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Affluent Christian Investor | October 23, 2017

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Were There Signs That King Saul Would be a Bad Leader?

David Plays the Harp for Saul, by Rembrandt van Rijn, c. 1650 and 1670.

This past week, I stumbled on the story of King Saul’s ascent to leadership in 1 Samuel. I say stumbled because I was not intending to study this story and had not considered it much in the past. There are many puzzling things about Saul’s leadership journey, and I have been researching and studying online and in the library since Tuesday.

I have many questions like: why did God seem so supportive of Saul’s appointment, even though He was clear that Saul represented Israel’s rejection of God’s kingship? Why did Saul seem so spiritual at one point with so many supernatural confirmations of his leadership and then fall and fail so quickly? Why was Samuel so ready to reject Saul as king when Saul disobeyed over what was seemingly much less of a transgression than David committed with Bathsheba? I’m not sure I will find definitive answers, but I know I will enjoy the investigation.


One thing stood out to me right away as I began to study and that was how ambivalent Saul was about the leadership position God was assigning him. While it seemed humble and the proper response, I am not sure it was, and I believe it is a common response among God’s people:

  1. EXCUSES:Saul answered, ‘But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?'” (1 Samuel 9:21).  Like Gideon, Saul objected that his family heritage was not worthy of leadership, and tried to use low self-esteem as an excuse not to lead.
  2. SILENCE: “Saul’s uncle said, ‘Tell me what Samuel said to you.’ Saul replied, ‘He assured us that the donkeys had been found.’ But he did not tell his uncle what Samuel had said about the kingship” (1 Samuel 10:14-16). Saul refused to tell his uncle what God had said to him through Samuel, perhaps assuming that his silence would cause the entire encounter with Samuel to go away.
  3. HIDING: “Finally Saul son of Kish was taken. But when they looked for him, he was not to be found. So they inquired further of the Lord, ‘Has the man come here yet?’ And the Lord said, ‘Yes, he has hidden himself among the supplies'” (1 Samuel 10:21b-22).

After he had no other way to avoid God’s call and assignment, Saul resorted to hiding in the warehouse. He thought he could hide from God’s plan, and it would all just go away, but he was wrong. God’s choice was clear and final, and Saul would reluctantly accept the call. I wonder if the rest of his career was a futile attempt at running and hiding as he was found doing when his reign began?


Has God assigned something for you to do? Perhaps it is something to create or a purpose to accomplish. If you are like Saul, you have tried one or all of this three ploys to avoid the will of God: excuses, silence, and hiding. The hiding can take the form of busy-ness (“God, it is just not realistic for me to do Your will right now”), or silence (“If I don’t volunteer or tell anyone about what God wants me to do, then God cannot use them to hold me accountable”), or excuses (“I don’t have the education, time, or money to do that; I hope that God gives it to someone else to do. After all, my kids need me”). I suppose we can boil all three down into one, and that is trying to hide from God.

Are you hiding? Well, if you are, you have been found, just like Saul was found. God knows where you are, and He has sent me to bring you out. You have something to do that only you can do, so I suggest you get over the excuses, open your mouth, and then accept the anointing that is yours. One word of caution: Don’t act like you are doing God a favor as you come out of hiding. If you don’t deal with your fear and rebellion, then your entire “career,” like that of Saul’s, will be one of the reluctant disciple who must be coerced into obedience, and that will not be good for those around you and especially for you. Have a blessed week!


Originally published on the Monday Memo from John Stanko.

John Stanko was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and attended Duquesne University where he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics in 1972 and 1974 respectively.

Since then, John has served as an administrator, teacher, consultant, author, and pastor in his professional career. He holds a second master’s degree in pastoral ministries, and earned his Doctor of Ministry from Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh in 2011.

John founded a personal and leadership development company, called PurposeQuest, in 2001 and today travels the world to speak, consult and inspire leaders and people everywhere. From 2001-2008, he spent six months a year in Africa and still enjoys visiting and working on that continent, while teaching for Geneva College’s Masters of Organizational Leadership and the Center for Urban Biblical Ministry in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Most recently, John founded Urban Press, a publishing service designed to tell stories of the city, from the city and to the city.


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