5.8 1 Samuel -- Saul Among the Prophets
...and the baggage.
A very interesting and puzzling verse:
As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul's heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day (1 Sam 10:9).
The RSV reads, "God gave him another heart." God appointed Saul, called him, anointed him, then empowered him to fulfill the role of king -- and still Saul failed miserably. In fact, he was given the kingdom in chapter 10 and lost it by chapter 13! It is clear that Saul did not have a heart after the Lord. So then, what did he receive from God in 1 Sam 10:9 that made him any different?
The next verse is equally intriguing:
When they arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came upon him in power, and he joined in their prophesying (1 Sam 10:10).
Saul was having quite a day! What was going on in his mind? His ordered, ordinary, rustic life had been blown apart in the past two days -- a prophet, commissioning, anointing, signs, more prophets, an infusion of the Spirit, personal ecstatic speech. And all he'd been looking for was a lost herd of donkeys.
The band of prophets shows us an aspect of Old Testament life and faith that is often mentioned in the historical books (2 Kings 2:3-4; 2 Kings 2:15; 2 Kings 4:1; 2 Kings 4:38; 2 Kings 6:1): a corporate spiritual experience and tradition existing outside of but parallel to the Law and sacrifices. These were men who were attuned to the Spirit of God, and spoke His words and declared His deeds, sort of a "Pentecostal brotherhood." In fact, when the Lord fell upon them communally, they may very well have acted much like the 120 on the day of Pentecost, but without the foreign tongues. There is an ecstatic emotional component to this form of declaration, otherwise people would not have remarked,
"What is this that has happened to the son of Kish?" (1 Sam 10:11).
Quite literally, he was outside of himself, he was not in his usual mind. God had imploded into his life, and he was giving vent to the overwhelming changes that had occurred. And yet, this extraordinary experience was as brief as it was dramatic. It passed quickly. In fact, when his uncle asked him, "What happened to you?", Saul replied, "Nothing." He mentioned that Samuel had told him the donkeys were found, but left out all the rest (1 Sam 10:16). The poor guy was probably still in shock. An even more extraordinary episode of spontaneous prophesying occurred later in 1 Samuel 19 (see below).
Samuel called Israel together to select the new king by lot. It was not a happy occasion, and was presented in the context of rebellion:
"But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your calamities and distresses. And you have said, 'No, set a king over us'" (1 Sam 10:19).
The lot was cast turn by turn, and -- surprise! The final winner was Saul the son of Kish. Except that he was nowhere to be found. It took God Himself to reveal his whereabouts:
"he has hidden himself among the baggage" (1 Sam 10:22).
Again the question comes: if God changed Saul's heart, if the Spirit of God came mightily upon him -- what was he doing hiding among the baggage? Contrast this with David's response when he saw Goliath taunting the troops of Saul: "Let me at him!" Clearly we have a failure to engage with his calling, right at the very beginning of Saul's rule.