First Samuel 10 recounts the fantastic details of Saul’s anointing by Samuel and the power of the Holy Spirit that came upon him, transforming him into “another man” and enabling him to prophesy. Saul prophesied. Saul was a changed person, another man.
I wish the story stopped with this, with Saul’s transformation by the Spirit and the divine enabling that followed. I wish, but Saul’s ending is not good.
As he reigned over Israel, he changed…again…into yet another man. A man who hated David. A man who usurped priestly prerogatives and disobeyed the prophet Samuel’s explicit instructions regarding sacrifice. A man who consulted a witch as part of his attempt to hold on to a crown that was slipping through his tightly clenched fists. A darkened man who died alongside his good son in a terrible defeat that brought an end to a failed, self-obsessed reign over a kingdom that he initially received as a stewardship from God.
Why the change? Why the apostasy? Why did Saul turn from God’s gift and become the bane of God’s kingdom? Free will. Choices. Selfishness. The intoxication that sometimes comes from authority. Sin. All of these and more.
But I think it has most to do with what Saul did with the power that changed him. He was, after all, a changed man that day the Spirit came upon him. He prophesied. He was another man. But the power that enabled him to prophesy–that flowed through him so that he might lead God’s people–that power was never meant as an end in itself.
The power of God was given to Saul as a beckoning, a calling into a deeper relationship with the source of the power. The Spirit enabled Saul, but within that enabling was an invitation. Not merely an invitation to more power, but a call to abide with God. The power was intermittent, at best. It was always supposed to be an on-and-off-again situation lest the power lead away from its source.
The Spirit empowered Saul to prophesy, but there was so much more available to him…so much more. The Spirit was given to Saul as a gift from God, as a reminder that it is the love of God, not the ability to prophesy that is the real gift.
The overt manifestations of God’s power in our life are always that way…fleeting moments of something that is meant to point us to another day, a future day, a heavenly day. Power in this life, real as it is, is a foretaste, and not a meal. But Saul got a taste of the power of God and decided he liked it, that it belonged to him, and that he would hold on to it at all costs. In the process, he lost God.
Saul is a poignant reminder that God won’t be held. He holds. His power won’t be manipulated.
So I mourn for Saul, but I also tremble when I see in the mirror a man who has to always remember that God’s power–the anointing of the Spirit–is not a thing to be controlled and used.
God’s power has also made me another man, and this other man is made for more than moments of supernatural power. He is made for their source. The proof of being another man is that I no longer want anything but the One who changed me. Not His power. Only Him.
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