Book of 1 Samuel · Sunday Morning Book Club

Searching for Donkeys

Read 1 Samuel 9:1-25

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Genealogy was extremely important in ancient times, it gave a man validation especially when it came to sitting on the throne.  Here we read about Saul’s ancestors and we learn that they are mighty men of power, not necessarily men of God, but rather a strong and able-bodied family.  Out of that line is born Saul.  Saul is described as being a “choice” and a “goodly”; in all Israel, there was not a “goodlier” person than he. 

What this description means is Saul was a personable man, he was tall and had an athletic build.  He displayed all the outward characteristics desirable in a king during ancient times.  The people of that time didn’t look at a man to rule based on his integrity or knowledge, but purely on his looks.  They wanted their king to look like their fake gods as much as possible.  We should want a leader who looks like God, instead, they look for men who are like their made-up deities and Saul fits the description.

Saul was like most men in that era, they would serve their fathers, follow in their footsteps in taking care of their land and families, doing whatever was necessary.  In this story, Saul needed to go out and look for some of their missing donkeys and he took with him a servant, not a slave, this man worked for the family of his own accord.  In those days donkeys were very valuable, much like horses today, only people of quality would ride on the donkeys so it was very important to find them.

Saul and his servant set out looking for the donkeys, going from town to town searching field after field.  After traveling for miles and miles Saul decides it’s probably best to return home, he did not want his father to begin to worry about his whereabouts.  As a last-ditch effort, Saul’s servant recalls hearing about a man who everything he says comes true.  He’s thinking this man could point them in the right direction to finding the donkeys.

Starting at vs. 7 is where the story starts to get interesting.  Samuel thinks it’s a good idea, while they are in town, to go and see this well-respected man.  The only problem was he could not go empty-handed.  The custom was and I believe this should still be customary, is anytime you go to visit a man or woman in which you wish to gain guidance, especially if they are anointed by the Lord, you should give them a present or an offering.  They are good soil and you are wanting a harvest, so you should plant a seed in expectation for what God is going to do for you through that person.  Saul didn’t know what he was going to gain when he blessed Samuel with this seed of faith but God knew and I’d say he reaped a humongous harvest.  Sow into good soil!

The servant held out the last ¼ from a silver coin, suggesting they use this to give to the man of God.   Saul agrees with this and off they go into the city to see the prophet.  As they began their uphill climb they noticed young, unmarried women going out to the well so they stopped to ask if the seer was here.   

“Yes, he is”, they replied, but Saul needed to hurry so he didn’t miss him.  He is scheduled to go up to the temple place and bless a sacrificial meal.  This is one of the first instances where asking for a blessing or saying “grace” over a meal is written in the Bible.  

Just as the women predicted when Saul entered the city Samuel was coming towards them, he was on his way up to the holy place.  What Saul does not know is the day before the Lord told Samuel he was going to send to him a man from Benjamin.  He also told him that he wanted him to anoint this man to be the first-ever ruler over Israel, that he will be the one to deliver them out of the hands of the Philistines.  

It is now the next day and the moment Samuel laid eyes on Saul the Lord said to him, “This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people.”  Saul is the man the Lord told Samuel about the day before.

Saul had no idea what the Lord was planning or that Samuel was expecting him and he inquired as to where the “seers” house is.  Samuel answered, “I am the seer”, and he invites Saul and his servant up to the high place to eat with him.  He also mentions that he is going to tell him all that is in his heart and that he and his whole family will be the desire of all of Israel.  Saul needs to be told what is in his heart because he doesn’t yet know.  He has no idea of what his future will look like or the power that he has within him.  

Saul is looking at his current lifestyle and it is so far removed from what Samuel is saying that it’s unfathomable.  All Israel desires to have a king like all the other nations around them and Saul fits the criteria.  You can tell by his reply that he was in amazement at the suggestion.  He is a Benjamite the smallest tribe in all of Israel and within that tribe, his family was the least of all families.  Saul had a difficult time understanding exactly what Samuel meant, he questioned him, “why are you saying this to me?”  Samuel doesn’t answer he just leads him to the parlor where he points to the chief seat, the most prominent seat at the table of 30 other men waiting to eat.       

As for the beginning of vs. 20, that is a word of knowledge.  Saul did not mention to Samuel that he was on the search for missing donkeys.  He only asked if he was the seer.  The Lord told Samuel to tell Saul that he didn’t need to worry about the donkeys anymore because they were found.  A word of knowledge is one way the Lord will get the attention of certain people.  The Lord reveals personal information to a prophetic person so they can prove they are speaking on behalf of the Lord.

Once Saul and his servant are seated at the head of the table, Samuel turns to the cook and requests for the special portion, previously set aside, to be placed before Saul.  This was the choicest piece, the best piece of meat set aside and given to Saul as a reference to Saul being the chosen man to make the change that was about to take place in Israel.    

Dinner was a huge hit, the guests were well fed and happy.  Samuel and Saul head back to Samuel’s home where they sit on the rooftop balcony.  Remembering that Samuel said he would tell Saul everything in his heart.  Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall of this conversation?  Apparently, this was a very private conversation and we are not privy to it.  My best guess is the conversation was more about what was in God’s heart versus Saul’s.  Samuel most likely used this time to convince Saul that he was the man God wanted to be the first-ever king.  Isn’t it interesting how different our plans can be from the plans the Lord has for us?  Saul was literally the only man who went out looking for donkeys and returned home as a king. 

The next morning as Saul and his servant prepare to journey back home, Samuel calls to them on the roof letting them know that whenever they are ready he wants to send them off.  Samuel had one more word from the Lord that he needed to share with him.

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