woman checking her mailbox April 12 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): 1Samuel 9:3–12:25

Grace and Personal Responsibility

God's deliverance sometimes comes from unlikely sources. For instance, we may get an unexpected check in the mail to cover some financial shortfall. When we get something like that it is God's grace (and maybe another person's kindness). How we spend the money is our personal responsibility. Even if we do not get a check in the mail, the LORD is gracious in other ways. He loves to confound the wise and exalt the humble.

In the latter days of the Judges, when Samuel is old, Israel asks for a king (for a chronology of the judges, go to more…). This displeases Samuel and the LORD, but God, hearing their cries from oppression by the Philistines, and knowing Samuel's sons are not faithful, nevertheless grants their request. This is grace, giving us what we do not deserve. Therefore, when Saul, a tall handsome young man, comes to Samuel one day to inquire about some lost donkeys, he anoints him to become the first king. To confirm his words are from the LORD, he tells this fortunate young leader some prophecies which literally come true, and then he tells him that God will change him into a different man. What does he mean?

Some say when God changes Saul's heart he is spiritually born again or regenerated (1Samuel 10:6-10). Others say that when he changes Saul's heart to that of another man, the word “another” may mean different or even strange. The latter interpretation seems preferable because Saul, although he is not a prophet, suddenly becomes one, foretelling and/or proclaiming the word of the LORD. Furthermore, spiritual regeneration is a foreign concept in the Old Testament Scriptures; the Holy Spirit does not permanently indwell people; he comes and goes as he pleases. Later, Saul will act more like an unregenerate man, but at least he starts out well.

Regeneration in the Christian context means spiritual rebirth and enlightenment. When by God's grace we believe Christ died on the cross for us, we are forgiven for our sins, we have peace with God, and we are given spiritual life and understanding. When we are changed by the Holy Spirit in this day and age, he dwells within us permanently, and we are his (Ephesians 1:13,14). Are we sure of our salvation? The Apostle Paul writes,

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.... You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. (Romans 8:5,9, NIV)

Saul is a somewhat unlikely person to be chosen as king. Although he is handsome and taller than any other man in Israel and looks like a king, he certainly does not seem otherwise qualified. Saul does not come from Ephraim or Manasseh, the most powerful tribes. Neither does he come from Judah, from which God's chosen king is prophesied to come (Genesis 49:10). He comes from the smallest of tribes, the tribe which was almost wiped out for her sins (April 2 Bible study). Certainly, this is an unlikely place from which to choose a king.

We need to learn not to despise small beginnings as some Israelites did when they saw their newly appointed leader. God “mocks or opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6, NIV). Saul has humble beginnings, but in God's grace he touches the hearts of some valiant men, and they follow the new king. When Saul saves Jabesh–Gilead from the Ammonites with an impressive victory, he becomes instantly popular with all the Israelites (1Samuel 11:1-13).

Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there reaffirm the kingship.” So all the people went to Gilgal and confirmed Saul as king in the presence of the LORD. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings before the LORD, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration, (1Samuel 11:14-15, NIV).

After Saul's inauguration, Samuel gives an admonition to the Israelites and to the king to serve and obey God. If they do, his grace will continue. If they rebel or turn to idols, however, they and their king will be swept away (1Samuel 12:13-15, 20-25). If the LORD has been gracious to us, we must act responsibly for his grace to continue.

Lessons to Live By

• By God's grace he gives us what we do not deserve.

• By his grace we are spiritually regenerated (more...).

•  Do not despise small beginnings. God mocks or opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6).

•  If the LORD has been gracious to us, we must act responsibly for his grace to continue.

Focus Verse

James 4:6 (NIV) “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'”

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A Look Ahead: We have been shown grace, we are personally responsible for how we exercise it. Will we act with Faith or Obstinacy when we make our choices? Find out the results of each in our Next Lesson.

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