Now, I want us to turn in our Bibles to 1 Samuel, the book of 1 Samuel and chapter 9. First Samuel and chapter 9, and do make yourself comfortable - without falling asleep! If you're too warm make sure that you've cooled down a little so that you can concentrate on what the Lord has to say to you.
This was a message that - as I said a few weeks ago, we're taking a short break from the Sermon on the Mount as we're going through it, for there are some things that will be taking place in the month of September such as the week of prayer and so on, that I want to concentrate on. But we're not doing that quite yet - this is a message that the Lord gave me personally on holiday and I really did feel to bring it to you today; that He would have me have me do such, and I hope that it's a blessing to your heart.
First Samuel and chapter 9, and verse 27 is the verse that we want to concentrate on, but I want us to read the whole chapter together. Verse 1 - and it is the choosing of the king for Israel - the choosing of Saul. "Now there was a man of Benjamin, whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bechorath, the son of Aphiah, a Benjamite, a mighty man of power. And he had a son, whose name was Saul, a choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people. And the asses of Kish Saul's father were lost. And Kish said to Saul his son, Take now one of the servants with thee, and arise, go seek the asses. And he passed through mount Ephraim, and passed through the land of Shalisha, but they found them not: then they passed through the land of Shalim, and there they were not: and he passed through the land of the Benjamites, but they found them not. And when they were come to the land of Zuph, Saul said to his servant that was with him, Come, and let us return; lest my father leave caring for the asses, and take thought for us. And he said unto him, Behold now, there is in this city a man of God, and he is an honourable man; all that he saith cometh surely to pass: now let us go thither; peradventure he can show us our way that we should go. Then said Saul to his servant, But, behold, if we go, what shall we bring the man? For the bread is spent in our vessels, and there is not a present to bring to the man of God: what have we? And the servant answered Saul again, and said, Behold, I have here at hand the fourth part of a shekel of silver: that will I give to the man of God, to tell us our way. (Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, thus he spake, Come, and let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer.) Then said Saul to his servant, Well said; come, let us go. So they went unto the city where the man of God was. And as they went up the hill to the city, they found young maidens going out to draw water, and said unto them, Is the seer here? And they answered them, and said, He is; behold, he is before you: make haste now, for he came to day to the city; for there is a sacrifice of the people to day in the high place: As soon as ye be come into the city, ye shall straightway find him, before he go up to the high place to eat: for the people will not eat until he come, because he doth bless the sacrifice; and afterwards they eat that be bidden. Now therefore get you up; for about this time ye shall find him. And they went up into the city: and when they were come into the city, behold, Samuel came out against them, for to go up to the high place. Now the Lord had told Samuel in his ear a day before Saul came, saying, To morrow about this time I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be captain over my people Israel, that he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines: for I have looked upon my people, because their cry is come unto me. And when Samuel saw Saul, the Lord said unto him, Behold the man whom I spake to thee of! This same shall reign over my people. Then Saul drew near to Samuel in the gate, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, where the seer's house is. And Samuel answered Saul, and said, I am the seer: go up before me unto the high place; for ye shall eat with me to day, and to morrow I will let thee go, and will tell thee all that is in thine heart. And as for thine asses that were lost three days ago, set not thy mind on them; for they are found. And on whom is all the desire of Israel? Is it not on thee, and on all thy father's house? And Saul answered and said, Am not I a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? And my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? Wherefore then speakest thou so to me? And Samuel took Saul and his servant, and brought them into the parlour, and made them sit in the chiefest place among them that were bidden, which were about thirty persons. And Samuel said unto the cook, Bring the portion which I gave thee, of which I said unto thee, Set it by thee. And the cook took up the shoulder, and that which was upon it, and set it before Saul. And Samuel said, Behold that which is left! set it before thee, and eat: for unto this time hath it been kept for thee since I said, I have invited the people. So Saul did eat with Samuel that day". Now please notice these next three verses especially: "And when they were come down from the high place into the city, Samuel communed with Saul upon the top of the house. And they arose early: and it came to pass about the spring of the day, that Samuel called Saul to the top of the house, saying, Up, that I may send thee away. And Saul arose, and they went out both of them, he and Samuel, abroad. And as they were going down to the end of the city, Samuel said to Saul, Bid the servant pass on before us, (and he passed on,) but stand thou still a while, that I may show thee the word of God".
Let's bow in a moment's prayer together: Our Father, we come before Thee in humility and in fear, and we would stand still a while that we might hear the word of God. We pray that the Holy Spirit who takes the word, which He has inspired, and applies it to our hearts, may be among us and may be working in our spirits. I pray that He may be working through me today and that He may be working in the hearts of those that will listen to Thy word in order to receive it with meekness and with fruitfulness. We pray that you will help all those upon whose ears fall the word of God. For Christ's sake and His glory we pray. Amen.
A brief summary of the biography of King Saul begins where the children of Israel ask for a king to rule over them. You find in the chapter before this, in chapter 8 and verse 5, that Israel cries to the great prophet Samuel: 'Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. We want a king!'. If you go into the theology of the word of God you find that, at that point, I believe, the children of Israel moved from grace to government. At that moment they wanted to be like other nations. They were not like other nations. They were to be set as a light among the world to show forth and shine forth the glory of God, but as they saw the rest of the world they wanted to be like them. 'Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations'.
So God hearkened to their cry and, in His perfect providential will, He was able to bring all these things together for Israel and our good. What a blessed God He is in His sovereignty. We see from chapter 9 that we have read and verse 2, that this young man was a choice young man, a goodly young man. There was not one like him among all the children of Israel - not only inwardly, but outwardly. It says he was taller, he was head and shoulders upward above any of the rest of the people. We read in this passage that Saul's father, Kish, was also a mighty man of power. Saul's father had lost his donkeys, and so he sent his son Saul and his servant out to look for them. They were looking day and night, and they went through these towns that are named in chapter 9 of the book, and 'they found them not, they found them not, they found them not'. They came to their senses and decided: 'It's time for us to go home, because our father will stop worrying about the asses and he'll worry about us because we've been away that long'. But his servant turned to say to Saul: 'Look, where we are at this moment, I have heard that there is a man of God here and whatever he says comes to pass. How about we search him out and see if he can find these asses that we have lost?'.
So we read that they did just that. They had a discussion about what to give him, and when they found that they had a little handful of silver they went up to the town and they found around the well some maidens. They asked them: 'Where is the man of God?'. They said: 'Well, if you go up to that high place there, where the sacrifice takes place and the worship of God, you'll find that that man Samuel the seer goes up there every day. The people go up there to eat and they will not eat until the sacrifice is blessed by the man of God, Samuel'. So, without knowing it, they meet Samuel - and the mighty thing to me is this: Samuel knew that they were coming. If you look at verse 15 you will see that. It says: 'Now the Lord had told Samuel in his ear a day before Saul came, saying, To morrow about this time I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him'. Now I want you to remember that: Samuel knew that Saul was coming to him. Now, what did Samuel do? He did as occasion served him every other day of his life. Now, what would you or I have done? We would have opened the door and probably put a chair outside it and sat on it looking for Saul. Maybe we would have done a whole circuit, a walk around the town, watching for a stranger, to see if Saul was coming. We would take a day off work! We would cease from all our daily, usual, mundane occupations and we would look for this man Saul. But not Samuel - he went about his daily business as usual, he went up to the high place as usual to perform the sacrifice, and then to bless the food for the people to eat. And as he was in his own home, God brought Saul to Samuel!
That's the God that we believe in! 'I being in the way the Lord led me', 'The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord'. Marvellous, isn't it? This portion of scripture, if we didn't have it, we would probably make Saul one of the greatest reprobates that has ever lived. But, you know, as you look at this passage, you'll see in verse 21 that Saul was a young man of great humility and he said to Samuel: 'Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? And my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin?' - he was humble. He was a young man who was a great young man in stature and in soul, and because of that God was going to anoint him king over Israel; and in chapter 10 and verse 1 we find there that Samuel does just that. In verse 6 of chapter 10 we find that the Spirit of the Lord comes into him and he becomes another man. He is changed through the Spirit of God coming into his life. Then in verse 9 you see also that God gives him another heart. My, this is mighty! After God chooses him and anoints him, God makes him another man and changes him. God puts a new heart in him and we know from Ezekiel that the new heart is the spiritual experience whereby the Spirit comes into the life. Verse 24 of chapter 10 says that: 'there is none like him among all the people'.
Now, this is a great man that we're talking about. As we read through this book we find that he saved the children of Israel in Jabesh-Gilead from the Amorites, and this is a great victory, and it sets him on high in the eyes of the people. This is a warrior-king, a godly king, a man of God that has been sent by God to rule over us just like all the other nations. But as we read this story of Saul, all of a sudden something terrible happens! In chapter 14 and in verse 37, we find that he comes to God to enquire of God, to find guidance of God, and the Lord doesn't hear him. The Lord ceases to answer him and refuses to speak to him. Then we find as we read on in the story that Saul, one day, was so desirous to get his enemies and to hunt them down that he told his army not to eat one bit of bread or to drink one cup of wine or water, until they had avenged him of his enemies. The army was so fatigued, was so drained of strength that they couldn't fight. Jonathan of course, if you know the story, he didn't hear that decree of his father and he ate some honey. Eventually Saul came to his senses and he let the army eat, but by the time that he let them eat they were so fatigued and so hungry that they slew the sheep and the beef, and they ate it raw, breaking the law of God. They ate it raw, without the blood drained from it, and Saul caused the army and the people of Israel to sin through his wickedness. Again, because of that: 'God answered Saul not'. God refused to speak to him.
Another day in the life of King Saul: he is told to take King Agag and all the army and people of the Amalekites - women, children, beef, cattle, sheep, you name it, all their livestock - and kill them all and wipe them out. But what does Saul do? He spares King Agag, he spares the livestock, and he spares it spiritually. This is the amazing to me: that you can disobey the will of God spiritually. He says, 'I'm keeping this livestock for a sacrifice for God'. You remember Samuel, the great man of God, coming up and saying: 'What meaneth the bleating of the sheep in my ears? What means the lowing of the cattle? Why do I hear this?'. You remember what that man of God did: he took a sword and he slew King Agag. What where the words that Samuel pronounced to that King Saul? He said this - listen: 'For to obey is better than sacrifice'. We read sad words in chapter 16 and verse 14, that the Spirit of God departed from King Saul.
Later on then, David is anointed king. Saul becomes eaten up with jealousy toward God's anointed, David. We find then an awful thing takes place in the history of all Israel. The great seer prophet, Samuel, dies. Saul no longer has any guidance from a man, even though God had ceased to guide him and refused to speak to him. So what does Saul do? He goes to a witch in Endor, a clairvoyant, and he seeks from her hand the future. He consults a medium. In chapter 28 and verse 15, Samuel, from the dead, speaks to Saul and he said: 'God is departed from you and God has become your enemy'. The awful dynasty of Saul, and life of Saul, and biography of Saul is finished in awful dishonour, as he fights a battle and his army is decimated, and all his sons - including Jonathan - are killed. He's on the battlefield beside his armour bearer, and he asks the armour bearer to kill him in order that the enemy wouldn't have the joy of it - and the armour bearer won't do it because he's still God's anointed. So Saul takes the sword and he falls upon it, but he doesn't die right away. The enemy comes in and sacks the battlefield and they say: 'Isn't that King Saul? That's him, isn't it?' - and they take him, and they chop his head off. They take his body and they put his armour in the temple of their God, and they fasten his body to the wall of Beth-shan.
Let me make a quick passing comparison. Who is the other man in the book of 1 Samuel that loses his head? Goliath! What a story!
But what I want you to see from that great biography is this: that mistakes that Saul makes right throughout his life can be traced to him overlooking something that the prophet of God told him at the very beginning of his reign. If you go right back there was something that was vital that Saul failed to learn, an important lesson that would stand by him right throughout his life. He missed it! - and because of missing it he made all the mistakes that he did. What is it? It's our text: 1 Samuel chapter 9 and verse 27. Listen: 'As they were going down to the end of the city, Samuel said to Saul, Bid the servant pass on before us, (and he passed on,) but stand thou still a while, that I may show thee the word of God'.
I believe, in our lives, and you don't have to remember too much in hindsight, that many of the mistakes that we make, whether it is a spiritual decision or not, we can trace them back to something that we have overlooked, or something that we have failed to learn - a lesson that we heard in the past that we have not implemented. How many of us, as children, were told by our fathers: 'Son, you work hard at school, so that you won't have to work hard all your life like me'? But how many of us remember that as we're going through school? Many godly parents have advised us not to choose the path that they trod; yet we do it! We go down those paths and we fail. We go into many hard experiences because we failed to learn the lessons that others would teach us.
I don't know whether Saul forgot the lesson that Samuel taught him or not, but I know one thing: if he had have listened to it, it would have made a grave difference in his life, and it would have prevented a great deal of disaster entering into it. The very thing - please, see this - the very thing that Samuel told Saul to do (in fact, I would say the only thing that he told him to do) at his anointing, he failed to do. It was his missing link all the way through his future backsliding: 'Stand still a while that I may show thee the word of God'.
Now, let me give you one example of that. Turn with me to 1 Samuel 13. There's the war with the Philistines, and you know that the Philistines are the archenemies of Israel. Before they went into battle, the man of God, the seer, would come down and perform the sacrifice and then told the king or the commander what way to fight the battle, what way to go about it. Here they are in battle and they're seeing defeat; Saul can see that he's going to be defeated and he doesn't know what to do because Samuel, who was meant to be there to enquire of God and to offer the sacrifice, he's not there to do it. So Saul panics and he grabs a sacrifice, and he takes that live animal and he slays it and he offers the sacrifice to God in order that they can go straight into the battle and fight. What he did was, through an external outside pressure, he allowed it to cause him to make a hasty spiritual decision. An external pressure caused him to make a hasty spiritual decision, and it was a wrong decision.
Now, look at verses 11 and 12: 'And Samuel said, What hast thou done?' - What have you done! - 'And Saul said, Because I saw', underline that, 'that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash'. There are three things there: he saw. Because 'he saw' he made that decision. Secondly: 'because you didn't come within the days appointed' - second, impatience. 'He saw', and impatience, and thirdly: 'and the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash' - trouble. Isn't that the story of our lives at times and the choices that we make? First of all, we lean on our own understanding: 'I saw'. We're impatient: 'God isn't coming at the time appointed. You haven't done it when I needed You to do it. I expected it now and You haven't come' - therefore we act. The third thing is trouble. External troubles come among us and we feel pressurised into making a decision. Then what happens is what he says in verse 12: 'Therefore said I' - 'I decided to do something. Lord, if You weren't going to do something, I'm going to do something about it'.
That is the world in which we live and it's a real problem today for Christians, and indeed anybody that lives on this planet at the moment: external pressure making decisions for us. Our world is busy, it is pressurised. We're forced into many a decision by external factors. You think of some of the young people getting their results, especially in their A-Levels. Within hours of getting their A-Level results, they're expected to make a choice of which university to go to that will engage them for the next four, maybe three, maybe more years, depending what course they do. They're forced into making a decision. Obviously they should be praying about it beforehand but practically, in those couple of hours after getting their results, they've got to turn down places and accept places. You know what it's like perhaps, going for a job interview and maybe you get the job, and the employer wants you to get back to them as soon as possible as to whether you're going to take the job. The old saying is: 'If you don't take it there are plenty of young girls or young men that will take it for you'.
So that is only a microcosm of the choices that we must make, and often we're put under this external pressure, and perhaps pushed into decisions. Often the decisions that we make as Christians can be 'quick-fix' ones. They can be decisions that we pray over before we make them. We use all our intelligence, we even use biblical principles when we do make them, we pray after we make them, and we think it's the Lord's will. We have all sorts of scenarios and methods to make them, but the question is: what does God ask of us in our lives? What does God ask us to do in order to know the way? How do we guard against making wrong decisions or taking the wrong path in life? I think the biggest question for many Christians, especially our young people, is this: what does God want me to be? Isn't it? What does God want me to be? What does God want me to do? I want to say this: that many of the problems and problematic questions that many young people, and indeed all Christians, ask are made problematic because we're asking the wrong question. Let me give you an example: 'How far should I go in a relationship?', sexually speaking. That's what all the young peoples' books are writing about today. That's the wrong question. The question is: 'How much do you love the Lord Jesus Christ?' - that's the question. Not: 'How much are you allowed to sin before you commit a mortal sin?'. The question is not in life - and, oh, that we would grasp this - not: 'What does God want me to be?', or 'What does God want me to do?'. The question is this: 'Who does God want me to be?'. For much of the time for us our Christian life is encapsulated in this concept of doing. Doing! But that is not the way God thinks of our future - doing. God thinks of our future in being - what He wants you to be!
Now, if you are going to be who God wants you to be, you have got to hear the word of God. All through Saul's life he hadn't time to stand still a while to hear the word of God. Now, let me leave two things with you as we close today in the last five or ten minutes. The first thing that you need to do, in verse 27, is this: allow passing. Allow passing! What did he say? Chapter 9 and verse 27. Samuel said to Saul: 'Let your servant pass on before you', and then he passed on. All that that is, is letting life go by him. He was letting, for that split second, things to go by him in order that he could stand still and hear the word of God.
Now, when I was on holiday there for a couple of weeks, I took one book away with me that was quite a deep book, and any time I tried to read it as I'd been preparing for messages and so on, I couldn't get to grips with it. I could hardly read one page and understand it. But all of a sudden, when I went away on holiday to read this book, it was easy to read. I was getting through it like nobody's business and understanding it. Do you know why? Because I had set other things aside. My mind wasn't cluttered with everything else. That is what God was saying, that's what Samuel was saying to Saul: 'You've got to let things go by you - things of the world, things that you're occupied with - so that your mind and your soul are ready to concentrate on what the Lord is going to say to you'. Now, this is marvellous, because this man Samuel knew all about that. This is the thing! Didn't we say that he knew the day before? The Lord didn't give him a vision. It says the Lord spoke into his ear and told him, 'You see this time tomorrow - Saul's coming to you' - and that time tomorrow Saul came.
Now, you trace Samuel's life back. Why does he do that? Do you think people just live like this all of a sudden? No, they don't! They learnt a principle way back then, and he kept it! Do you remember the wee lad given to the temple by Hannah - given to the service of the Lord? There Eli is, lying sleep, and little Samuel's lying asleep. He hears a voice: 'Samuel, Samuel'. He runs in to Eli: 'What do you want?'...'I never said anything'. He runs back to his bed, lies down - 'Samuel, Samuel' - goes back again, goes the third time and then Eli realises what's going on. He says: 'Son, whenever you hear that voice again say, 'Yes Lord, speak, for Thy servant heareth!''. That's a basic lesson, isn't it? But, oh, that we would learn it! Do you know the only way to learn? It is, for a moment - for some of us it'll take more than just a moment - we've got to let other things pass on.
Mary and Martha - you know it, I don't need to tell you. One is in the kitchen - Martha - doing the dishes and preparing the food, and Mary is at the feet of Christ. The Lord Jesus speaks a prophetic word to us today of how we ought to live our lives: 'For Mary has chosen the better part'. Martha's cumbered about with many things, but Mary's got the secret. She stood still a while to hear the voice of God. In the Song of Solomon we read a tragic verse. The Shulamite says, as she looks up with her blackened, darkened face from the Mediterranean sun, to her handsome, young shepherd-king - she says: 'Look not upon me for I am black', she said, 'The sun hath looked upon me, and my mother's children were angry with me. They made me the keeper of the vineyard; but my own vineyard have I not kept'. Do you know what she was saying? 'I'm too busy looking after all these external things that I haven't a moment to look after myself'. That's the danger, my friend. We've got to let other things pass on.
Now quickly, the second thing we have to do - first, 'allow passing' - second: stop moving! Very simple, isn't it? 'Stand still, that I may shew thee the word of God'. Oh, if there's a word for 21st century believers, this is the word from God: 'Be thou still. Cease from your own activity'. There's a danger of impatience in our lives. That was what [Saul] did in the battle, he couldn't wait on Samuel: 'You hadn't come in your appointed time'. Maybe there's somebody here, seeking guidance from God, and it seems that God has shut the door. 'God's not even guiding us! He's not saying, 'No'! He's not saying anything!'. Would you have patience? Maybe God doesn't want you to make a decision. Maybe God wants you to meet Him! That's true faith!
Saul said, 'I saw that the people were scattered. I said to myself...' - but the Lord Jesus says, through the apostle Paul, 'We walk by faith, not by sight'. What does it matter what you see? Imagine Noah! 120 years - no converts. He's building a ship and he looks out the window in the morning, as he's having his devotions and he sees the big ship there. He sees the crowd of people splitting their sides as they're going to work. He thinks to himself: 'Things don't look good. There's never been rain, ever on this earth - never ever - and I'm preaching that there's going to be rain. I believe there's going to be rain, but I can't see it'. He walked by faith. If he didn't, his faith would have failed. Is that not true? That's what we've got to walk by! No matter what we see, we've got to realise that true faith is whenever we see evidence to the contrary, yet we still believe God who is all-seeing and all-knowing.
When we try and run ahead of God, or try to move before God tells us, or try to know what God wants us doing now, or what He will want us to do tomorrow - that's not faith! Faith is when, according to our clock and calendar, God is late, but deep down in our hearts we realise that the sovereign God can never be late. Oh, I wish I could tease this out more and more, but we haven't time. But the thing I want to say to you is this: do you know that God has something to say to you? That's all I want you to get! God has something to say to you, if you'd only let some things pass on and stand still for a while and listen! For Elijah, the voice of the Lord wasn't in the earthquake. It wasn't in the fire. It wasn't in any of those loud things. It was in the still small voice, and God had to get him still in order to hear it. My friend, listen! Personally, individually, God has something to say to you! You!
Unsaved one - if you would stop a minute and realise your sin, God wants to save you! Personally, domestically, father in the home - God wants you to direct your family, and direct your children, and direct the standards in your home. He wants to tell you how to do it but you haven't a moment! Let me say, in the assembly, elders - God has something to say to us and we'd better listen, and be in the place to listen. Deacons - God has something to say to you. Members, all of us - God wants to speak to us but we've got to be still. Would you do something for me? Would you go home and read Psalm 29? Psalm 29 - it's all about the voice of the Lord, how the voice of the Lord breaks the unbreakable, how the voice of the Lord moves the unmoveable, how the voice of the Lord does the impossible, how it shakes the unfruitful, and how it brings new life to the barren and uncovers hidden things. The only way you'll hear that great voice, the only way you'll know a change in your life, the only way you'll know leading out of your problems into the comfort and solace of God is if you wait on the Lord. 'For they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. Wait, I say, on the Lord'.
Let's bow our heads together. You know, there's only one selfishness in the Christian life and that is our time with the Lord. We've got to be selfish with it. We've got to cut others out and we've got to covet time with Him. As an assembly, are we seeking the Lord's guidance for the days ahead? As a home, father, are you seeking the way ahead or are you just going with the flow? With your life, what are you doing with it? You know, common sense - Christian books and tapes will tell you today: 'Imbibe the principles of the Bible and follow common sense' - that's rubbish! Common sense, for Saul, was to do the sacrifice himself because the one to do the sacrifice wasn't there - but it was not the will of God. Let's put our hand in the hand of the Master.
Our Father, we pray that we would be found in Thy perfect, acceptable will. We pray that we may have time to let other things pass on, and stand still that we may hear the word of God. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly, Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tape, titled "Mistakes That Saul Made" - Transcribed by Trevor Veale, Preach The Word.
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