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From Eternity Past

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    Saul Publicly Acclaimed King

    The anointing of Saul as king had not been made known to the nation. The choice of God was to be publicly manifested by lot. For this purpose Samuel convoked the people at Mizpeh. Prayer was offered for divine guidance; then followed the solemn ceremony of casting the lot. In silence the multitude awaited the issue. The tribe, the family and the household were successively designated, and then Saul, the son of Kish, was pointed out as the individual chosen.EP 443.1

    But Saul was not in the assembly. Burdened with a sense of the great responsibility about to fall upon him, he had secretly withdrawn. He was brought back to the congregation, who observed with pride that he was of kingly bearing and noble form, being “higher than any of the people from his shoulders and upward.” Samuel exclaimed, “See ye him whom the Lord hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people?” In response one long, loud shout of joy arose from the throng, “God save the king!”EP 443.2

    Samuel then set before the people “the manner of the kingdom,” stating the principles upon which the monarchical government was based. The king was not to be an absolute monarch, but to hold his power in subjection to the will of the Most High. This address was recorded in a book. Though the nation had despised Samuel's warning, the faithful prophet still endeavored, as far as possible, to guard their liberties.EP 443.3

    While the people in general were ready to acknowledge Saul as their king, there was a large party in opposition. For a monarch to be chosen from Benjamin, the smallest of the tribes of Israel—and to neglect both Judah and Ephraim, the largest and most powerful—was a slight which they could not brook. Those who had been most urgent in their demand for a king were the ones that refused to accept the man of God's appointment.EP 443.4

    Leaving Samuel to administer the government as formerly, Saul returned to Gibeah. He made no attempt to maintain by force his right to the throne. He quietly occupied himself in the duties of a husbandman, leaving the establishment of his authority entirely to God.EP 444.1

    Soon after, the Ammonites invaded the territory east of Jordan and threatened the city of Jabesh-gilead. The inhabitants tried to secure peace by offering to become tributary to the Ammonites. The cruel king would not consent but on condition that he put out the right eye of everyone.EP 444.2

    Messengers were at once dispatched to seek help from the tribes west of Jordan. Saul, returning at night from following the oxen in the field, heard the loud wail that told of some great calamity. When the shameful story was repeated, all his dormant powers were roused. “The Spirit of God came upon Saul, ... and he took a yoke of oxen, and hewed them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the coasts of Israel by the hands of messengers, saying, Whosoever cometh not forth after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done unto his oxen.”EP 444.3

    Three hundred and thirty thousand men gathered under the command of Saul. By a rapid night march, Saul and his army crossed the Jordan and arrived before Jabesh in “the morning watch.” Dividing his force into three companies, he fell upon the Ammonite camp at that early hour, when, not suspecting danger, they were least secure. In the panic that followed, they were routed with great slaughter. “They which remained were scattered, so that two of them were not left together.”EP 444.4

    The promptness and bravery of Saul, as well as his generalship, were qualities which the people of Israel desired in a monarch, that they might cope with other nations. They now greeted him as their king, attributing the honor of the victory to human agencies and forgetting that without God's special blessing all their efforts would have been in vain. Some proposed to put to death those who had at first refused to acknowledge the authority of Saul. But the king interfered, saying, “There shall not a man be put to death this day: for today the Lord hath wrought salvation in Israel.” Instead of taking honor to himself, he gave the glory to God. Instead of showing revenge, he manifested forgiveness. This is unmistakable evidence that the grace of God dwells in the heart.EP 444.5

    Samuel now proposed that a national assembly be convoked at Gilgal, that the kingdom might be publicly confirmed to Saul. It was done, “and there they sacrificed sacrifices of peace offerings before the Lord; and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.”EP 445.1

    Upon this plain, linked with so many thrilling associations, stood Samuel and Saul; and when the shouts of welcome to the king had died away, the aged prophet gave his parting words as ruler of the nation.EP 445.2

    Samuel had previously set forth the principles that should govern both the king and the people, and he desired to add to his words the weight of his own example. From childhood he had been connected with the work of God, and during his long life one object had been ever before him—the glory of God and the highest good of Israel.EP 445.3

    In consequence of sin Israel had lost their faith in God and their discernment of His power and wisdom to rule the nation—lost confidence in His ability to vindicate His cause. Before they could find true peace, they must see and confess the sin of which they had been guilty.EP 445.4

    Samuel recounted the history of Israel from the day God brought them from Egypt. The King of kings had fought their battles. Often their sins had sold them into the power of their enemies, but no sooner did they turn from their evil ways than God's mercy raised up a deliverer. The Lord sent Gideon and Barak, and “Jephthah, and Samuel, and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and ye dwelt safe.” Yet when threatened with danger they had declared, “A king shall reign over us,” when, said the prophet, “Jehovah your God was your King.”EP 445.5

    In humiliation the people now confessed their sin, the very sin of which they had been guilty. “Pray for thy servants unto the Lord thy God, that we die not: for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king.”EP 446.1

    Samuel did not leave the people in a state of discouragement, for this would have prevented all effort for a better life. To look upon God as severe and unforgiving would expose them to manifold temptations. “Fear not,” was the message of God by His servant: “ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart; and turn ye not aside: ... For the Lord will not forsake His people.”EP 446.2

    Samuel uttered no reproach for the ingratitude with which Israel had repaid his lifelong devotion, but he assured them of his unceasing interest for them. “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way: only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider how great things He hath done for you.”EP 446.3

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