Yesterday I was reading 1 Samuel 10. It's the chapter of the Bible where Saul is anointed as the king of Israel. Anointing means that oil is poured on his head as a sign that he is being set apart for service to God as the first king of God's people. He is not actually their king yet but anointing is the sign that he will be.
The anointing of Saul takes place at pivotal point in the history of Israel. Frankly, they have been a mess. Instead of having a king they have been led by judges, who were people that God would raise up at different times as their leader. The book of Judges ends with these words:
"In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes."
They did what they wanted, when they wanted, a situation that then, and now, usually doesn’t end well. When my wife and I occasionally see certain forms of this in our daughter we remind her that, "We're not going to let you grow up to be a tyrant."
So, Israel is a mess. They have much trouble with their neighbors. Their neighbors all have kings. They want a king of their own. God, speaking through His prophet, Samuel, tells them that this isn’t a good idea. After all, He is supposed to be their king. In their demand for a human king they are taking a step away from Him and from living as His people in the world.
But, in the spirit of doing what is right in their own eyes, they persist in their demand for a king. So God sends Samuel to anoint their king, and the person God has chosen is Saul.
Saul is a somewhat unlikely candidate. As far as we know he has no reputation to speak of. He is a physically imposing person, being much taller than most men. But beyond that he appears to be a nobody, the member of a minor clan in a small tribe of the Israelites. And to top it off, when the people of Israel are gathered to anoint him and they are looking for him, he is hiding among the luggage.
This is the future king? A no one from an insignificant tribe? An apparent coward? Small wonder that in the midst of their troubles some people respond,
"How can this man save us?"
When I read that phrase my mind was immediately taken to thoughts of Jesus, because the popular response He drew in His day was much the same. Ignored, mocked, threatened. And then it got worse. Arrested. Beaten. Executed.
The words of 1 Samuel 10 just after the phrase above add that the people speaking those words of Saul "despised him." And Jesus, hanging on the cross, with a sign above His head proclaiming Him as 'King of the Jews', received the scorn of those gathered as He took His final breath.
This man? A king? How can this man save us?
The truth of the Bible teaches that it is only Jesus who can save us. Acts 4:12 says,
"And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
Saul was anointed as Israel's first king and if you read the following chapters of his story you will see his failings come to light. He started well but soon the failings common to all humans came to light, and he followed his own ways rather than the ways of God.
Saul couldn’t save God's people because he was never called to that task. Only one person was. Only one person ever lived who could save God's people, and that is precisely what He did.
He did it for all people who would call on His name, Jesus, in faith as their savior. He did it for me. He holds out His salvation for you.
Salvation is found in His name. And nowhere else. May you know the promise of His salvation today. And to God be all the glory. Amen.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.