God’s Word for You
Acts 13:21-22 Saul, David, and you
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, May 21, 2020
21 “After that, they asked for a king. so God gave them Saul, son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. 22 After he removed him, he raised up David as king for them. God testified about him: ‘I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will do all my will.’
Paul doesn’t say much about Saul, but he does admit (with humble frankness) that his namesake was also his tribesman. Saul of Benjamin was Israel’s first king, and another Saul of Benjamin was the man preaching here at Antioch. But while God rejected Saul on account of his unbelief and disobedience, God forgave Paul even for rejecting Jesus, and called him into the service of proclaiming the gospel.
Paul gives the length of Saul’s reign as about forty years, and this is the only definite passage in Scripture to give this number. 1 Samuel 13:1 is uncertain because every Hebrew copy of 1 Samuel known to exist has a blank space: “Saul was ____ years old when he became king, and he reigned ____- two years.” Most copies of the Greek Septuagint omit this reference completely. Shouldn’t we accept Paul as a significant witness to this number? He lived two thousand years closer to the events than we do, he certainly had access to Hebrew copies of the Old Testament that we don’t, he was a member of Saul’s own tribe and therefore may have had tribal tradition to fall back on, and he was trained in all of the learning of the Pharisees. Above all, and this is the point, he was quoted here by Luke, an inspired author of Scripture.
If we are going to be as careful as possible about this number in Acts, we should also make the following points:
1, Paul is not writing this passage as an inspired author; he is being quoted by Luke, an inspired author.
2, An inspired author is not incapable of making an error in something he says apart from the inspired text, even if he is recording his own words to present a moment of weakness in his past. For example, James and Jude taunted Jesus when he delayed his trip to Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles and mocked his claim to be the Christ (John 7:35) and yet later declared him to be the Christ and themselves to be his servants (James 1:1; Jude 1). Moses recorded, truthfully, that he told God he was a poor public speaker (which was not truthful, Exodus 4:10) and also various sins he committed (Exodus 2:12, 4:24-26; Numbers 20:11). Yet his record is the truth.
3, The inspired authors often accurately quoted men and women whose statements were in an of themselves inaccurate or even lies, such as the devil (Genesis 3:4), Rachel (Genesis 31:35), Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:14), the Amalekite boy (2 Samuel 1:10) and others.
4, Paul has no reason to be deceptive or to use hyperbole here, since everyone in the congregation would have been familiar with what he is saying, and no one objected to his use of “forty years.”
5, “Forty years” seems to propose a difficulty to some in figuring the chronology of Israel, but such a difficulty must not be rejected on the grounds that it is difficult.
So much for Saul and his forty years.
God’s assessment of David was that he was “a man after my own heart,” and here Paul quotes 1 Samuel 13:14. God blessed David because of David’s faith. David trusted God. Even though David made mistakes and fell into sin many times, he was forgiven again and again because he had faith in the Lord his Savior. So the lust and adultery he had, the murder of his friend Uriah, the over-indulgence he evidently made with his children, and the arrogant census he made of the army without God’s command, were all mistakes and were all things he was chastened for, but he was also forgiven by the God he loved and who loved him.
Paul is laying the foundation here for presenting the Savior Jesus who came from David’s line. But here while the lens is on David himself, it’s good to remember the faith of this faithful servant. About the lonely, David said: “God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing” (Psalm 68:6). About widows and orphans, he said: “The Lord sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the way of the wicked” (Psalm 146:9). About those who have fallen into sin, he said, “He instructs sinners in his way. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way” (Psalm 26:8-9). And about the Savior Jesus, David wrote: “The LORD says to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’” (Psalm 110:1).
Let David’s confidence in God’s comfort and presence in your life give you consolation and encouragement. Let David’s faith in the Savior strengthen your faith so that whether one day you have doubt, shame, fear, or confusion, the Word of God may comfort you to turn your doubt to certainty, your shame to forgiveness, your fear to calm peace, and your confusion to confidence. For God our Savior loves you and watches over you as he watched over David; as he was willing to watch over Saul. He will not leave you or forsake you. Put your trust in him.
Pastor Timothy Smith