There were some who tried to point out to the people that the above statement is nothing more than a rhetorician’s trick, a sophist’s lie, an errant cliché. They noted that by definition leadership includes shepherding*, regardless of whether the context is civil or spiritual. But those who sounded the warning were few in number and most of the people warmed to the message of the hirelings and false prophets who arrogantly stated;
These false prophets were not just content to walk in falsehood, but led others to do so, as well.
In circumstances similar to this God later spoke, saying: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:16)
If only the people at the time of Samuel and Saul would have had the message of Jeremiah surely they wouldn’t have been led astray. If only they had access to Scripture as we do today …
Well, back to the story.
To those who tried to sound a warning the people called out, “You are a religious bigot.” But God spoke to Samuel saying, “They have not rejected you, they have rejected me.”
The people looked upon Saul and were pleased with the outer appearance. “What about that (sigh…) winning smile? The graying at the temples that give him such a dignified appearance? The voice as smooth as silk? Saul sounds oh so kingly. He looks oh so kingly. And he’s so tall! Shouldn’t our king be tall?” The thought of Saul besting the Philistines was enough to make many in the Israelite party grow weak in the knees and swoon in victorious ecstacy. At a time when they should have been engaged in mature reasoning and spiritual inquiry, they were looking more and more like teenage girls in the audience of American Idol, fawning and crying over Sanjaya.
The people pressed for Saul, and God gave them what they wanted. There were good days, and bad days along the way. God used Saul to accomplish his ends, but it was apparent that man’s choice and man’s sin led to an aimless, rough and rugged path for the nation.
• A Latin translation for “shepherd” is “pastor.”