What Our Complaints Reveal About Us

Last week, we saw Samuel anoint Saul with oil. We saw God’s confirming signs on Saul’s life as God’s Holy Spirit moved him to sing with the singing prophets. We learned what God desires musically from His people. We also saw that Saul kept God’s anointing of himself and the powerful work of God’s Holy Spirit a secret, not even telling his own family what had happened.

Today, we will see Saul publicly being chosen by God. We will see that, immediately, he has both supporters and critics. We will see what God has to say about both these supporters and critics. We will also see the way in which Christ’s love in us leads us to treat those God has chosen for leadership service in His church.

1 Samuel 10:17-27

Thereafter Samuel called the people together to the Lord at Mizpah; and he said to the sons of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I brought Israel up from Egypt, and I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the power of all the kingdoms that were oppressing you.’ But you have today rejected your God, who delivers you from all your calamities and your distresses; yet you have said, ‘No, but set a king over us!’ Now therefore, present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and by your clans.”

Thus Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. Then he brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its families, and the Matrite family was taken. And Saul the son of Kish was taken; but when they looked for him, he could not be found. Therefore they inquired further of the Lord, “Has the man come here yet?” So the Lord said, “Behold, he is hiding himself by the baggage.”

So they ran and took him from there, and when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen? Surely there is no one like him among all the people.” So all the people shouted and said, “Long live the king!”

Then Samuel told the people the ordinances of the kingdom, and wrote them in the book and placed it before the Lord. And Samuel sent all the people away, each one to his house. Saul also went to his house at Gibeah; and the valiant men whose hearts God had touched went with him. But certain worthless men said, “How can this one deliver us?” And they despised him and did not bring him any present. But he kept silent.

Rejecting God (v. 17-19)

Thereafter Samuel called the people together to the Lord at Mizpah; and he said to the sons of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I brought Israel up from Egypt, and I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the power of all the kingdoms that were oppressing you.’…

Samuel called the people of Israel together for the public choosing of Israel’s first king. He did this at Mizpah. It is likely that the elders of Israel where present as representatives of the people (c.f. 8:4). God, through the prophetic words of Samuel, reminded the people of Israel what He had done. He had delivered their ancestors from slavery in Egypt and that generation from all of the kingdoms, those in the land of Canaan, that were oppressing them. In fact, in chapters 4-7, we saw that God was the only one who could deliver his people from the Philistines. No human person or method could do this. This is an important detail for us to remember as we work through this text. God is the only deliverer. God is the only one who can provide victory and defeat, life and death (c.f. 2:1-11)

…But you have today rejected your God, who delivers you from all your calamities and your distresses; yet you have said, ‘No, but set a king over us!’…

We remember that the Israelite elders have asked for a king like the other nations. This was according to God’s instruction in Deuteronomy 17:15-20. So, we know that their sin was not in asking for a king like the other nations, but in rejecting God and seeking a king according to their own preferences (8:18). We saw how the Israelites were taking the word of God in Deuteronomy 17 and twisting it so that they might pursue their own agendas. We often do the same thing with regard to all of life and ministry. We will justify the way that we choose to live or use God to seek a preacher for ourselves who tickles our ears or a church music leader who will entertain us according to our preferences or the way we think things ought to be done. As we have seen in the text, God has explained for us the way that He desires we live, the way that He desires we preach and teach, and the way that He desires music pastors lead the music of His church. He has given it all to us in His book. Still we get so focused on what we want rather than what God has told us He wants.

We do this because, like Israel, many of our hearts are hardened. There are some things that God will do because of the hardness of our hearts. Granting divorce in the Law was one of those things (Matthew 19:8). In fact, a simple reading of Romans 9 would indicate that God works together the hardness of our hearts to accomplish many good things. Yet, we are entirely responsible for our rejection of God. The mystery, here, becomes clearer (though we still see through a glass darkly) when we recognize our unrighteous nature and in light of our total and essential depravity. I am held captive by my own nature, such that I, in all of my freedom, am unable to choose God. Isaiah 65:1-7 reveals as much:

“I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me;

I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me.

I said, ‘Here am I, here am I,’

To a nation which did not call on My name.

I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people,

Who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts,

A people who continually provoke Me to My face,

Offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on bricks;

Who sit among graves and spend the night in secret places;

Who eat swine’s flesh,

And the broth of unclean meat is in their pots.

Who say, ‘Keep to yourself, do not come near me,

For I am holier than you!’

These are smoke in My nostrils,

A fire that burns all the day.

Behold, it is written before Me,

I will not keep silent, but I will repay;

I will even repay into their bosom,

Both their own iniquities and the iniquities of their fathers together,” says the Lord.

“Because they have burned incense on the mountains

And scorned Me on the hills,

Therefore I will measure their former work into their bosom.”

God chooses to reveal Himself to a people who are only interested in their own ways and their own thoughts. In fact, our being concerned about our own ways and our own thoughts instead of God’s is a continual insult and provocation to God face-to-face according to Isaiah. Yet, God works these things together on this earth in order to bring a people to Himself who are not only unable to know Him, but are also unable to seek Him because of our slavery to our own human nature.

All of the sudden, as with previous passages in 1 Samuel, we are forced to deal with the thought that operating according to our own preferences is idolatry and insulting to God. When we are concerned with our own preferences in the presentation of God’s Holy word, as we saw with the Israelites in her asking for a king, we mock God as we deafen our ears and harden our hearts toward Him. When we are concerned with our own preferences while singing to God in the midst of God’s people even though, as we saw last week, God has given us His specific preferences for the music ministry of His people, we prove that we are worshiping ourselves rather than God. If we are striving for comfort or any manner of self gain in life, we show that our hearts are hardened toward God and that we are unable to seek after or ask for God. The good news for us is that, despite the hardness of our hearts, God is revealing Himself to those who don’t seek after Him or ask for Him. This is the very core of what it means to be saved by grace and not by any work of our own.

…Now therefore, present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and by your clans.”

Now therefore, since the people had rejected God and asked for a king in this way, they were to present themselves before the Lord so that God might select a king from among them- the king He already had in mind (9:1-10:16). We begin to witness how Samuel will consider the clans of Israel. It seems as though this process could have taken days or months. The duration is unclear. There seems to be a consensus that Samuel is using a method referred to as the casting of lots (similar to rolling dice today). The casting of lots was a method of trying to discern God’s will up until the Holy Spirit’s indwelling in Acts 2. It is interesting, here, that Samuel is going through any process at all even though God has already revealed to him and to the future king who the king will be. Even though he knows the outcome, Samuel is observing these formalities, doing things decently and in order, serving in a way that is above reproach. He is not cutting any corners. He is crossing his “t’s” and dotting his “i’s.”

Since this instruction is coming as a prophetic message from God, we know that it is God’s desire that these formalities be observed. I think we can learn from this. We can know the correct thing to do and fail to proceed in a way that is God-honoring. It is possible to do the right stuff and make the right changes the wrong way.

God’s chosen servant (v. 20-24)

Thus Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. Then he brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its families, and the Matrite family was taken. And Saul the son of Kish was taken; but when they looked for him, he could not be found. Therefore they inquired further of the Lord, “Has the man come here yet?” So the Lord said, “Behold, he is hiding himself by the baggage.”

Saul hid when the tribes presented themselves before the Lord. We might assume that he was fearful, but we are good at inventing things about people that are not true, creating imaginary narratives, and thinking that others have said something that they did not. We will avoid that temptation with Saul, as we should with anyone else. Saul was meek and people despised him. The longer he is in power, the more we will see him transformed by the pride of his perceived power rather than by the renewing of his mind. For now, Saul has been anointed by God and has had a character produced in him for service to God according to God’s calling.

So they ran and took him from there, and when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen? Surely there is no one like him among all the people.” So all the people shouted and said, “Long live the king!”

In the previous passage, Saul chose not to tell his own relatives about what Samuel said or what God had done. Here, Saul, mister tall, dark, strong, and handsome, is hiding behind some baggage. God reveals where he is through Samuel and the people run and take him from where he is hiding. Have you ever tried to run from God’s plan for your life? I have, and it doesn’t really work out.

After going through this process, passing by all the other men of Israel, Samuel arrives at the man most qualified to rule over Israel according to the preferences of the people. No one is like Saul among all the people. The people agree, proclaiming, “Long live the king!”

Honoring God by honoring His servants (v. 25-27)

Then Samuel told the people the ordinances of the kingdom, and wrote them in the book and placed it before the Lord.

Samuel repeats the ordinances (regulations and allowances) of this new kingdom (perhaps what was spoken in 8:10-18). He writes them down in the book and places it before the Lord. The people had agreed to have a king like this contrary to Deuteronomy 17 and even though Saul would be a ravenous wolf (prophesied in Genesis 49).

And Samuel sent all the people away, each one to his house. Saul also went to his house at Gibeah; and the valiant men whose hearts God had touched went with him.

This is the most anticlimactic part of the story. A king is chosen. The whole nation is excited and chanting, “Long live the king,” and then everyone simply goes home… If you’re not laughing even a little at this juncture, I fear there may be no hope for you. Some have espoused that when a king was selected, that calling wasn’t confirmed until he proved himself in battle. This may be why some valiant men went with Saul to his home; they were expecting a battle to follow soon after the public calling on Saul’s life.

So, everyone went home. The word valiant, היל, is a word that that refers to physical strength, competency, courage, and moral worth. God had anointed and appointed a king. So, these mighty men of physical strength and moral worth will follow God’s king and will fight for this king. This is the action that flows from a pure heart. Later when we will read about David’s mighty men, we will see the same symbol of honor, strength, and moral worth. 

But certain worthless men said, “How can this one deliver us?” And they despised him and did not bring him any present. But he kept silent.

These worthless men are mentioned in contrast to the valiant men. The word translated as “worthless men” is בןי בליעל, meaning “sons of Balial.” We saw the same term used to describe Eli’s sons in 2:12. In 2 Corinthians 6:15, the Hebrew “בליעל” was transliterated into the Greek “Βελιαρ,” which is pronounced “Beliar.” It is used as a proper name for the one who is the opposition of Christ, the devil or Satan. Belial was, or would become, a personification of wickedness and Paul used the term as a name for Satan. As we found with Eli’s sons, these wicked men were in the spiritual lineage of wickedness, born of wickedness, and destined for wickedness.

These are the people who criticize God’s chosen servant and the office that God is establishing for the good of His people and, ultimately, for Christ Jesus to hold perpetually. This is the action that flows from the wicked heart. I was once this way. So, there are three types of people. First, there are people who simply go home. They are neither excited nor critical about the things of God. Second, there are people of valor who fight for the things that God is doing and who want what God wants. Third, there are people of wickedness who criticize the things of God because they are following their own thoughts, their own preferences.

The criticism of these wicked people is evidence that they despise Saul. As more evidence of their malcontent, these wicked men do not bring Saul any present. That seems funny to us, but I’m sure it was customary for people to honor the Lord’s anointed with a gift. Magi would even come from the East to bring gifts to Jesus in the Gospels. Even though these wicked men do not honor Saul, Saul keeps silent. Saul, first, kept silent about the Lord’s calling and the work of the Holy Spirit. Then, he hid during the public process. Now, he is staying silent about wicked men. Saul is a man who doesn’t want to be in the spotlight. Again, we witness his humility and, perhaps, a hint at an introverted personality type.

We want to understand that there is a proper place for the accountability of those who serve God. That is not what we are talking about, here. The truth is that if we find issue with anything less than doctrine or a servant’s conduct according to 1 Timothy 3, then our criticisms are out of place and not God honoring. Furthermore, there is a proper way to address whatever criticisms we have according to Christ’s teaching in Matthew 18. We go to the one who has sinned against us face-to-face. To do things another way is Gossip and sin- proof that we have hardened our hearts. Now, we thank God that He gives life according to His own grace and mercy. We love those in our local church no matter what, bearing with you in all things for the sake of the Gospel. Please know this: There are unacceptable types of complaints, and there are unacceptable ways to complain.

This is something that I have been thinking about since November (Yes, before we actually started serving at our current church), and we get to introduce a new policy today. This new policy will help us to stimulate one another to love and good deeds and encourage one another all the more (Hebrews 10:24-25). This policy will hold our church members accountable for their complaints, if there are any. It will safeguard our current elders, deacons, and church staff along with our future elders, deacons, and church staff by giving a clear and acceptable way to file a grievance. From this day forward, if anyone goes to a staff-member or ministry leader and complains about something, that staff-member or ministry leader is going to encourage you to go to the source because that sort of backchannel gossiping is wrong according to God’s word, a sin against God, and it hurts people. In fact, it is an insult to God according to the passage in Isaiah above. Our servants don’t need this sort of weight on their shoulders, anyway. We want them focused on their areas of ministry. If you do go to them with a complaint, they will give you a “file of grievance” form that you will fill out and give to the elders. The elders will either address your grievance or share with you why your grievance is unbiblical. This will help us to guard the body from division and from the unnecessary burdens that some would want to place on the church body. It will help us to maintain a culture of grace. It will prepare us better for growth. It will help to produce longevity in the ministry of The Church at Sunsites.

We will either be like the valiant men who fight for the things of God while respecting the offices that God has instituted for the good of His church, or we will be like these wicked men who manage to find something or someone to complain about even when God is doing a great work. Like both of these types of men, our actions flow from the conditions of our hearts. Salvation is by God’s grace alone and through faith alone. Salvation produces faithful works. Root produces fruit. 

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2 comments

  • As I look into my heart, as I cry to our Father concerning my idolatry in desiring/demanding my own way I am crushed.
    Why the God of the universe would see any redeeming qualities in me leads me to the conclusion that there is nothing of value in me.
    But God in His great mercy chose me in Christ before the foundation of the universe was layed. How does one answer such great love? I can not of myself believe in God nor come to Him and yet He draws me to Christ. It is not about me – thanks be to God.
    Thank you, in Christ Jesus’ Name, for this very timely word from our Creator, Santifier, and Savior.
    I love you in the Lord,
    Call on me for anything at anytime,
    You have a brother and of course,
    He who sticks closer than a brother – Jesus the Christ,
    Albert

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