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The Donkeys and the King (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
November 2, 2022 4:00 am

The Donkeys and the King (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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November 2, 2022 4:00 am

Do you ever feel like your life is too dull to be useful to God? If so, then you’re in for a surprise! Learn how God often achieves His purposes through the mundane, apparently random details of life. That’s our focus on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



There are people who think their lives are too dull to be of any use to God.

If that describes how you think, you are in for a surprise today on Truth for Life. We are going to find out how God often achieves His purposes through the mundane and the seemingly random details of our lives. Alistair Begg has titled today's message, The Donkeys and the King. For Samuel 9 and from verse 1. There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish, the son of Abbeel, son of Zeror, son of Bechorath, son of Aphia, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth. And he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he.

From his shoulders upward, he was taller than any of the people. Now, the donkeys of Kish, Saul's father, were lost. So Kish said to Saul, his son, take one of the young men with you and arise. Go and look for the donkeys. And he passed through the hill country of Ephraim, and passed through the land of Shalisha. But they did not find them. And they passed through the land of Sheolim. But they were not there.

Then they passed through the land of Benjamin, but did not find them. When they came to the land of Zu, Saul said to his servant, who was with him, Come, let us go back, lest my father cease to care about the donkeys, and become anxious about us. But he said to him, Behold, there is a man of God in this city, and he is a man who is held in honor.

All that he says comes true. So now let us go there. Perhaps he can tell us the way we should go. Then Saul said to his servant, But if we go, what can we bring the man? For the bread in our sacks is gone, and there is no present to bring to the man of God.

What do we have? The servant answered Saul again, Here I have with me a quarter of a shekel of silver, and I will give it to the man of God to tell us our way. Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he said, Come, let us go to the seer. For today's prophet was formerly called a seer. And Saul said to his servant, Well said, Come, let us go. So they went to the city where the man of God was.

As they went up the hill to the city, they met young women coming out to draw water and said to them, Is this seer here? They answered, He is. Behold, he is just ahead of you. Hurry, he has come just now to this city, because the people have a sacrifice today on the high place. As soon as you enter the city, you will find him before he goes up to the high place to eat. For the people will not eat till he comes, since he must bless the sacrifice.

Afterward, those who are invited will eat. Now go up, for you will meet him immediately. So they went up to the city. As they were entering the city, they saw Samuel coming out to ward them on his way up to the high place. Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed to Samuel, Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over my people Israel. He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines. For I have seen my people because their cry has come to me. When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord told him, Here is the man of whom I spoke to you. He it is who shall restrain my people. Then Saul approached Samuel in the gate and said, Tell me, where is the house of the seer? Samuel answered Saul, I am the seer. Go up before me to the high place, for today you shall eat with me, and in the morning I will let you go and will tell you all that is on your mind.

As for your donkeys that were lost three days ago, do not set your mind on them, for they have been found. And for whom is all that is desirable in Israel? Is it not for you and for all your father's house? Saul answered, Am I not a Benjaminite from the least of the tribes of Israel? And is not my clan the humblest of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin?

Why then have you spoken to me in this way? Then Samuel took Saul and his young man and brought them into the hall and gave them a place at the head of those who had been invited, who were about thirty persons. And Samuel said to the cook, Bring the portion I gave you of which I said to you, put it aside. So the cook took up the leg and what was on it and set them before Saul. And Samuel said, See, what was kept is set before you.

Eat, because it was kept for you until the hour appointed, that you might eat with the guests. So Saul ate with Samuel that day. And when he came down from the high place into the city, a bed was spread for Saul on the roof, and he lay down to sleep. Then, at the break of dawn, Samuel called to Saul on the roof, Up, that I may send you on your way. So Saul arose, and both he and Samuel went out into the street. As it were going down to the outskirts of the city, Samuel said to Saul, Tell the servant to pass on before us, and when he has passed on, stop here yourself for a while, that I may make known to you the word of God.

Thanks be to God for his word. Well, times of transition can be occasions of excitement, perhaps of fear, usually of uncertainty. And the way in which individuals or families or nations handle those transitional times reveals quite a bit about what they believe and their behavior reveals it. At a very personal level, moving from adolescence to adulthood is a significant move, from school to college, from work to retirement, from marriage to widowhood, from fitness to frailty.

They're all moments of transition. And here in chapter 9, we have a huge transition in the nation of Israel. We have gone from Eli the priest to Samuel, the judge and prophet, and now the people of Israel are about to have their first king. And this is a huge move. You remember, at the end of chapter 8, God has said to Samuel, Go ahead, then, and obey their voice—that is, obey the voice of the people—and make them a king.

And, of course, chapter 9 now provides the record of how this took place. Now, I wouldn't be at all surprised if there were at least half a dozen people who began to immediately say, What possible relevance can this have for us? After all, many of you are digital natives. In other words, you haven't had the privilege of knowing a time when it wasn't like this.

You just don't know. It's been like this ever since you were born. And people like me, Neanderthals, digital immigrants, are up here with a Bible explaining to you that 1 Samuel chapter 9 is actually of vital importance. Well, underpinning all of our study of Samuel—and, indeed, all of our study of the Old Testament—is a verse to which we keep returning, and I do so purposefully that it would finally settle in our minds. You remember when Paul, after making a quote from the Psalms, says to the church in Rome—this is Romans 15 and 4—"Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." In other words, the Bible and our study of the Old Testament, in particular as we're there now, it is comprehensive—everything that was written in the past, including 4 Samuel 9. It is at the same time contemporary in so far as it was written to teach us. Paul was writing in the first century to the church at Rome.

We're living in the twenty-first century as part of the church in Cleveland. And the contemporary relevance of the Old Testament is assured for us. And in so far as Paul, in that instance, was quoting from the Psalms, which is a direct reference in that third verse to Jesus himself, it is a reminder to us of the fact that our study of the Old Testament is ultimately Christological, in so far as it is bringing us again and again to a discovery of who Jesus is and why he came.

In other words, our study is not theoretical. It is practical. And it is practical in so far as, in Scripture, God continues to speak through what he has spoken. He continues to speak through what he has spoken—through his word.

And he does not speak to contradict his word or to change his word or even to clarify his word, for it is in need of none of the above. So, when you read the Old Testament, when you read 1 Samuel 9, this is not simply a source of information for people with kind of antiquarian interests—people who like to go to museums and stuff like that. But what you actually have is a divinely revealed commentary on human life. And therefore, it provides each of us with guidance in the conduct of our own lives. Now, what we're going to discover and what our plan is, is to find encouragement together by seeing how God works in and through the apparently random details of life.

All right? You say, well, what does this address about? It's about seeking the encouragement of God's word by understanding how God works through the mundane and apparently random details of our lives. Now, when you consider that the story here is so far removed from us, it is important that we actually believe this. God is the one who upholds the universe.

God is the one who directs all things to its appointed end. And so, this is a very different perspective from the notion, for example, that runs through a lot of the lyrical material of my favorite lyricists of the twentieth century. You're bored hearing about him, but I think he has encapsulated for us the spirit of the age as well as anyone. When I was thirteen and he was twenty-four, he wrote a song called Patterns.

That's 1965. It goes like this, From the moment of my birth to the instant of my death, there are patterns I must follow, just as I must breathe each breath. Like a rat in a maze, the path before me lies, and the pattern never alters until the rat dies.

Now, it's hard to follow that by saying, Have a good day. But as you drive tomorrow morning on the same road, to the same office, to the same task, surrounded by the same people, realize this, that without God and without an understanding of the providence of God—while men and women may not be prepared to put it as graphically and as tragically as that—nevertheless, the lives of men and women move through their days. Unclear about the very things that become clear in 4 Samuel 9.

The proverbs give it to us perfectly in Proverbs 16 and 9. A man's heart, a woman's heart, too, devises his way, but the Lord directs his steps. And the great mystery of this is how it is that God accomplishes his fixed purpose while we think and act freely. How does God accomplish his fixed purpose while we think and act freely? You see, because man without a free will is a machine, and God without his unchangeable purpose ceases to be God. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of God that will stand. Our liberty does not interfere with God's secret purpose.

And although he is the first cause of all things, he routinely uses secondary causes and various means as we're about to see, to which you say, Yes, hurry up, which he chooses to use in order to bring his purpose from all of eternity about. Now, it is that background which I give to you in order to set 1 Samuel 9 solidly, if you like, within the foundation of the doctrine of providence, for that is what this is. That we are not bobbing around in the sea of chance. We are not held in the grip of blind and deterministic forces. We are being schooled in the school of God's providence. And the good, the bad, the ugly, the foolish, the disastrous, the wise, the encouraging, the difficult, and the uncertain are all brought underneath, the sovereign control of a God who does all things well. For he who is the judge of all the earth, who will, as we sang in the psalm, judge his people in righteousness, shall not the judge of all the earth do right.

That is our ultimate security. Now, let's do the chapter, and I'll go swiftly, thereby leaving plenty for you to enjoy later on on your own. Chapter 9 and verse 1, There was a man of Benjamin. Well, that's a good start, isn't it? It ought to tell you something. You have to say, I think we had that before.

Yes, we did. That's how the book began. 1 Samuel 1.

1, There was a certain man. And what the storyteller is doing here is essentially pointing in this simple way to the fact that the storyline is about to advance once again. At the end of chapter 8, the readers, ourselves included, have been wondering how it is that God is going to actually anoint and secure this king. He's given the charge to Samuel.

Samuel hasn't immediately said about the task. In fact, at the end of chapter 8, we saw that he sent everybody home. He said, Go, every man, to his city. And Samuel, presumably, had gone to his as well. There, of course, we know at the end of 7 he had built an altar. There he would have these sacrifices and meals and he would go out on his circuit year by year and then eventually come back again. I think, probably, that's where he's been as we meet him again now.

The transition is about to take place, and the storyline unfolds. There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish. And he belonged to the tribe of Benjamin.

There's not a lot of material. The genealogy is there for us. Incidentally, of course, you do know that there was another soul who was from the tribe of Benjamin. When he gave his credentials in Philippians chapter 3, as a Hebrew of the Hebrews and so on, about his background, he mentioned that he was himself a Benjaminite. But this man, we're told, was wealthy, or, if you have the authorized version, that he was a mighty man of power. But his significance is not found in Mr. Kish.

The significance of his mention is there in verse 2 because of the son that he had. Now, those of us who've been reading this story will be putting the pieces together if we are thoughtful. We say, Okay, here we go again. We got another father-son story. The first two that we've had haven't been particularly good. Eli and the boys, not a good finish. Samuel and the boys, not a good finish. Now, this Mr. Kish, he is a son.

I wonder how that's going to be. If you're reading this with your grandchildren, you read it slowly, you read it properly, bring them along with you. There was a man. His name was Mr. Kish. He had a boy. What was his boy like? Well, he was really handsome. How handsome? He was the most handsome boy in the whole of Israel. Nobody was more handsome than him. Wow!

That is handsome. How tall was he? He was really tall.

How tall? Well, if you stood next to him, you wouldn't even have a chance, because he was head and shoulders above everybody that ever showed up. Now, you're the reader.

You're going, Now, wait a minute. They asked for a king. They asked for a king who would be able to go out and lead them in battle.

Maybe like a big, handsome king. So we don't know. We're reading. In chapter 8, we had that little piece about the best of men and their donkeys.

You can find that on your own. And now here we are. We go into chapter 9, and we find the best man and a story about his dad's donkeys. Incidentally, Saul's name means asked for. And in chapter 8, the people of Israel asked for a king. And now they are about to get asked for, which is, of course, what they asked for.

You should be able to remember that. Mr. Saul. They asked for him.

Well, he's asked for. That's the start, verses 1 and 2. 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 ourselves, 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? 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, 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?

Oh, 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 Shailim, 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 in search of 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 Remethi himself in 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. Our lives are not just a series of random events. We're not tossed about on a sea of chance.

We are secure in God's providence. That's Alistair Begg. You're listening to Truth for Life. We want to recommend a book to you today that we think all of you are going to be interested in. It's a brand new release from Alistair. It's titled Truth for Life, 365 Daily Devotions, Volume 2. Volume 1 was released late last year. This is the follow-up book. It contains another full year's worth of insightful reflection on God's word from Alistair. Just like in Volume 1, each daily reading presents a passage of Scripture.

Alistair then provides a commentary to help you more fully understand the passage, and he explains how to apply what you've learned to your life. This is a devotional that will keep you looking to Jesus as you start each day this coming year. You can request a copy when you donate to support the ministry of Truth for Life at slash donate. By the way, the Truth for Life devotional makes a great gift. You can purchase additional copies at our cost of nine dollars. Go to slash gifts. While you're on our website, check out other items in our store.

Most of what you see there is ten dollars or less. There are books for all ages, books we've carefully selected for you to give to others as a way to introduce them to Jesus. I'm Bob Lapine. Join us tomorrow as we'll see how God used unknown people and routine activities to establish Israel's first king. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: small.en / 2022-11-09 13:10:46 / 2022-11-09 13:15:51 / 5

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