The standard approach to looking at Saul’s life is to devalue him for his misbehavior toward David.
That is a very short-sighted approach. Our default position for everything is “God was there first.” Long before he fell, he was God’s choice to be the first king of Israel. While God clearly knew he would mess up, God also saw in him the potential to do a huge amount of good.
Think through it from a personnel allocation perspective. God had the whole nation to choose from. There would only be one first king ever. Clearly dynasties are His approach to the monarchy so He had reason to believe that Saul would be an extraordinary patriarch for a dynamic dynasty.
Consider the tribal factor. In Jacob’s blessing, He stipulated (through divine prophecy) that Judah would be the leadership tribe. Yet, for the first king, God deliberately went outside the tribe of Judah. There has to be some fierce intentionality in that decision.
All of that points to a huge amount of treasure in Saul. I am going to do a series looking at what God placed there, how it was supposed to play out in the nation, and finally, what went wrong.
The first thing that shouts to me is the tribal issue. It is interesting that the second king was gift of Mercy, and the first king came from the Mercy tribe of Benjamin.
The king had to rule over a Giver nation. The Giver is known for their hugely independent spirit. One of the first things I look for in determining the redemptive gift of a nation is whether there is a plethora of political parties (think Israel and the Netherlands today) and whether the head of the nation has significant restrictions on his use of power.
Israel had become quite accustomed to the tribal arrangement where “treaties” were based on the crisis of the moment and seemed to dissolve naturally as soon as the enemy of the hour was defeated. Now, the new king would have to form a nation out of these disparate groups who wanted a king and didn’t want a king, all at the same time.
While the Ruler is quite skilled at forming a working organization out of a challenging group of people, those organizations tend to be more pragmatic than alive, and people can get hurt in the process. Think of Nehemiah and his strange mismatching in building the wall and his insensitivity to the pain of the people.
So God defaulted to the Mercy gift of an entire tribe in order to help the first king build an ecosystem based on sensitivity to design, rather than a structure based on power and need.
The Mercy is also more prone to build slowly with consensus. David could easily have defeated the other eleven tribes and formed his nation, but being a Mercy king, he played a waiting game, and eventually the others came over to him without the violence of a civil war.
We see some of the same in Saul. After the coronation, he sensed that although God was behind him, the nation was not, so he went back to the farm until an incident occurred that caused a huge consensus in his favor, and then he set up the government.
It appears to me that God’s first priority was to find a man who could partner with Him in forming an organic nation, not one cobbled together by force. I ponder the history of Europe. The EU is the latest attempt to create some sort of unity among the disparate nations that were never meant to be united this way, and it too will fail in time, because there is not a natural glue.
However, in Israel, God had designed the nation for unity. He had placed them all in the right land (except that Dan fled), and now He needed a Mercy driven king to partner and help unpack the treasure of this nation, while at the same time weaving it together into oneness.
This was so important that God went outside the leadership tribe of Judah! Amazing.
More to come.
Copyright by Arthur Burk July 2011
From DFW Airport