08 June 2022
Jesus was constantly reminding the Pharisees that the Law of Moses was flexible, recognizing the Father's priorities. Legalism was utterly foreign to the ancient Covenant way of life.
The Conquest of Canaan ended, but was never finished. The various tribes of Israel had gotten too lazy and did not drive out the idolatrous nations infesting the places allotted to them. Still, the majority of the larger pagan shrines and temples had been torn down, and the Tabernacle had been set up at Shiloh. While it stood there, Eli served as the official High Priest, but his sons proved to be very corrupt.
This was where Samuel comes into the picture. He was born in the Tribe of Ephraim, but his mother dedicated him to serve the Lord. So he was delivered to Eli at the Tabernacle in Shiloh, and during his first year, received his divine call. He was commissioned to replace Eli at some future point, even though Samuel wasn't of the Tribe of Levi. That's because there wasn't going to be a Tabernacle. Samuel was the last of the Judges. He was also the acting High Priest, and was certainly recognized as a prophet. Jehovah had priorities.
During a fight with the Philistines, the nation's commanders rashly decided to drag the Ark of the Covenant into battle. It was lost that day. The Scripture says nothing specific about it, but we know that the Tabernacle and the whole city of Shiloh were also destroyed, and it was most likely as part of that battle. While the Ark did eventually come back into Israeli hands, it was ensconced in Kiriath-jearim, and there was no single designated place of worship. Thus, quite often folks ended up going back down to their original first encampment inside the land, Gilgal, where there stood a valid altar for sacrificial ceremonies. It was made of stones taken from the river bottom during the miraculous crossing, in which the Jordan was temporarily dammed upstream by an earthquake.
There were other altars in use, but this one down in Gilgal became the default, because there was no Tabernacle and the Temple had not yet been built. God had priorities.
Saul was not really a "king" as we think of it, but a warlord. He was a transition between the Judges and a true monarch. Had he remained humble as he was at the first, he would have been far more obedient, and his dynasty would have remained in God's favor. Instead, he quickly lost his way, and became more worried about how a king should look royal. He worried more about his reputation, and wanted to be respected by the people of Israel the same way nations around him respected their kings. He became exceedingly sensitive to royal embarrassments. He took himself too seriously.
For this reason, he lost his anointing. The ritual pouring of oil was just a symbol; the actual anointing of God was the real deal.
Because the Philistines had won that battle that included the Ark, the Philistine lords were also feudal overlords over Israel. Saul ruled as a subject king. This meant that Israel paid tribute and had to suffer the presence of pagan soldiers in their midst. One major issue was that the Philistines had a doctrine arising from their worship of Dagon: He was the god of all grain. Those who faithfully served Dagon were entitled to any grain they could find, no matter who planted it. Thus, most Philistine raids were to seize grain.
Further, the Philistines had an odd code of honor in battle. If challenged to one-on-one combat, they would line up to fight one at a time. This is how Judge Shamgar took down a Philistine patrol by himself. This is how Samson fought them by himself. It figured large in Goliath's challenge during the battle when David killed him. This code served as an ancient "Law of Land Warfare" that everyone else seemed to honor.
Early in Saul's reign, his efforts to find a way to throw off the Philistine yoke got him into big trouble. He didn't listen to God's priorities. In the next post, we shall see how these things come together to explain how Saul lost his anointing.
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