The Creator of the Universe, not Israel, chose who would serve as the first two kings of ancient Israel. Have you ever contemplated whether either Saul son of Kish or David son of Jesse could have won a democratic election?
From what we can glean from the biblical text, neither Saul nor David were electable by ancient Israel. Consider Saul.
Our earliest glimpses into the person and personality of Saul reveal a young man who regarded himself as insignificant (1 Samuel 15:17). This fits well with the fact that Saul refused to share with his uncle, Samuel’s announcement that God had chosen him to be king, even though divine evidence affirmed its truthfulness (1 Samuel 10:14-16). Most people can’t contain wildly exciting news when it concerns themselves. Yet, Saul would not say a single word.
Another cameo from Saul’s life reveals just how disastrous the democratic process would have been for him. Unlike an electable leader, Saul preferred hiding among the baggage over receiving recognition (1 Samuel 10:20-22). When did Saul seek a hiding spot among the luggage? Since he knew what Samuel had told him about his future position as king, did he immediately hide when the casting of lots to identify God’s choice began or did he wait until the lots drew closer to selecting his family? We don’t know. What is obvious is that such behavior does not win elections.
If this assessment is true, one more detail needs to be addressed. Why did most of the people accept him? A close reading of the text suggests they placed their confidence in the LORD. Saul was “the one whom the LORD has chosen” (1 Samuel 10:24). While his height made God’s choice more palatable (1 Samuel 10:23), their confidence was in accepting God’s choice, not in the person of Saul per se.
While most of the people accepted Saul, some looked at him with more practical eyes. They evaluated his ability to be king based upon the strength he projected. They questioned the hiding wimp, “How can this man save us?” (1 Samuel 10:27). Without God’s stamp of approval upon him, such timid demeanor would have destroyed any hope for a successful electoral campaign.
Similarly, the chances of the great king David being elected were slim to none. He did not fit the mold of greatness within ancient culture. He was the youngest, the least powerful in his family, whom even his own family had no qualms about dismissing when important events occurred (1 Samuel 16:10-11).
Why did God choose these unlikely candidates to be king? “God does not view things the way men do. People look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
When God chose Saul and David, both exhibited a common heart attitude. Saul and David both knew that they were not the answer (1 Samuel 15:17; 17:37,45). They would be inclined to obey Deuteronomy’s instruction to trust in the Lord and follow his ways, rather than look to themselves or other worldly sources for security and guidance (Deut. 17:16-20).
Unfortunately, Saul became unsuitable for kingship when he deviated from this path. Twice he allowed fear to overwhelm faith thus loosing his focus upon God and succumbing to trying to resolve problems himself (1 Samuel 13:7-14; 15:9-10,15,23-24).
When God chooses leaders, one characteristic stands out from the rest. Do they have the proper foundation? Will this person trust in God rather than in himself or herself?
As we Americans head to the polls, what values will we carry into the voting booth? Perhaps the more interesting question is, if God were to arrange for a candidate to run and we were unaware of God’s endorsement, could such a person be elected? These are very intriguing questions.