Although Israel turned away from the leadership of the Lord and His prophet Samuel, still God did not forsake His people. He continued to instruct, guide, and help them. Through the prophet Samuel He directed in the selection of Saul for their first king. Samuel said to all the people, See ye him whom the Lord hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people? And all the people shouted, and said, God save the king. 1 Sam. 10: 24.
Saul entered upon his reign under the most favorable conditions possible. He was chosen by the Lord for the great responsibilities he was to bear. A special bestowal of the Holy Spirit was imparted to him. (See 1 Sam. 10:6-11.) He was given every assurance of God's presence and guidanceif he would only be true and loyal to the divine requirements. Withal, he had the prophet Samuel, an experienced and able statesman, as his inspired counselor.
But Saul's reign was a tragic failure. He became independent, rash, and cruel. He openly disregarded the instruction the Lord gave him through the prophet Samuel. Soon after beginning his reign, when in a state of fear and perplexity, he rashly ventured to perform the sacred service that only the priests consecrated to that office were permitted to render. Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. And he offered the burnt offering. 1 Sam. 13:9.
Because of this open disregard of the divine plan, Samuel said, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which He commanded thee: for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel forever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue. 1 Sam. 13: 13, 14.
Saul's loyalty was again put to the test when Samuel was sent to him with a message of instruction regarding the punishment
of the Amalekites for the great wrong they had done Israel on their way from Egypt. In the prosecution of this task, both the king and the people boldly disregarded some of the most important parts of the message.
Again Samuel was directed to bear a sad message of reproof to Saul. This brought such grief to Samuel that He cried unto the Lord all night. Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what the Lord hath said to me this night. And he said unto him, Say on. And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed thee king over Israel? Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, He hath also rejected thee from being king. And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words. 1 Sam. 15: 11, 16, 17, 23, 24. Even this acknowledgment of his wrong was not, however, a repentant confession, but was rather a plea for leniency. (See verses 25, 30.)
But this did not end Saul's wrong course. He continued in transgression of divine counsel until he was entirely separated from God. At last, in desperation, he ended his life by falling upon his own sword. 1 Sam. 31:4. So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the Lord, even against the word of the Lord, which he kept not. 1 Chron. 10:13. This astounding apostasy proceeded to its tragic climax in spite of the fact that he had by his side his experienced and able predecessor to counsel, encourage, and support him in all that the Lord required of him as king.
In Saul, God had given to. Israel a king after their own heart, as Samuel said when the kingdom was confirmed to Saul at Gilgal, Behold the king whom ye have chosen, and whom ye have desired! 1 Sam. 12:13. Comely in person, of noble stature and princely bearing, his appearance accorded with their conceptions of royal dignity; and his personal valor and his ability in the conduct of armies were the qualities which they regarded
as those best calculated to secure respect and honor from other nations.
They felt little solicitude that their king should possess those higher qualities which alone could fit him to rule with justice and equity. They did not ask for one who had true nobility of character, who possessed the love and fear of God. They had not sought counsel from God as to the qualities a ruler should possess in order to preserve their distinctive, holy character as His chosen people. They were not seeking God's way, but their own way. Therefore God gave them such a king as they desired,one whose character was a reflection of their own. Their hearts were not in submission to God, and their king also was unsubdued by divine grace. Under the rule of this king, God permitted them to obtain the experience necessary in order that they might see their error, and return allegiance to God.
The Lord said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided Me a king among his sons. 1 Sam. 16:1.
Samuel came to Jesse, and requested to see his sons. When David was brought before Samuel, the Lord said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he. Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. 1 Sam. 16:12, 13.
Thus David entered upon his career as had Saul, with the prophetic call and anointing. But how different was his later career from that of Saul! Of his death it is written: He died in a good old age, full of days, riches, and honor. 1 Chron. 29:28. As for his life and reign, the record states: David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. 1 Kings 15:5.
Like Saul he was favored with inspired counselors. During his early life, before being notified by Samuel that God had
chosen him to be the king over His people, he had the godly example, instruction, and influence of the great prophet Samuel. From the time of his anointing for the kingship he had the privilege of association and intercourse with this same Samuel. So David fled, and escaped, and came to Samuel to Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth. 1 Sam. 19:18. In the home of the prophet he found comfort and encouragement when he was a fugitive from the malevolent wrath of King Saul. Until Samuel's death David honored and respected him as God's messenger.
Samuel died before David began to reign. But David was not left without divinely inspired advisers in the administration of his government. After setting in order the affairs of the kingdom, David came to Nathan the prophet with a proposal to build a house, or temple, for the Lorda place for the services of the sanctuary. As the king spoke of his generous plan, it seemed good, and the prophet encouraged him to do all that was in his heart. But that night a message came to Nathan from the Lord, directing the prophet to tell David that he was not to build the house, though he might make preparation for the building, which would be erected by his son Solomon. David accepted the message, and carried out the instruction. (See 2 Samuel 7.)
To this same prophet was committed a more painful duty that often constitutes an important part of the prophetic office. Following a divine revelation of David's double crime of adultery and murder, Nathan was sent with a message of stern, but tender, rebuke to the royal sinner. He brought into broad daylight that which David thought to keep secret, and he told of the divine penalty that was to follow. Bitter and sincere was David's repentance of his grievous sin. Though the heavy punishment followed, yet he bowed his head and bent his back to the strokes, without resentment either against the Lord or against His prophet. (See 2 Samuel 12.)
The part, says one, which Nathan took against David shows how effective was the check exerted by the prophets;
indeed, most of the prophetic history is history of the noblest opposition ever made against vices alike of royalty, priesthood, and people.
With the view of increasing his army and extending his conquests, David directed his officers to go through the tribes and number the people. The motives back of the king's ambitious project were wrong, and another prophetGadwas commissioned to bear the Lord's rebuke, and to announce the penalty. Replying to the prophet's message, David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hand of the Lord; for His mercies are great. 2 Sam. 24:14.
At the close of his long reign, we see the faithful prophet Nathan standing by him in his feebleness, and guiding him in arranging for Solomon to succeed him as king. (See 1 Kings 1:22-42.)
These incidents reveal the practical working of the prophetic gift during the reign of David, and the powerful, guiding, saving influence of that gift with Israel's second king. From the time of his anointing to the close of his life he was favored with the presence and distinction of inspired prophetsa wonderful leadership which he greatly appreciated and gladly followed.
The prophet Nathan acted a leading part in the events connected with the succession of Solomon to the throne of his father David. For a long period it had been David's purpose that Solomon should succeed him. But when he had grown old and stricken in years and was about to die, his fourth son, Adonijah, through conspiracy, had himself proclaimed king.
Knowing that this was contrary to the divine purpose, Nathan came to David and said, My lord, O king, hast thou said, Adonijah shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne? For he is gone down this day, and hath called all the king's sons, and the captains of the host, and Abiathar the priest; and, behold, they eat and drink before him, and say, God save King Adonijah. 1 Kings 1:24, 25.
Upon hearing this, David instructed Nathan the prophet and Zadok the priest to anoint Solomon to be king over Israel: and blow ye with the trumpet, and say, God save King Solomon. 1 Kings 1:34.
Solomon had been under the influence of the prophet Nathan from childhood until he became king. During his reign he was not left without the aid of prophetic guidance, although the history of his reign does not reveal the measure of activity by the prophets that was present during the reigns of Saul and David. The prophets Ahijah and Iddo were raised up to give messages of instruction from the Lord. 2 Chron. 9:29. Yet how closely these messengers may have been associated with Solomon is not revealed. There is no intimation that he recognized them or sought counsel from them during the days of the great prosperity and outward splendor that came to him.
But during the latter part of his reign, messages were sent to him through the prophetic gift to make known Jehovah's purpose to allow serious developments to take place in the kingdom. His departure from the ways of the Lord had brought great harm to the nation, and lasting reproach upon the cause of God. Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant. 1 Kings 11:11. But the Lord added: Notwithstanding in thy days I will not do it for David thy father's sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son. Howbeit I will not rend away all the kingdom; but will give one tribe to thy son for David My servant's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake which I have chosen. Verses 12, 13. The execution of this sentence was followed by turmoil, apostasies, revolutions, and general ruin.