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I suspect a certain Saul, son of Kish, was asking the same question: “Why can’t we find those stupid donkeys!” (1 Samuel 9:3, 4). How hard could it be, right?
The Israelites wanted a king. They were frustrated with Samuel’s sons who, as spiritual leaders, were the pits. Why they thought a king wouldn’t turn out as badly is as hard to explain as why we think a change in government will make any difference to our problems. Samuel, offended by the request, explained to them in 1 Samuel 8 what a king would cost them. But they insisted and God told Samuel to let them have what they wanted (1 Samuel 8:22).
But God didn’t tell Samuel were to find this king. Apparently Samuel was going about his business when God brought the future king to him.
Enter the donkeys. They were lost and Saul had been sent to find them. He and his servant went a long way out of their way to track the animals down—without success. Saul was ready to give up and go home (1 Samuel 9:6) but his servant suggested they go to the nearest town and ask the seer where to find the donkeys. As the passage explains: “…if a man went to inquire of God, he would say, ‘Come, let us go to the seer,’ because the prophet of today used to be called a seer” (1 Samuel 9:9). It blows my mind to think that the spiritual leader of the country might be consulted about where to find a missing herd of donkeys! There must be a lesson for today's ministry leaders in that somewhere. Maybe paying attention to the minutiae of the congregation is important after all!
But this was how Saul met Samuel, and the rest as they say, “is history.”
Regardless of the fact that Saul turned out not to be the best king Israel ever had, it’s the lost donkeys that grab my attention. It’s not unusual for any animal to go astray, but the fact that these particular critters turned up where Samuel was, was no accident. They went much farther than anyone thought they would go, forcing the two men to end up in the precise town where Samuel had arrived to offer sacrifice.
Maybe those car keys went missing accidentally. Maybe that tax bill just reminds us that the political stripe of the party in power doesn’t make life easier for us. Maybe that job was lost because of an economic downturn. Maybe that house won’t sell because the owner is asking a little too much. Maybe. But nothing happens accidentally in God’s great design for our lives. Whether it be donkeys or something else, there is a divine meeting planned—some reason God has orchestrated these commonplace happenings that will accomplish His purposes in our lives, or in the lives of others. We may never know the “why?” but we can always be assured that He knows the “why?” and it’s all good. That is assurance enough.
Remember Romans 8:28, 29: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." And that purpose is "...to be conformed to the likeness of his Son" (emphasis mine).