How to Choose a Leader (1 Samuel 9:1-22) - God’s Word for Work, Online Video Bible Study

Small Group Study / Produced by TOW Project

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How to Choose a Leader (1 Samuel 9:1-22)

Agenda

1. Leader gathers the group in an online meeting.

2. Leader shares screen and audio.

3. Leader plays video. The video includes:

  • Introduction to God's Word for Work
  • Opening prayer
  • Bible reading: 1 Samuel 9:1-22
  • 1 minute for quiet reflection
  • Excerpts from the Theology of Work Bible Commentary: The Task of Choosing a King

4. Leader pauses the video and the group discusses the readings.

5. Leader resumes the video with the closing prayer.

Opening Prayer

God, we invite you to speak to us through the Bible today. Show us what your word means for our work. Amen.

Bible reading: 1 Samuel 9:1-22

There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bechorath, the son of Aphiah, a Benjamite, a mighty man of power. And he had a choice and handsome son whose name was Saul. There was not a more handsome person than he among the children of Israel. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.

Now the donkeys of Kish, Saul’s father, were lost. And Kish said to his son Saul, “Please take one of the servants with you, and arise, go and look for the donkeys.” So he passed through the mountains of Ephraim and through the land of Shalisha, but they did not find them. Then they passed through the land of Shaalim, and they were not there. Then he passed through the land of the Benjamites, but they did not find them.

When they had come to the land of Zuph, Saul said to his servant who was with him, “Come, let us return, lest my father cease caring about the donkeys and become worried about us.”

And he said to him, “Look now, there is in this city a man of God, and he is an honorable man; all that he says surely comes to pass. So let us go there; perhaps he can show us the way that we should go.”

Then Saul said to his servant, “But look, if we go, what shall we bring the man? For the bread in our vessels is all gone, and there is no present to bring to the man of God. What do we have?”

And the servant answered Saul again and said, “Look, I have here at hand one-fourth of a shekel of silver. I will give that to the man of God, to tell us our way.” (Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he spoke thus: “Come, let us go to the seer”; for he who is now called a prophet was formerly called a seer.)

Then Saul said to his servant, “Well said; come, let us go.” So they went to the city where the man of God was.

As they went up the hill to the city, they met some young women going out to draw water, and said to them, “Is the seer here?”

And they answered them and said, “Yes, there he is, just ahead of you. Hurry now; for today he came to this city, because there is a sacrifice of the people today on the high place. As soon as you come into the city, you will surely find him before he goes up to the high place to eat. For the people will not eat until he comes, because he must bless the sacrifice; afterward those who are invited will eat. Now therefore, go up, for about this time you will find him.” So they went up to the city. As they were coming into the city, there was Samuel, coming out toward them on his way up to the high place.

Now the Lord had told Samuel in his ear the day before Saul came, saying, “Tomorrow about this time I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him commander over My people Israel, that he may save My people from the hand of the Philistines; for I have looked upon My people, because their cry has come to Me.”

So when Samuel saw Saul, the Lord said to him, “There he is, the man of whom I spoke to you. This one shall reign over My people.” Then Saul drew near to Samuel in the gate, and said, “Please tell me, where is the seer’s house?”

Samuel answered Saul and said, “I am the seer. Go up before me to the high place, for you shall eat with me today; and tomorrow I will let you go and will tell you all that is in your heart. But as for your donkeys that were lost three days ago, do not be anxious about them, for they have been found. And on whom is all the desire of Israel? Is it not on you and on all your father’s house?”

And Saul answered and said, “Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then do you speak like this to me?”

Now Samuel took Saul and his servant and brought them into the hall, and had them sit in the place of honor among those who were invited; there were about thirty persons.

Excerpts from the Theology of Work Bible Commentary: The Task of Choosing a King

When the Israelites ask Samuel to give them a king, the prophet warns that a king would lay a heavy burden on their nation. Nonetheless, the Lord allows the people to choose their own form of government. Sometimes God permits institutions that are not part of his eternal purpose. There are many situations, both in institutions and in workplaces, where people must cope with poor decisions of the past. 

In Saul, the people get what they asked for, and what Samuel had warned against. Saul was a militaristic, charismatic, self-aggrandizing tyrant. But he looked the part of King —he literally stood "head and shoulders above everyone else" (1 Sam. 9:2). Furthermore, he won military victories, the main reason for having a king in the first place.

Was God’s choice of Saul as king an object lesson to the Israelites not to be seduced by outward appearances? Contrast Saul with his replacement, the boy David. David is a young, ethnically mixed, last-born son who did not on the surface project the image of gravitas people expect in a leader. But God sees great promise in David.

As we think about selecting leaders today, it’s valuable to remember God’s word to Samuel: “The Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16 verse 7). In God's upside-down kingdom, the last or the overlooked may end up being the best choice. It can be tempting to jump at the initially impressive candidate, the one who oozes charisma. But high self-confidence actually leads to lower performance, according to a 2012 Harvard Business Review article. 

When Samuel finds David, David is out doing his job as shepherd, conscientiously caring for his father's sheep. Faithful performance in the job at hand shows character. God values character over charisma. 

What would it take for us to learn to see our leaders through God’s eyes?

Group Discussion

  • How does what you heard apply to your work?

Closing Prayer

God, thank you for being present with us today. Please stay with us in our work, wherever we go. Amen.