A Change of Heart: A Look at Saul’s Transformation

Saul was a simple guy whose main concern in life was helping his father to locate his missing donkeys.

He was young, handsome, strong, and almost completely carefree. And he had no idea that in just a short while, his life would take him on a totally different path.

Samuel the prophet had received a word from the Lord that a king would be anointed for the people of Israel; a new role for the nation and one that they had been stubbornly requesting.

And, upon their request and God’s decision to let them have what they thought they needed, the Lord told Samuel to prepare to find the one whom He would choose and to anoint and equip him for his new task – to rule over Israel as their first king and to govern the nation and lead them into battle.

One day, as Saul was out looking for those missing donkeys, he and his friend heard that a prophet was in a nearby town and they decided to stop by to see if that prophet could give them some indication about their futures. It was like a modern-day quest to discover one’s purpose in life. Maybe Saul was tired of chasing down loose livestock. Maybe he felt like he was destined for more, but just needed a bit of clarity.

Whatever the reason, he made the journey up a hill to find this prophet (who happened to be Samuel), while the prophet was coming down the hill to carry on his business. When their two paths crossed, the Lord spoke to Samuel and told him, “This is the man who I have chosen. This is Israel’s new king!”

And through the course of a conversation about God’s calling, Saul got the answer he was looking for. He quickly discovered his divine purpose in life and it was something entirely different than he ever could have imagined.

Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him and said, “Has not the LORD anointed you to be prince over his people Israel? And you shall reign over the people of the LORD and you will save them from the hand of their surrounding enemies. And this shall be the sign to you that the LORD has anointed you to be prince over his heritage.”

God was choosing Saul to be Israel’s king, and in this role, Saul would need to not only discover what it meant to lead God’s people, he would also need a new set of desires, ambitions, and passions. No longer could he simply concern himself with his dad’s donkeys or his own way of life. Something would need to be awakened within Saul that would compel him to follow God’s calling wholeheartedly.

After this conversation with Samuel, upon hearing the words from the prophet and understanding his calling, upon being anointed with oil and feeling the special appointment by God, something changed within Saul’s heart. And it wasn’t just a change in his own mind toward things. The Bible indicates that the Spirit of God came over him and created this new direction that Saul would need in order to fully pursue God’s special task for him.

The Scriptures use this language, in 1 Samuel 10:9 “When he turned his back to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart.”

It would be easy for us to turn this verse into a sermon about transformation and new creation; for us to tie it to the work that God does in making people new when they trust Jesus as their Savior. That kind of transformation definitely takes place. When a person becomes a Christian, God transforms them from the inside. His Spirit fills a person and makes them brand new – a new heart with new desires and a new sense of direction and purpose in life, one that involves chasing after Jesus wholeheartedly.

We can easily bring Saul’s story here into that theme. But I think that is missing the point and misreading what actually took place within Saul on that day.

The phrase, “God gave him another heart” doesn’t really mean that God gave him a new nature and a spiritually renewed heart. What it really means is that God gave Saul a new ambition and a new sense of responsibility. Suddenly, this young, brash, carefree man became someone who was ready to accept his moral responsibility to rule over Israel.

He went from simply enjoying his life and helping his father to actually having a desire to lead as God commanded. He suddenly found himself with a genuine desire to be king and to take care of all the responsibilities associated with that role. That sense of responsibility was NEW. It wasn’t something that he had ever planned on having nor something he had ever had before. God gave Saul a new desire and a new direction.

When has that happened with you? Have you ever discovered a new desire or ambition for something that you never thought you would have? Maybe it came out of nowhere or was completely out of your norm or expectations.

Recently I started a graduate degree program to become a licensed counselor. Up until recently it was not something that I wanted to pursue. I wasn’t interested in the process or the vocation. But last fall, something changed in me. It was like God awakened a new desire within me and, through that desire, led me to pursue something that I had not expected to pursue even a year before.

We hear stories about missionaries on the field all around the world who will say that one day, it was like God stirred something up in them and gave them an unexpected desire to leave everything behind and go do ministry in a foreign country. To them, it wasn’t something that they had ever really considered before or had a heart to pursue. But suddenly a new desire was born and it was like God’s spirit came over them and gave them a new direction and a new sense of responsibility.

What are some ways that God has done this in your own heart? Think about some times when God gave you a new “heart” and a desire to pursue something that you had never really considered or wanted to do before.

Saul walked away from Samuel with a resolute desire and genuine interest in his new calling. He was ready to step up and answer the call. God changed his heart by making him a man who was now authentically interested in governing over a people and leading them into battle. In this sense, with a new purpose and a new direction, Saul was a new man.

How is God making you new by redirecting your desires and ambitions? Let’s take the time today to ask the Lord to show us OUR callings by directing our desires and giving us a sense of purpose for His work.

Published by John Guerrero

I'm a follower of Jesus, a husband, and a father of three. I love helping people and I'm passionate about experiencing abundant and full life in Christ. In the last twelve years, I've served as a mentor, a pastor, a counselor, and an educator and I'm driven every day by a calling to impact the world with compassion and purpose.

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