How do you see yourself? Saul started with much promise, “an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites—a head taller than any of the others” (I Samuel 9:2). The Lord told Samuel that “he will deliver my people from the hand of the Philistines” (v. 16). Soon after Samuel anointed Saul king, “the Spirit of God came upon him in power, and he joined in their prophesying” (10:10).
From early on, however, his insecurity showed up, and it proved his fatal flaw. When Samuel spoke highly of him and his family, instead of receiving the praise, he said, “But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?” (9:21). Saul saw himself as a nobody from nowhere. He did not tell his uncle what Samuel had done with him or said to him (10:10). When he was called forth to be presented to the people as their king, he could not be found. He had “hidden himself among the baggage” (v.22), not the right place for the leader-elect.
The Spirit of the Lord again came upon him when news came of the plight of Jabesh, and he delivered them and followed it with a great celebration. Then came a rout of the Philistines, the perennial enemies of Israel. And a further commentary said of Saul that “wherever he turned, he inflicted punishment on them. He fought valiantly and defeated the Amalekites, delivering Israel from the hands of those who had plundered them” (14:47,48). He had moments of brilliance, but he was not careful to obey the Lord.
When Samuel rebuked him, he gave us a clue to his flawed identity: ”Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel?” (15:17). Not only did Saul not wait for Samuel to do the sacrifice, a priestly, not a kingly task, but he failed to carry out the Lord’s instructions to wipe out everyone and everything. His excuse: “I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them” (v. 24). Then he said, “I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel” (30). Saul seemed more concerned with what the people thought of him than what God thought of him, and it turned him into a wild man. He fumed with jealousy when David received the praise that he deeply wanted, and it consumed him to his dying day. A warped self-image spelled disaster for Saul.
By contrast, another Saul considered himself a terrible sinner. Then he added, “But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe…” (I Timothy 1:16). In other words, a killer became a trophy of God’s grace. And Saul-turned-Paul walked into an incredible destiny in God. Far from hiding among the baggage, he begged to preach the gospel to people who were rioting because of his presence. True humility brings boldness, not timidity. Paul saw God clearly as a Father of mercy and he saw himself as an undeserving but willing recipient of lavish grace! Two accurate pictures made all the difference in the world. And it will for you as you see God as He truly is and yourself as He has made you!