November 13th, 1960 @ 8:15 AM
1 Samuel 9
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 9
11-13-60 8:15 a.m.
On the radio, you are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled Samuel’s Successor, who of course is Saul, the son of Kish. We are following through the life of Samuel, and we have come to the ninth chapter of 1 Samuel. And if you will turn to chapter 9 of 1 Samuel you can easily follow the morning message [1 Samuel 9:1].
This is a very interesting message to me, as I have prepared it. You will have this morning one of the finest and most pertinent and lucid illustrations of how a man looks on a thing, and how God looks upon a thing. Man looks on the outside, on the dress, on the appearance. God looks on the heart and on the soul. And I say, you will not have in all of the Bible a finer illustration of the difference between how a man looks and how God looks upon a thing than you have in this message this morning.
Last Sunday that I preached in this pulpit, following the life of Samuel, three times God said to Samuel to hearken to the voice of the people when they said, “We want a king. We want a king. We do not want God to rule over us. We want a king. We do not want you, Samuel, to rule over us. We want a king, and we do not want your sons to rule over us. We want a king. We do not want a seer. We do not want a prophet. We do not want a man of God. We want a king.” And of course, the reason they gave was, “We want to be like everybody else. All the other nations have a king. We want a king. All the other people are doing it, we want to do it too. We want a king” [1 Samuel 8:5, 6, 19-20].
So the eighth chapter of the Book of 1 Samuel closes, “And the Lord said to Samuel,” for the third time, “Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king” [1 Samuel 8:22]. So the beginning of the ninth chapter now introduces to us Samuel’s successor [1 Samuel 9:1-2].
It is always interesting, when a man has been the leader of a nation for many, many years, it is always interesting to see who is going to take over the reins of government. Now this is doubly so in Israel, because Samuel has been not only the chief magistrate, and not only the judge of all of the nation, but he has been God’s man, God’s prophet, God’s mediator, God’s servant, God’s mouthpiece, God’s spokesman. And after this man of God had led Israel for these years and years, for forty years, you could not help but be interested in the man upon whom the mantle shall fall to be God’s representative and God’s ruler over the nation.
Any situation is like that. There was an illimitable interest among everybody that called themselves Baptists, and everybody who was interested in this church—there was a tremendous interest in the successor. Who should it be, when the great, world-famed pastor of this congregation fell upon illness and upon death? That is human nature. And it is doubly important in God’s work and in God’s kingdom.
So we turn to the ninth chapter of the Book of 1 Samuel, and here we have introduced to us, by the master hand of this historian, the one who is to be anointed in the office of Samuel, and as chief magistrate and ruler over God’s people. So he begins in the first sentence: “Now” [1 Samuel 9:1], now, after God said the third time to Samuel, “Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king” [1 Samuel 8:22]. “Now”—and this is the introduction:
there was a man of Benjamin, whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror… a mighty man of power.
And he had a son, whose name was Saul, a choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people.
[1 Samuel 9:1-2]
Isn’t that a magnificent thing? Now we’re going to follow first this goodly, choice young man as he appeared to Israel. There wasn’t anything about him that wasn’t commendable and commendatory. He was every inch a king. And in these few verses here, I have picked out four things about him that make him most acceptable as the king over God’s heritage.
First of all, he is of the tribe of Benjamin: “There was a man of the tribe of Benjamin, his name was Kish . . . and his son was named Saul” [1 Samuel 9:1-2]. Benjamin: the tribe of Benjamin was one of the first of all of the tribes of Israel. I know that from many things. One way I know it is this: when another Saul of Tarsus, who later became Paul the apostle, spoke of his heritage and his pedigree, twice—once in Romans [Romans 11:1] and once in Philippians [Philippians 3:5]—twice does this Saul of Tarsus speak proudly of the fact that he was of the tribe of Benjamin. The natural inheritance that he received in that tribe was of the highest order.
Benjamin: the name means in Hebrew, “the son of my right hand.” Benjamin was the child of the beloved Rachel. It was in the birth of Benjamin that Rachel died [Genesis 35:18-19], and there was an affection for that son that was lavish indeed, not only on the part of Israel his father, but on the part of his brethren. They might have been jealous of Joseph [Genesis 37:11]. They had nothing but love and affection for this youngest child Benjamin. And when Benjamin is called in the Scriptures “little Benjamin,” it does not mean little in any other sense than a diminutive of affection and endearment: my little child, my precious baby, little Benjamin.
In the sixty-eighth Psalm, for example, in the twenty-seventh verse, he’s named first among those tribes of power in the blessing of God: “There is little Benjamin,” doesn’t mean little except in endearment: “There is my precious Benjamin with their ruler, the princes of Judah and their council, the princes of Zebulun, and the princes of Naphtali” [Psalm 68:27]. Then, over here in the eightieth Psalm, in the tribute to the shepherd of Israel: “O Shepherd of Israel, Thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; Thou that dwellest between the cherubim . . . Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh stir up Thy strength, come and save us” [Psalm 80:1-2].
In the tribe of Benjamin, you have an ideal situation for a king. Now Benjamin was a nation of tremendous valor. It came about in the twentieth chapter of the Book of Judges that they, in defense of their brethren, they almost lost their tribe to the last man [Judges 20:1-48]. And however wrong they were in their defense, you cannot help but admire them, that they stood by their brethren unto death. Nearly all of the tribe was slaughtered as they tried, as Benjamin sought to defend their brethren. They were a nation, a ruler, a tribe of great valor.
And this man, coming from Benjamin, is coming from the very heart of the life of the nation [1 Samuel 9:1-2]. Now it was small: their inheritance was only twenty-eight miles long at its longest and fourteen miles wide at its widest. In fact, when you get to talking about these people compared to the great nation of America, everything is diminutive and small and minute.
But, oh, what they contained within the boundaries of Benjamin! The city of the great king, Jerusalem, was in Benjamin, the tribe of Benjamin, the allotted inheritance of Benjamin. Bethel was in the tribe of Benjamin. Mizpeh was there. Ramah was there, where Samuel lived. All of these things commend him: Saul, the son of Kish, the son of Benjamin.
Now his father, his father was also a man by whom Saul, the son, could be commended to the people. He is described here as “a mighty man of power” [1 Samuel 9:1]. Those are the same words used to describe Boaz, in the story of Ruth, who lived at Bethlehem [Ruth 2:1]. When the nation was, when the tribe of Benjamin was almost destroyed in that battle that is described in the Book of Judges [Judges 20:1-48], that meant that those who did remain received a far larger share of the land that was given to them for an inheritance. So this man Kish was a large property owner, a large landowner. He was a man of means, and of opulence, and of wealth, and of affluence, and of power. He is described here as a mighty man of power [1 Samuel 9:1]. That commended Saul: the illustrious position and noble place of his father.
Now the boy himself: “And he had a son, whose name was Saul, a choice young man” [1 Samuel 9:2]. I could not tell you the number of times I heard Brother Bob Coleman use that expression: “He is a choice friend,” or “He is a choice young man,” or “He is a choice person.” It’s a very fine old English word. “And he had a son, whose name was Saul, a choice young man, and a goodly: there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people” [1 Samuel 9:2]. Well, you can just see him as that handsome, big brute walked among the children of God’s people. From his shoulders upward he was taller than anybody else. Sun-crowned, straight, you couldn’t help but look upon him with admiration and respect.
He was a young man. The only thing they had to say about Samuel was that he was old, and gone beyond the age when he could rule over the people [1 Samuel 8:5]. Now that was an excuse. Samuel was not more than sixty years of age at the most. And after this happened, Samuel did his greatest work and his most vigorous.
But they didn’t want Samuel. They didn’t want a prophet. They didn’t want God to rule over them. They wanted a king, to be like other people [1 Samuel 8:5]. So they used that for an excuse: “Samuel, you are too old. You are sixty years old. Your day is past. Samuel, we want somebody else.” And this Saul is a young man. I suppose he was about twenty years of age, a young man, and his person was goodly [1 Samuel 9:2]. He was sound of limb and strong and vigorous in his life, and he looked the part. He looked the part; when Saul walked anywhere, you turned around and looked back at him. And when you saw him coming down the street, you stopped and watched him pass. He was a real specimen of real manhood, and they liked him.
Now there’s another thing about Saul you can’t deny, you can’t hide it away, and you wouldn’t want to. Saul was a magnificent man in many of his personal characteristics, in many of his personal traits. Now I want to show you. First of all—and I have two things to show you how admirable he was in these personal characteristics, some of them. First was, he was, absolutely and positively and really—he was a humble young man.
You can see that in several instances here. In the ninth chapter of the Book of 1 Samuel, it says when Samuel called Saul to speak to him about being king, the young man answered, verse 21: “Am not I a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? wherefore then speakest thou so to me?” [1 Samuel 9:21]. Now that was unfeigned. That was real.
Now when I turn into the next chapter, I find the same thing. When, when the young man is chosen as king over Israel, they couldn’t find him. He could not be found. 1 Samuel 10:22:
Therefore they inquired of the Lord further, if the man should yet come thither. And the Lord answered, Behold, he hath hid himself among the stuff—among the baggage.
And they ran and fetched him thence: and when he stood among the people, he was higher than any of the people from his shoulders and upward.
And Samuel said to all the people, See ye him whom the Lord hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people? And all the people shouted, and said, God save the king.
[1 Samuel 10:22-24]
That’s where that comes from, when they say it in England: “God save the king.”
Now that’s real. He was humble, and when they chose him to be ruler over Israel, he was so timid and so self-effacing that he hid himself in the stuff, in the baggage, at that great convocation of God’s people, and the Lord had to point him out before they could find him [1 Samuel 10:22-23].
And there he was. And when they pulled him out of the stuff, and disengaged him from the baggage, and he stood up, they all just spontaneously said, “What a man! What a king! God save the king!” [1 Samuel 10:24]. That’s splendid. You just won’t find a fellow beginning with more auspicious circumstances than you’ll find in this case of Saul.
All right. One other thing about him: Saul was magnanimous in many of his gestures, a truly great man. Now I use just one instance of it: in the eleventh chapter, the next chapter we’re following through in the eleventh chapter of the Book of 1 Samuel, you have the war at Jabesh-gilead. The king of the Ammonites came to Jabesh in Gilead on the other side of the Jordan River, and he shut up the men in the city of Jabesh and said, “Come out, come out.” And they said, “What shall you do to us if we come out?” And the Ammonite king said, “I want to gouge out your right eye just to show my fitting contempt upon the people of Jehovah. Now come out so I can gouge out your right eye” [1 Samuel 11:1-2].
Isn’t that as low down and dastardly a proposition as you ever heard in your life? “Just to show my contempt for your God and your Jehovah and your people, I want you to come out, but I will gouge out your right eye.” Well, they began to lament and to cry before the reproach to be inflicted upon them, and somebody said, “Let us ask help from our brethren” [1 Samuel 11:3]. And they sent messengers to their brethren on the other side—on the western side of the Jordan River, saying what a reproach was to be inflicted upon them and upon the name of Jehovah God [1 Samuel 11:4-5]. “And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon Saul,” who was with his father out in the field plowing with the oxen. “The Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon Saul,” and he took the oxen, and hewed them to pieces, and sent the pieces throughout Israel saying, “Thus may God do to all of the flocks and herds of the man who does not follow after Saul” [1 Samuel 11:6-7]. And I want you to know that Saul crossed the Jordan River with those men of Israel, and he hewed the Ammonites to pieces. There was not two of the men that could be found together in the Ammonites when Saul got through with them [1 Samuel 11:11].
And when he won that great victory, the people were beside themselves. “Look at this man! Not only every inch a king, but look at him. By his hand we get victories over our enemies and glory for the name of Jehovah God.”
Now when that happened, as you would know, always there are people to make fun and people to scorn and people to ridicule, and they’re everywhere. They’re in Dallas, believe me, lots of them. And they’re in Texas, believe me, more of them. And they’re in America, believe me, gobs of them. I know just lots of them like that. So when this thing happened, and the people who had been scorning Saul and belittling him; the people said, “Where are they that said, This fellow Saul, we are not going to have him reign over us. Where are those men? Let us seek them out and let us put them to death” [1 Samuel 11:12]. In their exuberance and in their exhilaration over what Saul had done against the Ammonites: “Let us put them to death.”
Then Saul said—and, here you have a magnificent illustration of the magnanimity of this great first king. And Saul said, “There shall not a man be put to death this day, for today the Lord hath wrought salvation in Israel” [1 Samuel 11:13].
Well, you couldn’t help but be grateful for him. Ah, there never was a fellow that started out like Saul. Never did you ever, in history, in time, or in your experience in the church, in the nation, anywhere, did you ever find a man with all of the propitious accouterments as gathered around the person and the ministry and the rulership of this man Saul. He had everything, everything.
Now I want to show you the other side. In the little time that remains—and it looks like we just get started good when the time’s about over—in the little time that remains, I want to show you how the hand, the master hand of this inspired historian draws a picture for us.
Now the other side of Saul: there never was a young fellow that began so auspiciously; and haven’t you seen some begin auspiciously? Never was one to begin more auspiciously than Saul. And there never was one that ever fell into the depths of disgrace and personal defeat as this man Saul. Now you’re going to see that here delineated in the hand of this master historian. Now let’s look at it rapidly, for we must go quickly.
First: the introduction to us is Saul, the son of Kish, seeking his father’s asses: “And the asses of Kish Saul’s father were lost.” And our first introduction to the young fellow is, he is seeking those unclean animals [1 Samuel 9:3]. In the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Exodus and the thirteenth verse, God’s law said the foal of an ass, being unclean, you must redeem it with a lamb or break its neck [Exodus 13:13]; and the same thing you do with a man, said God’s law [Exodus 13:13].
You know, if you just look at some of these things in the Scriptures, they are amazing characterizations. The foal of an ass is an unclean animal, and you’re to break its neck. And in the next verse, and the son of a man is an unclean animal, and you don’t break his neck; you redeem him [Exodus 13:13]. And that’s why Israel was looked upon as a nation of redeemed people, unclean sinners, vile, rejected, but redeemed by the offering of the life of a lamb [Exodus 12:3-7, 18, 22-23].
Now an ass is an unclean animal. And when the foal was born, he was to be redeemed or break his neck [Exodus 13:13]. Now I want to contrast that with the introduction of David. When David is introduced, he is a young fellow, much younger than Saul [1 Samuel 16:11-12]. He is a teenager. He doesn’t have any beard. He’s ruddy of complexion like a, like a girl; he’s just a boy. And as he stands there, he is the keeper of his father’s flock, the lambs, the sheep, the picture of God’s people. And to the Israelites, the shepherd was always the acme, the epitome, of an acceptable profession and vocation. Moses was a shepherd [Exodus 3:1]. David is a shepherd. And David is introduced to us as being the keeper of his father’s flocks [1 Samuel 16:11].
And he rescued those flocks out of the mouth of the lion and out of the paw of the bear [1 Samuel 17:34-37]. To those people, Israel, that was the greatest picture of a king they could imagine: the shepherd king of Israel, rescuing His people from the wild beasts that sought to tear them apart. But the opposite is introduced in [Saul]. He is looking for his father’s asses, those unclean animals [1 Samuel 9:3].
The second thing: and he doesn’t find them. He doesn’t succeed in it.
In verse 4, one, two, three, he found them not [1 Samuel 9:4]. They were not, they found them not, just like Saul seeking the life of David. He had his spies. He had his armies. He had the whole nation. And yet, as the Scriptures say, it was like seeking a partridge in the mountains, trying to find David [1 Samuel 26:20]. You see there those little things in the historian’s delineation of this man Saul as he’s introduced: and he doesn’t succeed in it. He searches, but with no success.
Now the third thing, you look at this; I cannot imagine this: Gibeah of Saul is in the same little neck of the woods where Ramah, Samuel’s home, is. Just a few miles apart, and yet Saul had never heard of Samuel [1 Samuel 9:5-19]. And in all of those circuits that Samuel had made in going among the people and judging the people, he had never been in this opulent, affluent, wealthy, noble home of Kish.
Well, I can hardly believe that, and yet that’s the fine delineation here by the historian as he introduces us to Saul. The servant of Saul knows all about Samuel [1 Samuel 9:6], and the maidens here know meticulously the sacrifices [1 Samuel 9:11-13], and when the prophet comes, and how he does, and when he will appear, and how to meet him. Saul knows nothing about these things at all. And I have to conclude; in that eighth verse, it is the servant that appears far more acceptable than it is Saul, for the servant has in his hand a present to bring to the prophet [1 Samuel 9:8]. Saul, the son of the wealthy Kish, has nothing at all, yet he’s on a long journey. It’s a surprising thing! I have to close. I want to do it with the Word of the Lord God. Look at it:
and when Samuel saw the Bethlehemite, the first son of Jesse [Eliab], “Surely, said Samuel, the Lord’s anointed is before Him” [1 Samuel 16:6]. “Look at him. Look at him: shoulders higher than anybody else in Israel, the son of an affluent father, every inch a goodly and choice person. Look at him. Look at him. Look at him,” Samuel said, “Surely the anointed of the Lord is before Him.” But the Lord said unto Samuel, “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature … for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but God looketh on the heart” [1 Samuel 16:7].
Young people, forget about that guy’s looks. Forget about how people dress. Forget about the kind of a house they live in: how big and spacious the rooms and the lawn and the grounds. Forget about the outside. Let’s judge after the heart, the inside of the man, his soul, his devotion.
God says, “The appearance to Me is nothing. And the height of his stature is nothing. And the affluence of the family is nothing.” God says to me, “The heart, the heart: How is the man in his soul?” When we judge according to the judgment of God, not the outside, it’s the inside.
Ah, we’ve gone far over our time. While we sing one stanza of this hymn, somebody to give his heart to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13]; somebody to put his life in the fellowship of the church [Hebrews 10:24-15]; while we sing this stanza, would you come? On the first note of the first stanza, would you come and stand by me, giving your heart to the Lord, or putting your life with us in the fellowship of the church, while we stand and while we sing?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 9
I. Saul’s advantages
1. Of the tribe of Benjamin
2. His father is a mighty man of power
3. Physical characteristics
4. Can man discern traits of character?
II. Israel’s look on Saul’s appearance they believe he is a king indeed
III. Beneath the surface
1. Cannot even find his father’s lost animals
2. Saul has no real success
3. Does not know the man of God, Samuel
4. Saul’s servant has a better advantage