As Saul turned away to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart; and all these signs were fulfilled that day. When they were going from there to Gibeah, a band of prophets met him; and the spirit of God possessed him, and he fell into a prophetic frenzy along with them. When all who knew him before saw how he prophesied with the prophets, the people said to one another, ‘What has come over the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?’ A man of the place answered, ‘And who is their father?’ Therefore it became a proverb, ‘Is Saul also among the prophets?’ When his prophetic frenzy had ended, he went home. Saul’s uncle said to him and to the boy, ‘Where did you go?’ And he replied, ‘To seek the donkeys; and when we saw they were not to be found, we went to Samuel.’ Saul’s uncle said, ‘Tell me what Samuel said to you.’ Saul said to his uncle, ‘He told us that the donkeys had been found.’ But about the matter of the kingship, of which Samuel had spoken, he did not tell him anything.
Like Henry the Eighth, it is hard to think of Saul as the beautiful young ruler, when our knowledge of him is so tainted by the murderous and twisted person he became. Yet here he is at the start of being chosen as God’s king for the people. How wonderful and extraordinary Saul is at this stage of his life.
Samuel has told him he will be king; God ‘given him a new heart’ – presumably filled with the wisdom he will need to rule; and he has been possessed by the Spirit of God and has fallen into a prophetic frenzy with the other prophets.
But when he gets home to his uncle, the only ‘news’ he shares is of the donkeys he went looking for in the first place!
Perhaps it is good that none of these amazing acts of God turn the head of the king-to-be. All the signs point to him being the king the people have demanded of God, but he does not crow about being chosen and equipped in this way. He seems prepared to trust that his future will unfold in God’s time and not allow any of the signs of God with him to drive him to pride. Perhaps it is this quality – of humility and service in God’s call – that makes him the right choice as king, despite all that later befalls him.
As we strive to ‘live the life of Jesus today’ and are called to service in God’s kingdom, we can learn from Saul. Others we respect may speak well of us, we may feel touched by God’s wisdom and inspired by God’s spirit, but in the end our response needs to be a humble ‘yes’ to God’s call and not a shout of victory.
God who is holy, strong and immortal, We thank you for calling us, who are none of those things. Give us hearts to know your wisdom, souls to dance to your spirit, and minds to remember we are servants of the world. As we follow the ‘servant king’ Jesus Amen.
The Rev’d Ruth Whitehead, Moderator of the South Western Synod and a member at Taunton URC