Anointed for Service

Click here for more messages from the book of 1 Samuel.
Click here to return to the Sermons page.

1 Samuel 9:25-10:8 (Samuel anoints Saul)

INTRODUCTION: This is the second week in our new series on “The Rise and Fall of Saul.” Last week we looked at how God sent Saul to Samuel through a number of missing donkeys. Saul thought he was out looking for donkeys, but God had bigger plans. Today we will look at Saul’s anointing by Samuel and see what it means for us today. (Read 1 Samuel 9:25-10:8 and pray.)

This is a tricky passage to preach and apply because it focuses on a unique event in history – the anointing of Saul as the first king over Israel. And as such there are certain things from this passage that we cannot apply to ourselves. For example, none of us will ever be king over Israel. Prime Minister maybe, but never king. None of us will ever be anointed by an Old Testament prophet. It’s not going to happen. Saul’s anointing was confirmed by very specific, prophetic signs. Now that could happen to us, but it will not happen for most of us. In fact it was not very common even in Biblical times.

Yet the account of Saul’s anointing still teaches us some very important Biblical principles concerning anointing and service that we find taught clearly in other sections of Scripture. We will see a number of them as we work our way through the message, but the big one is simply this: You need God’s anointing to serve God. Or to put it another way: You can’t do God’s work without God’s Spirit.

In our passage this morning Saul goes through three specific phases as he is anointed for service as king over Israel. There is his preparation for service, then his anointing for service, and then finally a time of waiting for God’s instructions. These are the same three phases we go through when God calls us to serve him. So we are going to look at each of these phases this morning and see what God can teach us about our own service to the Lord as Christians today.

I. Preparation for service (9:25-27)

First of all, there is the preparation phase.

   A. God prepares you for works of service (25-26)
      – Ephesians 2:10

God prepares you for works of service. Look at verses 25-26:

After they came down from the high place to the town, Samuel talked with Saul on the roof of his house. They rose about daybreak and Samuel called to Saul on the roof, “Get ready, and I will send you on your way.” When Saul got ready, he and Samuel went outside together. (1 Samuel 9:25-26)

Samuel didn’t just pour oil on Saul’s head out of the blue. He prepared him for it. After the feast in Saul’s honor that we looked at last week, they went back to Samuel’s house where they engaged in conversation on the roof. The roofs in those days were flat roofs and used as just another room of the house. We are not told what they talked about, but we can reasonably assume they were talking about the kingship, about what God had told Samuel and what God was now planning to do through Saul. Samuel may even have reviewed with Saul God’s instructions for the kingship as laid out in Deuteronomy 17.

Now in one sense God had been preparing Saul all his life for his service as Israel’s first king. We saw that last week in his family background, in his life circumstances and even in his physical genes. Now we see this additional time of preparation with Samuel before God actually anoints Saul for service.

But the point here is this. God prepares you for works of service. Just as you don’t harvest a good crop without first preparing the soil, so we cannot serve God fruitfully unless he first prepares us.

Ephesians 2:10 says this: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) You are God’s workmanship, and you were created in Christ Jesus to do good works.

And just as with Saul, God has been preparing you. God never lets anything go to waste, and so your family background, your life circumstances, and your specific talents and gifts all have a purpose in God’s plan. God has been preparing you all along for works of service that he prepared in advance for you to do. God prepares you for works of service.

   B. God calls you to works of service (27)
      – 1 Peter 4:10

God not only prepares you for works of service, God also calls you to works of service. We see this illustrated for us in verse 27:

As they were going down to the edge of the town, Samuel said to Saul, “Tell the servant to go on ahead of us” – and the servant did so – “but you stay here awhile, so that I may give you a message from God.” (1 Samuel 9:27)

Well, didn’t Samuel just spend a whole evening talking with Saul on the roof? Couldn’t he have given Saul the message then? No, those were preparatory instructions, but now God was going to specifically call Saul into service as king. This was still all preparatory to Saul’s anointing for service.

God also calls you to works of service. We read in 1 Peter 4:10: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10) God has given you gifts of service, and he calls each one of us to use those gifts to serve others. God calls you to be faithful in serving others with the gifts he has given you.

So that’s the preparation phase. Every Christian is called to serve. God prepares you for works of service, and God calls you to works of service.

II. Anointing for service (10:1-7)

Next we move to the anointing phase. And here we learn three more valuable principles when it comes to serving God as a Christian.

   A. We are not called to serve God in our own strength (1)
      – Zechariah 4:6

First of all we are not called to serve God in our own strength. Moving into 1 Samuel 10 now, look at verse one:

Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, “Has not the LORD anointed you leader over his inheritance?” (1 Samuel 10:1)

Once the servant went ahead and they were alone, Samuel anointed Saul with oil. Notice even though Samuel is the one who pours the oil, it is not Samuel but the Lord who has anointed Saul as leader over his inheritance Israel. Samuel only acts as God’s representative.

Anointing with oil was originally used to consecrate or set something aside for God. In the same way prophets, priests and kings were anointed with oil as they were set apart for God’s purposes. The anointing also symbolized their enabling or empowering for service through the Holy Spirit. And the anointing showed they were chosen by God for this particular work of service. This all looked forward to Jesus, who is the true anointed one. Jesus is the one truly chosen by God. He is prophet, priest and king all rolled into one. And he is the Messiah, a word which actually means “the Anointed One.”

What does Saul’s anointing teach us? First of all, we are not called to serve God in our own strength but rather in the power of the Holy Spirit. Zechariah 4:6 tells us: “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the LORD Almighty. (Zechariah 4:6)

And this is really the heart of our message today. You can’t do God’s work without God’s Spirit. You need God’s anointing in order to be fruitful in your service to God. Don’t try to do anything for God without seeking God’s anointing first. That’s the first principle we learn from Saul’s anointing for service. We are not called to serve God in our own strength.

   B. When God calls, he confirms (2-6)
      – John 15:5

The second one is this. When God calls, he confirms. Look at verses 2-6 where Samuel gives Saul three confirmatory signs that he has been anointed for service by God. Samuel tells Saul:

“When you leave me today, you will meet two men near Rachel’s tomb, at Zelzah on the border of Benjamin. They will say to you, ‘The donkeys you set out to look for have been found. And now your father has stopped thinking about them and is worried about you. He is asking, “What shall I do about my son?” ’
“Then you will go on from there until you reach the great tree of Tabor. Three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you there. One will be carrying three young goats, another three loaves of bread, and another a skin of wine. They will greet you and offer you two loaves of bread, which you will accept from them.
“After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost. As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, tambourines, flutes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying. The Spirit of the LORD will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. (1 Samuel 10:2-6)

Samuel gives Saul three confirmatory signs to assure him of his anointing. Each sign is very specific as to who Saul will meet, where he will meet them, and what will happen when he does. He will meet two men at Zelzah with news about the donkeys. He will meet three men at Tabor on their way to Bethel with sacrifices. The three loaves of bread are a part of these sacrifices and are intended for the anointed priest. They will give Saul two of these loaves confirming that he is has also been anointed by God. And then finally he will meet a band of prophets at Gibeah playing music and prophesying. The Spirit of the Lord will come upon Saul and he will start prophesying along with them. We will look at this incident in more detail next week.

Notice how each sign increases in intensity. Saul has just been anointed by Samuel at Ramah. So Saul goes from meeting one man at Ramah to meeting two men at Zelzah to meeting three men at Tabor to meeting a whole band of prophets at Gibeah. With each successive sign the numbers of people involved increase.

Notice also how the three signs mirror Saul’s visit with Samuel. The two men at Zelzah tell him that the donkeys have been found. This is a reminder to Saul that he was looking for donkeys when God called him to be king. The three men at Tabor give him loaves of bread intended for the priest. This is a reminder to Saul of the feast held in his honor back in Samuel’s town. Finally, when Saul meets the prophets the Spirit will come on him in power. This is a reminder of the anointing with oil which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Every time Saul looks back at these three signs, they will remind him of his visit with Samuel and how God anointed him to serve as the king of Israel.

When God calls, he confirms. Now God does not always confirm his calling in our lives in supernatural or miraculous ways like he did with Saul. He can – but there is a much better way God confirms his calling in our lives today and that is through the bearing of fruit. Jesus said in John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

When God calls you to serve him in a particular way, he will confirm that through the fruit that you bear in that area. A great question to ask is this: “When I serve God in this way, is God glorified and are people encouraged and built up in their faith?” If the answer is yes, that is a great indication that God has called you to serve in that area. If the answer is no, then perhaps God has called you to a different area of service. That’s the second principle we learn from Saul’s anointing for service – when God calls, he confirms.

   C. When God calls, he equips (7)
      – Acts 1:4-8; 1 Peter 4:11

And then the third principle is this. When God calls, he equips. In verse 6 we read Samuel’s prophecy about Saul where Samuel told him: “The Spirit of the LORD will come upon you in power … and you will be changed into a different person.” (1 Samuel 10:6) Now look at verse 7 where Samuel tells him:

“Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.” (1 Samuel 10:7)

Notice it is only after Saul is given the Spirit that he is told to do whatever his hand finds to do.
God would equip Saul for the task before him by sending his Spirit upon him, and when this happened Saul would be a new man. And then with the Spirit leading him, he would be free to do whatever tasks arose before him.

It is the same with us today. When you put your faith in Christ, you also become a new person through the power of the Holy Spirit. And then God equips you. He gives you gifts for service through the Spirit so that you can serve others effectively. We read in 1 Peter 4:11: “If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 4:11) When God calls, he equips. We don’t serve out of our own strength or out of our own gifts but with the strength God provides so that he might receive all the praise and all the glory.

This whole section on Saul’s anointing is so important for us to grasp. Samuel told Saul to wait for the Holy Spirit. Why? Because you need God’s anointing to serve God. You can’t do God’s work without God’s Spirit. We see the same principle later on with the apostles in the New Testament. Jesus told them to wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Then they would receive the power to be his witnesses. (Acts 1:4-8)

And so these are three powerful principles for service we learn from Saul’s anointing. We are not called to serve God in our own strength. When God calls, he confirms. And when God calls, he equips.

III. Waiting for God’s instructions (10:8)

We have talked about the importance of preparation for service and anointing for service. Finally, I want us to talk about the importance of waiting for God’s instructions. Look at verse 8 where Samuel tells Saul:

“Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do.” (1 Samuel 10:8)

It’s not clear from this passage whether Samuel is telling Saul to go to Gilgal and wait seven days right now or whether this is a prophetic word concerning Saul’s future disobedience at Gilgal in 1 Samuel 13. Good points can be made either way, but I tend to think it refers to the future event in 1 Samuel 13. We will talk about Saul’s disobedience at Gilgal later on in the series when we get to chapter 13.

But either way the precedent is set. Saul has been anointed for his task, he will be equipped by the Holy Spirit, and he is told to go forth and accomplish great things as led by the Spirit of God. But he is not given carte blanche to go and do whatever he wants. Even as king, Saul is still subject to the word of God as given through the prophet Samuel. He must wait for God’s instructions.

The same is true for us today. We too may be called and equipped to serve, but like Saul we also must wait for God’s instructions. And we do that in two ways.

   A. Wait on the Lord in prayer (Psalm 27:14)

First of all, wait on the Lord in prayer. We read in Psalm 27:14: “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14) Don’t rush into things. Take time to pray, and take time to lay out your plans before the Lord. Let God guide you in your works of service. Pray for God’s anointing on your service. There is no continued anointing without prayer. Wait on the Lord in prayer.

   B. Remain in God’s word (John 15:7)

And then secondly, remain in God’s word. When Jesus spoke about bearing fruit for him in John 15, one of the conditions was: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you.” (John 15:7)
The Bible is our final authority for faith and practice. So in all your service to God, make sure that your words, your attitudes and your actions all line up with God’s word. If you want God’s anointing on your life, you must wait on the Lord in prayer, and you must remain in God’s word.

CONCLUSION: So what are the main lessons we learn from this passage today? Never seek to serve God in your own strength. Just as Saul needed the anointing of the Holy Spirit to serve God as king, so you need the anointing of the Holy Spirit on all that you do for God. God’s anointing will be confirmed in the fruit that you bear for him. And we must never separate the Spirit of God from the Word of God. The Word of God is always our final authority.

If you try to serve God in your own strength, you will surely fail. As Jesus said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

You can’t do God’s work without God’s Spirit. You can do your work without God’s Spirit. You can even do church work without God’s Spirit. But you can’t do God’s work without God’s Spirit. Never attempt to do anything for God without first asking for the help of the Holy Spirit. Let us make sure that we seek God’s anointing on all that we do for him.

© Ray Fowler

You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this message provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and that you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For any web postings, please link to the sermon directly at this website.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copies:
By Ray Fowler. © Ray Fowler. Website: http://www.rayfowler.org

Click here for more messages from the book of 1 Samuel.
Click here to return to the Sermons page.