First Samuel 9 begins: “There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish….Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else.”
Israel had insisted on an earthly king. God had told Samuel to listen to them, but not without first giving them a serious warning. Samuel said that a king would conscript their sons for military service and their daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. He warned that the king would take from the best of their fields and crops and from their livestock and flocks. He warned that the day would come when they would realize the error of their ways and when they would cry out. He warned that their choice would have permanent consequences, and God would not answer.
Israel chose a human path. They wanted to be like the pagan nations around them. And so it began.
What was it about Saul that appealed to the people? It was simply his physique. Scripture does not tell us about his wisdom or his heart. Instead it tells us that he was well-built, taller than everyone else, and physically impressive. North Americans can relate: Saul was a winning athlete or a Hollywood hero.
Saul’s kingdom was poorly led. He never established a capital. Israel remained unorganized and tribal. Other nations like the Philistines had superior technology and were much more powerful.
Other than having the best physique among the Israelites, Saul was ill equipped and ill prepared.
Rather than choosing to become a leader for God, Saul consulted a witch. He did not have integrity and broke his promises routinely. He had a ferocious temper. He could not be trusted.
In spite of all of that, when he was chosen to lead, Saul was anointed by Samuel. God told Samuel to put his mark of leadership on Saul. Saul had been given the chance to lead for God. He chose differently; he chose for himself.
An incident occurred in the wilderness that we cannot miss. Saul had again broken his promise and was pursuing David with murder on his mind. Saul had been told that David and his followers were hiding in the strongholds of the En Gedi desert.
Saul took 3,000 men and left for En Gedi to capture and kill David. In a very human episode, Saul had to relieve himself and entered a cave in En Gedi for privacy. In God’s plan, David and some of his men were hiding in the rear of the same cave.Saul removed his cloak to do his business. David crept forward and cut off the corner of the cloak. Saul did not notice.
What is the corner of a cloak? In Numbers 15:37-41, God instructed Moses to tell the men of Israel to wear tassels on the corners of their cloak. To this day orthodox Jews wear them. Jesus did, too.
The tassel is a symbol. It is a reminder to each person who wears it that God desires obedience. It is a symbol to those who see them that the individual is seeking to live in obedience to God.
The word for tassel and for wing is the same word in Hebrew. When Jewish men pray, they lift the cloak with its tassels over their heads. Symbolically and actually, they are covered under the wings of God. Under God’s wings, they find refuge.
Back in the cave, David has Saul’s tassel. As Saul begins to depart, David goes to the entrance of the cave, holds up the corner, and calls to Saul. For the first time, Saul notices that the corner of his cloak has been cut off, and David has it.
Saul understands. Not only did David spare his life, but God has allowed David to possess the symbol of God’s wings covering him. Saul leaves and never pursues David again. Saul realizes that God has transferred his wings of protection to David.
Saul did not lose his kingship because God changed his mind. Saul lost his kingship because he chose to center his leadership in himself and not on God.
Are you called to lead? You and I are no different than Saul. Each of us faces the temptation to lead for ourselves. The lesson from the story of Saul is to be faithful to the one who called us. When we lead for ourselves, not only do we fail, but God’s kingdom is not advanced.
Devotionals are written by Jeff Blamer, Vice President of Member Services