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(Part 93)


January 16, 2016

Today’s readings:
1 Samuel 9:1-10:1
Psalm 21:2-7
Mark 2:13-17

Yesterday we saw how God’s ways and wisdom are so very radically different from ours, oftentimes in direct contradiction to ours. This is why it is so important to trust only in God and never in ourselves--our power, our resources, our experience, our accomplishments, even our (imagined?) righteousness.

Let us look once again at how God thinks and acts, this time in the case of Saul. Saul was just looking for his father’s lost donkeys (1 Sm 9:3-4) but ended up being anointed by the prophet Samuel as “ruler over his people Israel.” (1 Sm 10:1b). Wow. It was a whirlwind two days for Saul. He met Samuel, was invited to a meal and seated at the head table among 30 prominent guests (1 Sm 9:22), was given the choice portion of food reserved for the seer (1 Sm 9:23-24), was given a nice mattress to sleep on under the stars (1 Sm 9:25-26a), was personally accompanied by Samuel up to the edge of the city as they were to go home (1 Sm 9:26b), and finally was anointed by Samuel as king. “Then, from a flask he had with him, Samuel poured oil on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying: ‘The Lord anoints you ruler over his people Israel. You are the one who will govern the Lord’s people and save them from the power of their enemies all around them.’” (1 Sm 10:1). From someone just sent to find some lost donkeys (which he could not find), Saul was now to be king of Israel! Who would have thought? Who could have imagined? Well, God did, from all eternity.

God knows whom He wants to call and use, and arranges for His intent to happen. Consider the circumstances. First, the donkeys of Kish, Saul’s father, would surely have wandered off before, Saul would have been sent to look for them, and he would have found them. But this time, Saul and the servant could not find them. They searched far and wide, “through the hill country of Ephraim, and through the land of Shalishah ... through the land of Shaalim ... through the land of Benjamin, but they failed to find the animals.” (1 Sm 9:4). Note that Kish “was a powerful man from Benjamin” (1 Sm 9:1a). No one would steal his donkeys. Saul searched through the whole land, and people would have told him if they saw the donkeys. So I suppose God hid them for a while, to accomplish His purpose.

Second, when Saul wanted to go back home, his servant told him, “Listen! There is a man of God in this city, a man held in high esteem; everything he says comes true. Let us go there now!” (1 Sm 9:6). How audacious! No, not so much in speaking boldly to his master Saul, who already wanted to go home, but in thinking their small concern was worthy to be considered by the prophet. Further, he risked the ire of his master Kish, because as Saul said, his father would forget about the donkeys but be anxious about them (1 Sm 9:5). Would not Kish have berated him, especially when his own son Saul had wanted to go home, but he wanted to go off on a fool’s journey to find some prophet, whom they were not even sure they could find, or if they did, if the prophet would even give them the time of day? Still further, the food in their bags had run out (1 Sm 9:7b). Only God could have planted such audacity in the servant.

Third, despite being tired and hungry and worried about his father’s anxiety, despite not really needing some lost donkeys because Kish was a powerful man in Benjamin, besides worrying what they could offer the seer (1 Sm 9:7), Saul responded, “You are right! Come on, let us go!” (1 Sm 9:10a). Saul not only agreed to the questionable proposal of a servant, but he was even enthusiastic and very eager. Only God could have planted that in him.

Fourth, even Saul knew he was a nobody who did not deserve the kind of attention and words Samuel was giving and speaking. “Am I not a Benjaminite, from the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and is not my clan the least among the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why say such things to me?” (1 Sm 9:21). Benjamin was the smallest tribe. His clan was the least of the smallest. Why him? Uh, does that sound like your “Why me, Lord?” God does not think as we do. Praise God that that is so!

God is about His work in the world, and in this He chooses humans as His instruments. He raises up servant leaders. These can be anybody. Even sinners such as Levi the tax collector (Mk 2:14). Even the least. Often enough, actually the least, those who count for nothing in the world. Including those disdained by the Church establishment (scribes and Pharisees) such as “sinners and tax collectors” (Mk 2:16). The scribes did not understand that Jesus “did not come to call the righteous but sinners” (Mk 2:17b). Now in raising up workers, let us not mistakenly think, using our human judgments, that Jesus would only call the qualified. He calls the nobodies, and then qualifies those who are called.

So whom God calls and chooses, God anoints. “The Lord anoints you ruler ...” (1 Sm 10:1b). Whom God anoints, He equips and empowers. Now problems in leadership come when we are empowered but later we begin to look to our own successes, resources and growing influence. We begin to think we are now no longer expendable. Ultimately, in our own minds, God decreases and we increase. That of course would be the beginning of the end. Which unfortunately was what happened to Saul.

How do we remain as God’s anointed instruments? We must never forget that every good thing we can accomplish is simply due to God’s favor and power. “Lord, the king finds joy in your power; in your victory how greatly he rejoices!” (Ps 21:2). This is not just thanking God for blessings and victories, but it is also avoiding triumphalism as God uses us.

Only by the grace and mercy of God are we called, chosen, anointed and empowered. Only by the grace and mercy of God can we accomplish the divine work He allows us to do. “Great is his glory in your victory; majesty and splendor you confer upon him.” (Ps 21:6). If all is from God, then we must always look to Him. “For the king trusts in the Lord, stands firm through the mercy of the Most High.” (Ps 21:8).

A final word. We are talking about kingship, servant leadership, anointing as God’s instrument. Well and good. But oftentimes we have our simple concerns. Is God also going to help us in these as we serve him? But of course. Might we neglect the mundane matters as we look at the big picture of God’s awesome work? We might, but God won’t. We do God’s work, He takes care of our concerns. We started with lost donkeys and ended up with an anointed king. We know what happened to Saul, but what happened to the donkeys? “As for your donkeys that were lost three days ago, do not worry about them, for they have been found.” (1 Sm 9:20a).

God has the best plan for you. But He does not neglect donkeys as He carries out that plan. In Jesus’ greatest earthly triumph (before his resurrection), as he entered Jerusalem, he chose to ride on a donkey.

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Note: Learn how to grow into an authentic servant leader. Read my latest book, “40 Days to Servant Leadership.” The donkey is also there. Read Day 18, “A Lesson from the Ass.”

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