TODAY’S READING: 1 Samuel 9–12
There are two different lenses with which to view the monarchial period in Israel. One is “prophetic” (the lens that Samuel and Kings use) and the other is “priestly” (the lens of Chronicles). The books of Samuel and Kings are mostly concerned with prophets and prophecy, which is why when we are introduced to Saul, one of the first things we see him do is speak under the power of the Spirit (1 Sam. 10:11–14). The reason Saul even appeared on the stage is directly connected to the metanarrative of missions that knits the Bible together. Jehovah told Samuel “in his ear” (9:15): “You shall anoint [Saul] commander over My people Israel, that he may save My people from the hand of the Philistines; for I have looked upon My people, because their cry has come to Me” (v. 16). This is the tripartite formula once again: I will be your God and you will be My holy people, I will come and dwell (save) among you, and My presence among you will have effect on all the people of earth. When God saves His people from the nations (in this case the Philistines), it is as always both a demonstration of and an invitation to the one true God.
From the beginning of the monarchy it is clear that God destined this turn of events for His glory among all peoples. God picked from the smallest tribe to fill the most insecure man (v. 21) with His Spirit (10:6), so that the ongoing plan could unfold, only to the credit of Jehovah. Samuel proclaimed Saul king in the context of God’s work among Israel in Egypt (vv. 17–18). The Ammonites threatened (11:1) so Saul acted like a judge and united the people to defend God’s honor in God’s strength (vv. 6–8, 13), and at the coronation Samuel again referred to Egypt (12:6), Hazor and the Philistines and Moab (v. 9), and the Ammonites (v. 12). There was no event in Israel, including the coronation of their first king, outside of God’s glory and all peoples. Samuel climaxed the installation of Israel’s king by reminding them they were Jehovah’s people and they will be blessed or cursed, just like their fathers (v.15), based on their obedience to God’s commands. If they obey “the Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you His people” (v. 22).
Kings and kingdom people are for one purpose: that God’s great name would be exalted in all the earth among all peoples. God was pleased to make Abraham His friend for this very reason. God was pleased to make Abraham’s sons and daughters His people for this very reason. God is pleased to make you and me His treasured and moveable priests for this very reason—His great name among all peoples. In making Jacob into Israel (prince of God) and Saul a king, Jehovah determined to get all the glory by choosing the smallest and weakest to manifest His glory among all nations. God did not choose the superpowers of the day—He chose the weaklings. God’s choice of Saul is a microcosm of the grand design—the smallest tribe, the most insecure leader. For it is not about the fame of Saul’s name or to magnify Benjamin as a tribe, it is all about the great name of Jehovah among all peoples.
The choosing of Saul and Israel (i.e., weaklings) to manifest the glory of God globally does, of course, give hope to all of us who know we are small. It is not the mighty in their own eyes that God uses, but the meek. Perhaps the reason we are not used greatly is because we think too highly of ourselves. Perhaps the reason we don’t see miracles, signs, and wonders in America is because God knows we will want a share in the glory. Perhaps God is not using us right now in dramatic ways among unreached peoples because we are spending too much time and energy making our name (ministry, agency, or church) great—not His. Perhaps God is not using us for His name’s sake because we are chasing empty things that cannot profit or deliver (v. 21) by allowing the nations to influence us, rather than by living so dramatically differently from them. Perhaps God knows our hiding behind the baggage right now is just a sham, and the lurking pride within us is just waiting for the time when our name will be up in bright lights internationally. Not fooled, God demurs. What a shame that our ambition veils the glory of God. What a shame that the name of Jehovah is not yet known and talked about by the Turks in Belgium because we are still too busy talking about our own.
 The Chronological Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008. 302.