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God, and served Baalim and other strange gods, and they begged of the prophet Samuel to plead for them. This good man said, that if they would return to the Lord, He would be with them, and deliver them from the Philistines. He told them to meet him at a place called Mizpeh, where he would pray unto God for them. Their enemies heard of this meeting, and, when they were all assembled there, fell upon them, hoping again to defeat them; but the God of Israel thundered with a great thunder that day upon the Philistines, and they fled.
“After Samuel had been many years judge in Israel, and was growing old, the people wished him to choose a king to reign over them. The prophet heard all they had to say, and then went and laid it before the Lord, who told him to listen to their request: finding that it was their earnest wish, he chose Saul, who became the first king of Israel.
After Samuel had fixed him on the throne, he called the people together, and besought them to say whether he had wronged any one; promising that, if he had taken any thing from them, he would give it back again. The new king and his people very much feared Samuel, to whom they still looked up as before, and who assisted Saul to govern the kingdom, reproving him when he did wrong. Samuel was grieved that the people should have wished for a king, because he saw that it did not please the Lord, who would, if they had trusted him, have been their king and leader, When we very much wish for a thing not proper for us to have, how frequently, when we come to possess it, does it prove very troublesome to us: this was often the case with the kings of Israel; and at length Samuel was so grieved with Saul for disobeying the commandments of the Lord, that he foretold that his kingdom should be taken from him, and given to another: this much afflicted Saul. They then parted, and Samuel came to see the king no more until the day of his death,
Soon after Samuel had parted with Saul, the Lord told him to go to a man named Jesse, a Bethlehemite, for one of his sons should be king. Now Jesse appears to have lived very quietly and peacefully in the country, and perhaps little thought that any one of his family would ever become a prince in the land. After seven of his sons had passed before Samuel, God told him it was none of these: then Samuel asked Jesse if he had any more children, and was told that he had not yet seen David, the youngest, who was out keeping sheep: upon this the prophet wished him to be called, and his father sent and brought him in. He was quite young, and goodly to look upon, and the Lord said, “Arise, anoint(23) him, for this is he.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren; and the spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.
Thus we see that, when it is the will of God, he does not always choose for his wise purposes those who are greatest in the world, or the most learned: in this case, doubtless, there were many in the land as fair, many more learned, many greater, who might have been chosen by Samuel, had not the Lord guided his hand to anoint whom He would: it is the Lord alone who raiseth up and putteth down even princes at His pleasure.
After this the spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and he became very restless and unhappy; for the Lord was not with him to bless his ways, and, without his blessing upon our actions, we can never hope to prosper. We read that an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him, and he asked his servants to bring some one to him who could play on the harp; thinking that, when his evil thoughts came upon him, music would drive them away. The people about him had heard of David, that he was a player upon the harp, and a valiant man of war, very prudent, and, above all, that the Lord was with him! Upon this, Saul sent and asked his father to let him come, and be with him; which he did, and Saul loved him much, and, when he was troubled in his mind, David took his harp, and his inusic was very pleasant to the king.
We should look upon this misfortune of Saul's as a lesson to teach us how fearful a thing it is to disobey the commands of the living God. Unless we keep His laws, and try to walk in His ways, and pray to Him that we may have a clear conscience both towards God and man, we cannot be happy in this life: neither can we hope for it in the world to come. Conscience, which is the spirit of God implanted in all our hearts, will be heard : if we do ill, it will trouble us, and make us very unhappy; but if we try to do well, and obey God, then we shall feel happy and lighthearted, and have no cause, like Saul, to shun ourselves, or to seek for any earthly thing to cheer us.
You should always bear in mind, that one way of gaining good from the Bible is to take notice of the different people we there read of, and observe how much happier were those who set the Lord before them, and followed Him in all their steps; and how sad was the lot of many who did what was wise in their own eyes, and walked in their own evil ways. We should endeavour to follow the good examples there held up to us, and shun the evil: always remembering that we can do no good thing of ourselves, and it is only as we pray to God to teach us what is right, and entreat Him to help us to do it, that we can hope to become His children,