In today’s reading we meet the first king of Israel. Saul, tall and strong, has the appearance of a king, but appears timid and backward. In the remaining chapters of 1 Samuel it becomes clear that Saul’s physical attributes are impressive, but his heart and soul are weak. On the other hand, King David, the one whom God will later call to replace Saul, while lacking the physical stature of Saul, is a man after the Lord’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).

Saul is given a two-fold commission by Samuel. He is to reign over and save the people. Notice that the people remain the people “of the Lord”. They are not the king’s people. The king is anointed from among the people to serve the Lord. It is for this reason that Samuel explains the “rights and duties of the kingship.” It will prove easy for a king to think that his kingship is to serve himself, but he has been warned that the king and the people are servants of the Lord. It is the Lord who both calls and commissions the king for His purposes and glory.

Bonus Reading: 1 Samuel 12

Samuel’s farewall address to the people is moving. He speaks of his walking before the Lord from his youth until this day. Samuel is a refreshing example of faithfulness and integrity. And yet, the circumstances of his life are not perfect. His sons did not follow in his ways. The first king that he anoints did not continue in the ways of the Lord. His warning to the people to “fear the LORD and serve him and obey his voice” goes unheeded. Again, we see a promise of blessing for those who trust in the Lord and the promise of curse for those who turn from Him.

Samuel puts it so well when he warns them not to turn to “empty things”. He tells them that these “empty things” cannot “profit or deliver.” This is the foolishness of sin. Sin comes promising great reward, but the only wage of sin is death (Romans 6:23).

Perhaps, spend some time this weekend considering this question: Is there anything that you are trusting in that is “empty” and cannot “profit or deliver” on its promises.