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God's Surprising Choice

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BAPTISTWAY PRESS® Adult Online Bible Commentary
By Dr. Jim Denison, Pastor, Park Cities Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas

Studies in 1 and 2 Samuel: Following God in Changing Times
Lesson Four

God’s Surprising Choice
Focal Text
1 Samuel 9:1-4, 15-21; 10:1, 9-24
1 Samuel 8—10
Main Idea
God’s choices for people to serve him in specific ways can be surprising when measured by merely human standards.
Question to Explore
What opportunities are we missing because we are viewing people and situations from our limited human perspective?
Quick Read
God can use anyone who is yielded to his will.

Perhaps you’ve heard about Satan’s garage sale. All his tools were on display, their prices marked. Murder, anger, lust, greed, and others were available. At the end of the table was an isolated tool, more worn than any of the others. It was unnamed, but its price was the highest of anything on display.
Someone asked Satan what it was. “Discouragement,” he replied.
“Why is it priced so high?”
“Because no one knows it’s mine.”
If Satan cannot get us to refuse God’s call to service, he’ll seek to discourage us in that work. He’ll cause us to feel inadequate for his purposes, insufficient for his use. He
__________________________________________________________________________ Page 1 of 5
Adult Online Bible Commentary. 1 and 2 Samuel: Following God in Changing Times—Lesson Four. Copyright ©
2006 BAPTISTWAY PRESS®. Not to be sold. A ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Go to or call 1-866-249-1799 toll-free for additional Bible study materials for all ages.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations in Adult Online Bible Commentary are from The Holy Bible,
New International Version (North American Edition), copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible
Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

1 Samuel 9:1-4, 15-21; 10:1, 9-24. God’s Surprising Choice

knows that quitting on God’s call is as useful to his purposes as refusing it, sometimes even more so.
Our postmodern culture believes that life has no overarching purpose or significance. We are told that we’re actors on a stage with no audience, script, director, past, or future. It’s easy to wonder whether your work in teaching God’s word really matters, whether the service your class members offer really changes anything important. This week we will learn that God will use anyone who is yielded to his call, no matter one’s past or present.
Nothing we have done can prevent what God wants to do. Discouragement is always defeated by providence.
Trust God to redeem your present
Perhaps twenty years had passed since God delivered the people from the Philistines (1
Samuel 7). Samuel became old, and he had installed his sons as judges for the nation (1
Sam. 8:1). They lived and served at Beersheba (8:2), in the extreme southern end of
Judah near the Philistine region, probably indicating continued peace with their longtime enemies. Tragically, Samuel’s sons were unlike their father, just as Eli’s sons had been unlike him.
Samuel had named them “Joel” (Yahweh is God) and “Abiah” (my father is Yahweh), hoping that they would live up to their names. But as adults they accepted bribes (8:3), probably to render unjust verdicts in legal cases. Such sin was expressly forbidden God’s people (see Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:19). And the nation knew it.
So the people, realizing Samuel’s advancing age and his sons’ sinful ways, began looking to the future (1 Sam. 8:4-5). It would have been understandable that they would seek another leader. But they did not turn to God for another Samuel, a prophet and priest to represent their true King. Instead, they chose to mimic their enemies in following a human king (8:5). They wanted to serve someone they could see, not the One they could not. They wanted someone to fight their battles for them, so they would no longer have to trust in God.
Such sin did not reject Samuel as much as it rejected the One he represented (8:6-8). God instructed his servant to warn the people about the oppression they could expect from a human ruler (8:9-18). When the nation still insisted on a king, God led Samuel to give them one (8:19-22).
Out of such sinful circumstances, who would expect a great leader to arise? The people wanted a king for all the wrong reasons. Their prophet and priest was deeply offended by their rejection of God. Too, the Lord predicted pain and despair in response to their sin.
But God is still able to redeem all we trust to his purpose and grace.
Abraham Lincoln was elected president in one of the most divisive and contested presidential elections in American history. His enemies immediately threatened the
__________________________________________________________________________ Page 2 of 5
Adult Online Bible Commentary. 1 and 2 Samuel: Following God in Changing Times—Lesson Four. Copyright ©
2006 BAPTISTWAY PRESS®. Not to be sold. A ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Go to or call 1-866-249-1799 toll-free for additional Bible study materials for all ages.

1 Samuel 9:1-4, 15-21; 10:1, 9-24. God’s Surprising Choice

demise of the Union. No political commentator predicted that Mr. Lincoln would one day be considered perhaps the greatest president America has ever known.
During the dark days of the civil rights struggle, few saw a pacifistic Baptist preacher named Martin Luther King, Jr., as the future icon for racial harmony. But that’s just what happened. When the Communist rulers held Poland in iron-fisted oppression, none saw a young Polish priest as one of the greatest popes in church history. But that’s what John
Paul II became.
God is in the business of redeeming the present for the future. If we continue to trust our
Father for his perfect will in our lives, one day we will be able to say with Joseph, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (Genesis 50:20).
Where does the present seem to hinder your future? Are you waiting for ministry doors to open? hoping for greater opportunities for service? dealing with frustration or opposition in your congregation or community? suffering from physical, financial, or family difficulties? God will use all we trust to his purpose (Romans 8:28). Name your problem, and give it to God today. Then lead your class to do the same this week. God will redeem your present for his glory and your good.
Trust God to redeem your past
The times were unlikely for greatness; the candidate, even less so. “Saul” means asked
(of God). Like Samuel, his parents hoped for great things from their son. So did the God who chose him to lead his people.
But Saul’s past gave little indication of his future. Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin (1
Sam. 9:1). They were nearly destroyed in an earlier civil war (Judges 20) and were the smallest tribe in the nation (Numbers 1:36; 1 Sam.9:21). By analogy, imagine a resident of Atlanta after the Civil War being nominated for the American presidency.
Saul was a donkey herder (9:3; compare his vocation with David’s later work as a shepherd). Saul’s servant was more perceptive than he (9:6, 8). Saul’s servant knew how to find the seer his master needed and how to pay him.
Too, Saul’s cowardice has come down the centuries as a lasting example of his character.
When he was selected to rule the nation, he was found hiding in the “baggage” (10:22).
Imagine the president-elect hiding in the crowd, refusing to mount the platform for the oath of office.
It is true that Saul was “an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites—a head taller than any of the others” (9:2). The word translated “impressive” is translated as
“handsome” in describing David (1 Sam. 16:12) and “fine” with regard to Moses (Exod.
2:2). But such physical stature clearly did not translate to social significance.

__________________________________________________________________________ Page 3 of 5
Adult Online Bible Commentary. 1 and 2 Samuel: Following God in Changing Times—Lesson Four. Copyright ©
2006 BAPTISTWAY PRESS®. Not to be sold. A ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Go to or call 1-866-249-1799 toll-free for additional Bible study materials for all ages.

1 Samuel 9:1-4, 15-21; 10:1, 9-24. God’s Surprising Choice

An observer watching Jesus choose his twelve apostles would have raised some of the same objections. None were trained theologically (see Acts 4:13) or equipped for cultural leadership and significance. One was a tax gatherer, the most despised profession in ancient Israel. Another was a zealot, a member of the armed insurgency against the
Roman Empire (Luke 6:15). But the God who redeems the past can use anyone who will serve his glory.
By contrast, those who trust in their past achievements rather than God’s present help seldom find their self-reliance adequate to the task. For instance, the Pharisees were confident that their legalistic piety made them acceptable to God, but they were tragically mistaken (see Matthew 23:27). We are still tempted to make their mistake today.
God has given you all you need to serve his purpose in his power. You have received the spiritual gifts necessary to fulfill your calling. His will for your life is “good, pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2). Where you’ve been is no determiner of where you are going. If
God could call and use Saul, God can call and use anyone. Don’t let discouragement keep you from the joy of Jesus.
Trust God to redeem your future
So God selected Saul to be the first king of his people (1 Sam. 9:15-16). Samuel then anointed him to this office (9:24—10:1). The oil Samuel used to anoint Saul indicated the blessing of God. The right shoulder the prophet gave Saul at the feast was the priest’s portion, most likely Samuel’s own part of the meal (9:24). These actions marked Saul for the highest honor and significance, something like a president seating his guest behind the presidential desk in the Oval Office.
God had revealed to Samuel Saul’s future (10:2-8). Samuel knew what Saul’s father would say about him (10:2). Samuel predicted those who would meet Saul at the great tree of Tabor (10:3-4). Too, Samuel described the prophets who would meet Saul at his hometown of Gibeah, where Saul would prophesy (10:5-6; see 11:4). Samuel would come later with further instructions (10:8). These predictions served to show the new king that the Lord would lead him effectively into the future of the Lord’s providential purpose. Small bands of prophets typically traveled together for safety and encouragement (10:913). One met Saul, and “the Spirit of God came upon him in power, and he joined in their prophesying” (10:10). God’s Spirit would enable the new king to fulfill the divine purpose for his leadership and service.
So the time came for God’s chosen leader to be chosen by the people as well (10:20-24).
The Urim and Thummim were typically used for such a purpose. These were stones carried in the breastplate attached to the ephod of the high priest (Exod. 28:28-30). They apparently had something like yes and no imprinted on them. They were cast in the belief that God guided them to reveal his will (see Proverbs 16:33). In this way, the land of
Canaan was allocated (Joshua 18:10) and the culprit of Ai discovered (Joshua 7:16-18).
__________________________________________________________________________ Page 4 of 5
Adult Online Bible Commentary. 1 and 2 Samuel: Following God in Changing Times—Lesson Four. Copyright ©
2006 BAPTISTWAY PRESS®. Not to be sold. A ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Go to or call 1-866-249-1799 toll-free for additional Bible study materials for all ages.

1 Samuel 9:1-4, 15-21; 10:1, 9-24. God’s Surprising Choice

On this occasion, the various tribes of Israel apparently stood before Samuel. He cast the
Urim and Thummim until they chose the tribe of Benjamin. They then selected the family of Matri (otherwise unknown in Scripture) and then Saul (1 Sam. 10:20-21).
The future king was found hiding in the “baggage” (10:22)—various kinds of articles, including military armor, spears, and the like. God directed the people to find him there.
And God would direct the new king’s duties (10:25-26), providing regulations that would govern his work and that of the nation.
God provide what Saul needed. Saul’s clear calling, his guidance for the future, his spiritual empowering, and his national election positioned the new king for greatness. In the same way, our Father always gives us all we need to serve his kingdom effectively.
Grace is getting what we do not deserve; mercy is not getting what we do deserve. We have seen both at work as God chose Saul for his kingdom purposes. We see the same whenever God calls us to his service. We deserve punishment for our sins. Instead we are given the privilege of partnering with the Lord of the universe.
When Winston Churchill was a teenager, he attended the Harrow School. He probably would have been expelled, except that his father was the famed Lord Randolph Churchill.
But he completed his education, went on to the university, and served in the British military with brilliant distinction. Later, at the age of sixty-seven, Churchill was elected prime minister of the British Empire. His leadership was crucial in leading the Allies to victory over the dark forces of Nazism.
In 1941, Churchill was invited to address the young boys at the Harrow School, his alma mater. Included in the speech were these famous words: “Never give in. Never give in.
Never, never, never, never. . . .”1
Where is discouragement at work in your heart and service this week?


Adapted from Ted W. Engstrom, The Pursuit of Excellence (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1982),
62-63. For the speech, see .

__________________________________________________________________________ Page 5 of 5
Adult Online Bible Commentary. 1 and 2 Samuel: Following God in Changing Times—Lesson Four. Copyright ©
2006 BAPTISTWAY PRESS®. Not to be sold. A ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Go to or call 1-866-249-1799 toll-free for additional Bible study materials for all ages.

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Paradise Lost

...Hebrew, Aramaic, Spanish, Italian, French and Dutch. In 1625, he began his attendance at Cambridge University with the intention of becoming a clergyman in the Church of England, but was disillusioned by what he considered the arrogance and ignorance of his fellow students. He decided that his true calling was to serve God and his country as an author and poet. Inspired by Roman poets of antiquity, and particularly Virgil, Milton aspired to create a great epic poem in the English language. He considered two other distinctly British topics for his epic—the story of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, and the military exploits of the general Oliver Cromwell—before settling on the Biblical story of Adam and Eve and their fall from God’s grace through disobedience. Milton was politically active throughout his life, and was outspoken in his beliefs against monarchy. After the execution of King Charles in 1648, Milton wrote pamphlets in support of the new parliament. Milton suffered from degenerative eyesight; his blindness became total in 1652. In spite of this, he worked as a civil servant under Cromwell’s protectorate, which governed Britain from 1653 to 1658. When Cromwell died and the monarchy was restored,...

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