by her domineering family members. Yes, Jesus honors meekness, and Peter recommends a submissive attitude in a wife, but the examples of meek submission in the Bible are not weak. Jesus turns the other cheek, but also flips tables at injustice. Peter gets arrested, but his and John’s singing breaks open the jail. Their meek submission represents controlled strength, not beaten-down surrender.

Therefore, if we decide to niche down to an overtly Christian book for impressionable young readers, let’s be cautious. When we oversimplify issues of faith or create nearly perfect main characters, we set a standard that the child reader aspires to but can never attain in this broken world. I suggest we embrace our imperfections and teach our children that God gives grace when we stumble. We will still feel and hurt when we let God lead our lives, but He also gives us hope and purpose.

Would you rather publish your children’s book with a Christian publisher or a “secular” publisher? Let me know in the comments!

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Depression & Family Problems: Return to King Saul

Saul struggled enough with the issues occurring inside of his brain. He froze in fear, lashed out in anger, and generally lived his life from a defensive position. However, depression and family problems go hand in hand. Saul’s cousin and army commander, Abner, certainly didn’t help Saul in his struggle with mental health.

The Passage

Saul’s sons were Jonathan, Ishvi and Malki-Shua. The name of his older daughter was Merab, and that of the younger was Michal. His wife’s name was Ahinoam daughter of Ahimaaz. The name of the commander of Saul’s army was Abner son of Ner, and Ner was Saul’s uncle. Saul’s father Kish and Abner’s father Ner were sons of Abiel.

1 Samuel 14:49-51 NIV

So David took the spear and water jug near Saul’s head, and [he and Abishai] left. No one saw or knew about it, nor did anyone wake up. They were all sleeping, because the LORD had put them into a deep sleep.

Then David crossed over to the other side and stood on top of the hill some distance away; there was a wide space between them. He called out to the army and to Abner son of Ner, “Aren’t you going to answer me, Abner?”

Abner replied, “Who are you who calls to the king?”

David said, “You’re a man, aren’t you? And who is like you in Israel? Why didn’t you guard your lord the king? Someone came to destroy your lord the king. What you have done is not good. As surely as the LORD lives, you and your men must die, because you did not guard your master, the LORD’s anointed. Look around you. Where are the king’s spear and water jug that were near his head?”

1 Samuel 26:12-16 NIV

During the war between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner had been strengthening his own position in the house of Saul.

2 Samuel 3:6 NIV

Depression & Family Problems

Because Abner is both Saul’s cousin and his army commander, he would see the effects of Saul’s mental illness firsthand. Theoretically, Abner worked the fields with Saul long before Samuel anointed Saul. Abner would have known his cousin’s insecurities and tendency to avoid situations out of fear.

I wonder if Abner knew these characteristics and changes in Saul and intended to use them to his advantage. Considering his play for power in 2 Samuel, I imagine Abner probably felt jealous that his cousin got to be king. Abner probably looked down on his cousin for his struggles. Perhaps he even manipulated Saul’s mental health to his advantage.

I didn’t find much detail on Abner’s intent in the Bible. Even in Abner’s dealings with Ish-Bosheth in 2 Samuel, his manipulation is implied more than stated. Regardless, Abner left Saul in a precarious situation when David and Abishai snuck into camp. If he didn’t protect his cousin physically, I doubt he supported Saul mentally and emotionally.

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Depression and Anger: Return to King Saul

We’ve discussed how King Saul’s insecurity and poor choices affected his mental health. His naturally negative perspective compounds the stress of establishing the first man-led kingship of Israel. With the removal of God’s favor from his reign in 1 Samuel 15, we see Saul deteriorate in bouts of depression and anger.

The Passage

When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with timbrels and lyres. As they danced, they sang, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.”

Saul was very angry; this refrain displeased him greatly. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” And from that time on Saul kept a close eye on David.

The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully on Saul. He was prophesying in his house, while David was playing his lyre, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand and he hurled it, saying to himself, “I’ll pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice.

Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with David but had departed from Saul.

1 Samuel 18:6-12 NIV

Depression and Anger

In some people, depression actually presents itself through mood swings and outbursts of anger or irritability. Saul clearly experienced his depression in this way, since his mood swings left everyone in the room running for cover from flying spears. This section from 1 Samuel 18 showed just one example of Saul’s uncontrollable temper, which gets more and more out of control as the book continues. He even throws a spear at his own son in 1 Samuel 20 and slaughters the Lord’s priests in 1 Samuel 22.

While anger is an outward symptom of Saul’s depression, 1 Samuel repeats the fact that “Saul was afraid of David.” In Saul’s mind, he didn’t see that he was driving his family apart and putting the people of Israel at risk. With his brain not operating properly and dieting on fear, all Saul could see were enemies, even in the corners of his palace. He lashed out and accused good people who strove after God’s will because he only saw threats to his kingly reign.

As this article from Psych Central describes, addressing thought patterns could have greatly helped Saul’s deteriorating mental state. Of course, he had the added disadvantage of being rejected by the Lord and standing in the way of His next anointed. However, if Saul had received help for his uncontrollable brain back when the symptoms were fear and insecurity, perhaps Saul could have been a great king of Israel. At the least, his life might have been less tormented.

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Faith in Children's Literature: Method 2

Last Friday, we started talking about faith in children’s literature. We looked at allegory where the plot or characters of the story parallel a story in the Bible. This week, we’re delving into a related-but-different method: writing Biblical values into children’s literature.

Method 2: Biblical Values in Children’s Literature

And no, I’m not talking about the media’s definition of Christian values. True Christian values supersede political affiliations. As such, the Bible teaches us how to relate to each other and the world. We can reflect those concepts in the books we write for children without quoting Scripture to reach a wider audience. For example, we can teach the Good Samaritan’s compassion for his neighbor by telling a story of friendship between two children with very different backgrounds. This spreads God’s love and compassion without causing a fight between religious affiliations. And honestly, I think our world could use a little more compassion and peace.

While including Biblical values in “secular” stories sounds like allegory, there is one key difference. Allegory loosely follows the plot of the original story and parallels the new characters with Bible characters. In contrast, writing stories with Biblical values relates to theme. The characters and plot may be very different from any story in the Bible. However, the lesson the new characters learn can be found in the Bible.

Reading books while looking for the Biblical truth hidden in them is an eye-opening, awesome experience. It does, however, take effort, which means that non-believers won’t instantly convert to Christianity when they read your book. So, be aware you are writing for a different audience than your church’s kids’ ministry. This method is more about planting seeds than outright evangelism.

What do you think of basing books on Biblical values instead of addressing faith outright? Let me know in the comments! Stayed tuned next week as we wrap up this series with our last method!

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Poor Choices: Return to King Saul

On Monday, we started digging deeper into King Saul’s beginnings. We found that by not acknowledging his God-given role and authority, Saul set the stage for his own decline. Today, we’re looking at some of the poor choices Saul makes that further separates him from his true identity.

The Passage

Saul, however, was still at Gilgal, and all his troops were gripped with fear. He waited seven days for the appointed time that Samuel had set, but Samuel didn’t come to Gilgal, and the troops were deserting him. So Saul said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” Then he offered the burnt offering.

1 Samuel 13:7b-9 CSB

Samuel said to Saul, “You have been foolish. You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you. It was at this time that the LORD would have permanently established your reign over Israel, but now your reign will not endure. The LORD has found a man after his own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over his people, because you have not done what the LORD commanded.”

1 Samuel 13:13-14 CSB

Saul answered Samuel, “I have sinned. I have transgressed the LORD’s command and your words. Because I was afraid of the people, I obeyed them. Now therefore, please forgive my sin and return with me so I can worship the LORD.”

Samuel replied to Saul, “I will not return with you. Because you rejected the word of the LORD, the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.” When Samuel turned to go, Saul grabbed the corner of his robe, and it tore. Samuel said to him, “The LORD has torn the kingship of Israel away from you today and has given it to your neighbor who is better than you. Furthermore, the Eternal One of Israel does not lie or change his mind, for he is not man who changes his mind.”

1 Samuel 15:24-29 CSB

Poor Choices

Starting in 1 Samuel 13, Saul steps up to lead the twelve tribes of Israel. He quits avoiding his role. Rather dramatically, he unites the tribes by slicing up his ox and sending it to everyone as a warning if they don’t join him in battle. He pronounces a curse on anyone who eats before the Philistines are defeated, which winds up landing on his son’s head. When the time came to fight the Amalekites, Saul ignores the task to kill everything and avenge the injustice done when the Israelites left Egypt. Instead, he keeps the best of the possessions and imprisons the king.

Basically, Saul does a 180. His actions show his fear and insecurity. He still does not trust God or his God-given abilities to lead the people of Israel. This time, instead of hiding from the responsibility, Saul relies on intimidation to bring the people together. It’s the same negative perception of the world that plagued him when Samuel anointed him. Now, his fearful perception is strengthening, and Saul’s poor choices exacerbate the problem. His fears come true. God rejects him. His control of the tribes weakens.

In his last encounter with Samuel, Saul shows remorse. He reaches for Samuel’s robe, and it tears. I imagine Saul relives this day over and over in his mind. His poor choices pile up, and Saul does not know how to cope.

Do you agree that Saul’s poor choices influenced his mental decline? Let’s talk about it in the comments! Stayed tuned next Monday when we see Saul’s mental state affected by irrational anger.

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Keeping Quiet: Return to King Saul

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.

The Passage

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.

Keeping Quiet

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.

How do you feel about keeping quiet? Let’s talk about it in the comments! Stayed tuned Wednesday when we see how Saul’s poor choices have drastic consequences.