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The Donkeys and the King (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
November 3, 2022 4:00 am

The Donkeys and the King (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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November 3, 2022 4:00 am

How did a man who was simply searching for his father’s donkeys end up as Israel’s first king? Follow the chain of events and the unknown people and routine activities that God used to establish Saul as king. Join us on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


Line of Fire
Dr. Michael Brown

How did somebody who was out searching for his father's lost donkeys end up being chosen as Israel's first king? Today on Truth for Life we'll follow the chain of events that brought Samuel the prophet and Saul the future king together. We'll see how God used these nobodies and their routine activities to accomplish his purposes.

Alistair Begg is teaching from 1 Samuel chapter 9. Now verse 3. Now the donkeys of Kish.

You can feel it building already, can't you? The sense of expectation that is created in the first two verses and we come to verse 3 and the opening line is virtually anticlimactic, isn't it? Immediately saying to yourself, why are we starting on donkeys?

We were off to a good start there. Little did father or son know what the donkey search was going to lead to. What we're going to discover, of course, by the time we get to verse 18, we discover that while Kish was sending Saul to look for donkeys, God was sending Saul to Samuel by means of secondary causes. How were Saul and Samuel going to meet as a result of a big banner in the sky, as a result of a thunderclap, as some divine invasion?

No. That's the significance of the story. If we had met them on one occasion and said, So how did the two of you meet? The opening line from Saul would have been, Well, my father's donkeys ran away.

We're like, No, no, no, no, no. We're asking how you met. I'm telling you how we met. You mean the king of Israel met the prophet of God as a result of some donkeys running away? Are you telling me that God Almighty achieves his purposes in and through the apparently random, mundane bits and pieces of life?

Well, you're sensible people. Look at the text. So off they go to look, and the way in which it's described creates that sense of expectation and anticipation. Take one of the young men, look for the donkeys, and they pass through the whole country of Ephraim and pass through the land of Shalishah. But they did not find them.

And they passed through the land of Sheolim. But they weren't there. They could have just said, And they went to look for the donkeys, but nobody could find them. But that wouldn't be a good story. And this is a story.

It's a true story, but it's a story. Go and search for the donkeys. They can't find them.

And so the big, handsome fellow says, I think we should chuck it. That's verse 5, when they came to the land of Zuf. Now, I don't want to divert all the time, but Zuf should ring a bell for at least three people. Because the way the book starts, there was a certain man of Ramathim, Zofim, of the whole country of Ephraim—remember how excited we were when we started there?—whose name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuf and Ephrathite.

So we say, Wait a minute. That means that the big fellow and his servant, after roaming around the whole country of Ephraim, now find himself in the land of Samuel himself. Because Zuf was Samuel's great, great, great grandfather.

Now, the son cares about his dad, says, Probably we should go back. He'll be more worried about us than he was worried about the donkeys. Verse 6, and the servant says, I don't think so. But he said to them, Behold, there is a man of God in this city, and he is a man who is held in honor, and all that he says comes true. That's so that we, as the readers have beginning to say, maybe this is Samuel. Because we know that Samuel, when he was appointed by God, it was told of him that his words were such that none of them fell to the ground. He told the truth all the time, even if it cost. He was a good preacher. And so the servant says, There is a man here.

Now, isn't this at least of interest in passing? Wouldn't you think that the man who is about to be set apart to be the king would be the one who would be saying this? That it would be the servant who might be saying, I think we should go back and give this up? And the king is saying, Oh, no, no, we must go forward.

But it is the potential king who says, I think we ought to just go back. And it is the servant who has the insight. How wonderful is this?

How wonderful is this? Who's the servant? Don't know. What's his name?

Don't know. How significant is he? Hugely significant. It's a reminder to us, isn't it? There's not the names.

It's not the profile. It's the task assigned to us. You can read this through your whole Bible. You remember, now the Syrians, on one of their raids, carried off a little girl.

They were trafficking in children, and they carried off a little girl from the land of Israel. And who is it that is used and is instrumental in the life of Naaman, given his leprosy? Who would that my master would go and see the prophet? Hey, servants of the living God, don't underestimate what a word spoken and seasoned from any of our lips might ever be or do in the unfolding of God's purposes. Now, Saul would have every reason to say, I wonder where you came up with that idea. So would the servant. And then when he says, yeah, but we don't have anything to give to the man if we go there, the servant says, aha, wait a minute.

I have a quarter of a shekel of silver, and I will give it to the man of God to tell us our way. You get the impression, don't you, that this servant has some kind of spiritual insight, that he's a little more sensitized to things than even Saul is himself, that he's beginning to recognize that this search for these donkeys is probably about something far more significant. Verse 9 is essentially a footnote, telling us that a seer and a prophet is the same thing. And so now Saul has got on board, and in verse 10 he said to his servant, well, then that's good.

Let us go. So they went to the city where the man of God was. And as they went up the hill to the city, they met young women. Now, again, if you know your Bible, this is wonderful in the unfolding of the story. Because if you know your Bible, you say, there seem to be a lot of occasions in the Bible where, in transition, in significant moments, we are introduced to ladies drawing in water, an apparently routine, mundane, insignificant activity. And yet—remember the story of Isaac? You remember the story of Moses? You remember the story of Jesus and the woman at the well? This is not in here for padding. This actually took place. And the young women—come imagine these young women.

They're going, Wow! Who is that? He must be the most handsome man in all of Israel! I'm not gonna talk to him.

You talk to him. No! He's coming over.

Oh, no! And so they said, Is the seer here? And they said, Behold, he is. He's just ahead of you.

Hurry! He has come now to the city. Because there's going to be a sacrifice on the high place. Remember, he went back to Ramah, and there he built his altar. And as soon as you enter the city, you'll find him, because he goes up to the high place to eat, and nobody will start without him, because he always says, The Grace.

And so they went up to the city. And as they were entering the city, they saw Samuel coming out to war them on his way up to the high place. Okay, we pause there now, and we're taken back the day before in verses 15, 16, and 17, which is a key to actually understanding the passage. Because now we discover that on the previous day, God had revealed to his servant Samuel what was about to take place. In other words, Samuel's activities were not on the basis of speculation nor even on the basis of observation or investigation. They were on the basis of revelation, that God, who had raised up Samuel, who had begun his life—remember, saying, Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening, is still listening, and God now speaks his word to him in order that he might be able to proceed in relationship to his word.

Timing, of course, is absolutely everything. Samuel may have been out on one of these circuits. He's now returned. He has come just now. So, what a picture it is, again, of the fact that a man's heart devises his way, but the Lord directs his steps. He's going to be given the responsibility of anointing him as a priest and as a prince, as a leader, as one who will be able to deal with the Philistines. Because God says to his servant, I have seen my people, because their cry has come to me.

You notice, again, how we get emphasis by repetition, not by underlining or changing the font. You'll notice there he will be a prince over my people. He shall save my people, for I have seen my people. Here is a covenant God with his focus on the people of his choice. And if you read what it says there, you will probably be saying to yourself, but wasn't it said in chapter 18 that when a king was appointed, there would be the occasion when my people will cry to me, and I will not answer them?

You can find that again in chapter 18. So that day has not yet come, because he still sees, and he listens to their cry. I have seen my people, because their cry has come to me. Are you a part of the people of God?

By grace through faith in Jesus. Are you numbered among his sheep? Then do you realize that even in the worst of your days, even in the darkest of your days, he sees you, he hears your cry, he cares? Of course, if you want to go with Paul Simon, you can just conclude that you're a rat in a maze. Now in 18-25—and we need to come to a close here, so I pick up the speed—then Saul approached Samuel in the gate and said, Can you tell me where the seer lives? Saul doesn't come out real good in this, as far as I'm concerned.

This is given as an indication of what's to follow. The servant seems to have more spiritual insight than Saul. Saul is handsome and tall.

He doesn't seem that bright, actually. And so he goes up to Samuel in the gate and says, Can you tell me where the seer lives? So we've got this, Is the seer here? Where is the house of the seer?

And then verse 19, I am the seer. Imagine him saying, Oh, yes, of course you are. Yes, yes.

No. And then it follows. He says, And you should be ready for the fact that we're going to have a meal together. Don't worry about your donkeys anymore.

They've been lost for three days, but they have been found. The real thing that ought to be on your mind, Saul, is to answer the question, And for whom is all that is desirable in Israel? Imagine him saying, Goodness, I couldn't even recognize you. How am I going to answer that question? Well, what was all that was desirable in Israel? That he would have a king.

What was the answer? Saul was the answer. The fulfillment of it was wrapped up in him.

Is it not for you and for all your father's house? Saul then responds, as Gideon responded when he was confronted. Remember, I am the lowest, I am the least, I am the smallest. Saul knew he was big, he was handsome, he was good-looking, but he came from a small fry tribe. He couldn't understand why Samuel would speak to him in this way. And what he must have made of it when Samuel took him and his servant and brought them into the hall and didn't just pull in a few chairs, as it were, because it was a ready-planned meeting, and there were some thirty people there, and maybe he would have said, Excuse me, could you get something for our two visitors here, maybe just something back there against the wall?

No, no, no, no. Samuel brings him and puts him in the position of honor. And he says to the cook, he says, Bring the portion that has been kept for him.

And Samuel said, See what is kept is set before you. Eat, because it was kept for you, until the hour appointed, you might eat with the guests. And Saul eats and goes to his bed. And as his bed is spread on the roof and he lies down to sleep, you can only imagine that he's saying to himself, What in the world was that about? Eat, because it was kept for you, until the appointed hour?

But I just went looking for my dad's donkeys. And this guy says that this was planned and there was an appointed hour, and I'm here. Try getting to sleep after that. And then the morning dawns. The sun is up, and up must I to wash and dress and eat and drink and look at things and talk and think.

That's Houseman the poet. He wakes up. It's gonna be a morning like no other. Samuel's up. Calls for him. Up!

Okay! That I may send you on your way. Up, so you can go. So they went. Samuel went out into the street. And so the servant is sent to pass on before us.

Presumably he's walking behind. So he says to Saul, Tell your servant to go ahead of us. Hey, servant, go ahead, please.

Thank you. And when he goes past, you just stand still here, because I want to say something to you. Stop here for a while, that I may make known to you the Word of God. That was his role.

Not one word of his fell to the ground. This is the role of the prophet of God. This is the role of the preacher. Stop here for a while.

You say this has been quite a long while. Stop here for a while that I may make known to you the Word of God, because it is on the strength of God's revelation that all that is now purposed for the nation of Israel is about to unfold. God's Word to Samuel, make them a king, revealing himself to Samuel, this one who will be king is going to appear tomorrow, the man of whom I spoke to you, the Word of God, at work, in and through the apparently random mundane bits and pieces of life. The God whose Word was about to be made known to Saul was sovereign over every one of these details.

Let me finish in this way. The doctrine of providence—for this is what it is, it's a graphic illustration of it—the doctrine of providence is not like the doctrine of the Trinity, for example, which ultimately we take by faith. You cannot plumb the debts of the doctrine of the Trinity. You can't look at it and say, Look, this is the doctrine.

But that is not the case with providence. Because all of us, if we have any sense of perception at all, will be able to look back on our lives and will be able to say, You know, that was apparently random when it happened. But I can see now, through the rearview mirror, that while my heart devised my way, the Lord direct my steps. It's the story of the whole journey of the people of Israel. What possessed Moses' mom to defy the Pharaoh and put him in a basket in the bulrushes? And how would she ever know that the daughter, the princess, would be out to bathe in the river, but not just in the river, at the part of the river where she would see the basket? And the unfolding drama involving Moses unfolds on the basis of an apparently random and inconsequential moment. What about when Esther's mom and dad looked on the beauty of their daughter and then saw her grow and said, You know, this girl is gorgeous. She is exceptionally lovely. I wonder what this will mean for her. Little could they know that it would be her exceptional beauty that would be the occasion that would give rise to her coming to the kingdom for such a time as this. Hey, David, would you go see your brothers? They're fighting a war somewhere. Take them some bread and take them some cheese.

Okay, dad, we'll do. Neither father nor son could ever have imagined that the sandwiches would lead to the defeat of the Philistines. But if he hadn't taken the sandwiches, the other side of the equation, Hey, Joseph, we hate you, and we hate your dreams, and we don't like it when you come down here at breakfast and start this stuff about us bowing down to you, and you know what?

We're gonna get rid of you one of these days. So the contrived death of one individual leads to the salvation of a nation. You don't have to be too clever to jump forward to the story of Jesus. Do you believe this? I wonder.

Can you rest in this? The doctrine of providence has to cover it all, you see. Some of us have dealt in the last twelve months with deep sadness. God holds the key of all unknown, and I am glad.

If other hands should hold the key, or if he offered it to me, I would be sad. Because although my heart devises my way, the Lord directs my steps. And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Whether it's servants or strangers, prophets, even donkeys, all are useful in God's sovereign plan. You're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. Alistair will be back shortly to close today's program with prayer. The Bible teaching you here on Truth for Life is available to all of us because of the generous giving that comes from your fellow listeners. Truth for Life is 100% listener funded.

And when you join the team, when you give a donation today, we have a special way to say thank you. We want to send you a copy of Alistair's brand new book, Truth for Life 365 Daily Devotions. This is volume two. This is a follow up to last year's release of volume one. In it, Alistair presents another full year of daily readings. Volume two explores passages from more than 50 books of the Bible. You start each day assured of God's promises, and you're encouraged to live out the rest of your day trusting in Jesus. You can request your copy of the book when you give a donation at slash donate, or if you'd rather mail your donation along with your request for the book, write to Truth for Life at P.O. Box 39-8000, Cleveland, Ohio 44139. And by the way, if you don't own a copy of volume one of the Truth for Life devotional, you can find it in our online store. It's available at our cost of only $9.

Again, find it at slash 365, or give us a call at 888-588-7884. Now here's Alistair with a closing prayer. Father out of an abundance of words, may we hear your voice speak to us Lord in the areas of our lives where you know this word is most apropos, and not only individually, but in terms of our extended families and our relationships, and not least of all our relationships in our church family here, help us to know that all our ways are known to you.

For Christ's sake, we ask it. Amen. I'm Bob Lapine.

Thanks for listening. As we continue our study in First Samuel, how is Saul's story relevant for us today? Is it merely a biblical history lesson, or is there some greater significance? Alistair speaks to that tomorrow. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the learning is for everyone. For more information visit
Whisper: small.en / 2022-11-09 13:15:51 / 2022-11-09 13:20:46 / 5

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