Samuel took a phial of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him; he said, ‘The Lord has anointed you ruler over his people Israel. You shall reign over the people of the Lord and you will save them from the hand of their enemies all around. Now this shall be the sign to you that the Lord has anointed you ruler over his heritage: When you depart from me today you will meet two men by Rachel’s tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah; they will say to you, “The donkeys that you went to seek are found, and now your father has stopped worrying about them and is worrying about you, saying: What shall I do about my son?” Then you shall go on from there further and come to the oak of Tabor; three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you there, one carrying three kids, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a skin of wine. They will greet you and give you two loaves of bread, which you shall accept from them. After that you shall come to Gibeath-elohim, at the place where the Philistine garrison is; there, as you come to the town, you will meet a band of prophets coming down from the shrine with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre playing in front of them; they will be in a prophetic frenzy. Then the spirit of the Lord will possess you, and you will be in a prophetic frenzy along with them and be turned into a different person. Now when these signs meet you, do whatever you see fit to do, for God is with you. And you shall go down to Gilgal ahead of me; then I will come down to you to present burnt-offerings and offer sacrifices of well-being. For seven days you shall wait, until I come to you and show you what you shall do.’
You have to feel for Saul – he’d only set out to find and recover some of his father’s donkeys, that had got lost, and here he is, being anointed king by Samuel, the last of the judges of that little nation. Their wish for an earthly king had been at the expense of their sense of the kingship of God, and here is Saul, being the first anointed wearer of those unenviable shoes.
And he’s got a lot mapped out for him. Samuel, rightly and justly revered, man of God, is mapping out his future. Saul is going to meet a couple of men by the tomb of Rachel, a noteworthy landmark in itself, who are going to reassure him that the donkeys have been found. The original object of his mission has been dealt with, but there’s more now. He’s going to meet other people as well, culminating with a group of prophets whom he’s going to join in prophesying and become something, someone, different. Later, he’s going to be joined by Samuel at Gilgal, where sacrifices are to be made, according to the ritual and practice of the Jewish Law.
Now I’m challenged by this, even though I know that the story of Saul doesn’t end well. I’m the sort of chap who likes his life pre-planned well ahead, in a risk-averse, predictable way – a bit dull, really, I suppose. Maybe some of you reading this are of similar temper and disposition. We are certainly called out of our comfort zones if we wish to be true servants of the Kingdom – can we really say that we use all of the gifts that God has given us, in the way that He would wish them to be used?
O Lord, Give us the mindset that sees threats as opportunities and that welcomes challenge and change. Give us the vision that sees the way ahead, and the insight that avoids the diversion. Give us the wisdom that recognises the value in tradition retaining the wheat but discarding the chaff. Show us the road and give us the courage to take it. And start with me.