Saul was the first king of Israel... but he was certainly not the best. Check out the comparison of the first king and THE king of the Jews.
As we begin our celebration of the Christmas season, we are focusing on the specific theme of “Kings”. This morning we get to pick a topic that caught Mike’s attention as we have been studying kings and the narrative of the Bible. Next week we plan to cover a topic that caught David’s attention.
Though the nation Israel did a wicked thing in asking for a king, the PROBLEM or SIN in their request was that they wanted someone to act as a god for them. They were making the king into their next idol.
TANGENT: Christians still do this today – they elevate pastors or leaders above God. Over the years I have seen it play out in scenarios where people will only participate in the music if a certain person is leading it, or only attend church if a certain pastor is preaching. Basically, we place a particular person that we like ahead of God. Sad, really.
As we saw last week, the kingship of Israel was not only expected, God promised it! However, the kingship that God promised was NOT what the people wanted. The king that God had in mind is a different king, a new king, that would follow God completely.
God said to Samuel that the people rejected God as their king. God’s desire was for the people to have HIM as their king – because God’s original garden ideal was God among his creation, leading them. This, too, is a foreshadowing of the coming kingdom (something we hope to talk about in the future)
As we trace the message of God through the Old Testament, the plan of God starts to come in to better focus.
Last week we looked at the blessing of Jacob on his sons during his last days. He said to Judah:
Genesis 49:10 || 10 The scepter will not depart from Judah or the staff from between his feet until he whose right it is comes and the obedience of the peoples belongs to him. [CSB]
This blessing is referenced in our first Christmas passage of the season:
Matthew 2:1–12 || 1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, wise men from the east arrived in Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star at its rising and have come to worship him.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was deeply disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 So he assembled all the chief priests and scribes of the people and asked them where the Christ would be born. 5 “In Bethlehem of Judea,” they told him, “because this is what was written by the prophet: 6 And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah: Because out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.” 7 Then Herod secretly summoned the wise men and asked them the exact time the star appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you find him, report back to me so that I too can go and worship him.” 9 After hearing the king, they went on their way. And there it was—the star they had seen at its rising. It led them until it came and stopped above the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 Entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and falling to their knees, they worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their own country by another route. [CSB]
It is in verse 6 that we have our reference back to Genesis 49 and to one of the minor prophets, Micah.
Matthew 2:6 || And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah: Because out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.” [CSB]
Micah 5:2 || Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are small among the clans of Judah; one will come from you to be ruler over Israel for me. His origin is from antiquity, from ancient times. [CSB]
God’s original plan was to be their king, and that plan was fulfilled in Jesus—who is God among man. But God allowed them to have the king they asked for.
Before we go any further, did you notice the references to the kings in out Matthew passage?
“King” Herod is an interesting character, here being intentionally juxtaposed against king Jesus. Herod the Great was NOT a Jewish king in the line of David, he was a Roman appointed ruler over the Jews. He was a powerful and paranoid leader that was not born into the position but placed there by Rome.
The “wise men” (magi, not kings) approach the acting king and ask where the bloodline king was to be found so they could worship him! Later, they blatantly disobey what Herod asked them to do, showing they clearly had no loyalty to Herod. They were there to find the blood-king, and when they found him, they worshipped him even though he was still a small child.
NOTE: “Christ” is the word “christos” which we transliterate. It basically is the NT word that represents the OT “Messiah.” So, these wise men from the east knew about the story of God and the promise of the Messiah, and THEY were seeking to find him to worship him. Herod was seeking him to put him to death.
So, in our passage in Matthew we have the introduction to the King of the Jews (Jesus). This morning, we want to look at some comparisons between the king the people wanted (Saul) , and King Jesus.
Let’s have some fun comparing Saul (the first king of Israel) to Jesus (THE king of the Jews)
Saul was from the line of Benjamin (1 Samuel 9:1-2) ; Jesus was from the line of Judah (Matthew 1)
Just an interesting thought here… even though God picked Saul, it is obvious that God did not intend on the family of Saul to be the perpetual kings of Israel. When Saul disregards God’s law and offers up a sacrifice, Samuel stated:
1 Samuel 13:13–14 || 13 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, 14 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.” [CSB]
I think this is another case of the sovereignty and foreknowledge of God. He did not make Saul fail, but knew that he would. Can’t prove it…
Saul was the first king and he was handsome and physically attractive.
1 Samuel 9:1–2 || 1 There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth. 2 And he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people. [ESV]
Jesus was born to a humble home and had no physical attributes to draw us to him.
This passage in Isaiah is referring to the Messiah, which we read in Matthew is the same as the Christ. This is how Isaiah said the King of the Jews, the Messiah, would look:
Isaiah 53:1–6 || 1 Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 He grew up before him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground. He didn’t have an impressive form or majesty that we should look at him, no appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from; he was despised, and we didn’t value him. 4 Yet he himself bore our sicknesses, and he carried our pains; but we in turn regarded him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on him, and we are healed by his wounds. 6 We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished him for the iniquity of us all. [CSB]
Apparently, Saul also came from a very well to do family.
1 Samuel 9:1 || There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth. [ESV]
Jesus was born to a humble home that would be considered NOT wealthy. How do we know this? When Mary & Joseph go to the temple to present Jesus, their first born, to God (as the rite of the Passover demanded) they then had to purchase him back.
Luke 2:22–24 || 22 And when the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were finished, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (just as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every firstborn male will be dedicated to the Lord) 24 and to offer a sacrifice (according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons). [CSB]
The offering that they made is that of a person that could not afford much.
Leviticus 14:21–22 || 21 “But if he is poor and cannot afford these, he is to take one male lamb for a guilt offering to be presented in order to make atonement for him, along with two quarts of fine flour mixed with olive oil for a grain offering, one-third of a quart of olive oil, 22 and two turtledoves or two young pigeons, whatever he can afford, one to be a sin offering and the other a burnt offering. [CSB]
Saul was anointed by a priest just before he became king. This was done before he battled and destroyed the enemy of the Jews.
1 Samuel 10:1 || Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head and kissed him and said, “Has not the Lord anointed you to be prince over his people Israel? And you shall reign over the people of the Lord and you will save them from the hand of their surrounding enemies. And this shall be the sign to you that the Lord has anointed you to be prince over his heritage. [ESV]
Jesus was also anointed soon before he battled against death and was victorious, and was seated in the heavenly places as king. He was NOT anointed by the spiritual leaders, the priests of his day. In fact, he was anointed by a prostitute, and was criticized for it.
Luke 7:36–48 || 36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” 41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” [ESV]
Saul was temporarily filled with the Spirit of God. When God’s spirit was with Saul, it was God’s way of anointing and empowering Saul.
1 Samuel 11:6 || 6 And the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul when he heard these words, and his anger was greatly kindled. [ESV]
However, when Saul’s kingship was revoked, God’s spirit also departed from him.
1 Samuel 16:14 || 14 Now the Spirit of the Lord had left Saul, and an evil spirit sent from the Lord began to torment him, [CSB]
Jesus was filled with the Spirit of God and that never changed. When he was baptized, God provided a visual demonstration of his anointing. But not only was Jesus full of the Spirit, he then had the authority to gift that indwelling to all those who followed him, and when he ascended, he promised to send his Spirit to all who trust in him.
Mark 1:9–11 || 9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” [ESV]
So, as you can see, there are some significant differences between the first king and the king of kings. As we think about the comparisons, we each find different lessons to learn.
Where my brain goes is back to the idea of how God’s perfect judgment, and his perspective can differ so much from ours as humans.
It would “seem” by human logic as though Saul was the perfect candidate for king. He had a privileged upbringing, he was tall and handsome, he was anointed by the leader that the people looked up to (Samuel), he was given the Spirit of God and was victorious in battle…
But clearly, he failed, and God had an entirely different kind of candidate in mind for the next king, David, who was from Judah and would be key to the messianic line. We’ll talk more about David next week, but he was the runt in a family of shepherds. He was the last person most people would pick. And that just shows how much people’s expectations can differ from God’s plans.
One of the things God teaches Samuel through the process of choosing David is that while humans look at someone’s outward appearance to judge them...or these days it would be social media profiles...but God looks at your heart. So, remember that the condition of YOUR heart is more important than how you look or how many followers you have, and also remember not to judge other people, the people around you, by those things either, because we are all made in the image God.
If mankind was created for relationship and representation, then it makes sense that any king God would approve MUST represent him and must be faithful to his relationship with God and others. In other words, the king must represent the character and mission of God.
Saul did NOT obey God, and eventually sought to kill David. Obviously, he was not living up to the two great commandments – as no earthly king could ever do completely. While no earthly leader can ever be perfect, it is important that they follow God and live up to their high calling of representation and relationship.
God’s desire was for us to have a better king; the King of all kings. Jesus is the perfect king because he IS God, and he came to live among the people. As king he brought God into the midst of creation to show people what God really had in mind with his kingdom. The only one who could truly model for us what it means to be a faithful follower of Yahweh, and the only one that could lead us to ultimate victory of our enemies … but THAT is a topic for next week ?