Saul #1: Living Like A King’s Kid
I Samuel 10:20-24
Did you hear the story about the ship’s captain who every night would step out onto the bridge of his vessel, and he would take his sexton and put it to his eye and focus it upon the stars, and thus, he would determine his ship’s position upon the seas? Well, there was a young sailor on board that ship who didn’t know the first thing about the ways of navigation on the high seas. And so he watched the captain go through this procedure night after night after night, he watched it with gathering curiosity. And then one night, the captain, as was his practice, stepped out onto the bridge, took his sexton, put it to his eye, aimed it towards the heavens, and just at that moment, a spectacular shooting star streaked across the sky. And this young sailor cried, “Atta-boy, Captain. Good shot! You finally hit one.”
Well, I want to ask you something. How often have you been hitting the stars in your life? How often have you been measuring up to all of the greatness and the glory that God has put within you? How often have you been living in loyalty to the royalty God has instilled within you? That’s the question I want to ask you today. And I want to ask it, in terms of this story of Saul from I Samuel, the 10th chapter.
Permit me please to sketch the details in broad strokes. Saul was the son of Kish, a very rich and prominent Israelite. Now, it seems that Kish, according to the Bible, at one point, accidentally lost a very valuable herd of donkeys. He was much concerned about that, and so he commissioned his son Saul, together with one of their servants, to go out into the highways and byways and search for those donkeys and find them.
Well, Saul was a very resourceful man, and so Saul decided that he would seek the assistance of the leading prophet of the day. The man’s name was Samuel. Saul went to Samuel and told him what he wanted. And the very moment that Samuel saw and heard Saul, Samuel said, “Saul, don’t you worry about those donkeys. I’m going to tell you right here and right now that those donkeys have been found. But that’s not what’s really important. What’s important is that I have found you, for I believe that God is calling you to be the king of Israel. Well, Saul was stunned. He immediately protested. He claimed that he was completely unsuited and ill-equipped for any such responsibility as that. He said to Samuel, “Samuel, thanks, but no thanks. I do not want the job.” That was it. But that didn’t stop Samuel. Oh, no. Not for a moment. Samuel decided that he needed to convince Saul and everyone else that he was listening to a higher authority. And so Samuel engaged in a practice which was, I must say, rather common in those days in order to discern God’s will, casting lots. That’s right. You see, they believed in those days that by engaging in this game of chance that you permitted God to speak and reveal his will through the lots which were chosen. And that’s what Samuel did. He gathered all the people of Israel, and through the casting of lots, he narrowed the choices down to people in the tribe of Benjamin. Then, he, continuing to cast lots, he narrowed down the people in the tribe of Benjamin to the family of Kish. And then continuing to cast lots, the Bible says, he brought forth the family of Kish, man by man by man, and casting lots ultimately, the lot fell upon Saul.
Now, understand that that was a process which no one in those days would dare to question, not even Saul. And so the choice was made, Saul would be Israel’s first king. Well, they decided to hold a great celebration on the occasion when Saul was to be crowned. And the people of Israel came from far and wide for the coronation celebration. However, at the point in time where Saul was scheduled to be crowned, they looked around and Saul was gone. Nowhere to be found. Completely disappeared. They couldn’t locate him any place. It was then that the voice of the Lord whispered to Samuel and said, “Samuel, Saul has hidden himself amongst the baggage.”
Now, the King James version translates that verse like this. Saul has hidden himself amongst the stuff.” I like that. You see, when I travel, there’s not baggage. There’s just stuff. Saul has hidden himself amongst all the baggage and the stuff. You see, the people had come from everywhere. They brought their provisions and their supplies, their baggage and their stuff. And that’s that Saul did. He went and hid himself in the midst of all of that. They sent out a search party, and sure enough, right in the middle of all the stuff, they found Saul. And when they found him, they crowned him King of Israel. That’s the story. Isn’t that amazing.
The story could be downright funny if it weren’t so sad. I mean, think how hilarious this is. A perfectly grown man playing games of hide and go seek from God. And yet, it’s so sad, isn’t it, because you see, all the way through this whole process Saul was trying to avoid the responsibility to which God was calling him. Saul was trying to avoid living up to the gifts that God had given him. Saul was trying to avoid being loyal to the royal God had planted within him. So what did he do? He went and hid himself amongst the baggage.
Well, I want to tell you something: That leads me to offer two suggestions for our consideration today.
The first suggestion I would offer for consideration is this. We, you and I, are made by God for glory. And God has given us certain royal gifts for our living.
That’s the clear testimony of the Scriptures. We have given certain special gifts by God. They are the gifts of God’s spirit. And every single one of us, the Bible says, every single one of us has at least one such gift. The gifts may be different in all of us, but every one of us has at least one gift from God. That’s what the Bible says. Paul, writing to the Ephesians, says, “Though I am the least of the saints, still to me a gift has been given.” Paul, counseling his young friend Timothy, writes, “Rekindle the gift of God which is within you.” Paul, writing to the Corinthians, says, “There are varieties of gifts, but the same God inspires them all, and the same God gives them to all.” That’s the unmistakable message of the Bible. We have all been given certain gifts by God. God has placed within all of his children certain tiny touches of Himself. And we are called to use those gifts and to use them faithfully.
You know, I dearly love reading through the pages of the New Testament to see those incidents where Jesus empowers other people. There are dozens of those instances on the pages of the Gospels. I want to remind you of just one: The encounter between Jesus and Simon Peter at Caesarea Philippi. You remember what happened there, don’t you? Jesus said to his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And immediately, Simon replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon, son of John. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in Heaven. Henceforth, I shall call you Peter, and on this rock, I shall build my church.”
Now, you have to understand something here: the word Peter in Greek literally means rock. And so what Jesus was saying to Peter was simply this. “Simon, the faith that God has given you as a gift is as solid as a rock, and it is on that solid rock that I am going to build My church. And so that you will never forget that, I’m going to change your name. I’m going to give you a nickname right here and right now. I’m going to call you Rocky.” That’s right. That’s what Peter literally means. Not Rocky one, two, three or four, just Rocky. Jesus was saying to Peter, “Peter, you have been given a great gift by God. I want you to claim that gift, and then together you and I are going to do something magnificent with it. I want you to be loyal to the royal God has instilled within you.”
And you know what’s so amazing is that’s what Peter did. Yes. From that moment on his life – oh, yes, there were times in his life when he slipped – but from that moment on, the overarching testimony of Peter’s life was one of strength and courage and power and an awesome faith. And I believe that’s true because in that moment, Peter realized that Jesus was giving him an image of what he, by the power of God, could yet become. Jesus was trying to help Peter see that God didn’t intend for him to play a minor part in life. Jesus was trying to help Peter see that God had written for Simon Peter a starring role. And I believe that Peter came to understand that there in that moment, and it changed his life.
Here is the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God does the same thing in your life and in mine. God does not intend for us to be bit players on the human scene. You and I, yes, you and I are made for glory. You and I are the children of the King of the Universe. You and I are the children of God. And He has given us gifts, royal gifts, and He has called us to use those gifts faithfully.
That was the great tragedy of Saul’s life. God called him to royalty, but he wasn’t willing to live in loyalty to that royalty. He wasn’t willing to live up to the gifts God had given him. So what did he do? The Bible says he ran away, and he hid amongst the baggage.
Well, that leads me to the second suggestion I want us to consider. It’s this.
We shall never experience glory in our lives, until we begin to live up to the royal gifts God has given us.
Now, I know, it’s not easy to do. It’s not as easy to do that as it is to say it. You see, I know that there are people, there are people who don’t really want to try to discover the kingly characteristics and capacities God has planted within them because they know that once they discover those kingly characteristics and capacities, they’re going to have to live up to those characteristics and capacities, and they don’t want to do that. And so they try to avoid the responsibility. There are people like that. I know that. I’ve had doctors tell me of patients of theirs who refuse to assert their health. Why? Because they came to the belief that as long as they were sick, they would never have to do the things that they didn’t want to do in life. There are people like that. They are people who, yes, literally enjoy ill health. I’ve known some students who were capable of good work in school, but they never did good work in school. Why? Well, because they were afraid that if they ever demonstrated their ability to do good work in school that people would begin to expect that of them in the future, and they didn’t want that responsibility. And so what did they do? Well, they settled for just getting by.
I look back in my own life, to the list of my own acquaintances, to a young man. We grew up together in Mobile, Alabama. He was a very fine basketball player, and yet, you know something? He never went out for the basketball team. Why, because he was afraid that if people ever discovered how well he could play the game that they would begin to expect things of him that he didn’t feel that he could deliver. And so the best thing to do was never to let them know that he knew how to play at all. They are people like that.
It makes me wonder. It makes me wonder how many Mozarts have lived and died without ever having written any notes because they were afraid that if they ever wrote a few notes that people would expect them to write a lot more notes as well. I wonder how many Einsteins have lived and died without ever advancing a theorem because they knew that if they ever advanced a theorem that they would have to spend the rest of their lives defending that theorem. I wonder how many Schweitzers have been profitless to the world and of little value to themselves because they were afraid if they ever invested the magnificent capacities which God had given them into the life of this world that people would be making demands upon them for all of their days. I wonder how many people there are who have never measured themselves up against all of the magnificence that God has put within them. My experience tells me that there are many people like that.
That was Saul’s problem. He’d been given significant gifts by God. God had given him everything he needed to be kind over Israel. He was intellectually brilliant. He came from a prominent family. He was terribly good looking. He stood head and shoulders taller than every other man in all of Israel. He had a profound sense of humility. He had a genuine sense of reverence for God. He had all the gifts he needed to be the king of Israel, but Saul wouldn’t live up to the gifts God had given him. And so, instead of a life filled with glory, Saul’s life was marked by defeat, despair, and death. How sad.
But, you know, I stand here and look out at you, and I look at myself. I look at your life, and I look at my own, and I say to you, please, hear me, I say to you, it doesn’t matter how you may view your own gifts and abilities. It doesn’t matter how insignificant those gifts and abilities may seem to you. It doesn’t matter what difficulties you’re facing in your life. It doesn’t matter what your circumstances are. It doesn’t matter what odds are stacked against you in your experience. It doesn’t even matter what you may have been or done to this point in your life if you this day make the commitment to God that you will begin to live up to the gifts he has given you. That you will begin to be loyal to the royal he has instilled within you. If you make that commitment today, then, I promise you, ultimately, your life will be covered with glory and honor and victory. That’s true. And I can prove it.
Item: Here’s a man who grew up near one of our Presbyterian Mission stations in Zaire. He was converted to Jesus Christ there. When he was in his late teens, he contracted leprosy. In time, as a result of that hideous disease, lost his hands, lost his feet, and he became completely blind. He didn’t give up. He didn’t run and hide amongst the baggage. No. He’d believed that God had given the gift of intellect and the gift of ingenuity, and so he set himself to claiming those gifts. It was a long and difficult struggle, but today, he is a teacher of Bible at one of our African mission schools. By the way, he reads his Bible in Braille. Think about that, no eyes and no fingers, no hands, no toes, no feet. He read his Bible in Braille. How does he do it? Hold on tight. He reads his Bible with his tongue.
Item: As a young man, suffers a major stroke, paralyzed completely, unable to breathe except with the help of a respirator. He lives in San Diego, California. He’s a disciple of Jesus Christ. He didn’t quit. He didn’t run and hide amongst the baggage. No, instead, he believed that God was calling him to somehow get free of that respirator. So you know what he did? He remembered back to the days when he was a little boy. And he remembered that he and some of his friends in the neighborhood used to play a little game, silly little game, crazy little game. You know what they used to do? They used to draw into their mouth great breaths of air, and then with their tongues, they would force the air down their windpipe, so that– it’s crazy, shouldn’t say it – so that they could burp. That’s right. Well, he got to thinking about that, and he began to realize that maybe if he could learn to do that that it might enable him to breathe, and he would be free of the respirator.
And that’s what he did, so that now, he’s on the respirator only at night. He enrolled in law school at the University of San Diego paralyzed completely, unable to write. He didn’t run and hide amongst the baggage. Oh, no. He believed that God had given him the gift of a memory. And so he began to claim that gift, and he trained that gift, and he trained himself to where he could remember every single word that every professor spoke. It took a long, long time, but he’s graduated from law school at the University of San Diego, and today, he practices law in San Diego, California.
Item. He’s a man. His name is Harold Wilke. He was born tragically with no arms. He didn’t run and hide. He didn’t lose himself amidst the stuff of life. Oh. No. He believed that God had given him a gift, the gift of faith and the gift of teaching. It was necessary then for him to learn how to use his feet and his toes as if they were hands and fingers, so that if you were to ask Harold Wilke for an appointment to see him, he would sit down, and he would reach up with his foot, and with his toes, he would take his calendar out of one pocket and his pencil out of the other pocket, and with his toes, he would write down on his calendar, the date and time of your appointment. And today, Harold Wilke is a professor at Union Seminary in New York City, and he is teaching men and women to be ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And he is living a life that is covered with glory and honor and victory.
Do you understand what I’m sharing with you here is not pious platitude or wishful thinking? I am calling us to live like those three men live. I am calling us to understand that we are the children of the king of the universe. That God has given us special royal gifts, and that we are called to live up to those gifts, and if we live up to those gifts in our lives, then our lives will be marked by glory and honor and victory.
It was almost 200 years ago, at a port city on the coast of Africa, there was an American slave-trading ship docked there. The crew members on board that ship scattered out into the African bush and captured some of the African natives, chained them, shackled them completely and then led them back to that ship, where they were going to transport them back to America to be sold as slaves. The captives were a beaten, dejected, despairing lot, as they clanked in their chains on board that vessel. But there was one man in the midst of them who stood straight and tall, in spite of his shackles. One man who remained in firm control of himself and even of the dreadful circumstances in which he founded himself. One man who stood and walked with uncompromising strength and dignity. One of the crew members on board that ship pointed at this man and said to the ship’s captain, “Sir, who is that fellow?” And the captain said, “He is the child of a king, and he can’t forget it.”
My friends in Christ, you, you, you, you, you are the children of the king of the universe and don’t you ever forget it. For if you believe that, and if you live that, then my lord and my lady, the Kingdom is yours.