A-Searching : Young Saul
There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish . . . . He had a son named Saul, an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites — a head taller than any of the others. Now the donkeys belonging to Saul’s father Kish were lost, and Kish said to his son Saul, “Take one of the servants with you and go and look for the donkeys.” 1 Samuel 9:1a, 2-3
When we hear the name of King Saul, the first thing we tend to think of is, his unhappy ending. We need to remember, though, that Saul’s story started out well. He was tall — dark? — and handsome. He came from a God-fearing family. After he had been unexpectedly chosen as Israel’s first king, he started his reign by trying hard to do what was right. He fought valiantly against the heathen Philistines.
At the very beginning of the story of Saul in the Hebrew Scriptures, we find a good example of the strange term serendipity. This word was coined in the 1700s by the English novelist Horace Walpole, but its roots go far back into Asian lore. Many writers have told and retold the story of The Three Princes of Serendip, who traveled far from their native island (named Serendip) and helped a foreign monarch find his lost camel. In the process they made other discoveries as well.
Certainly that was the experience of a young Israelite named Saul. His father sent him to look, not for a camel but for some donkeys. Then – like the famous three princes — he discovered something entirely different.
Reflect on the dramatic beginnings of Saul’s story as you read 1 Samuel, chapters 9 through 11. Then read the following Bible-based meditation, which has deliberately been cast in the rollicking rhythms of an old-time ballad:
O, when you go a-searching,
be careful where you look:
You’re looking for the ocean,
instead you find a brook.
You’re looking for a picture,
instead you find a book.
You’re looking for the kitchen,
instead you find the cook.
You’re looking for a shepherd,
instead you find his crook.
So when you go a-searching,
be careful where you look!
Now Saul, he was a farmer’s son
whose donkeys ran away.
He chose a friend to help him search,
and off they went one day.
There’s this you must remember, now,
when you remember Saul:
He wasn’t built like other men;
no other stood as tall.
Your height can be your helper when
you’re searching for a stray.
So Saul looked high, his friend looked low
for many a weary day.
They searched throughout all Shalishah,
the hills of Ephraim.
They searched throughout all Benjamin,
and all of Shaalim.
They didn’t find the donkeys, so
to Zuph at last they came,
and there they met old Samuel,
the seer known to fame.
The old man looked them over, then:
“I have a word,” he said,
“a message for the one of you
that’s taller by a head.”
Then slowly Saul stepped forward, and
then came a wondrous thing:
The seer said, “In Israel
I now anoint you king!”
Remember Saul the farmer’s son
whose story you have read.
He looked for donkeys, but he found
a kingly crown instead.
So when you go a-looking,
be careful how you search.
You’re searching for a swordfish,
instead you find a perch.
You’re searching for an oak tree,
instead you find a birch.
You’re searching for a parrot,
instead you find its perch.
You’re searching for the schoolhouse,
instead you find the church.
So when you go a-looking,
be careful how you search!
All-Knowing God, help us know how and where to search! Amen.
Copyright © 2015 by Perry Thomas