Hiding Among the Baggage

Crown1 Samuel 10:20-25 (New Living Translation)
So Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel before the Lord, and the tribe of Benjamin was chosen by lot. Then he brought each family of the tribe of Benjamin before the Lord, and the family of the Matrites was chosen. And finally Saul son of Kish was chosen from among them. But when they looked for him, he had disappeared! So they asked the Lord, “Where is he?” And the Lord replied, “He is hiding among the baggage.” So they found him and brought him out, and he stood head and shoulders above anyone else. Then Samuel said to all the people, “This is the man the Lord has chosen as your king. No one in all Israel is like him!” And all the people shouted, “Long live the king!” Then Samuel told the people what the rights and duties of a king were. He wrote them down on a scroll and placed it before the Lord. Then Samuel sent the people home again.

In 1 Samuel 10:25, Samuel gives the people a document describing the “duties and responsibilities of the king”: mishpat hammelukah in Hebrew. Look how closely this phrase mirrors the one used by Samuel in 8:9: mishpat hammelek, which can be translated as the “ways or behaviors of the king.” In chapter 8, Samuel had told the people that they would deeply regret rejecting God as their King and insisting on a human king. Samuel warned them that a king would enslave the people for his benefit, force them into war with the surrounding nations, and take away the people’s possessions to give them to the noblemen in his court. This is mishpat hammelek… how the king will act.

Mishpat hammelukah and mishpat hammelek. With these two phrases we have (1) how the king ought to act, and (2) how the king will actually act.

Instead of joyfully accepting the kingship, walking powerfully among his people, learning their names and their stories, Saul skulks off to hide in the baggage. It was not the most promising way to begin one’s reign as king! I have no idea whether the modern idea of “emotional baggage” was around in those days: deeply-engrained emotional scars that keep us from engaging in healthy relationships. But it struck me as I read today’s passage that for all the people’s joy in their new king, Saul’s hiding away in the baggage is a strong forewarning: the people have traded the powerful, bold Kingship of God for a very human king, flawed and frail.

How large a gap do you feel between what you believe God wants for your life, and what you are currently experiencing?

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