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Saul, part 2

Samuel Receives And Entertains Saul.

1 Samuel 9:15-27.

when Saul and his servant were come into the city Samuel was coming out. They were personally unknown to each other, but the seer, who had previously been divinely warned of Saul's coming, now received the intimation that the man before him was he whom he was to anoint captain over the Lord's people, to save them out of the hand of the Philistines, because their cry had come up to Him. We now for the first time learn the special reason on which the Divine Being acted in granting Israel a king. It was not merely to please His people, but to save them from their enemies. Those enemies were such as required a king to oppose them. The nations of Canaan represented the different evil and false principles against which the Church has to contend. The Philistines, those powerful and determined foes of Israel, represented one of the most formidable and persistent of the false principles that the Church in all ages has suffered from and has had to war against, but which she has often shamefully yielded to. They represented the false principle or persuasion, that men can be saved by knowing and believing without loving and doing, which may be briefly expressed as salvation by faith alone. Considered as it is in its own nature, faith alone is a false persuasion grounded in evil, for it originates in it as well as leads to it. The opposite of that falsity is truth grounded in goodness, and this was represented by a king. The Philistines had troubled Israel under the Judges; and even Samson, the greatest of her heroes, had not only failed to subdue them, but had been bound and blinded by them, and compelled to grind in their prison, and make sport for the multitude; thus symbolizing how the votaries of faith alone bind the truth that should make men free, and put out the eyes of the understanding that should be their guide, and make it grind at their intellectual mill by making it reason in favour of error, and compel it to make sport for the gratification of their corrupt affections. But Samson was single-handed. Saul was to be captain over the Lord's people, and lead them out to battle. And that which made him a king made Israel a kingdom; so that the people with their leader became, representatively, the opposite of that which was represented by the Philistines and their sovereign.

When Saul, in whom the prophet now beheld the future king of Israel, "drew near to Samuel in the gate, he said, Tell me, I pray you, where the seer's house is." Unlike Samuel, the son of Kish had received no revelation, so that he knew not whom he was addressing. In spiritual things the higher knows the lower when the lower knows not the higher; for influx enters the inner man and passes thence into the outer man. This, at least, is the case when the gate of the rational mind, by which the spiritual mind communicates with the natural, and the natural with the spiritual, is open, and when the spiritual is looking outward and the natural is looking inward, and when they are approaching each other, and finally meet in this middle region, as Saul and Samuel met in the gate. When the natural thus desires to obtain access to the spiritual, and especially to know the good in which internal truth resides, as Saul wished to know where the house of the prophet was, then the internal man reveals himself. To Saul's question Samuel answered, "I am the seer." Having communicated this simple fact respecting himself, and directed Saul to go up before him to the high place, for he must eat with him that day, he amazed his visitor by announcing to him that on the morrow he would tell him all that was in his heart, that the asses which were lost three days ago were found, and that he it was on whom was the desire of Israel, and on all his father's house. This miraculous knowledge is the symbol of a spiritual truth. The spiritual mind knows all that pertains to the natural. "What man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?" The fullness of time and of state, of which three days are the common symbol, sees that restored which was lost; and truth Divine, with all the good belonging to it, becomes the desire of the common principles of the mind, as their ruling power.

With becoming modesty, expressive of humility, Saul deprecates the honour so unexpectedly thrust upon him. "Am not I a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? wherefore speak you so to me?" The circumstances which made Saul think himself the least worthy of the high station assigned him, were the very circumstances which made him the subject of the Divine choice. "God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty; that no flesh should glory in His presence." It is not to magnify His own power, and prevent men from robbing Him of His glory, that the Lord thus acts; it is because self-sufficiency impedes the Divine operation, and defeats the best efforts of men in the cause of truth and righteousness.

There is perhaps something of the Oriental style in Saul's description of his tribe and family, a style which is well adapted to express the sense of one's own nothingness, or the utter abnegation of the selfhood, which all ought to feel, and the language of which forms so perfect a basis for the spiritual sense. It is possible that after the terrible slaughter of the Benjamites in the time of the Judges their tribe was now the smallest, though it was not so in the time of Joshua; but the description of Kish as a mighty man of power did not seem to indicate that his was actually the least of all the families of Benjamin.

Samuel now took Saul and his servant and brought them into the parlour, and made them sit in the chiefest place among them that were bidden, which were about thirty persons. The room into which they were brought had no doubt more of a sacred character than the homely name given to it would seem to imply. This is the only instance in which the word is translated parlour, but it appears repeatedly in our version as a chamber, and especially a chamber of the temple. One of the chambers of the mystic temple was for the priests, the keepers of the charge of the house, and one was for the priests, the keepers of the charge of the altar (Ezek 40:45, 46); and we learn from Nehemiah that in one chamber they laid the offerings which the Law required the people to bring for the priests, the Levites, and the singers (Neh 13:5). The chamber into which Saul was brought was in the high place, where sacrifices were offered as well as eaten; it therefore was a holy place, where he was to sit down with holy men, to partake of a holy feast. There is such a chamber now as there was then, into which none enter but divinely-bidden guests, where none but sacrificial feasts are eaten, and only holy exchange takes place. That chamber is in the inner man, into which evil never penetrates, but where holy affections and thoughts, which the Lord has introduced, combine to exalt His name and rejoice in His bounty. Into this we consciously enter when raised above the cares of the world. And in the case here represented, that truth which is to rule over the common affections and thoughts is set in the chiefest place, even among the principles of the inner man. Those among whom Saul occupied the chief place were about thirty persons. This, like all numbers in the Word, was symbolic. Thirty is a highly significant number. It includes in its meaning the beginning of a new state and the nature of the state begunó fullness of remains with conflict. The Levites were thirty years of age when they entered on the work of their ministry, which is also called a warfare; David was thirty years old when he began to reign; and the Lord Himself began to be about thirty years of age when He entered on His public ministry. In all these cases there was preparation before and conflict after. In Saul's case the number was not of years, but of persons. These persons are new affections and thoughts, and the acquisition of these is truly the entering on a new state, too surely to be followed by conflict. At present, however, all was to Saul new and elevating. Samuel, forewarned of the guest he was to entertain, had caused a shoulder to be reserved for him, and he now asked the cook to set it before him; and Saul did eat with Samuel that day. It was the custom in those times to mark a distinguished guest both by the quantity and quality of the meat that was set before him. When Joseph entertained his brethren, Benjamin's mess was five times as much as any of theirs. The shoulder which had been set aside for Saul was a distinguished portion. By the Levitical law the shoulder was that part of the wave-offering which was given to Aaron and his sons, as the breast was given to Moses (Exod 29:26, 27), because the shoulder signified love, and the breast charity. In the case of Saul the setting before him of that priestly portion had, besides, a special symbolism; it was an expressive sign that the government of Israel was now about to pass from the priest to the king. The idea of government is also included in the meaning of the shoulder, for it includes the idea of power, which is evident from the well-known passage relating to the Lord Himself, "The government shall be upon His shoulder." Samuel, when Saul did eat with him that day, must have recognised in the circumstance the transfer of his own authority to his guest. Samuel was a prophet and a judge, and he was now at least officiating as a priest, which some assert he actually was. If we accept Chronicles as an historical record he belonged at any rate to the tribe of Levi (1 Chron 6:16, 28), though not to the priestly caste. When the festival was concluded Samuel and Saul came down from the high place to the city. Every actual elevation of the mind to God is followed by a coming down to the affairs of men. From the high place to the city is not less necessary than from the city to the high place. We worship God that we may be strengthened to do our duty to men. It is thus we truly serve God. ''Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these, you have done it to Me." But although Samuel and Saul had come down from the chamber in the high place to the house in the city, they went up to the top of the house, and there communed on the all-important matters relating to the kingdom which was now about to be commenced. They not only communed on high subjects, but they spoke of them from high or interior states of mind. Exalted motives and exalted views were only suitable in men who discoursed on so high a topic as that which concerned the welfare of a people, elected by the grace of God to preserve the knowledge of His name and the purity of His worship amidst nations sunk into the grossest idolatry and practising the impurest rites. Samuel no doubt fulfilled his promise by telling Saul all that was in his heart; and while he let in the light of truth upon his mind, to show him what manner of man he was, he, we may be sure, counselled him how to govern so great a people, to govern in the strength and for the glory of Him who was their true King and supreme Ruler. And such is the case with the least of us when the Divine Prophet, either by His Word or His Spirit, communes with us respecting our own secret thoughts, and instructs us concerning the government of His kingdom in our own hearts and minds.

So closed the eventful day. On the morrow "they arose early: and it came to pass, about the spring of the day, that Samuel called Saul to the top of the house, saying, Up, that I may send you away. And Saul arose, and they went out both of them, he and Samuel, abroad." If, as competent critics assert, the word here translated "arose in the morning "originally meant to place a load on the shoulders, to load an animal preparatory to a journey, it may well be said of Saul that he arose on the morning of this new day with the burden of a kingdom upon his shoulder. It is when we first awake in the morning after the day of a great change that a sense of our altered circumstances comes most forcibly upon us. But Saul was not only to revive a former impression; he was to receive a new one. Yesterday he knew himself as the chosen, today he is to know himself as the anointed, of the Lord. Inauguration into his high office is to make him for the time at least a new man. This new day is truly the beginning of a new state. All that is related of the day indicates this. Samuel and Saul arose early, while it was yet dark it would seem; for about the spring of the day, or early dawn, Samuel called Saul to the top of the house, saying, Up, that I may send you away. Early morning and dawn mean the beginning of a new state, but they express besides something of its nature. Nor do they symbolize that state only when Divine light breaks in anew upon the mind, but the inward tranquillity and peace which the dawn usually brings with it. In the supreme sense the dawn signifies the Lord Himself, the Sun of Righteousness. He is said to rise early, and send His servants the prophets; and His coming is always connected with the morning, and is compared to the dawn. In a lower and general sense the dawn is the commencement of a new church; in a particular sense the dawn is regeneration, for when any one is made new the Lord's kingdom arises in him, and he becomes a church; in the singular sense it is the dawn as often as the good of love and of faith is operative in him, for in this is the Lord's coming. It was when the dawn had ended His successful wrestling with the angel that Jacob's name was changed to Israel; as it is when the Christian disciple overcomes in temptation: he passes out of a natural into a spiritual state. At the dawn Samuel called Saul to the top of the house, again representing elevation of mind; but this time it is not to commune with him, but to send him away, to speed him on his journey to his father's house, with the seal of his appointment to the regal office. They then went forth abroad. To go forth abroad is to proceed from internal to external things, or to carry inward principles into outward acts. "As they were going down to the end of the city, Samuel said to Saul, Bid the servant pass on before us, (and he passed on), but stand you still a while, that I may show you the word of God." Saul first met Samuel at the gate of the city, and Samuel was to dismiss Saul at its termination. But how different the circumstances! how much had taken place between his entrance and his departure! So the circle of life returns into itself; but how great the difference of state between its beginning and its end! It was when they were approaching the end of the city that Samuel desired Saul to stand still that he might show him the word of God. Like the command to the Israelites, "Stand still, and see the salvation of God," and the exhortation, "Be still, and know that I am God," this is a command to cease from all activity originating in self, and place entire reliance upon God. The meaning is expressed by the Lord Himself where He says to the people, "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength;" and where the prophet says of them, "Their strength is to sit still" (Isa 30:7, 15). But sitting has relation to a state of the will and of love, and standing to a state of the understanding and of faith; it is this stillness, therefore, that Samuel requires of Saul. It is this standing still from the activity of our own intellectual selfhood that enables us to receive the word of God in faith; for true faith is trust in God, as able to do for us more and better for us than we can do for ourselves. It is this also which prepares us for the sanctification which the anointing of Saul by the prophet represented; for it was to anoint him as the king of Israel that he required him to stand still. This subject is treated of in the next chapter.

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