1 Samuel 9: 1-2; 16: 1
There was a Benjaminite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bekorath, the son of Aphiah of Benjamin. Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else....
...The Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel?'
On Friday past we learned that Israel wanted a King just like all the other nations around them.
In their search for the first King the most impressive man they can find is Saul. Look at what it says about him in 1 Samuel 9:
“There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish son of Abiel. He had a son named Saul, an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites - a head taller than any of the others.” (1 Samuel 9:1)
In this verse we’re told two things about Saul which in the eyes of the people made him fit to be king.
Firstly we’re told that Saul came from a wealthy, important family. He was from an important tribe and we’re told that his father was a man of good standing among the people. Later it talks about them having servants, so we know that they had a few quid, or shekels. And so people were immediately impressed by his pedigree.
I was reading a story about Michelle Guinness, one of the Guinness family who also happens to be a Christian. She was on her way to speak at an important business lunch one day when the strap on her shoe broke. She didn’t want to stand on stage in front of all these important people with her shoe falling apart so she found a shoe repair shop just beside the building where she was due to give her speech in a few minutes.
She went in and asked the man behind the counter if he could fix her shoe. He said, 'No problem, it will be ready in 3 days.' She told him she was in a rush, and if there was any possibility he not do it immeditely He apologised, but again told her she would have to wait her turn and it would take three days. Exasperated and desperate, Michelle Guinness said to him: 'Look it’ll only take you 5 minutes to put a stitch in it, could you not do it now. Without looking up the man grabbed a pen and said, 'What’s the name?'
'Michelle Guinness', she replied.
'Your shoe will be ready in 5 minutes madam', came the reply.
People are impressed by wealth and a good name – it gets you to the front of a queue, it gets you the best seat in a restaurant, and in Saul’s case, it got him to the front of the line in the search for a new king.
The other thing we’re told about Saul in verse 1 is this:
“Saul, an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites - a head taller than any of the others.”
Not only was he from a good family who had money – Saul also looked good. He was tall. 'Tall Saul' was probably his nickname at school.
You don’t need me to tell you that we live in a society obsessed with how people look externally. However did you know that research has shown that attractive men are actually paid 12-14% more than their less attractive workmates? So if you’re a man reading this who is well paid, don’t think it’s because you work so hard - it’s because you look so good!
So people are impressed by wealth, a good name and good looks, and in selecting a King for Israel, when all the men were lined up, Saul was by far the obvious choice because he ticked all the boxes of external appearance and pedigree. He was rich, and was about a foot taller than everyone else – an impressive, imposing figure.
So Saul is chosen as Israel’s first human King. The problem was, as great as Saul looked on the outside, on the inside he was an incredibly small man. He was deeply insecure, had an inferiority complex, and in his heart he was always more concerned with looking good before the people than with loving and obeying God. He was a people pleaser, a total approval addict. If you read 1 Samuel, chapters 9-15 you'll see how time and time again Saul let his insecurity and desire to be liked by others lead him into sin and compromise.
Saul’s life ended up being all about image, it’s all about show, it’s all about looking good, all surface no substance. His relationship with God has no depth, it’s shallow, it’s hollow, and he doesn’t really care.
So, as we see in verse 1, God rejects Saul as King.
“The LORD said to Samuel, ‘How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” (v 1)
You can’t be in leadership and always be liked by everyone. In leadership at times you’ve got to say 'no' when people are trying to make you say 'yes'. There’s times when you’ve got to lead one way, when people want to go another way. You’ve got to be willing to put your arm around someone and lovingly rebuke them. You’ve got to be able to handle conflict. If not, then as a leader you’ll probably end up like Saul.
In spending his life trying to win people’s approval, Saul lost God’s approval. He tried so hard to stop people rejecting him. That God ended up rejecting him.
And so God rejects Saul as King. Samuel doesn’t take it well. In fact, he's devastated. He was the one who anointed Saul as king, He’s a really old man by now and probably thought: 'Well at least if I die Israel is in safe hands.'
And now it’s all just a big mess. What is going to happen to Israel if there’s no Saul?
That's what we'll find out in the next few days. But know this, God always has another plan up His sleeve.