Sermon for Sunday, December 31st, 2023 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[1Sa 10:1-16 ESV] 1 Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head and kissed him and said, “Has not the LORD anointed you to be prince over his people Israel? And you shall reign over the people of the LORD and you will save them from the hand of their surrounding enemies. And this shall be the sign to you that the LORD has anointed you to be prince over his heritage. 2 When you depart from me today, you will meet two men by Rachel’s tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah, and they will say to you, ‘The donkeys that you went to seek are found, and now your father has ceased to care about the donkeys and is anxious about you, saying, “What shall I do about my son?”‘ 3 Then you shall go on from there farther and come to the oak of Tabor. Three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you there, one carrying three young goats, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a skin of wine. 4 And they will greet you and give you two loaves of bread, which you shall accept from their hand. 5 After that you shall come to Gibeath-elohim, where there is a garrison of the Philistines. And there, as soon as you come to the city, you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them, prophesying. 6 Then the Spirit of the LORD will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man. 7 Now when these signs meet you, do what your hand finds to do, for God is with you. 8 Then go down before me to Gilgal. And behold, I am coming down to you to offer burnt offerings and to sacrifice peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, until I come to you and show you what you shall do.” 9 When he turned his back to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart. And all these signs came to pass that day. 10 When they came to Gibeah, behold, a group of prophets met him, and the Spirit of God rushed upon him, and he prophesied among them. 11 And when all who knew him previously saw how he prophesied with the prophets, the people said to one another, “What has come over the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” 12 And a man of the place answered, “And who is their father?” Therefore it became a proverb, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” 13 When he had finished prophesying, he came to the high place. 14 Saul’s uncle said to him and to his servant, “Where did you go?” And he said, “To seek the donkeys. And when we saw they were not to be found, we went to Samuel.” 15 And Saul’s uncle said, “Please tell me what Samuel said to you.” 16 And Saul said to his uncle, “He told us plainly that the donkeys had been found.” But about the matter of the kingdom, of which Samuel had spoken, he did not tell him anything.
New Testament reading:
[Act 10:34-43 ESV] 34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
[Mat 3:13-17 ESV] 13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
We come now to the anointing of Saul as the first king of Israel. But as it has been a few weeks since we were last in the book of 1st Samuel, I think it would be valuable to recap some of where we have been.
1. The book started off with the birth of Samuel to Hannah, his very thankful mother who dedicated him to the Lord. And we had the Lord’s calling of Samuel to be a prophet, and a priest, and a judge.
2. We then had Eli, the high priest, and the fall of his evil worthless sons and Eli own demise after the Ark of the Covenant was captured by the Philistines.
3. We then saw the Philistines playing “hot potato” with the Ark of the Covenant as the Lord brought down disasters upon them in whatever city the Ark resided in.
4. Then, after the Ark had returned to Israel we found the people clamoring for a King.
5. And, when we were last in this book, we saw the Lord chose Saul to be King through a series of leadings, first in the search for his father’s escaped donkeys, and then all the way to meeting with Samuel.
So that is where we find ourselves today. Saul is with Samuel. Saul that “tall, dark, and handsome” young man suddenly being told that he will be king of Israel, and Samuel that prophet of God doing what the Lord has directed him to do.
And so we now find Samuel’s longest monologue. A speech to Saul giving a number of prophecies that will soon be fulfilled to prove to Saul that God has chosen him to be king.
But before the prophecies are uttered, first Saul is anointed King.
I. The Anointing of Saul (v. 1)
It is only partially correct to say “Samuel anointed Saul.” True it is that Samuel “took a flask of oil and poured it on Saul’s head.” But notice who has truly anointed Saul? “Has not the LORD anointed you to be prince over his people Israel.” It is God who has chosen Saul to be king. Samuel pours the oil on Saul’s head symbolizing that choice of God, but it was God who chose Saul.
The meaning of the Hebrew word mashach (to anoint) is to “smear or spread a liquid, or to rub with oil.” That is the literal meaning. But the purpose of such oil is to clean, and so the deeper meaning of anointing is “to consecrate” or prepare one for some purpose or role. And so a person anointed is a person that is declared to be set up for a certain role.
Prior to Saul’s anointing, the only anointing we have in the Scriptures is that of priests. Saul is the first king of Israel, and Samuel takes that method of anointing priests and applies it to Saul as King. There is no indication that Samuel is wrong in doing so. In fact, it seems in the context that he is right in doing so. He is anointing Saul with oil BECAUSE God has anointed Saul to be prince over his people Israel. Samuel’s actions are confirming what God has already decided.
But while Samuel the prophets knows from God that Saul is to be king, Saul himself might not be quite so convinced. Thus Samuel gives a series prophecies to confirm Saul’s calling to him.
We’ll call these “four confirming prophetic encounters.”
II. Four Confirming Prophetic Encounters
The fulfillment of these prophecies is to dispel any doubt in Saul’s mind as to whether God has called him to be king. The signs he will see are to convince Saul of his “higher destiny.”
There are four encounters that Samuel foretells.
A. Two men by Rachel’s tomb (v. 2)
First there are two men by Rachel’s tomb. As Saul departs from Samuel he will come upon these two men who will tell him that the donkeys have been found and that Saul’s father (Kish) is now more anxious about Saul’s return.
B. Three men at the oak of Tabor (v. 3-4)
Next, Saul will come upon three men at the oak of Tabor. One of these men is carrying three young goats. Another is carrying three loaves of bead. And the third is carrying a skin of wine. And they, Samuel tells Saul, will give him two loaves of bead which he shall accept.
And you can see here that they are not simple, likely to occur prophecies. They are getting complicated. It is not like a fortune cookie which tells you something very general so that it almost certainly happens with some imagination and elastic interpretation. Instead these prophecies of Samuel are specific and fairly complex. Their fulfillment will clear up any doubts in Saul’s mind.
C. A Band of Prophets (v. 5)
The third encounter Saul will have, so prophecies Samuel, is that he will come to Gibeath-Elohim and there meet “a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them, prophesying.”
When you look at these three encounters you see that they are with successively larger and more religiously significant groups of men. The first was two men, regular joes of society. Then there were three pilgrims on their way to Bethel. Now, it is a full band of prophets.
And finally, Saul has an encounter even greater than all of these.
D. With the Lord’s Spirit. (v. 6)
When Saul sees the band of prophets then, Samuel prophesies, “Then the Spirit of the LORD will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.”
There is here an encounter with the very Spirit of God.
And each of these prophecies come true! “All these signs came to pass that day.” This makes is abundantly clear to Saul that he ANOINTED BY GOD to be king.
But the big question that comes to the mind of many when reading this passage is to ask “Was Saul converted?” Was he regenerate? “Was Saul a believer in the Lord God?”
III. Saul Unconverted but Anointed.
While a cursory reading of the text may give you the impression that Saul was in fact a believer, further consideration tends to point you to the opposite conclusion. Most commentaries I have read come to the conclusion that Saul is unconverted. The only other position taken is NOT that Saul is converted, but that we should not pronounce such judgments on anyone, but leave it up to the Lord.
And that is indeed true. Ultimately who is saved and who is not saved is up to the Lord. Our evidence is always incomplete. We shall know believers by their fruit, but we are not always in position to see that fruit when it is produced.
As for Saul, he tends to be an unsavory character throughout the Scriptures. In the Psalms in particular, David identifies Saul as his enemy, an ungodly man, and a wicked transgressor.
It is just in our text that we find some positive-appearances on the conversion of Saul. We find (1) the Spirit of the Lord come upon him, (2) that he joins with others in prophesying, and (3) that he is given “another heart.” Close examination of these points however doesn’t bode well for Saul.
A The Spirt of the Lord and prophesying. (v. 6, 11-12)
First, in verse 6 Samuel has prophesied of Saul saying: “Then the Spirit of the LORD will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.”
And this is fulfilled in verse 10 where it says: “When they came to Gibeah, behold, a group of prophets met him, and the Spirit of God rushed upon him, and he prophesied among them.”
But this seems to be just a temporary gift of prophecy. No where else does Saul prophesy.
And prophesying itself does not mean that a person is of the Lord. It has been pointed out that it is not unusual in the Scriptures that an ungodly man should prophesy both Balaam and Caiaphas did so.
So the ability to prophecy is not proof of regeneration.
Consider Jesus’s own words in Mathew 7: “On that day many will say to me’Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast demons in your name and do might works in your name? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
As for the Spirit of God rushing upon Saul, this also seems to be temporary and for a specific purpose (being empowered to be king), and not for regeneration.
B. Another heart. (v. 9)
Then, there is that statement in verse 9, “When he turned his back to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart.”
But here we must understand that having “another heart” is not necessarily the same as having a “new heart.”
Now I had a splitting maul, an axe with an old wood handle. And after a few swing it broke. What I really needed was a new fiberglass handle or at least a new wood handle. But what I had was ANOTHER old wood handle. All dried out, weakened wood. I put that handle on, and guess what? It broke. I had another handle, but not a good one.
Similarly, Saul is given another heart, but it is equally apart from God. His old heart was for his old life as a citizen, his new heart is his “kingly heart.” He is changed into a different man, ready to be king.
The entirely context and purpose of our text is not to tell us that Saul is converted to belief in God, but that he is converted from the concerns and affairs of a regular man to the concerns and affairs of a king.
This is all summarized well in the commentary of Keil and Delitzch: “This transformation is not to be regarded indeed as regeneration in the Christian sense, but as a change resembling regeneration, which affected the entire disposition of mind, and by which Saul was lifted out of his former modes of thought and feeling, which were confined within a narrow earthly sphere, into the far higher sphere of his new royal calling, was filled with kingly thought in relation to the service of God, and received ‘another heart.’” (P. 100)
Similarly, Charles Spurgeon concluded “I do not think that Saul ever did really in his inmost soul knew the Lord. After Samuel anointed him, he was “turned into another man,” but he never became a new man, and the sense of God’s presence that he had was not comparable to that presence of God which a true saint enjoys.”
So we have Saul, unconverted but anointed as King with God working to make it all happen.
IV: Christ, the King of Kings Anointed.
Saul is chosen of God and anointed King for a time.
But Jesus Christ is chosen of God and anointed King of Kings for all time.
The anointing of priests in the Old Testament and now the anointing of Kings foreshadows the anointing of Jesus Christ.
In fact, for although call him “Jesus CHRIST” we don’t hear often enough about his anointing. That is what Christ means. The Messiah, the Christ, is “the anointed one.”
We know now that in 1 Samuel chapter 10, Samuel anoints Saul with oil upon his head and God anoints Saul to be price over his people Israel.
But where is Jesus Christ anointed? We call him “Christ.” Why?
Perhaps your mind is drawn to the accounts of Jesus being anointed with oil before his death. There a woman poured out a whole alabaster flask of oil on his head. But this is an anointing for burial, a prelude to Jesus’ death.
The anointing of Christ as the messiah takes place much earlier in his ministry. It is right at the beginning. You see, when Jesus is baptized by Joh it is not because Jesus is a sinner in need of the “baptism of repentance.” The baptism Jesus receives is his anointing. When the waters are poured upon his head he is shown to be the anointed one. And what happens next? The heavens were opened and the Spirit of God descended like a dove and came to rest on Jesus and a voice from heaven said “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Here Jesus is anointed by God with His Holy Spirit; chosen of God to be King of Kings.
Such is how Peter understood things to be. Let’s hear his speech in Acts 10:
“As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee AFTER THE BAPTISM THAT JOHN PROCLAIMED: HOW GOD ANOINTED JESUS OF NAZARETH WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT AND WITH POWER.”
God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit. When did that happen? At his baptism.
And this is for our benefit, that we all know that he is the messiah, anointed of God.
Jesus Christ is King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. Hallelujah. Let us pray.