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Lessons for Today from the Old Testament: Samuel and Saul

Updated on September 2, 2020
Johan Smulders profile image

Johan Smulders has a . B.A, B.ED and M.A in Education, Theology and Counselling. Works as an evangelist and counsellor.

Lessons for Today from the Old Testament: Samuel and Saul

Towards the end of the time of the Judges the people looked around at other nations and decided that they wanted a king “such as all the other nations have” (1 Samuel 8:5). This request displeased Samuel who warned them that this was not a good idea. A king would make demands on the people that they did not need - a warning that came true and especially during the time of Solomon. However more than that, Samuel saw this request as a rejection of God as King. In fact God revealed to Samuel: “it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king” (vs. 8).

Here is the problem of every nation in all times: “who is in charge in your country and more so, in the hearts and minds of the people?” Here is the ongoing conflict between political power and God’s power in the lives of the people. This was what Herod felt when he heard from the Wise Men from the East that a king had been born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1-12). Herod wanted to be certain that he was in control and so when the Wise Men did not go back to tell him about Jesus, he called for the slaughter of the infants in Bethlehem.

Church history tells the sad story of nations neglecting to find a clear distinction between human rulers and the rule of God. Nation after nation followed the example of Israel in the time of Samuel, by wanting to appoint rulers to follow, and so climbed aboard the train of political power and rule. This leads to a downward ride of greed and manipulation. In an ideal situation a nation, country, city and even family would place God firmly on His throne in their lives and behaviour. God wants to do the best for his people and so listening to his voice and obeying his instruction leads to enjoying his promises.

Imagine a world that is ruled by God’s great love, follows God’s clear instructions. A nation where “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control” rules (Galatians 5:22). Certainly this is not the world that kings and rulers have created. In a world caught between human greed and political power-plays, things can only deteriorate into chaos and violence. A look at the map of today’s world shows clearly that rejecting God as King and replacing him with human leaders is disaster after disaster.

So Samuel appoints Saul, a good looking, rather humble man as king. With a great opportunity to lead, Saul fails dismally. Two fatal decisions result in him being rejected by God “You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!” (1 Samuel 15:26).

Two crucial events lead to this rejection. Firstly Saul neglects to wait for Samuel to lead the army in prayer before battle and takes over the prophetic/priestly role for himself (1 Samuel 13:11-14). He then, after winning a battle against the Amalekites, does not follow the instructions to destroy everything. Rather he keeps the best cattle and sheep for himself (1 Samuel 15:7-23). Saul also goes to Mount Carmel to “set up a monument in his own honour...” (15:12). On each occasion he lies and blames others for his obvious failures, something that is all too apparent in today’s world.

Saul began the a sad story of Israel’s history which was a rule by Kings that extended until the Babylonian captivity. Some of the King’s did a reasonable job while many failed dismally. The voices of the well known prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel all tried to bring the nation back to following God and his teachings. Some kings tried to the best of their ability but inevitably failed as the nation eventually fell into captivity.

A careful look at the history of the Christian Church tells the sad story of ongoing failure up to the present. We live in Adam’s world where greed and violence controls the minds of rulers and so also governments. People today should long for a nation, country, organization and family that stands totally under the wise leadership of God, passed down by God through obedient people. We, as humans, however, have a great ability to mess things up. We really would rather do our own thing no matter where it leads us. Jesus described it as the broad way that many follow and that leads to disaster (Matthew 7:12).

Lessons for Today

  1. Listen to God’s voice as he speaks to you in both the Old and New Testaments.
  2. Put God in control of your life to secure His great promises. Eventually you can only be responsible for your own actions
  3. Make a difference in the world by sharing the “good news”.
  4. Be a light bringer in whatever place you find yourself. Saul had great opportunity but messed up badly. You and I have opportunities every day and have to take them seriously.
  5. When people ask for a King/Ruler remind them who should really be in charge.


Scriptures taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright 1973,1978,1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The "NIV" and "New International Version" trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.


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