September 28, 2008
This post continues our Fortnight of Donkey Tales with a look at Saul in 1 Samuel 9.
I've never really understood Saul--not the Old Testament king Saul but the idea of that Old Testament king. Here's a person who by almost all accounts seems misplaced--he doesn't want to be king, he doesn't make good decisions as king, he actively subverts the movement of God to prepare his replacement as king. His anointer Samuel, his son Benjamin, whole crowds of his people and in some cases even God and even Saul himself seem to think that his being king is a bad idea. And yet, in 1 Samuel 9, God tells Samuel to be ready to make someone king, and when Samuel sees Saul, God tells him, "This is the man I spoke to you about."
When Samuel found Saul, Saul was looking for his father's lost donkeys, and in fact Saul had been traipsing across the countryside trying to find these donkeys for several days. Saul's inability to find a few donkeys doesn't speak well of his capacity to lead twelve tribes as one great people. In fact, Saul's qualifications to be king seem to be limited to his looks: "an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites--a head taller than any of the others."
Speaking as a relatively short person (a friend refers to people like us as "fun-sized"), let me just say that there's much more to a person than height. Saul's impressive build notwithstanding, he shows a clear lack of leadership throughout the passage that reveals him as Israel's first king: a meandering search for a bunch of donkeys; a failure to lead even a servant who was obligated to follow him; a failure to prepare adequately for his journey or provide for a necessary audience with a seer; a denial of the strong words of commendation from the seer he sought an audience with. I could go on, but I'm not mean; I'm just short.
The important thing to notice is that Saul failed at two tasks: he didn't find the donkeys or the seer. The donkeys made their way home without his help; and the seer found him while he was still wandering aimlessly. And yet God made Saul king anyway, because God's plans for us proceed independent of our impressiveness or lack thereof. In the activity of God we are never misplaced, for even when we are lost, God finds us and commissions us and sends us forward.