“After that you shall come to Gibeath-elohim, where there is a garrison of the Philistines. And there, as soon as you come to the city, you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them, prophesying. Then the Spirit of the LORD will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man. Now when these signs meet you, do what your hand finds to do, for God is with you.” 1 Samuel 10.5-7.
The speaker in this morning’s passage is the prophet Samuel and the person to whom he is speaking is Saul, a young man whom Samuel has just anointed with oil as a sign that God has chosen him to be Israel’s first king. But the person Saul is by birth and nature and upbringing cannot be “prince over [the LORD’s] heritage” (1 Samuel 10.1). His own strength and wisdom and understanding will never be sufficient. If he is to do the job and to fulfil his high calling he must be filled with the Spirit and re-born … “turned into another man”.
And that is exactly what happens. We are told that “when [Saul] turned his back to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart” (1 Samuel 10.9). The Hebrew text is striking. It is literally “when Saul had turned his shoulder to leave Samuel, God turned for him another heart.” Saul’s “turning of the shoulder” is indicative of his submission and commitment to the calling placed upon him by Samuel, and God’s response is swift. He “turns” Saul’s heart so that it is facing in a new direction too … so that it is now aligned with his (God’s) purposes. Then, when Saul meets the prophets, the Spirit of God “rushes upon him” (1 Samuel 10.10) and both Samuel’s predictions are fulfilled.
At that point, according to what Samuel says in this morning’s reading, Saul is equipped to simply go ahead and “do what his hand finds to do”, for God is with him … by his Spirit in Saul’s new heart. And as long as that remains true of Saul, there is no rule book needed. Later, when Saul is publicly declared king, Samuel will tell the people “the rights and duties of the kingship” and write them in a book and “lay it up before the LORD” (1 Samuel 10.25), but for as long as Saul walks in the Spirit following the dictates of his God-centered heart, the book that Samuel has laid before the Lord can gather dust. It is irrelevant.
And so it surely is with me. I recall the time (now way in the past) when I used to worry all the time about “being in the Lord’s will”. Did he want me to go here or there? Should I be doing this or doing that? I wanted specific guidance about anything — even trivial things. I would put out fleeces … and then more fleeces! But that is not the Lord’s way. He daily turns my heart (if I will let him) until it faces himself; and he daily fills me afresh with his Spirit … and then he says “do what your hand finds to do” or as another version puts it, “do what you want to do” (NIrV). It is rather like St Augustine’s “Love, and do what you will”, for St Augustine was not, of course, talking about having warm, fuzzy feelings about an indulgent grandfather in the sky, and then living a life of licence, but about having a deep committed love for God and one’s neighbour — the kind of love I have (and only have) when my heart is centered on God and I am filled with the Spirit. Then, as they say, “I can’t set a foot wrong.”
Breathe on me, breath of God,
fill me with life anew,
that I may love what Thou dost love,
and do what Thou wouldst do.