“And Saul answered and said, “Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then do you speak like this to me?””
I Samuel 9:21 NKJV
“For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.”
Philippians 3:3-7 NKJV
A tale of two Sauls
When I think back to life before the Lord Jesus saved my soul, I was one who though of himself in greatness, frequently caught up in self exaltation, thinking more of myself than I ought, and living in active denial of the horrible sin that was within me.
I more often than not sought the approval of others rather than the approval of God.
As I came to the know the Lord, I found that I diminished, the more the Lord worked in me and refined me. The approval of the world mattered to me less and less, as I perceived the glory of the Lord.
Reading through I Samuel chapter nine, I was reintroduced to Saul, the first king of Israel. The people had rejected God and demanded that they be lead like all the other peoples around them. Samuel went to great pains to warn them what would happen if they chose a leader of flesh and blood, rather than the leadership of their loving God, but the people would not relent.
“But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” So Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.”
I Samuel 8:6-7 NKJV
They rejected God, so the Lord relented and gave them the king they desired…and all the consequences that would come.
Saul was a handsome lad, tall and stood out. Aside from his appearance, there was nothing that would demonstrate what one would look for in a king. When he met Samuel, he was a humble member of a humble family, a part of a humble tribe.
Having been selected by God, he would be elevated from humble to exalted, to rule over the nation Israel. Having been selected, He was given a new heart, and was prepared for the office for with he had been anointed.
“So it was, when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, that God gave him another heart; and all those signs came to pass that day. When they came there to the hill, there was a group of prophets to meet him; then the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them.”
I Samuel 10:9-10 NKJV
Saul rose in stature, and lead the people faithfully, but like any natural man, he forgot who had anointed him, and began to do things his own way.
He had begun to enjoy the allegiances of of the people. After a defeat by the Philistines, the people began to scatter.
Instructed by Samuel to wait seven days for his return, Saul became restless and presented an unlawful sacrifice, because he thought Samuel was late and the people had begun to scatter and he feared losing them.
“And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.””
I Samuel 13:13-14 NKJV
It was downhill from there.
Saul of Tarsus came from the other extreme of King Saul, as he had a grand beginning, a personal history above e other histories, something for which one could be proud. But by the time of the writing of Philippians, one who had been born into exaltation, had been humbled, as he had encountered the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus, and he had been changed forever.
In humility, he was useful to the Lord, as he was the chosen to go to the gentiles, to go and tell of his own story, in the hope of persuading some of the glories of Jesus Christ. He was willing to suffer all things if the Gospel be advanced.
He had fallen from the exalted ranks of the Pharisees, to Roman chains, but his love for Jesus was magnified.
“Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
II Timothy 2:8-10 NKJV
Where the first Saul was exalted and given great wealth and comfort, Saul of Tarsus was promised suffering, for the Lord showed him what he must endure. It is in this that the difference is seen. One man chooses to disobey when there seems to be a delay in the coming of Samuel, and the others clings all the more closely to the Lord and serves, even though he knew what he had to expect.
As the kingdom was torn from King Saul, Saul, now Paul received the reassurance of the Lord even in the darkest of times, for Jesus was with him.
“Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.” And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.”
Acts 18:9-11 NKJV
Brothers and sisters, in the tale of the two Sauls, we see the power of abiding in a most holy God, of seeking always to please Him and not others. King Saul struggled because he feared losing the favor of the people more than losing the favor of God. May we be like Paul, knowing that all other things in this world are but loss when compared to fellowship with Christ.
In the coming days, weeks, months, and perhaps years, we will feel the pressure of the world upon us, as they demand that we turn from our righteousness in Christ to follow after the evil of the world.
Some of us will make unholy decisions against the will of God, and fall away. Let us be faithful and seek after the Lord, committed to finish the race set before us like our great forerunner Saul/Paul.
“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:12-14 NKJV
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