I wrote recently about King Saul and the question, which became a proverb, “Is Saul among the Prophets?” The oddity of Saul prophesying is implied in the question, and was apparently a significant enough point that it comes up not once, but twice in the narrative of Saul’s life. (See 1 Samuel 19:23-24)
Prophesying was out of character for Saul. He wasn’t known as a spiritual man, and he didn’t even make a great king. Yet, he was God’s chosen man to be Israel’s first king.
Saul wasn’t king for very long before God made it clear to Samuel, the prophet, that we rejecting Saul as king and would be replacing him with another man – a man after God’s heart. (1 Samuel 13:14) From this (and the narrative of Saul’s life itself), we know that Saul was not a man after God’s heart.
So why did God make him king?
Perhaps, it was an object listen in what happens when we reject God. Remember that the people demanded a king like the other nations around them. They were rejecting God in demanding a king, but God told Samuel to give them what they wanted anyway. Perhaps, God chose a king for them who was like them – not after God’s heart.
Perhaps, God wanted to demonstrate for the people that their desire for a king was a bad idea, so he gave them a bad king. Maybe. But then he gave them “good” kings (David and Solomon). They also had many worse kings!
I continue to mull over the uncharacteristic event of Saul prophesying (twice!) and the apparent fact that it was so out of character for him. It wasn’t what he said (we don’t know what he said), but the fact that he prophesied at all that was noteworthy.
Further, it seems that Saul wasn’t a willing mouthpiece either time he prophesied. The second time, he went looking in Ramah for David to kill him. David was hiding there from Saul. When Saul got there, though, he was overcome by the Spirit of God and began prophesying with the prophets there – “day and night” Saul lay naked and prostrate on the ground.
God stopped Saul from killing David by overcoming him with prophecy. Strange! Is it not?
In the previous article on the subject of Saul prophesying, I drew the conclusion that the prophecies are not the story here: the story here is the heart of the man (whether it be Saul or David).
Samuel prophesied that Saul would be made king, but Saul didn’t embrace or internalize the prophecies told by Samuel. Saul’s life would have been different, perhaps, if he had stepped up to the kingly anointing he received. Instead, he deviated from God at every turn.
Samuel’s prophecies did come true, but the end result was less than one might expect. Saul did become king, but he was a lousy king, and he certainly was not a man after God’s heart.
Saul wasn’t even king for long when God told Samuel He was taking the kingdom away because of Saul’s bad decisions. Samuel was led by God to David, who was merely a shepherd boy tending his father’s sheep, and anointed him to become king long before Saul ceased to be king. (1 Samuel 16:12-13) This happened even before David rose to fame by killing Goliath. (1 Samuel 17)
We might imagine that something as momentous as this anointing should be followed immediately by the act of making David king, but it wasn’t so. David simply went back to tending his father’s sheep!
David wasn’t even part of the army that was mustered to face the threat of the gathering Philistine horde. He was still tending his father’s sheep and running errands from his father to his brothers as they prepared for battle.
The Philistines faced off with Saul’s army for 40 days. All this time, David went back and forth between tending his father’s sheep and taking supplies to his brothers. (1 Samuel 17:14-18) David wasn’t supposed to be there the day he faced off with Goliath, except that he was delivering supplies.
Remember that Saul responded reluctantly to the anointing Samuel gave him and hid when Samuel came to announce the kingship publicly. David’s response to the anointing by Samuel seems to be even less robust than Saul’s response! David simply went back to tending sheep.
We know David didn’t lack the faith to rise to the kingly anointing, though, because of what happens next. David was bringing supplies to his brothers when he hears the taunts of the giant, Goliath. When David saw that no one was willing to stand up to the Philistine, David rose to the occasion.
David’s faith in God led him to stand up to the giant, Goliath, in the face of the huge army of the Philistines! Thus, we are right to conclude that David wasn’t shrinking back from the anointing, as Saul did, when he went back to tend his father’s sheep.
It’s also worth noting the curious focus on Saul prophesying in this narrative, while we read nothing at all about David prophesying. This is curious, first of all because Saul was an unlikely prophet. More importantly, we know from the Psalms that David was prophetic! Jesus quoted David’s words that prophetically anticipated the coming of Jesus, the Messiah! (See, for instance, Psalm 110)
So, what does this have to do with prophecy or with having a heart for God? I will get to that, but first there is more to the story….Continue reading “Who is Among the Prophets? A Lesson in Prophetic Things”