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A Willing Heart--1 Samuel 9

    I don’t know about you, but from time to time I’ve been tempted to think that what God requires of me is perfection. Now, I’m not talking about Christian perfection, I’m not talking about heart holiness, I’m talking about worldly perfection. You know the thought, the one that says, “Okay, you need to make sure to pray for at least this amount of time each day. You need to read at least 5 chapters in your Bible every day. You need to go to all the church things and Bible studies. You need to always say the right thing at church, and always act the right way. You need to check this box and that box, all the way down the list of what it means to be a ‘good’ Christian.”
    I’m tempted sometimes to think if I just do these things, if I look a certain way and act a certain way, that is what God wants. If I’m the best I can be, that’s good! Of course, that’s not true. But have you ever had that thought? Maybe you have, and if so, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.
    We can sometimes get caught up in thinking that God looks at all the external things in order to accept us, in order to use us. But His Word proves that is not true. God cares not one bit about what is on the outside. We’re going to see that today through 1 Samuel 9, but we also see that in what we celebrate today as a Christian church: the day of Pentecost. It’s a timely lesson too, considering what has happened in Minnesota this week.
    Let’s look at God’s Word, and let His Word speak today.
    We’re on the end of the period of the Judges this morning. Samson is dead, and Samuel is the last judge to lead Israel. The people have cried out for a king to rule over them, despite all of the warnings God has given them, they chose a king. 1 Samuel 9 opens with the introduction of a man named Saul, who will become an important man in the story of God’s people.
    Let’s look at the introduction we get to Saul, 1 Samuel 9:2, “He (Kish) had a son whose name was Saul, a choice and handsome man, and there was not a more handsome person than he among the sons of Israel; from his shoulders and up he was taller than any of the people.”
    This is the first picture we get of Saul. He is a choice and handsome man. Saul was a good looking guy. He would have been the popular choice, the people’s choice because Saul looked like a king, right? He was tall, taller than anyone else, and handsome. What better choice could you ask for to rule over the people, right? I’m being a little sarcastic, of course. We already know from 1 Samuel 8:11-17 that a king is going to be bad news for Israel, that a king is going to oppress the nation, so it really doesn’t matter how attractive the guy is, does it?
    Saul isn’t king yet though. In 1 Samuel 9, he’s just a guy, an attractive and tall guy, but just a guy. A guy who goes out looking for some lost donkeys. He and his servant leave Saul’s father’s house, trying to look for donkeys that had gotten lost, and they’re not having any luck at all. Saul is at the point of giving up, when his servant who had gone with him had this suggestion, “He said to him, “Behold now, there is a man of God in this city, and the man is held in honor; all that he says surely comes true. Now let us go there, perhaps he can tell us about our journey on which we have set out.”
    The suggestion is that they go to see this man of God, a prophet, and see if he can give them any sort of direction as to where they might find their lost donkeys.
    The prophet, the man of God they go to see is Samuel, and God had already been speaking to Samuel to tell him that Saul was on his way and that Saul was going to be the one that God was going to use to rule Israel. This is what God told Samuel, 1 Samuel 9:16-17, “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over My people Israel; and he will deliver My people from the hand of the Philistines. For I have regarded My people, because their cry has come to Me.” When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord said to him, “Behold, the man of whom I spoke to you! This one shall rule over My people.”
    Alright, so not only is Saul a good choice for the people’s king because of his physical attractiveness, but we are assured that God is the one who has chosen Saul.
    I’ve always had a fascination for royal families and bloodlines and seeing how royal families can be traced throughout history. I think it’s incredibly interesting and intricate, and I love learning about the genetics of royal families. There’s a few things I’ve learned through this fascination of mine, and it’s that even though royal families will often claim Divine right, they will claim that God put them on the throne to be God’s defender, rarely is that actually the case. More often than not, royal families become royal because they murdered the right person, or married the right person, or had the right child. Royalty is usually made by men, and it is usually ill-gotten.
    But Saul is one of the few kings in all of history who had confirmation through a prophet of the Lord that he was the chosen king by God Himself. And this was something that God said He would do, all the way back in Deuteronomy 17:15, “you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman.” This passage tells us that God is the one who is to choose the kings over Israel.
    Saul was that man. Good-looking, tall, but also, chosen by God.
    I want to spend some time with Saul’s reply to his servant though, when his servant suggests they go and seek help from the man of God, Samuel.
    1 Samuel 9:7 gives us his reply, “Then Saul said to his servant, “But behold, if we go, what shall we bring the man? For the bread is gone from our sack and there is no present to bring to the man of God. What do we have?”
    If you’re following along in your bulletin and taking notes, that’s our first blank this morning: HAVE. What do we have?
    It was customary for a person seeking for the prophet of God to help them, to bring the prophet some sort of offering. That’s why Saul’s first thought is to remind the servant that they have no more bread, and nothing to present to the man of God. He was aware of the custom that an offering should be brought to the prophet, but he recognized he had nothing to give.
    So he asks this question, “What do we have?”
    What do we have?
    It’s a great question. It’s a question we should ask ourselves, too. What do we have? What do we have to bring God? What offering do we bring? What does He want from us? Is it outwardly perfection, like Saul seemed to have? Does God expect for us to have it all together? Does God want us to do all “Christian” things, check all the boxed, dot all the “i’s” and cross all the “t’s”? Does He expect us to be hugely talented, the best of the best, the smartest? What does He ask us to bring to Him?
    What do we have?
    I think, at first, Saul displayed the right answer to this question, and in our questions this week to dig deeper and interact more with the passage, I’m going to ask you to look at 1 Samuel 9:21 and examine Saul’s attitude.
    What do we have?
    I want us to answer this question primarily through 2 Corinthians 8:12 this morning, “For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.”
    That’s our second blank in our bulletins this morning, WILLINGNESS. What this verse is saying is that if our heart is willing, what we have to give, what we have to offer, is enough, because it is coming from a willing heart.
    This is what God looks for in those who He chooses and wants to work through. He looks for willing hearts. It doesn’t matter how talented we are. Doesn’t matter how much money we have. Doesn’t matter what we look like. Doesn’t matter how many boxes we check. The Lord looks for willing hearts. And if we come with willing hearts, He takes what we willing give, and makes it more than enough. He does the amazing and miraculous through people who are simply just willing.
    I want to look at the Day of Pentecost as well, since today is Pentecost and we celebrate this morning the gift of the Holy Spirit given to all believers. Acts 2 tells us that the early believers were gathered together, probably praying, when there was a noise from heaven like a violent rushing wind that filled the house. Then tongues of fire rested upon each of them and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. What happened next was no less miraculous. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, each began to speak in a tongue that was not their native language, and the result was that when Peter preached the good news of Christ, thousands came to believe.
    What made them special? Were they amazing men and women? Did they have it all together? Were they extremely talented, rich, or successful?
    Nope.
    But they had willing hearts. They were gathered together because they wanted to serve the Lord. They were gathered together because they wanted to be in the Lord’s Will. They were gathered together to give the Lord glory, to praise Him and worship Him, and hear from Him. They were willing.
    In John 14:12, Jesus tells the disciples that they will do even greater things than He did because He was going to the Father. We know that He also told them that when He went to the Father, He would send the Spirit to help and guide us. The only reason that anyone can hope to do greater things than even Christ Himself is through being willing to be used by the Spirit.
    There was nothing special or extraordinary about the early Christians of the early church…except that they were willing. God used that in mighty ways, as He has always done with those who serve and love Him willingly, who offer everything that they have, even though it isn’t much, to do God’s will, willingly.
    I want to close with God’s words to Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:7, “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
    That’s your final blank this morning: HEART. God looks at the heart, and what He requires is that the heart is willing.

Questions to answer this week:
1. 1 Samuel 9:22-27 tells us what happened between Saul and Samuel after Saul knew his donkeys were safe. In verse 27, Samuel tells Saul that they are to go on together so Samuel could proclaim God’s Word to Saul. What did Samuel do in these verses to prepare to give Saul God’s Word?

2. In 1 Samuel 9:21, what attitude does Saul seem to have at first when Samuel tells Saul that he is God’s chosen ruler?

3. 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 says a lot about why God chooses to work through those who humble and willing, rather than those who are the “people’s choice”. Why does He do this? What does that mean for us as we answer His call?

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