Sunday, October 20, 2013

[Matt's Messages] "Go and Look for the Donkeys"

“Go and Look for the Donkeys”
A Heart for the Heart of God: The Message of 1 Samuel
October 20, 2013 :: 1 Samuel 9:1-11:15

There is a lot going on in these chapters, but they basically tell one story–the story of how God answered the request (I mean demands) of the people in chapter 8.

Do you remember what the people of Israel asked for last week in chapter 8?

“We want a king!”
“We want a king!”
“We want a king!”

Like all the other nations.

And we said, “Be careful what you ask for” because you just might get it.

At the end of chapter 8, the LORD tells Samuel to give the people what they are asking for, to give them a king.

And the story of chapters 9 through 11 of 1 Samuel are the story of how God gave that king to them.

It was in a way that no one could have guessed, including the prophet and the king himself.

It started with a search...for some donkeys.

The title for today’s message, “Go and Look for the Donkeys.”

Now, let me be clear. That’s not our application for today.

The Bible is not going to teach us to go and look for some donkeys.

But as we follow one young man’s search for donkeys, I think that we’ll find some truths about God that do apply to our lives today.

Because we’re going to do 3 chapters this morning, there won’t be much time for commentary.  I’m mainly just going to read the story to you and provide a little running commentary.

What I’d like to show you can be summed up in 3 short words about God: Providence, Discipline, and Deliverance.

And we’ll see all three as we go along.

Our story begins with a Hebrew man of standing named Kish. Chapter 9, verse 1.

“There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Becorath, the son of Aphiah of Benjamin.”

Now, we can guess that either he or his son will be the king requested by the people in chapter 8.

This man is a man of standing and pedigree. But it’s not him.  V.2

“He had a son named Saul, an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites– a head taller than any of the others.”

Aha. Need to keep our eye on this guy. He’s going to go somewhere. He’s tall!

On the outside at least, this guy looks good. V.3

“Now the donkeys belonging to Saul's father Kish were lost, and Kish said to his son Saul, ‘Take one of the servants with you and go and look for the donkeys.’ So he passed through the hill country of Ephraim and through the area around Shalisha, but they did not find them. They went on into the district of Shaalim, but the donkeys were not there. Then he passed through the territory of Benjamin, but they did not find them.”

Sounds a little frustrating, doesn’t it?

Anybody have a week like that this week?

You feel like you were looking for the donkeys, and they weren’t anywhere to be found?

Now, we don’t value donkeys, like they did. This was like having several paychecks of cash go missing.  “I know I put them somewhere.”

But you really get the feeling of futility.

Not in Shalisha. Not in Shaalim. Not in Benjamin. V.5

“When they reached the district of Zuph, Saul said to the servant who was with him, ‘Come, let's go back, or my father will stop thinking about the donkeys and start worrying about us.’”

“But the servant replied, ‘Look, in this town there is a man of God; he is highly respected, and everything he says comes true. Let's go there now. Perhaps he will tell us what way to take.’ Saul said to his servant, ‘If we go, what can we give the man? The food in our sacks is gone. We have no gift to take to the man of God. What do we have?’ The servant answered him again. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I have a quarter of a shekel of silver. I will give it to the man of God so that he will tell us what way to take.’ (Formerly in Israel, if a man went to inquire of God, he would say, ‘Come, let us go to the seer,’ because the prophet of today used to be called a seer.)  ‘Good,’ Saul said to his servant. ‘Come, let's go.’ So they set out for the town where the man of God was.”

Do you see how the writer is stringing us along and building dramatic tension?

Saul has set out looking for donkeys.

Now he’s looking for a prophet.

Who do you think the prophet might be? V.11 More dramatic tension.

“As they were going up the hill to the town, they met some girls coming out to draw water, and they asked them, ‘Is the seer here?’ ‘He is,’ they answered. ‘He's ahead of you. Hurry now; he has just come to our town today, for the people have a sacrifice at the high place. As soon as you enter the town, you will find him before he goes up to the high place to eat. The people will not begin eating until he comes, because he must bless the sacrifice; afterward, those who are invited will eat. Go up now; you should find him about this time.’”

We’re having our town meal and meeting. And the prophet is in town and will kick things off with a prayer.

And we still don’t know his name. But we can guess.  V.14

“They went up to the town, and as they were entering it, there was Samuel, coming toward them on his way up to the high place.”

Aha. This is a meeting between Saul and Samuel.

Is it just a chance meeting?
Is it just a coincidence?
Did they just so happen to meet?

The author of the book pulls back the curtain and gives us the 3 most important verses in this chapter. Verses 15, 16, and 17.

“Now the day before Saul came, the LORD had revealed this to Samuel: ‘About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him leader over my people Israel; he will deliver my people from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked upon my people, for their cry has reached me.’”

Here’s our first finding. We’ve found:


God’s providence is His sovereign rule over all things to provide the best of care for His people.

He doesn’t just sovereignly rule. He rules for His people’s good.

That’s what we mean when we say, “God’s providence.”

How was it that Saul ran into Samuel that day?

It was not just a coincidence.

It was a plan.

V.16 says that the LORD told Samuel that He was going to “send” Saul to him that afternoon.

Q. Did Saul know that he was being sent?

A. Yes, he knew that he was being sent to look for some donkeys!

But he had no idea that the LORD was sending him to meet his destiny with Samuel.

This should encourage us.

Because so often it feels in life like we’re chasing elusive donkeys, doesn’t it?

Shakespeare’s Macbeth is famous for saying that life is just “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

And sometimes it feels like it.

Sometimes life feels like an endless search for missing donkeys that never show up.

But the Bible teaches us that God has a plan and is working that plan for His glory and our good!

And we might not get a “verses 15-16 moment” in our lives when God pulls back the curtain and tells us what’s going on.  Saul didn’t get that!

But we know that it’s happening.

That our Heavenly Father is working it all to our good.

Notice in verse 16 that His providence is delivering mercy and compassion to His people.  V.16 again.

“‘About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him leader over my people Israel; he will deliver my people from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked upon my people, for their cry has reached me.’”

Now, we’ll see in a few seconds that there is a disciplinary side to this choice for their king. Unfortunately, they are going to get what they deserve.

But God is also giving them this king because He loves them. Because He cares. Because He has compassion. He has looked upon his people, and their cries have reached Him.

And He hears your cries, too.
He has compassion on you.
He looks on you, as well.

It may not feel like it sometimes.

“How did those donkeys get out of the barn again?!

Where are they?!!”

But if you belong to Jesus, you will find someday that every elusive donkey was actually leading you into something good...because of God’s providence.

V.17 “When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the LORD said to him, ‘This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people.’”

It’s all part of His plan. You can trust Him.

V.18  “Saul approached Samuel in the gateway and asked, ‘Would you please tell me where the seer's house is?’”

I think it’s interesting how Saul doesn’t seem to know Samuel at all. And yet this is Samuel! The national spiritual leader and hero!  I think Saul may not be the brightest bulb in the house. V.19

“‘I am the seer,’ Samuel replied. ‘Go up ahead of me to the high place, for today you are to eat with me, and in the morning I will let you go and will tell you all that is in your heart. As for the donkeys you lost three days ago, do not worry about them; they have been found. And to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you and all your father's family?’”

Say what?

What a shock that speech must have been to Saul!

How did you know I was coming?
How did you know about the donkeys?
What do you mean that the desire of Israel has turned to me? V.21

“Saul answered, ‘But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?’ Then Samuel brought Saul and his servant into the hall and seated them at the head of those who were invited–about thirty in number. [He’s honoring him.] Samuel said to the cook, ‘Bring the piece of meat I gave you, the one I told you to lay aside.’ So the cook took up the leg with what was on it and set it in front of Saul. Samuel said, ‘Here is what has been kept for you. Eat, because it was set aside for you for this occasion, from the time I said, 'I have invited guests.'’ And Saul dined with Samuel that day.”

When he set out after those donkeys, he had no idea!

V. 26 “After they came down from the high place to the town, Samuel talked with Saul on the roof of his house. They rose about daybreak and Samuel called to Saul on the roof, ‘Get ready, and I will send you on your way.’ When Saul got ready, he and Samuel went outside together. As they were going down to the edge of the town, Samuel said to Saul, ‘Tell the servant to go on ahead of us’–and the servant did so–‘but you stay here awhile, so that I may give you a message from God.’”

Chapter 10, verse 1.

“Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on Saul's head and kissed him, saying, ‘Has not the LORD anointed you leader over his inheritance?”

Saul is the “Messiah.”  Saul is the anointed one.

Saul is to be the king.

We could see that coming. But it’s still a secret. And Saul needs some confirmation and assurances. So Samuel gives him 3 signs. V.2

“When you leave me today, you will meet two men near Rachel's tomb, at Zelzah on the border of Benjamin. They will say to you, 'The donkeys you set out to look for have been found. [There’s those donkeys again!] And now your father has stopped thinking about them and is worried about you. He is asking, ‘What shall I do about my son?’'

‘Then you will go on from there until you reach the great tree of Tabor. Three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you there. One will be carrying three young goats, another three loaves of bread, and another a skin of wine. They will greet you and offer you two loaves of bread, which you will accept from them.

‘After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost. As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, tambourines, flutes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying.

The Spirit of the LORD will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person.

Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.

‘Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do.’”

And that’s exactly what happened. V.9

“As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul's heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day. 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. When all those who had formerly known him saw him prophesying with the prophets, they asked each other, ‘What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?’ A man who lived there answered, ‘And who is their father?’ So it became a saying: ‘Is Saul also among the prophets?’”

I think that’s a way of saying, “Will wonders never cease?”  (Dale Ralph Davis, pg. 100)

What is going on around here?

Now, I don’t think we’re supposed to get from verse 9 that Saul was “saved” at that point. I don’t think that God “changing Saul’s heart” is the same thing that is meant by a changed heart in the New Testament.

But God’s Spirit did come upon him in a special way. That oil of annointing was followed by the anointing of the Spirit.

The Spirit rushed upon Saul like He had upon Samson back in Judges. Same Hebrew word.

And he was a different person, meaning, I think, that he was now the king.

And he was clearly empowered by the Spirit. Empowered to prophesy and empowered to rule and to deliver.

And yet, he still keeps it a secret. V.13

“After Saul stopped prophesying, he went to the high place. Now Saul's uncle asked him and his servant, ‘Where have you been?’ ‘Looking for the donkeys,’ he said. ‘But when we saw they were not to be found, we went to Samuel.’ Saul's uncle said, ‘Tell me what Samuel said to you.’ Saul replied, ‘He assured us that the donkeys had been found.’ But he did not tell his uncle what Samuel had said about the kingship.”

Not sure why. I’m tempted to think that its fear. And this next story tells you why. V.17

“Samuel summoned the people of Israel to the LORD at Mizpah and said to them, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you.' 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.' So now present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes and clans.’”

This is important.

The second thing we find about God in this story is His discipline.


And by that, I mean His chastisement. God is about to give them the king they ask for and they deserve.

I just said that God’s compassion and mercy providentially arrange a king to deliver them. Yes.

But at the same time, God is also disciplining them with the king that they asked for.

V.19 again. I saved you! “But you have now rejected your God...and you have said ‘No, set a king over us.’”

Well, get ready. Here you go. V.20

“When Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, the tribe of Benjamin was chosen. Then he brought forward the tribe of Benjamin, clan by clan, and Matri's clan was chosen. Finally Saul son of Kish was chosen. [Bump Ba Dah! ...] But when they looked for him, he was not to be found.”

[First the donkey, now the king.]

“So they inquired further of the LORD, ‘Has the man come here yet?’ And the LORD said, ‘Yes, he has hidden himself among the baggage.’

[Not a great start. A scaredy cat for a king.]

‘They ran and brought him out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others. [Ooh, ahh. He’s tall!]

Samuel said to all the people, ‘Do you see the man the LORD has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.’ Then the people shouted, ‘Long live the king!’”

I think that this story is supposed to humble us.

Because God gives them what they ask for.

Last week, we talked a lot about how we need to search our hearts before we ask God for something because we might regret it if we ask for the wrong things or for the wrong reasons.

Sometimes, God gives us what we have asked for to chasten us, to humble us, and to discipline us.

Now, that’s for our good, too, but it hurts.

Part of why I say that this is discipline is how the story is told.

Does it sound familiar how the different tribes come forward and are chosen?

It sounds to me like the story of Achan after Jericho. Remember how he stole from the plunder that he shouldn’t have?

And they called all of tribes one by one and settled on Achan?

It almost feels like that here. Even though it’s a king, a privilege at the end of the process.

And then he’s missing in action. Not taking responsibility. That’s going to be a problem later.

And then, all that they can see and are impressed with is that he’s tall!

It’s not bad to be tall, of course.

But the only other rulers in the Bible who were described as tall were the rulers of the other nations. Not the rulers of Israel.

So, they asked for a king like all of the other nations...and that’s what they got.

God’s discipline.

They only looked on the outside.

They didn’t get a king that had a heart for the heart of God.

He had a changed heart in some ways, yes, but there is no evidence that Saul had a heart for the heart of God.

“But who cares?! We’ve got a king! Long live the king!”  V.25

“Samuel explained to the people the regulations of the kingship. He wrote them down on a scroll and deposited it before the LORD. Then Samuel dismissed the people, each to his own home. Saul also went to his home in Gibeah, accompanied by valiant men whose hearts God had touched. But some troublemakers said, ‘How can this fellow save us?’ They despised him and brought him no gifts. But Saul kept silent.”


Some people weren’t sure that this was actually from the Lord.  “How can this fellow save us?”

Well, he can do it, he can save them in the power of God’s Spirit.

And that’s the last thing we find about our Lord in this story.


God’s salvation. God’s rescue.

In chapter 9, verse 16 God promised that this anointed king would deliver His people.

And God always keeps His promises. Chapter 11, verse 1.

“Nahash the Ammonite went up and besieged Jabesh Gilead. [Trouble.] And all the men of Jabesh said to him, ‘Make a treaty with us, and we will be subject to you.’ But Nahash the Ammonite replied, ‘I will make a treaty with you only on the condition that I gouge out the right eye of every one of you and so bring disgrace on all Israel.’

“The elders of Jabesh said to him, ‘Give us seven days so we can send messengers throughout Israel; if no one comes to rescue us, we will surrender to you.’ [And strangely enough, he takes the deal.] When the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul and reported these terms to the people, they all wept aloud.

Just then Saul was returning from the fields, behind his oxen, and he asked, ‘What is wrong with the people? Why are they weeping?’ Then they repeated to him what the men of Jabesh had said.

When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came upon him in power, and he burned with anger.

He took a pair of oxen, cut them into pieces, and sent the pieces by messengers throughout Israel, proclaiming, ‘This is what will be done to the oxen of anyone who does not follow Saul and Samuel.’

Then the terror of the LORD fell on the people, and they turned out as one man. When Saul mustered them at Bezek, the men of Israel numbered three hundred thousand and the men of Judah thirty thousand.

They told the messengers who had come, ‘Say to the men of Jabesh Gilead, 'By the time the sun is hot tomorrow, you will be delivered.'’ When the messengers went and reported this to the men of Jabesh, they were elated. They said to the Ammonites, ‘Tomorrow we will surrender to you, and you can do to us whatever seems good to you.’

The next day Saul separated his men into three divisions; during the last watch of the night they broke into the camp of the Ammonites and slaughtered them until the heat of the day. Those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together.”

They won!

“The people then said to Samuel, ‘Who was it that asked, 'Shall Saul reign over us?' Bring these men to us and we will put them to death.’ But Saul said, ‘No one shall be put to death today, for this day the LORD has rescued Israel.’

God’s deliverance.

The Lord saves!

He loves to save His people.

That’s what He promised in chapter 9 and how He described Himself in chapter 10: “The God who saves you out of all your calamities and distresses.”

If God’s providence should encourage us.
And God’s discipline should humble us.
Then God’s deliverance should amaze us!

Amazing Grace How Sweet the Sound that Saves a Wretch Like Me!

The salvation we have in Jesus is utterly amazing.

Jesus delivers us, not just from Nahash the Ammonite, but from the wrath of God to come!

Saul was going to turn out to be a very disappointing messiah, anointed one.

But as the Spirit of God came upon Him in power, he was able to effect God’s deliverance of His people.

How much more does Jesus the Messiah save His people in the power of the Spirit!

Saul in verse 13 is at his best in all of his story.

“No one shall be put to death today, for this day the LORD has rescued Israel.”

And that leads to the confirmation of Saul’s kingship.  In case anyone wondered if God had installed a king in Israel, there was no wondering now. V.14

“Then Samuel said to the people, ‘Come, let us go to Gilgal and there reaffirm the kingship.’ So all the people went to Gilgal and confirmed Saul as king in the presence of the LORD. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings before the LORD, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration.”

Who could have guessed that this was where they would end up when Kish said, “Go and look for the donkeys?”


A Heart for the Heart of God

01. Hannah's Prayers
02. Those Who Honor Me I Will Honor
03. Speak, LORD, for Your Servant Is Listening
04. God In A Box
05. Who Can Stand in the Presence of the LORD, This Holy God?