Designated Ruler

1 Samuel 9:14-27
14So they went up to the city. As they were entering the city, they saw Samuel coming out toward them on his way up to the high place. 15Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed to Samuel: 16“Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over my people Israel. He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines. For I have seen my people, because their cry has come to me.” 17When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord told him, “Here is the man of whom I spoke to you! He it is who shall restrain my people.” 18Then Saul approached Samuel in the gate and said, “Tell me where is the house of the seer?” 19Samuel answered Saul, “I am the seer. Go up before me to the high place, for today you shall eat with me, and in the morning I will let you go and will tell you all that is on your mind. 20As for your donkeys that were lost three days ago, do not set your mind on them, for they have been found. And for whom is all that is desirable in Israel? Is it not for you and for all your father’s house?” 21Saul answered, “Am I not a Benjaminite, from the least of the tribes of Israel? And is not my clan the humblest of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then have you spoken to me in this way?” 22Then Samuel took Saul and his young man and brought them into the hall and gave them a place at the head of those who had been invited, who were about thirty persons. 23And Samuel said to the cook, “Bring the portion I gave you, of which I said to you, ‘Put it aside.’ ” 24So the cook took up the leg and what was on it and set them before Saul. And Samuel said, “See, what was kept is set before you. Eat, because it was kept for you until the hour appointed, that you might eat with the guests.” So Saul ate with Samuel that day. 25And when they came down from the high place into the city, a bed was spread for Saul on the roof, and he lay down to sleep.

God has revealed all to Samuel and as such, Samuel has made plans in advance of his meeting with Saul. What an interesting journey it must have been for Saul, as he leaves home to hunt for donkeys and instead has a divine appointment with God’s prophet, Samuel. Saul’s head must have been spinning. His reactions are interesting to observe. There seems to be a little bit of awe from him getting to be in the presence of “the man of God”, but he also is willing to be led by Samuel, following his directions with ease.

There are two words I want to lean into from this text. First, is the fact that God never uses the word king when describing the work of this newly appointed leader. The people ask for a king, but instead God gives them a prince. This word will also be used in reference to David. The Hebrew word translated as “prince” to describe this newly anointed person actually means leader. And indeed, Saul would lead the people. But, God Himself will remain the true King.

I also found it interesting that God defines this new leader’s role as, He it is who shall restrain my people.” Vs.17  Interesting word choice. If you read through the book of Judges, you will find that the nation of Israel was indeed in need of someone to restrain their passions.

This is a blessing provided by God: good government restrains the sinful impulses of the populace, and equitable governors serve God in a noble calling with divine authority. Luther notes that God
makes all creation help provide the comforts and necessities of life.… Moreover, he gives all physical and temporal blessings—good government, peace, security. LC II 14–15
Steinmann, A. E. (2016). 1 Samuel. (p. 187). Saint Louis, MO: CPH.

While the people were asking for a “king” so they could be like the other nations around them, God refines that request into what is needful for the people rather than just handing them what they want. I wonder how often God does that with my requests. I assume it is 100% of the time, for my sight is dark and mostly blind. I cannot see the future or make all of the connections God is able to make, bringing the past, the present and the future into the mix. I cannot see all of the circumstances that impact every decision or situation; God can. So when He decides to refine my requests, and restrain my evil impulses, I can only give Him praise and thanksgiving for that.